Window Cleaning Spotlight: Dealing with a Difficult Customer

Sometimes customers can be pretty terrible to deal with. Sure, you’re probably used to the occasional person who rudely accuses you of charging too much, or the unreliable customer who cancels last minute with no explanation. That’s just part of running a business, especially in the service industry. However, sometimes a customer can take it too far. In those unfortunate and difficult situations, emotions can run high and the end result may be you having to “fire” that customer.

Recently, we were chatting with a window cleaner who told us about one of these difficult customer situations. Here’s their story:

“I got a call and set up a time to do an estimate as soon as possible. I did the estimate and emailed it to the customer, all within a day. They agreed to the estimate and wanted to schedule a job. I sent our first available date and time which was about 10 days out. I included a couple of other dates with more flexible times the following week. Her email back to us stated that she wanted to have an appointment within the next couple of days. She wanted an appointment starting at 4:30 pm for a 4-hour job. She worked during the day and had taped the screens into their frames from the inside, so the only way to clean certain windows was to get access to the inside. She also threatened us in this very same email that she would sue us if one petal or leaf of her flowers was damaged.

But even at that huge red flag, we tried to work with her, telling her that we would take great care around her newly emerging bulbs and offered the solution to use a water fed pole to clean all the windows, eliminating the need to put a ladder in her flower beds. She still wasn’t happy. She wanted an evening or Saturday appointment (we have a family of small kids and don’t work weekends) and wrote a demeaning email back about how we must not know how to clean windows properly because we would still need to remove the screens and put a ladder into her flower beds (but remember, she told us that she had taped the screens from the inside and we would need to remove screens from the inside).

It became very clear that no matter how nice, accommodating or careful we were, she was not going to be happy. We drafted an incredibly warm letter that explained that we wanted her particular scheduling needs to be met and that we would not be able to accommodate her schedule. We acknowledged the importance of not damaging her flowers and told her that while we take great care in and around our customer’s homes, we would not be able to offer the guarantee she was looking for.

We referred her to two other local businesses that work Saturdays and might be able to schedule her sooner. She was obviously still not happy and left us our first and only bad review on Google.

We realize that it’s all part of owning a business, especially one that is in the service industry.  However, it does sting a bit when we pride ourselves on our good reputation in the community. Hopefully, anyone who sees the complaint will also see that we tried to deal with it professionally and without pointing fingers (which is sometimes what you WANT to do). It also has no bearing on the quality of our work, so that’s good. We are so grateful that we identified a problem customer before it dragged on. It was a bit of a time waster but it could have been much worse and now we have affirmed to ourselves what some of our deal-breakers are. The threatening of a lawsuit in the first email was fairly obvious but the entitlement and disregard for our other customers that had previously scheduled was another big one for us.”

Wow. What an experience, huh? The window cleaner in this situation did everything right. They communicated clearly, quickly, and appropriately. Even though the customer was still unhappy and left them a bad review, they were able to get out of the situation by kindly letting the customer know that they would not be able to do the job for her. We can’t imagine a way to handle this situation any better than how this window cleaner did.

Remember, it’s okay to “fire” a customer. It’s okay to say “no” to a job. It is entirely in your hands to decide which jobs to take and which to pass on. It’s not worth it to endure abuse, demeaning comments, or threats of legal action just for one job. Your business and your work are worth more than that, and there is no shortage of respectful customers willing to pay whatever you charge for quality cleaning.

To learn more about when to say “No!” to problem clients, check out this episode of #AskServiceMonster below:

Michael M.
Marketing Coordinator
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