Leveraging Your Terms of Service to Reduce Lost Revenue

Paula Jones

We’ve always had a Terms of Service policy in place. It’s evolved over the 13 years of owning a residential cleaning company, but the basic concepts remain the same.

It’s a simple document that outlines the very basics of “this is what happens as a consequence of this.” Such as a lockout, cancelled service, or perhaps a bounced check.

We used to send it out as part of the welcome email to all new clients, but the truth is people “scan” more often than they “read”. So most of the information doesn’t really sink in.

To get a jumpstart on this lesson, you should download our terms of service template!  Feel free to take as little or as much of it as you’d like and use it as a basis for your own policy. 🙂

If no one reads it, why’s it so important to have a Terms of Service Agreement?  Easy.  The Terms of Service are really for you, your company, and your employees!  They are important because they protect you and they are important because you and your employees need to be on the same page to effectively communicate them to your new and prospective clients!

We believe our own residential cleaning company is seriously successful because we’ve implemented the following 7 policies:

  1. Cancellation Policy
  2. Lockout Policy
  3. 100% Guarantee
  4. Hourly Clients
  5. Approval For Additional Time
  6. Makeready Maid Service
  7. Things We Don’t Clean

Let’s dive in…

#1 – Cancellation Policy
We require a 24-hour notice of cancellation. If you need to cancel or re-schedule on shorter notice, a $50 Re-scheduling Fee will be assessed.

We realized that we were having a problem with this issue when we went back and took a look at a full months’ worth of cancelled jobs. The total was close to $6,000 — a real beating to our bottom line. It’s fairly obvious that cancellations can disrupt your whole schedule and you want to avoid them. So we immediately sent out an email blast with our terms, to all of our recurring clients, as a friendly reminder.

Even though we have a policy that charges a $50 lockout fee, it rarely gets charged. We really use it as leverage.  We feel that the LTV (life time value) of the client is worth more than the $50, but it’s used as a “reminder” if a client cancels last minute.

The thing is, if we get more than a 24-hours notice to cancel or re-schedule, we can usually fill the spot with a net new client.  But in the meantime, this simple email blast ending up cutting our last- minute cancellations by more than 70%!

Here’s another great example of a cancellation policy that I’ve seen at my doctors’ office…

Missed Appointments and Cancellation Policy

If you are unable to keep a scheduled appointment, please give 24 hours advance notice, to ensure that you will not be charged for the appointment.  If less than 24 hours notice is given and we are unable to fill your time slot, you will be expected to pay for the appointment. Thank-you.

As a service provider, I think you’ll agree, the next policy is awesome!

#2 -Lockout Policy
Please leave a key or provide us with access to your home for all scheduled appointments. If we are unable to enter your home for any reason, a $50 Lockout Fee will be assessed.

Let’s be real, being locked out of a job is a huge time suck and revenue killer. We had clients that would continually forget to leave the key under the mat. It falls under the same category as a cancellation, however, there would be times when a client would want us to still perform the service, and ask us to either wait for them to come and open the door or come back at a later time.  Geez! Seriously?

Our solution to the lockout problem: we really give folks a nudge to give us a key to their home to keep on file. We keep all of our keys in a secure lockbox at the office and they are checked out only for that day. If the client is in a condo or apartment we recommend a key release with the office or the concierge. We almost always do a *happy dance* when we get a new key on file, because it guarantees that we will have access to the home to complete the job.

Gas companies, when they first initiate services on your home are required to come into your home and light all your pilot lights.  They will charge you a service fee if you are not there when they arrive even if they gave you an arrival time of 8am to 8pm.  Some companies will allow you to leave a signed statement and release of liability so that they can enter your home without you being present, but you can not simply leave a key. But again if you are not there to let them in or have a release signed, they will charge you for the service call just for showing up to your home, and they won’t turn the gas on!

I think we tend to be much nicer than the gas company, but everyone has their policies and you should too!

#3 -100% Guarantee
Our services are 100% Guaranteed. If we don’t clean something to your satisfaction, contact us within 24-Hours and we will return to make it right.

The 100% guarantee is fairly standard in any business that provides a service to a customer. We do our best to mention this the first time that someone uses our services, as well as any time that someone calls with a complaint. The fact is, no matter how good you and your team are, we’re all human and every so often there will be something that is not done right. Or there is scenario #2 – the client that is just NEVER satisfied, no matter what. (That’s another blog post altogether!)

In general, the 100% guarantee is our guard against giving a client a refund when they are not happy. We want a second chance, and we want to make things right.

#4 -Hourly Clients
Hourly clients should note that the maid team will endeavor to complete all cleaning services within the time which you allot. In some cases, services may not be completed in the timeframe that you have allotted.

Please note that time estimates provided by (The Cleaning Co) are guidelines and may vary greatly depending on, but not limited to: actual size of home, condition of home, the number of people and pets that have lived in the home, whether you have electricity and water available, whether you are still in the process of moving and whether the home is still furnished or is completely empty.

#5 -Approval For Additional Time
We will call the phone number(s) on file to advise you if we believe your home will take longer to complete. If we are unable to reach you via phone, we will update you via the email(s) on file. If we do not hear back from you before your allotted time expires, the maid team will stop work and move on to their next assignment. You may call us to schedule additional maid service as needed for another time or another day.

Please note that we will not guarantee our maid service if you do not provide approval for the necessary amount of time that is needed to clean your home.

With our policy on hourly clients, and approval for additional time, it is really about communication. We want the client to understand that we never know what we are walking into, especially when it’s a first-time service. Naturally, our guarantee is only valid if the job is completed to our standards and specifications.

The policy is pretty clear, we run into issues with clients disputing it every so often. For the most part, this really *only* happens in Make Ready or Post-Construction cleans.

#6 -Makeready Maid Service
Items that are left behind by a client will be discarded by the maid team. If you do not wish for us to remove items, please be sure to tag the items as “Do Not Remove” or “This Is Not Trash”.

And speaking of makeready service…Sometimes there is a bag or a box left behind. When this happens, we will assume that it’s trash. So we just make sure to ask that the home will be vacant as well as completely empty, and let them know that unless they specify, all items left behind will be considered trash.

#7 -Things We Don’t Clean
We do not clean up vomit, urine, feces or blood (or any other bodily function)

There are folks out there that specialize in CSI-type stuff, the environmental, biohazard, hazmat, hoarder-house trash clean-up, mold remediation and so on, but we *don’t*!  We make it clear over the phone and if anyone *even* hints at it, we politely decline the service. (yes, people have tried!)

  • We have always used a terms of service policy however like you said most clients do not bother to read it. I now send my policy via email or I can see whether they have opened the attachment or not and can prompt them further on making sure they have read our policies.

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