General Observations on
Housekeeping Service Disappointments

Every service delivery system, even the best systems in the world, fails to meet client expectations some of the time. Period.

Some service delivery systems are better than others and some are better at different things. For instance, some systems are able to deliver exceptional consistency while other are better at delivering high customization. Housekeeping service delivery systems have a few special characteristics worth keeping in mind.

First, housekeeping is a very personal business. The actual service is delivered in the most personal of all locations, the client's home. This amplifies the emotional effect of any disappointments. It also creates disappointments for no factual reason.

For example, if a cleaning company sends the same team to a house for six months then sends a different team for some reason, 8 out of 10 times, they will get a complaint. The "new" team is trained the same way and never gets complaints from their "regular" houses. Why do they get complaints when then fill in for a client's "normal" team? Only because they are different and in highly personal spaces, different too frequently equates to "not as good." Also, minor differences in the re-placement of personal property can be annoying. The "normal" team knows from repetition which side of the sink your perfume goes on, and the "new" team may get that, and things like that, wrong. This detracts from the overall perception of quality, though in no way affects the actual quality of the cleaning.

The second thing to keep in mind is that maid services tend to work on a recurring schedule, week after week, month after month. Because if this, any change in service quality, for any reason, is immediately noticed. Previous levels of exceptional service have led to the expectation of continuously exceptional levels of service. But because the team is full of real people who clean houses with real people living in them, there is naturally some fluxuation in the absolute level of service.

For instance, sometimes a client will skip a cleaning for some reason and the interval between cleanings gets doubled. When the team shows up to clean, they have twice the job they normally have, but the same time to do it in. Therefore they move faster to get everything done and spend less time on any one thing. This often leads to an apparent reduction in overall service quality for this particular cleaning. But was the service quality truly reduced or was it actually improved?

A responsible cleaning company owner is frequently forced to contemplate questions like this and it is an interesting question. In the scenario just described, the housekeeping service had four options:

  1. Spend the time required to get the whole house done, work at the normal speed, but charge the client a higher fee.
  2. Spend the agreed upon length of time, work at the normal speed, but not get the whole house done.
  3. Spend the agreed upon time, work at a higher speed, and charge the normal fee.
  4. Spend extra time, work at the normal speed, charge the normal fee, be late to the next job, and make no profit.

Which would you have preferred? Here is how we look at it:

  1. We have learned that surprises or changes related to money can be detrimental to the service-client relationship. This is true in most cases but not all, though we have no way to tell when it will be or won't be. It is very risky to meddle with the agreed upon fee and we generally don't do it.
  2. The second option will always earn a complaint.
  3. The third option may or may not earn a complaint depending on the observational powers of the client and on how tightly wound they are.
  4. The fourth option is the one clients prefer. It will not get a complaint from the house being cleaned but probably will get you one from the house you are late to. It also destroys the business' slim profits. It is worth noting that the client who praises you this week for spending more time at the same fee, will certainly complain about lateness if your service does the same thing for the house just before his/hers.

As you can see, for the cleaning service it is a choice between unavoidable evils. Someone is bound to be disappointed and not much can be done about it.

When Legitimate Disappointments Occur

All service delivery systems fail. At our company, when this occurs it is usually because of something we can't control, like an unexpected staff turnover event. Just because we can't control it, doesn't mean it is not our problem. When there is genuine service failure and the client gets less then they were promised, they are justified in their feeling of disappointment. Their housekeeping service should take full resposibility for the failure, make the matter right for client, and take appropriate internal corrective action.

We know first hand how high emotions can run when it comes to your cleaning service. Here are few tips which will help keep the matter in perspective and will help you get an appropriate resoltion:

  1. Assume the best, you can be sure that the company didn't make the mistake intentionally.
  2. Try to think about the situation objectively.
  3. Contact the cleaning service. Believe us, if you are anything less than happy, they want to hear about it.
  4. Tell them clearly what you are frusterated with and why. They should be recording this information for their records and later analysis.
  5. Listen to how they respond to your complaint. They may have some valid points for you to consider, but they should never be argumentative. Their response will tell you a lot about the character and professionalism of the business owners.
  6. Understand the interaction as natural and important part of an ongoing, mutually beneficial relationship. You don't really want to switch providers (rememeber that first time cleaning fee?) and they don't want you too (you feed their family, remember).
  7. Don't hold the delivery system failure against the houskeeping service. If they are legitimate and professional, the are working night and day to prevent and reduce these things from happening. Your feedback is an important part of their improvement process.
  8. You may feel really mad and be tempted to take the incident personally ("I have been with them for three years! How could they do this to me!"). Don't think of it like that. Unless the housekeeping service is made up of one or two people, it was the staff that made the error, not the owners. It certainly is not a personal affront.

When There is a Pattern of Let-Downs

As vocal as we are about the realities of owning a house cleaning company, we know they are not all created equal. Differences in education, life experience, outlooks, attitudes, and technical skill sets can make a big difference in the quality of any business and house cleaning is no different.

We want to state clearly that there are many poorly run cleaning service in the world. Not everything is a misunderstanding and the client is not always in the wrong.

If you have considered the advice of this article and read some our other articles (opens new tab) you should be in a good position to figure out if your complaints are legitimate and if they can be cured by changing to a better cleaning service.

One word of warning: better services are frequently more expensive than their inexpensive competitors. If you are paying a fee in the range of $15-$24 per person-hour, you are using a cut-rate firm. Switching to another cut-rate firm probably won't reduce your frustrations. There are some good quality locally owned firms (like Kalee's Cleaning) to be found in the $25-$30 per person-hour range. This is usually the best way to go in terms of reliability, professionalism, flexibility, and personal attention.

National franchises (at least in our area) tend to charge in the $30-$37 per person-hour range but we don't recommend using them. There are some "cultural differences" in how they understand their system and their client base.

A local cleaning company is almost always the way to go. However, they are not all playing the same game. We know of a super high-end firm that cleans each of your light bulbs individually as part of their standard package. Last time I checked, they charged $65 per person-hour and I am sure their cleanings took a long time! This may be a great fit for some people, but relatively few people can afford them.

One other factor to consider if you do decide to try a different firm is the way in which they charge. For instance, we know of a decent locally-owned cleaning company that is a bit bigger than we are. The firm is quite successful but they will only clean your whole house and they let it take the time it takes. We hear they do a good job, but you may end up paying $500-$700 for each cleaning because they charge a reasonable hourly rate but spend an un-reasonable amount of time in your home.

If you live in or near Boulder, Broomfield, Erie, Lafayette, or Louisville, Colorado and have any questions about your house cleaning service or what to look for in a new service, please contact us. We will give you straight answers and never pressure you to use our service.

Kalee's Cleaning is a local house cleaning service company. They provide housekeeping and maid services to clients in Boulder, Broomfield, Erie, Lafayette, Louisville, and Superior Colorado.

For a house cleaning or estimate call (720) 898-5531 or email us.