Getting the Job Right
You will find that even though you have a set of basic tasks to perform in each room that are fairly consistent in each house you go to, every client has their own special task and their own special way they like it to be done. Just find out what it is and make sure that it is done – it’s easy. Then you can guarantee that they will be happy. Spend time talking with and discussing those things that your client needs. If you have difficulty talking to and understanding your client ask them to speak slowly for you. For example, some clients are happy as long as the mirrors are perfect, or as long as the dishes in the sink have been washed up and put away etc.
The aim is to make every home a joy to return to – requests done, surfaces clean, house smelling fresh and looking good – basically perfect. However, in order to achieve this you must organise your time. So you need to do some forward planning, and the following suggestions should help.
It is best to get into a pattern in each home, and rotate the various tasks, as not everything can be done each visit. Getting into a pattern is especially difficult when your client leaves you a note changing his or her priorities from your previous visit all the time. So, attend to these notes first and then start with the rest of the house, doing as much as possible within the time booked.
When you first arrive at the job, wander through the house and assess the work to be done and the order that it needs to be done in. For example, a bathroom should take no more than 35 minutes and an ensuite no more than 25 minutes – then keep to your plan. You can always come back towards the end of the job and do extra’s. If you spend an extra half an hour in the kitchen wiping out the fridge (which is a Spring Clean service anyway) and do not have time to do the vacuuming, your client is not going to be very happy.
The following list is a guideline as to the maximum time you should spend in each room of the house if you are doing all the suggested tasks for each room:
Bathroom………………………………………………. 35 mins
Ensuite………………………………………………….. 25 mins
Kitchen…………………………………………………. 40 mins
Bedrooms………………………………………. 20 mins each
Lounge/Living areas………………………………. 40 mins
Sunroom/Dining room……………………………. 20 mins
Laundry………………………………………………… 15 mins
If you add these estimates to the estimated time listed on the Spring-Cleaning menu you will be able to schedule your bookings so that you don’t overbook your time for the day.
The amount and type of work to be done will determine how long you stay at each job, and the road distance between each job should be taken into consideration when setting appointment times. The following is a suggested time schedule for any average day with no Spring Cleans:
Arrive at 8 am – 8.30 am Leave at 11 am – 11.30 am
11.30 am – 12 noon 2.30 pm – 3 pm
3 pm – 3.30 pm 5 pm – 5.30 pm
3 jobs a day are suggested for one person working full time. Two can easily do 6 jobs a day. If you are a mum who would like to work between school hours, you should be able to do 2 jobs a day. Don’t allow your client to tell you what time to arrive – in order to fit two jobs in you need to start at 9am and finish around 3.15pm (that’s two 3 hour bookings with 15 minutes drive between them). So if she wants you to start at 10am, let somebody else take the job, except of course if you only want one job a day.
Full-timers should not allow their clients to set their starting time. In order to work the maximum number of hours your first job needs to start at about 8.30am. If a client wants you at 10am you can’t do a job either before or after, and your whole day is wasted. Take control and decide when it fits in with you, or let it go.
It is important to be aware of the different types of cleaning services and be able to produce the desired result ie: a Spring-Clean is a much more comprehensive and thorough clean than a Maintenance Clean. Also, you must familiarise yourself with the purpose for each of the products in your kit. You must know what products to use on what surfaces as using inappropriate products will cause damage that may result in your client wanting to make an insurance claim against you.
Various tasks need to be rotated and cleaning can be divided into high and low. One visit high – lights, blades of fans, cobwebs and picture rails (yes, they are noticed), and next visit low – skirting boards, table legs and door moldings, and ornaments and picture frames. The best idea is to rotate jobs, not just go over the same surfaces each visit. Decide on a few jobs that need doing and rotate them e.g.: dusting of banisters, glass on fronts of prints in picture frames, the picture frames themselves, and vacuuming window tracks etc. This is where your client will value you as a HOUSEKEEPER rather than just a CLEANER.
People will notice things from positions where they have time to look around. On the phone – what do you see? Sitting on the loo – what do you see? In bed – what do you see? Think about it and check!
Always plan your visit so that you get the maximum results from your timing – if your client won’t help you by tidying and preparing before you get there, put the washing machine on just after you arrive, and then pack the dishwasher and turn it on if need be. These machines will be washing away while you are doing other things. Or, spray the oven on a Spring-Clean, then come back later after completing other areas of the house.
When cleaning an entire house you will know when you have completed each room if firstly, before you begin, you turn on all the lights in the house (or if it is a double-storey house, to turn on all the lights upstairs where you will begin). Then, as you complete the cleaning in each room, turn off the light to that room and close the door behind you as you leave the room.
When cleaning each room, go from left to right around the room and back your way out. Begin first with the dusting and go from high to low, Then, when vacuuming, start at the part of the room that is furthest from the door and work backwards towards the door so that you are backing out of the room. This way, you do not walk back over the area you have just vacuumed. When finished, turn off the light and close the door.
Check the vacuum cleaner bag and empty if necessary. The vacuum will perform better if you clear the bag on a regular basis. You will know it is time to do this if you find that the suction is not as strong as it used to be. You can check this by placing the nozzle against the skin on your hand.
Scatter Rugs need to be taken outside and shaken free of dirt. It is important that you do not just vacuum around and over these, or that you just mop around, as clients will always lift the edges and check under them to see if you are doing your job properly.
When vacuuming always vacuum in a direction that makes the pile of the carpet lift up and sit nicely. It is very nice to come home and find that the carpet looks as fresh and new as if it had just been laid, and this effect can be achieved if you vacuum in such a way that you cannot see the direction that you took with your strokes.
It may mean lifting the head of the vacuum so that you only move across the carpet in one direction, but the effect of doing this leaves a very good impression. As long as it will be your client who walks in the door first
and not the teenage children coming home from school then you will gain top marks in their books for quality of work. Also, stand up straight when using the vacuum cleaner and take long smooth strokes. Don’t bend or exert yourself too much – work with the weight of the machine and just let it do the work.
The best way to dust a home is by going from room to room with a bucket of warm soapy water and a sponge in one hand and a slightly damp (this helps to pick up the dust rather than just shift it around) ‘dry’ cloth in the other. Use the wet sponge for all wooden surfaces and the ‘dry’ cloth for all woodwork, glass etc. Again – if in doubt about what to use – use the ‘dry’ cloth and no detergent. If you use a small bucket to carry the water you will need to dust, then firstly, they will not weigh as much and tire you out, and secondly, if you tip it over there is not so much mess to clean up.
Never use spray polishes on antique (serious looking) furniture – if in doubt use a ‘dry’ cloth only.
Most people arrange ornaments as they like them, so try to replace them after dusting exactly as they were – in the right arrangement and even on the same angle – sounds weird, but clients like it that way! You should clean the ornaments themselves on a regular basis as well. Set aside one visit per month to concentrate on this.
Telephones should be wiped (and the cord to the handset) and left smelling good (use antiseptic) – nothing worse than picking up a sticky phone! Make sure that all handsets are in their cradle before you leave – your client will not appreciate missing any messages that could have been left on the answering machine had the caller been able to get through.
Check for finger marks on light switches and paintwork around them – it only takes a second to check as you clean through the home. If there are children living in the home, check for fingermarks on the walls, furniture and glass at that level (about knee height) – love that jam on the walls!
Clean all TVs stereos and computers with a ‘dry’ cloth – they seem to attract dust and dirt.
Throw away dead flowers and wash vases.
Indoor plants also get dusty, so it is best to either put them in the shower and gently wash off the dust – no detergent – or wipe with a soft, clean, damp cloth. If watering plants always check for overflow, and every now and then trim off dead leaves, turning them so that they get the light at a different angle to maximise growth.
Banisters and stair rails should not be forgotten and should be done on a rotational basis.
Pictures and the glass need to be cleaned regularly, especially if the clients smoke – they seem to get film on them. (Which reminds me – under no circumstances should you smoke in your clients’ homes. It leaves a telltale smell, which they won’t appreciate, especially if they do not smoke themselves. Go out onto the verandah if you must smoke).
Bins need to be emptied into one bag and placed outside in the main garbage bin. Clean garbage bags should replace the old ones, and the bins should be sprayed with disinfectant or air freshener.
Cleaning cloths should be washed, rinsed and hung out to dry when you have finished cleaning. Do not place wet rags into dirty-linen baskets, as the colour may run in the clothes that lay on top of each other within the basket when wet cleaning rags are left on top of them.
Check your watch each time you arrive at the job. Then, if there is someone at home, make a point to tell them that you are about to start and point out the time, and then on your way out say to them ‘OK, I have been here for ……. hours, it is time for me to go now’. Many, many people have been accused of leaving early when they haven’t, but many have been caught out when they have as well. Don’t leave early. Stay for the full time, and make a point of letting the client know that you actually have been there for the full time. Neighbours are often asked to check what time you arrive and what time you leave, so it would not be wise to get too clever in thinking that you will be able to leave early without being found out.
If there are people in the way when you have to vacuum or clean, ask them to move. Sometimes you may feel reluctant to do so because the room is full of teenage children sitting around watching T.V. or using the computer (especially in school holidays). If you don’t try to clean this room however, your client will think that you were cutting corners when all you were doing was being polite and not interrupting. If this happens then phone your client and tell them that the kids are in the way. Most times your client will either ask their children to move or excuse you from attending to that room for this particular visit. If you let them know what is going on they will not be upset with your work. Don’t let other people have the chance to gossip about you without telling the client your side of the story. Tell it how it is in preparation for the consequences of not doing so.
Speaking of teenage children, try to find out if they will be coming home from school early because you can be sure that they will undo all the good work you have done. You could possibly be accused of not doing your job properly once they have been through the house like a tornado when they arrive home. Take a mental note of how you left things so that if this happens you can be sure of what was done.
High gloss Italian furniture – these types of cabinets, wall units, coffee tables and dining settings are usually made in either black, white or cream, and are finished with a very high gloss acrylic-like substance called polyurethane. They need to be cleaned with car polish, not furniture polish. Apply the polish in the same way that you would to a car, and then rub vigorously to bring out the shine of the furniture. Use a clean cloth to give the final polish.