Tackling complaints

25th of November 2010

How do contract cleaning companies handle complaints, asks German correspondent Thomas Schulte-Marxloh.

Every crisis also means an opportunity – it might be difficult to remember these words of wisdom if your customer complains about your work. In fact you have the opportunity to improve your performance or your customer has the opportunity to cancel his contract or to claim for indemnification. Some complaints are justified, others are not, sometimes your customer (or another party involved) simply needs a punch bag or someone to blame for their own mistakes. Some customers are just bad-tempered grumblers who are looking for an opportunity to complain or cut payment.

In the end, complaints are a feedback of your customer and as manifold as them. As a manager in a contract cleaning company you have to find out, first of all, if complaints are justified and require measures to improve the situation, eg, changes of personnel, cleaning methods, etc. Is the company actually responsible for damages like scratches on the windows? Sometimes it helps to see the customer, to inspect the work of staff and to explain to the customer how you plan to improve the situation. Cases of damages may require the judgment of authorised experts or even a court of law to find out who is liable. But what can one do with the ill-tempered naggers? This is one example I found in a German forum of contract cleaners:

A project manager was called by a customer and asked to come over; Mrs X had complained her desk had not been cleaned for a while now. After arriving at his customer’s premises, the project manager proposed to see Mrs X right away and to have a look himself. When they arrived in the office of Mrs X, she immediately started to complain: “Do your cleaning women ever clean?”

Project manager: "Of course."

Mrs X: "But I haven’t seen any cleaning for months!"

PM: "Uh, hmm, well, what, for example, has not been cleaned 'for months'?"

Mrs X: "My desk, for example - I had to clean it myself this morning!"

PM: "That really is not your responsibility Mrs X. Actually, this is what my staff is here for. Excuse me, do you clear your desk of all items in the evening so our staff can clean it?"

Mrs X: "I certainly do not clear my desk every evening."

PM: "Maybe we have already found the problem as only empty desks can be cleaned. By the way, may I ask you, Mrs X, what did you use to clean your desk today?"

Mrs X: "I went to the closet where all the cleaning stuff is and took a bottle and a rag."

PM: "And which bottle and rag did you actually take?"

Mrs.X: "Well, the one on the trolley. It was a red bottle and a red cloth."

PM: "Ah, hmm…"

Mrs X: "What do you mean by 'ah, hmm'? "

PM: "Well, I honestly do not quite know how to explain…"

Mrs X: "But you as the boss of a contract cleaning company should have a clue how to clean. In the end this is not a big deal anyway."

PM: "I do not want to be impolite Mrs. X, but I am happy we did not shake hands when we met…"

Mrs X: "That is rude!"

PM: "Because you have cleaned your desk with a detergent for washrooms and the red cloth you took to clean your desk – well, it is usually used by my staff for cleaning the toilets and urinals; they would never touch it without gloves…"


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