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Handling the Irate, Sometimes Abusive Caller

Posted By Erin L. Lasch CAE, Friday, August 25, 2017

By Nancy Friedman, Customer Service Expert, President, Telephone Doctor Customer Service Training


If your job entails taking calls from unhappy, irate callers, you’ve got your work cut out for you. Employees who deal with callers are especially vulnerable to outbursts from customers who are going through an emotional, stressful time.


Handling this type of customer takes time and training, but it can be accomplished effectively. Here are some of the Telephone Doctor’s best techniques for turning unhappy callers into satisfied customers.


Get Off on the Right Foot


Realize that upset angry customers are not unhappy with you, but with the situation. Don’t take a caller’s hostility personally. You are merely the rod that redirects the violent lightning. You can do a great deal to diffuse a caller’s anger before you ever pick up the phone. How? By smiling before you answer that call. You can really “hear” a smile over the phone. It’s very difficult to be rude to someone who is warm and friendly.


Anatomy of a Hostile Call


There are four basic steps to handling an irate caller. Telephone Doctor calls them our ASAP techniques.                                                           


A - Acknowledge the person’s feelings and apologize for the inconvenience the customer has encountered. Make an effort to be sincere. In today’s impersonal society, it’s incredibly rare to hear the words, “I’m sorry that happened. Let me get the ball rolling to fix it.” You’ll probably spend about 80 percent of your time massaging the caller’s feelings and 20 percent solving the problem.


S - Sympathize and empathize with the caller. Phrases like “I can understand why you’re upset” can help soothe ruffled feathers. Pretend it’s are calling. Then get busy solving the problem.


A - Accept 100 percent responsibility for the call.  Don’t worry about the fault.  This is probably the toughest part. Chances are excellent that you had nothing to do with the problem. However, it’s your job to take the responsibility and help initiate a solution.


P - Prepare to help. Begin by re-introducing yourself – callers don’t usually remember your name. State that you will be able to help. Use the caller’s name, if possible. This helps to diffuse anger. A willing attitude is essential, because if the caller senses insincerity or indifference, it will cause them to stay angry. It’s exasperating to file a complaint with someone who obviously doesn’t care.




Never make an excuse to a complaining caller. No one wants to hear “The computer is down” or “I’m the only one here.” Or “We’re short staffed” That is your problem, not the caller’s. When you give an excuse, the caller automatically hears “I’m not going to help you


Transferring Calls


Sometimes you’re not able to solve the problem on the spot. Many times, you need more information from another department. Perhaps the call needs to be handled by another person. Although these are legitimate courses of action, they usually upset your caller all over again.


If you need more information, TELL the caller. Ask them if they’re able to hold while you obtain it, or would they prefer a call back. “Joe, I need to check with our claims department to answer your question. It will take two or three minutes, are you able to hold/wait while I check?” Avoid untrue, frustrating phrases like “Hold on a second.” Nothing takes a second.


If you need to transfer a caller, if you can, let them know the name of the person they’ll be speaking with. It’s also good to explain a reason why you’re bringing in a third party. “Joe, Mrs. Smith in our claims department is the real expert in resolving your type of situation. May I transfer you directly to her?”


The ASAP technique works! Try it and see!


# # #


Nancy Friedman, is back by popular demand this year, speaking at ARCSI.  She will also be speaking at ISSA this September 2017 as well.  Her formula for customer client success has been proven over and over, with her ideas, tips, skills and techniques.   She is the spokesperson in the popular DVD and on-line training platform,   Nancy is the author of 9 books on Customer Service, sales and communication skills.  She can be reached at 314 291 -1012 or or  Follow her at: Nancy Friedman, Speaker on LINKED IN, TWITTER @telephonedoctor and Telephone Doctor Facebook and receive her daily customer service tips.


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The Value of Training and Certification Programs

Posted By Erin L. Lasch CAE, Tuesday, August 22, 2017

Instead of fancy branding, invest in training.


By Cloud Conrad


Conrad, CloudOne of the many benefits of membership in ARCSI is that it seeks to elevate our industry’s image and, in turn, its members in their marketplace. Members enjoy a halo effect, but without continuing to deliver value to consumers that glow may fade. Continuous value delivery, through professionalism and expertise, validates the services we provide as a critical component of quality of life for families everywhere.


How might we offer continuous value delivery to improve quality of life?


In my role at Maid Brigade I have researched customer preferences using various means over several years. And there’s one point on which all survey data is consistent: the Number One criteria people seek when they choose a cleaning service (and the Number One criteria they evaluate their cleaning help on) is consistent quality.


It’s not really a surprise, is it? Maybe your own research supports this finding. If not empirically, you probably know it anecdotally. More than one prospective customer has probably told you that the reason they are interviewing cleaning services is that the one they just fired started out great, but the quality deteriorated over time. Maybe, sadly, you’ve heard this from a regular customer asking to have her key returned.


Why does this happen? Cleaning services consistently train new hires when they come on board. Most use the same training with every one of them. The cleaners, new or old, are given the same supplies every morning at send-off. They are instructed to perform the same regular tasks from visit to visit. They are evaluated using the same form every time. They approach customer homes the same way on every visit. Pricing may even be based on the assumption that homes are in the same condition every time, but history shows that most homes are not in the same condition or have the same sorts of soils, in the same spots, from visit to visit. And what two customers have the exact same combination of surfaces in their homes anyway?


Several years ago, one of our employees did not notice, or realize the importance of the fact, that the tile shower she was cleaning had a marble seat and threshold. She used the normal acid based tile cleaner. It etched the marble on the seat and threshold. We hired someone to polish out the damage and satisfied the client, but it cost $700 to do so. A better understanding of surfaces would have saved us considerable money and hassle.


So, how does a cleaning business owner equip their staff to deliver consistent quality when there are so many varied cleaning challenges to overcome in the course of a day? How can you know with certainty that your staff can make the right game-time decisions to uphold your reputation, one cleaning visit at a time?


Motivation, mentoring, and measurement are all contributing factors to reliably delivering consistent quality. But, as in many other scenarios, knowledge is power. Mastery is the truly elevating factor because it is internal to the employee to draw from at the moment of truth – all others are constructs you create back at the office.


Certified results.


For house cleaners to achieve professional results regardless of what cleaning challenges they encounter in any given home, they must achieve mastery. Recognizing different surfaces and soils and understanding how to leverage chemistry and equipment to work efficiently and effectively based on these combinations is essential to consistent quality in a very inconsistent environment.


Many cleaning business owners don’t possess this knowledge and even if they do, they don’t have the time to share it in a way that translates to predictable results and consistent customer ratings. Plus, the rate at which new home flooring, counter top, wall and appliance materials enter the market is accelerating, meaning that training content is dynamic – regular review and revision is necessary to keep pace with trends in materials.


The value of giving the house cleaning technician the knowledge and power that advanced skills training provides is significant and worth the time, energy and lost revenue that thorough training requires:


PRODUCTIVITY – no wasted motion, supplies or time


REDUCED LOSS TO CORRECT MISTAKES – the better skilled the cleaners, the fewer the re-cleans, repairs and replacements


MORALE – money talks, but studies show that employees get personal reward from a sense of mastery


MOTIVATION – employees are attracted to the elevated status that advanced training creates


REDUCED EMPLOYEE TURNOVER – your investment in employees (the good ones at least) breeds loyalty and those who have the opportunity to enjoy mastery tend to also be the sort to gladly share their knowledge with others on the team.


EMPLOYEE REFERRAL – happy employees invite their friends, neighbors and relatives to apply when you have job openings and best of all, they vet these applicants for you


CUSTOMER REFERRAL – consistent staff boosts consistent quality, which makes customers happy, happy customers talk, and referred customers are usually your most valuable


A story worth telling.


People seeking work in our industry have many options these days. All other things being equal, job seekers will gravitate to places that offer skills and advancement (at least the ones we’d all love to hire). Therefore the well-planned, well-executed training program deserves its place in marketing communications.


Our research also indicates that most customers today want to support businesses that treat their workers well. Training programs expand a cleaning company’s ability to resonate with these socially conscious consumers.


The media cares about what consumers care about. Supporting hard-working people by offering them the opportunity for free advanced skills training is a happy news story and might draw some positive attention if packaged correctly.


Member resources.


Numerous options are available for ARCSI members when it comes to professional training and certification for the house cleaning technician. Invest in pre-packaged training modules after comparing different offerings. Be sure to look at the scope of each program to make sure it is as thorough and inclusive as possible. It’s a big undertaking but combining existing programs or creating one from scratch is possible if you find that no existing solution(s) are adequate for your needs.


By committing to a training program that includes certification, continuous value delivery really is possible while contributing to the improvement of quality of life for the consumers of residential house cleaning service.



Cloud Conrad is VP of Brand Strategies at Maid Brigade, a franchised house cleaning service with locations in the US and Canada. She is an ARCSI member and is Vice-Chair of the IICRC Technical Advisory Committee for the House Cleaning Technician certification exam. Prior to joining Maid Brigade in 2003, she spent two decades in account strategy and media planning for marketing and advertising agencies. She lives outside Atlanta GA.

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The Importance of Family Meetings

Posted By Erin L. Lasch CAE, Friday, August 11, 2017

By Henry Hutcheson, Family Business USA


Working in a business is tough. Employees are trying to get ahead, develop their skills, and impress their boss. Most likely they are competing with a co-worker for advancement. At the same time, managers and owners are trying to develop and execute successful strategies while trying to groom their employees. And this whole dance occurs in an environment of aggressive competitors, choosy customers, and margin-squeezed suppliers.


Now imagine that this business is a family business with a mom, dad, son, daughter, son-in-law and maybe a nephew, all with different skills, life goals, and relationships with each other. No wonder over 66% of all family businesses don’t succeed to the next generation.


As Steve Forbes stated at a CEO Forum, communication is the key to success for any family business. Family Meetings are one of the best ways to improve communication in a family business. Here are some simple guidelines for family businesses to improve communication by holding effective family meetings.


1)      When in doubt, include everyone

Clearly you include the family members in the business, regardless of their role. Yes, maybe the cousin is working on the factory floor, or maybe your sister is only part time. You also need those who are not working in the business, but are directly related, and spouses. Exclusion can create animosity and suspicion, and partners are typically the closest confidant, and strongest influencer, to the working family member.


2)      Start with developing a code of conduct

The purpose of the code of conduct is to lay the ground rules of how the meetings will take place to ensure that everyone gets a chance to be heard, and that behaviors that impede communication are left outside. The key to an effective family code of conduct is that it must be created from scratch by the family members themselves.


3)      Active listening

Many people think this phrase means to pay attention, but that is only part of the definition. The other part is to prove it.  This is done by paraphrasing back to the speaker what you think you just heard and asking them if they understood correctly. This does not mean you necessarily agree with them. But without knowing they have been heard, the discussion grinds to a halt. The Harvard Program on Negotiations includes active listening as a core module.


4)      Hold meetings regularly

They can be weekly, monthly, quarterly, etc. But the important thing is for everyone to know when the next meeting will occur.  Left open-ended family members with issues to discuss can feel that others want to avoid their topic, and animosity can build towards whoever is responsible for scheduling the meeting. Either have a regular schedule or schedule the next meeting at the end of every meeting.


5)      Plan the meeting

Be sure to allocate enough time for the meeting, give everyone a chance to put their item on the agenda before the meeting, and leave time for open discussion. By doing this, everyone can be assured of getting a chance to speak and be heard.


6)      Facilitator

Family meetings can become awkward if there is a disagreement. Other family members will jump in, or get dragged in, and try to resolve the impasse with good intentions. Unfortunately, this usually results in the feeling that “people are taking sides”. Moreover, as the designated or default coordinator has some power, suspicion of their true motives can exist. An experienced facilitator who has no vested interest in the outcome can help keep family meetings on track.


7)      Incorporate some fun

It doesn’t have to be much, but something that reminds everyone that we are here because we want to be, not because we have to be. You could begin each meeting with each person recounting an interesting encounter since the last meeting. Or ask an amusing question to answer: What five foods would you want if stranded on an island, etc. Everyone can answer or you can simply rotate turns at each meeting.


Family meetings are a great way to improve communication in a family business. Some thought and planning are required to be effective, but they are indispensable to the success of the business and the family.



Henry Hutcheson is the founder and president of Family Business USA, He grew up working for his family’s business, Olan Mills Portrait Studios. Henry has spoken to family business groups across the county, has been a family business columnist for three newspapers, and his work has been featured in numerous magazines and newspapers including Forbes, Fortune, Inc, and the Wall Street Journal. Henry will be leading two sessions in the Residential Cleaning Connection package at the ISSA/INTERCLEAN Trade Show and Convention in Vegas. Click here for more details.



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Employee Engagement… It Begins with You!

Posted By Erin L. Lasch CAE, Friday, August 4, 2017

By Don Phin


What are the costs of disengaged employees? Poor service, poor attitudes, and high turnover for starts. Then throw in weak work comp claims, lawsuits, negative Glassdoor reviews and brand damage.


A professor at Boston University, William Kahn, kicked off the discussion about employee engagement in a 1990 management journal article. He said engaged people are mentally, physically and emotionally involved in their work. 


Mind, body and soul all working in harmony. That’s engagement nirvana. And the key to a great bottom-line.


Encouraged by what they were learning, leaders looked to engagement to increase an employee’s productivity by generating “discretionary effort.” 


In 2000 Gallup began using their enormous survey resources to track worldwide engagement numbers. And I must tell you…it’s not a pretty picture. In surveys since then less than one third of employees have considered themselves engaged. 


That means two out of three people go to work every day simply to collect a paycheck… and many hate their jobs. For these people work is a life draining affair…and it has far reaching consequences. 


I am sure you and your employees are a lot like me. I feel engaged in my work when I am clear about the goals, I’m good at what I am doing or I am learning something new, I work with great people, in a great environment and I produce great results. 


I look forward to doing that work because it is energy giving, not energy depleting. 


This means my goal as an owner or business leader is to provide the opportunity for an engaging work experience. That’s the culture we want because as Drucker said, “culture eats strategy for breakfast”.


Engagement Begins with You


I believe this: no professor can tell you what engages employees at your company better than you can. And nobody has a larger impact on the company culture…or engagement …than you.


What experience have you had with engaging bosses? What was is it about them that inspired you? What motivated you to take action and become more engaged in the process? When I facilitate this in live presentations I get back a similar set of responses. I am told these engaging leaders were:

  • Passionate
  • Highly skilled
  • Inclusive
  • Good listener
  • Challenging
  • Strong values
  • Vision

Chances are my list and your list have many similarities. This is not rocket science. We can also do a list of the characteristics of demotivating, uninspiring and disengaged bosses and those lists would match as well.


So…how do you rate yourself as an engaging leader?


Being an engaged leader is a choice. One we make every day. When you look at the characteristics of the engaging leader how would you rate yourself? 


I have often done an exercise with the executives I coach. I'll do it with you now. On a piece of paper write down the answer to this simple question: what 3 things would people like to see you change about your leadership style? Invariably the response I get is spot on. You probably already know what people want to see you change about yourself. My question is what is your resistance to it? Do you maybe need coaching or training? Are you running too hard to feel what is going on?


Solicit feedback


Success is an inside-out job. As the good Buddha said, “what comes to you comes from you.” Be not afraid and solicit honest feedback…if you truly want to improve:

  • What do I do that is engaging?
  • What can I do that is disengaging?
  • Be open and listen
  • Be thankful
  • Be thoughtful
  • Let them know what you will do



In a future article, I can write about engaging “them.” For now, the place to begin is with you.


Don Phin is an attorney, HR catalyst and trainer. He just launched a training on Employee Engagement. You can learn more about Don at where you can get his Tip of the Week and free tools. Don is one of ARCSI’s speakers for the Residential Cleaning Connection package at the 2017 ISSA/INTERCLEAN Trade Show and ISSA Convention. Phin will talking “Master Human Resources Like a Boss” in a two-part session. For complete details, visit

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What Gets You Up in the Morning

Posted By Erin L. Lasch CAE, Monday, July 31, 2017
Updated: Monday, July 31, 2017


By Ernie Hartong


One of my colleagues recently attended a conference where one of the discussions put a new twist on an old theme. Instead of “What keeps you up at night” they chose to talk about “What Gets You Up in the Morning!” It got me to thinking about my eight plus years with ARCSI. There have been a lot of reasons to get up in the morning. It starts with our over 600 members. Talking with members each day and learning about their successes or pointing them in a direction to help solve a problem still gets me “jazzed up”. It’s about the passion for what I do. Fortunately, throughout my career I have had that passion for what I was doing most to the time. When the passion wasn’t there I knew it was time to move on.


So my question to you is, Do you still have that passion when you get up in the morning? Do you get excited about what you can do for your clients that day? Do you look for ways to help your employees grow and improve each day? If you don’t, you are just going through the motions. I will argue that just going through the motions will never produce desired outcomes, either for your business or your personal life. 


The merger of ARCSI with ISSA has reignited my passion. As we explore and develop new opportunities and programs for our members the sky is the limit. We now have the resources to do things we were not able to do in the past and that is exciting. 


So I challenge you to give it a try. Instead of worrying about what keeps you up at night, focus on what gets you up in the morning. Ask that same question to your staff, the answers may give you a whole new insight and perspective on what is really important. 


See you in Vegas…..

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Words That Drive Customers Away – KILLER WORDS OF CUSTOMER SERVICE

Posted By Erin L. Lasch CAE, Friday, July 14, 2017

By Nancy Friedman, Telephone Doctor, Customer Service Expert


We call them conversation diverters. Just as ALWAYS and NEVER are. Customer and friends doubt you with those words. 


Killer words help make your customers and your potential customers veer away from the real point of your conversation. 


So best we eliminate them from our routine and vocabulary. It’s not easy to do. If it were easy to do, everyone would be doing it…and we know everyone isn’t doing it. 


Here are 5 of the top-rated killer words. There are more. Remove them and watch the scene go smoother.


1. “No Problem.” – The Customer is thinking, “When was I a problem?” Believe we can thank the ‘islands’ for this one. When we take a cruise and ask for anything, what’s the first thing the waiter says? Right, “no problem.” 

Well on the cruise it may be okay; however, back home it should be the GOLD STANDARD of “you’re welcome,” “my pleasure,” “happy to help,” and a host of other ways to let the customer know you’re glad to do that. 

“No problem” appears to be a big problem with your customers. Lose it. It kills the conversation.

2. “Our computers are so slow.” – Big excuse. Everyone’s computer runs slow occasionally. When you complain about your computer it’s perceived as though, you’re complaining about your company. And perception is reality. Take the time to say, “This might take a bit longer than I’d like it to. Tell me about…” and then ask a benign question that will take time and let the customer talk. 

While most people do understand slow computers, they don’t like it. It kills the conversation. 

3. “Calm Down.” – Oh man does this one make the hair on the back of their neck stand up. In any movie or TV show I’ve watched lately when someone is told to “calm down,” the next words are, “Don’t you tell me to calm down.” 

There are times when the client may need to vent. Your job is to listen and come in at the appropriate time with sympathetic and empathetic wording. You telling a customer how to handle their actions isn’t a great idea. Get rid of the expression “calm down.” 

4. “It’s not our policy.” – Ouch! Okay, okay, most every company has policies and it’s something we need to deal with daily I’m sure. What is not necessarily is blurting it out first and foremost to the customer. 

The policy should be rephrased so it starts off in a more positive way. We like to say, “rejecting gently.” And rephrasing policies are a good way soften the blow and explain in a more TLC way what will happen.

Next time you find yourself saying, “That’s not our (their) policy.” Stop. Regroup and reword. Buffer it with, “Let me see what we can do. Normally the policy of the company doesn’t allow last minute changes.” (The request MUST be re-stated so the customer hears you’re going to go to bat for them.) However, we can sure tackle this. Let me double check.”

What happens is sometimes when we go back on behalf of the client, it works. And then sometimes it doesn’t. But at least we double checked. And we didn’t just slough it off with, “I’m sorry. It’s not our/their policy.”

5. “Yes, but…” – Hmm what’s wrong with that? We all say it. Well, what’s wrong with that is the minute we say “yes, but,” the client knows something negative is coming. 

If you have ever said, “I love you so much, but…” There’s a condition coming, isn’t there? Here’s one way to change that: “Yes, we can do that. There is, however, a $50 additional fee.” Doesn’t that sound better than, “Yes but…”? 


Most people have phrases and sayings they don’t like or that aggravate them. Keep a list of your killer words (along with ours) and avoid them.


Nancy Friedman will be the ARCSI Featured Speaker, September 11 at ISSA/INTERCLEAN® North America 2017 . Come to hear her attention-grabbing session, “Hell Hath No Fury Like a Customer Scorned.” With her high energy, Friedman is the perfect choice to lead off the ARCSI Education Conference. 


Nancy Friedman is president of The Telephone Doctor Customer Service, which offers online training modules on customer service, customer loyalty, communications, internal customer service, sales training, management, and leadership programs. For more information, visit

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Three Steps to Finding and Keeping Great Cleaners

Posted By Erin L. Lasch CAE, Thursday, July 13, 2017
Updated: Thursday, July 13, 2017

By Michael Brown, Swept


If one of your daily responsibilities is hiring new cleaners, you know how difficult it can be to identify which candidates will make the best long-term employees. With the employee turnover rate in the janitorial industry ranging anywhere from 75% to upwards of 375%, finding and keeping great cleaners is a challenge faced by even the most experienced managers and owners. Yet many would agree that the effect of high employee turnover on your business goes far beyond the resources spent on hiring and training.


Tom Roberson, of Donely Building Services in Lake St. Louis, Missouri, says that while retaining good cleaners is the biggest challenge their business faces, finding a solution is very important. “You have to have the right cleaner to keep a customer,” says Roberson.


So what can you do to make sure you’re hiring the best cleaners for a job and keeping them as long as possible? This article looks at three ways to streamline your hiring processes and reduce your employee turnover rate.


Write Job Postings That Do Half The Work For You


While it can be tempting to quickly whip up a generic job posting to attract a wide variety of applicants and then screen them out when it comes time to schedule interviews, one of the biggest favors you can do yourself is to allow people to screen themselves out. Not only will it prevent you from wasting time communicating with those who are not a good fit for the job, but a descriptive job posting will actually attract higher quality cleaners.


To do this, brainstorm a list of questions people might have about the job, then break these questions down into categories — questions about what your company can offer the cleaner, questions about the cleaner’s role/responsibilities, and questions about the job requirements — and dedicate a portion of the job posting to answer each set of questions.


For example, you might call your first section the “Why Work With Us?” section. This is your opportunity to make your company stand out from the competition by providing a brief description of what you have to offer. Competitive wages? Flexible hours? Health coverage? A unique company culture? We also recommend saying where the job site is located and whether or not training will be provided in this section.


In the next section of your job posting — “Roles & Responsibilities” — focus on just that: the role and the responsibilities of the ideal applicant. This should include any expectations you have of the cleaners assigned to this job, such as the equipment they will need to know how to use, the specific duties for which they will be responsible, and whether or not they’ll be working alone or as part of a team.


In the “Requirements” section of your job posting, be sure to describe in detail what minimum requirements you’re looking for in an employee. Do they need to provide a criminal background check? Have their own car or cell phone? A certain amount of experience? Be able to speak or read English? Do heavy lifting or operate certain equipment? These types of questions are helpful for screening out applicants who aren’t right for a position.


Need some inspiration? Visit for a sample job posting.


Create a Hiring System that Saves You Time and Money


Having spoken to countless cleaning companies about their hiring challenges, we’ve found that the majority say finding and training employees takes up a large portion of their time. Yet, when we ask a room full of owners / operators how many have a hiring budget in place, nearly every hand goes down. Likewise, when asked how many keep an up-to-date database of prospective cleaners from which they can hire for future jobs, the numbers are surprisingly low.


The reality is, if you don’t have systems in place to manage and speed up your hiring and training processes, you’ll spend more time and money than you realize (or need to spend) on these activities. To help improve your hiring and training processes we have two recommendations:



When hiring for a cleaning position you likely post your job description on a few different places online in order to reach potential hires — places like social media, job boards, Craigslist, etc. Before you do we highly recommend signing up for In a matter of minutes this free tool will help you create a job posting and generate a link which you can then share on the websites of your choice.


Then, when cleaners apply for your job they are sorted and ranked based on the criteria you specified for each position. Those who are the best match for a given job will float to the top while those better suited for another job will score lower. More importantly, the applications of anyone you don’t hire this time will still be available for future positions, meaning you always have a database of cleaners to refer to when it comes time to hire again.


Hold Group Training Sessions


A second strategy we recommend is doing all training in the form of weekly group training sessions. By designating a specific time and day each week for training new hires you’ll manage your time more effectively and budget for the time spent training. If a prospective hire is unable to make the training session they have the opportunity to do so the following week in order to be hired.


Invest in Employee Retention to Keep Your Best Cleaners


When it comes to the whether or not offering higher wages than competitors is an effective employee retention strategy, it seems the consensus in the industry is that while it’s important to pay cleaners fairly, money is not usually the most motivating factor.


Like many business owners, Diana Rodriguez-Zaba, partner at ServiceMaster Restoration by Zaba, feels that the key to employee retention is a company culture that emphasizes mutual respect between managers and cleaners. “Money is important, but how we treat them is most important”, says Rodriguez-Zaba.    


So how can you retain a good cleaner once you’ve hired them? We’ve learned from our own research and experience that there are three main things you should focus on delivering:


High Quality Training

Investing in a training program communicates not only to your customers that that quality is a priority, but also to your cleaners. The key to a great training program isn’t just to make sure your cleaners understand what is expected of them — but also why it’s expected. Taking the time to communicate the impact their work has on your customers’ day-to-day operations can help foster a sense of ownership and pride that leads to a job well done.


Ongoing Communication

Delivering great training to new employees is important, but the guidance shouldn’t stop there. Good cleaners want to do a good job, and it can be stressful when clear direction isn’t provided. This is particularly true when a cleaner starts working at a new location or is filling in for another staff member. Not only will your cleaners appreciate receiving clear cleaning instructions, but it will also help reduce the load on your management team who are called on to answer questions — often during their non-working hours.


Respect & Appreciation

When staff work remotely, it's easy for managers to overlook the effort they put forward. When doing inspections, make sure that cleaners know not only when something has gone wrong but also when things are done right. Asking great questions, reporting problems right away, and always showing up on time are all great examples of cleaner behaviour that should be acknowledged. Going one step further, many companies have successfully started an employee recognition program that highlights small wins to the team in a public way.


For more ideas on employee recognition programs or investing in cleaner retention in general visit


When it comes to hiring cleaners, many business owners / operators learn to effectively screen out unqualified candidates — for instance those who simply would not be a good match in terms of skill set or company culture. But identifying, and more importantly, keeping track of those who may not be a good fit for a particular job, but would be the ideal candidate for a future position, is something many in the industry have yet to master.


Likewise, with so many other things competing for your attention on a daily basis it’s easy to neglect showing appreciation for your employees who are doing a great job. But as Leo Stein, Director of Human Resources at LandCorp puts it, “If it wasn’t for our crew members in the field no one here at Landcorp would be where they are today.” That mentality is one we feel every janitorial business owner should adopt.



When Michael Brown owned a cleaning company he developed technology to help him find the best cleaners and then keep them engaged once they were on his team. Over a two year period, his cleaner turnover was less than 10%!  After expanding into multiple cities, he sold his company so he could focus on creating innovative technologies in the janitorial industry. You can get in touch with Michael at Swept at



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Award Nomination Deadline Extended to July 14

Posted By Erin L. Lasch CAE, Friday, June 30, 2017

The ARCSI 2017 Professional Image Awards are the perfect opportunity to recognize the extraordinary people around us. The deadline to submit your nominations for 2017 is extended to July 14 to allow ample time for all companies make their submissions. Be sure to get your nominations in now for the 2017 Professional Image Awards.


Who will walk away with ARCSI’s most prestigious awards – the Professional Cleaner of the Year Presented by PerfectClean and the Chairman’s Award? You tell us! Send us your submissions for the members of your team that stand out!


The Professional Cleaner of the Year
Presented by PerfectClean

Rewarding fantastic staff is important. If you have a "go to" cleaner or trainer that never misses a beat, is always upbeat, helpful to other staff and whom you, your clients and your employees love, we want to meet them! Recognize your best cleaning tech or trainer as a Professional Cleaner of the Year nominee.


The Chairman's Award

Celebrating your top office staff person, office managers, salespeople, and all other employees who work in your office by nominating them for the ARCSI Chairman's Award. This is the person without whom your business simply run as smoothly and whom you depend on when you are out of the office.


Download the Professional Cleaner of the Year and Chairman's Award Application.


Professional Image Awards

The ARCSI Professional Image Awards present you with the opportunity to showcase the wonderful marketing efforts you have taken to build and grow your business. Each year, ARCSI recognizes the following awards:

  • Logo
  • Uniform
  • Vehicle Graphics
  • Website

Our Awards Committee encourages ALL ARCSI members to submit in at least one category. You can submit in up to three (3) categories, but in any year you can only win in a maximum of two (2) categories, so carefully review each category before you make your submission.


Download an application today for the Image Awards.


Send your applications to Ernie Hartong at no later than July 14, 2017.

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Let’s Talk: An Interview with ISSA Executive Director John Barrett ​

Posted By Erin L. Lasch CAE, Tuesday, June 20, 2017


ARCSI, A Division of ISSA is nearing the six-month anniversary of its merger with ISSA. We thought it was a good time to sit down with John Barrett, the Executive Director of ISSA, to chat about the merger and the future of ARCSI. (Pictured at left sitting left to right: John Barrett and Ernie Hartong. Standing from l to r: Tom Stewart, Jeff Lange and David Sikes.)


ARCSI: What do you think has been the most significant benefit of this merger for ARCSI members?

JB: From the perspective of ISSA, we hope that the members of ARCSI see increased value in our partnership and the way that they can signal the value by joining and renewing their membership. It's also our hope that the value of the partnership is tangible. The world is incredibly competitive and it's our hope that the companies look to ARCSI to secure a competitive advantage.


Truth be told, we have just gotten started. ARCSI is the first association to merge with ISSA and we have been working very hard to identify areas and associations we can invest in for the benefit of our diverse and growing membership.


ARCSI: How do you think the merger has benefited ISSA?

JB: Our mission at ISSA is to change the way the world views cleaning and ultimately to bring together the global cleaning community.


ARCSI has brought a vast amount of insight into the residential cleaning market. This was not an area of expertise that we had at ISSA before the merger. We are getting up to speed thanks to the generous energy and enthusiasm shared by the ARCSI staff, Council and membership. It is helping us to understand the needs of the residential cleaning community and what we can do to serve that class of members. We are delighted and grateful for the privilege to represent and be the voice for the residential cleaning community.


ARCSI: What do you see as the next steps for ARCSI and ISSA?

JB: The staff teams at ISSA and ARCSI are knee deep in the next steps. When we started this process, we had to define goals and objectives. That part has been done. Now we have identified a series of tactics to grow membership, certifications and training – and that will be where you see the next tangible benefits. It is a priority for us to seek other partnerships that are highly complementary to ARCSI and further strengthen the benefits, resources and connection with the residential cleaning community.


ARCSI: Where do you see the ISSA in say 5 or 10 years?

JB: Our vision for the extended future is consistent with our global strategies. The cleaning community around the world is not very different from our own. In fact, they are very similar. But in many countries, they don't have an association representing them and there isn't a global voice. We want to bring together the residential cleaning community across the globe and extend our influence in those communities.


ARCSI: Do you have anything you would like to share with the Residential Cleaning members of ISSA?

JB: I want to applaud the leadership of this group. It's been incredibly positive and energizing to work with a group that is so dedicated to their members. The members and the board are absolutely enthusiastic about helping other members reach their goals. The commitment exhibited by the members of the residential cleaning community to their peers is refreshing and we hope that we can expand the reach of this group. We are thrilled to have this opportunity.

Tags:  ISSA 

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“Seek First to Understand Then to Be Understood”

Posted By Erin L. Lasch CAE, Wednesday, June 7, 2017

By Sharon Tinberg


I would love to take credit for those words but many of you are old enough to know whose words they are.  They are the words of Stephen R. Covey, one of the most insightful leaders the business world was ever blessed with.  He understood human behavior and how to have an impact on yours’ and others’.


I believe for this industry to continue to grow at the rapid rate it has in the past 10 years, we, as residential cleaning service owners and partners, need to improve our understanding of human behavior and, ultimately, how to positively impact it.


The most compelling reason to move in this direction is the positive impact it will have on retaining cleaners who are so very difficult to find in today’s tight employee market.  I just completed reading an article about Starbucks and the 5000 locations they intend to open up by the year 2021.  The only thing that stands between them and the success of that goal is finding enough Baristas to staff those 5000 locations.  They are already facing staffing difficulties with the locations they currently operate.  (Sound familiar?)  Their employee turnover rate is rising, recruiting is becoming more difficult, and current employees who are staying for the health benefits are not portraying the “So happy to see you look” to their clients that was once associated with Starbuck’s Baristas.  The prime employee complaints are fixing staffing issues, improving worker pay, and bridging the disconnect between Baristas and corporate workers. 


What are Starbucks executives saying?  That nothing is more important to them than their employees/Baristas.  The executives know they’re not perfect but they regularly engage in discussions with their employees, continue to tell them how valuable they are and how they couldn’t live without them.  (Sound familiar?)  Still, many employees say that Starbuck’s executives are falling short when it comes to listening to and supporting Baristas and other workers.  Perhaps the executives are seeking first to be understood and then to understand. 


I share this story with you because I have witnessed much of the same leadership behavior during my 22 visits to residential cleaning service offices in the past two years.  It can happen as early as my first day visiting an office.  The owner picks me up at my hotel.  I am ready when the owner tells me to be ready.  When we get to their office several cleaners are standing outside waiting on us to open up the door.  I can’t help but wonder how much the cleaners feel the owner appreciates them when they let ‘their valuable employees standing outside, especially when it is 104 or -10 degrees out.   And what about the great new employee that is starting that day who is always early.   It would be great to have a recording of that conversation as they’re all freezing or roasting waiting for us to get there to open the door.  Do you think that the new employee is feeling safe right about now or are they hearing things like “They’re never on time and we don’t even get paid for doing this.”?   Actually, that always amazes me.  In these offices, the cleaners were paid a percentage of the homes, not hourly, so they earned no money while they were preparing the supplies for the day.   This is perfectly legal as long as their salary divided by the total time, from the time they get to the office in the morning until they leave the office that night, comes out to minimum wage per hour. 


This preparation work is something that I did myself until I had enough money to pay someone to prepare the towels and supplies for the cleaners for the day.  If you are an owner who has been blessed with cleaners like these you should feel obligated to get there before any of your cleaners with, perhaps, water, juice, doughnuts, and/or coffee to show them how much you appreciate them.  Most of the owners who have been given this gift of time from their cleaners just take it for granted that that’s what all cleaners do.  Believe me, they do not.  Perhaps that is because many of us would never ask them to do that for nothing in the first place.   My question to the owner always is “Would you do that for nothing?”   I’ve always thought the best way to be a leader that someone wants to follow is for the leader to follow the golden rule ‘Do to others as you would have them do to you’. Luke 6:31NIV 

One thing, among many, that I truly admire about all 22 owners I’ve worked with is their ability to step out of the box, look at the situation as others see it, understand things as others see them, not shoot the messenger and sincerely embrace their leadership role.  I’m truly grateful for the amazing owners I’ve had the pleasure to work with and their non-ending desire to learn and grow, even though it may be painful at times.


Let’s continue with the story of the new employee who has just waited outside in 10° weather for your arrival.  You find them a place to sit, get them settled with the new hire paperwork and leave them alone so you can get the rest of the cleaners organized and out for the day.   The orientation process begins and you are very professional and organized.  You are beginning to make this new employee feel safe again.  When you are going through the employee handbook and mention employee benefits you tell the new employee that they will receive five company t-shirts.  They are very excited about that since they will not have to do laundry all week.  At the close of the orientation you ask them what size t-Shirt they wear and they say large.   You go to your supplies room to get the t-shirts and suddenly remember you only have one large left.  You now need to tell this employee you only have one t-shirt.  There goes the safety that you worked all morning to regain.  We are cleaning services.  We do not have a lot of profits to be able to offer a lot of benefits.  If you expect an employee to follow you as their leader, you better be a person of your word regarding the few benefits you said you would give them.  If you said they would get five t-shirts you need to have five t-shirts laid out on a table ready for them when they walk in the door.  Absolutely no excuses, just like you do not want to hear any excuses when one of the cleaners leaves work undone.  You left work with work undone four weeks ago when you should have ordered more t-shirts.  Is this the kind of performance you want to mentor to a new employee?  This problem only continues to get worse as the typical owner puts the t-shirts on the back burner as soon as the orientation is over and other fires arise that need to be put out first.  Before the owner realizes it one month has passed and this new employee is still washing out their t-shirt every night.  If you are lucky enough to have this cleaner stay with your company, one thing I will guarantee you is they will not be referring their cleaning friends to you. 


As leaders who want to develop followers, we need to understand how our followers feel about situations.  It takes a lot of humility to be a real leader.  Sometimes leaders make mistakes.  Not having someone at your office in a leadership role before your cleaners arrive is not demonstrating how much they mean to you.  Not having sufficient t-shirts and other cleaning tools on hand for new cleaners is not showing your new cleaner how much they mean to you.  Accept these facts, be grateful they were brought to your attention, step up to the plate, apologize and fix them and never let that happen again.  Set the kind of example you want them to follow.   Don’t forget the golden rule to do to others as they would do to you.  


Every time you tell them they are really important to you your words are falling on deaf ears.  They are thinking “I can’t be that important if you can’t remember to order my T-shirts”.   You, of course, are thinking they are being unreasonable because they don’t understand how busy you are.  I ask you, “Are you listening first to understand or are you listening first to figure out how you are going to respond?”  I submit to you that the leader who seeks first to understand and then to be understood will be the successful leader of tomorrow.



Sharon is passionate about training and the power that education can bring to others.  Sharon also has 20 years of experience managing a residential cleaning company that generated $1.98M/yr when she left it in 2008.  It was one of the largest individual residential cleaning services in the nation.  When Sharon left her company she saw a need for professional training in the residential cleaning service arena.  Holding a BA in Rhetoric and Public Address, along with numerous years of experience writing and implementing various training programs, (not to mention a bit of Spanish), Sharon was armed with the skills and knowledge necessary to enter the house cleaning training arena.  In 2008 she produced the C.O.R.E. Training DVD set that is now used by more than 1500 companies around the world and started her current consulting firm Rags to Riches   


Sharon’s cleaning service was a 3 time recipient of awards from the Austin Quality Council.  Sharon was Past President of the NW Chamber of Commerce, American Business Women’s Association and Austin Junior Forum.  She was also a board member of NW Seton Hospital and Austin Women’s Chamber of Commerce.  Sharon mentored an ‘at risk’ child for 3 years, was a puppeteer for Kids on the Block and a recipient of the Women in Power Award.  Her leadership style is gleaned from her involvement in non-profits tainted a bit by her corporate background and her 4 years of experience managing 1000 employees.


Sharon will be speaking at the ISSA/INTERCLEAN North America Trade Show and ISSA Convention in September in Las Vegas. She will be speaking on "Where Have All the Repeat Clients Gone?" For more about the 2017 Show, visit the Residential landing page on the Show website.


Tags:  employee engagement  retainment 

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