10 Secrets to Hire a House Cleaning Service!

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hire a cleaning lady

I started a cleaning service company here in my home town of Toronto back in 2006, it’s called Clean My Space – who would have thought!? Over the years, I’ve learned a lot about this industry and I wanted to answer a question that I get asked a lot: How do I know which cleaning company to hire?

Whether you want to hire a cleaning service to help you with a one-off task, an annual spring clean, or something on a more regular basis, there are a few things you need to inquire about before you make a decision.

Bringing someone in who isn’t part of a formal cleaning service company carries with it a host of risks. “But, it’s cheaper to hire an under-the-table cleaning lady for cash!” is something I often hear. Funny enough, I always advise people to hire that cleaning lady if price is their main concern, and if things go well, keep her close. But, when things don’t go well, that’s when you bring in a service company. Sure, it’s more expensive, but there are many, many benefits, you get from bringing in a professional company. So, here are ten things you should consider when you’re looking to hire a cleaning service company.

1. Get Referrals From Family & Friends

Start by asking friends and family who they use – referrals give you an inside look at what a company is all about – not just what they say on their website (let’s be honest, a company can write anything). Companies can make themselves sound amazing, credible and experienced, but a referral from a friend or family can paint a different picture and carries more weight.

2. Take Online Reviews With a Grain of Salt

Happy people don’t tend to write as many reviews as unhappy people who feel compelled to shower the world with their terrible experiences. Remember, oftentimes, those reviews are people using it as an opportunity to vent, blow a story out of proportion, or try to damage the reputation of the company. If a company has ALL terrible reviews, that’s definitely a red flag, but if they have mostly good reviews and a few bad ones, that’s pretty average. No one is perfect.

The other thing to watch out for is a company with a perfect score. I know companies who pay clients to write reviews for them, so of course, they’re going to be 100% perfect. Regardless, a good rule of thumb is to avoid a company with all perfect scores, avoid the company with all terrible scores, and find the ones with really consistent high scores.

3. Bonding, Insurance & Worker’s Compensation

Does the company have the ability to cover the costs of any damage done to your home, any theft, or if an injury occurs on your property? If they don’t have this coverage, you could be on the hook for money, items stolen, property damaged, or an injured worker. A company should be willing to tell you if they have this coverage and provide copies of their policies at your request.

Now, be aware that this adds to the cost of operating a service company, which is why the rates are higher per hour or per job. However, this level of assurance is valuable, especially when you’re letting someone into your home, and could ultimately be on the hook for something that goes wrong – remember, we live in a litigious world!

4. Experience, Affiliations & Accreditations

How long have they been in business for? Does the company have any awards, accreditations, or affiliations with professional organizations? I like to look out for this because it makes me feel reassured that a company is trustworthy and concerned with their reputation.

In my company’s case, we have won three awards and we are a member in excellent standing with the Better Business Bureau. These are things we’ve worked hard to obtain and tout proudly as a company. It shows our staff, clients, and potential clients, that we have done everything we can to offer exceptional service. To give this a bit more context, there are a few companies here in Toronto that have a bad reputation and simply close down and re-open under another name. So, checking in to these affiliations lends credibility to a company’s desire to remain in good standing with their customers.

5. Service Offerings

Does the company take requests or offer a fixed service? How detailed will they get? Depending on what you want to be done, inquire as to what level of service is offered. If you can customize it and hire someone to come and tick a bunch of things off your to-do list, or if you just get the same service each visit irrespective of what you want to be done, or, if you can do a combination. Companies offer a variety of options; none are right or wrong, you just need to find what suits your needs and your lifestyle.

6. Satisfaction Guaranteed!

Be sure to ask about breakage, damage, and satisfaction guarantees – a company should stand behind its work and its workers. If you’re not happy as a client, what are they prepared to do for you, how will they make it right?

It’s just a fact of life – things will break. The way we’ve always handled it is to be highly responsive, sincerely apologetic, and fix anything, at any cost. This sounds crazy, and I know many companies don’t do this. They tell the client to claim it under their own homeowner’s insurance policy, or chalk it up to an unavoidable mistake.

If you’re not happy with the cleaning, what will the company offer you? A touch-up? A free cleaning? Nothing? Companies have different policies about this so find out what recourse you have if you’re not happy with the level of service you’ve received.

7. Employees vs. Contract Workers

Find out if the staff are employees or if they’re contract workers. Typically, contract workers don’t enjoy the same benefits as employees do, nor do they have the same type of oversight. While they’re generally cheaper to hire, they are often times inconsistently trained and are not as reliable because the fact is they’re “replaceable” to a large extent – by that I mean that there is little to no investment in their actual work product by the company outsourcing the work, so they can quickly move on to another contractor while having lost little to no investment (training, taxes, benefits, etc.).

An employee has a better set up than a contract worker does, and the company has more input and oversight over that worker (and more investment), which ultimately means they are more accountable to their employer. Employees also pay taxes and have taxes paid on their behalf by the employer, which supports the province or state and country you live in. These two categorizations and the laws surrounding them will vary from country to country. In Canada, I know the rules inside and out, and our staff are employees because it is better for them (sadly, more expensive and less profitable for us!), and better for the country.

8. Understand Who You’re Hiring

Who is actually coming into your home and how are they references checked? Is it a bona-fide service company with a consistent roster of employees, or is it a sharing-economy company with random people popping up? Remember, when you hire a cleaner, you’re letting someone into your most sacred space which houses your most valuable things; potentially when you’re not home! Who can you really trust? Ask the company how, and if, they interview and background check their staff, do they do background or criminal checks on their staff, and how they plan to schedule you in with the same cleaner as often as possible.

9. Cleaning Supplies

Do they use their own cleaning supplies and tools, or do you have to supply your own? We require our clients to supply their own and, of course, help them determine exactly what they need. We sell kits or provide them with a shopping list based on their specific requirements. I believe that a mop should be used in one house, or else the crud from house A will make its way over to house B.

Further, each house has different needs; pets, people, finishes, and whatnot. I’m a big proponent of using the right products and tools on each surface, and I believe it is better to provide your own to reduce and minimize cross-contamination and potential harm to surfaces.

10. Terms of Service

Find out what the policy for cancelling or changing your service is. This policy should be in place so that you don’t get slapped with any surprise fees. Many companies charge a cancellation fee because it can be hard to reschedule cleaners at the last minute, and the company has to cover off their lost wages. So, if you know this information, you can better plan and prepare for any scheduling issues.

Melissa Maker is an entrepreneur, cleaning expert, founder of Toronto’s most popular boutique cleaning service, and star of the Clean My Space channel on YouTube (but she still hates to clean!). Every week, Melissa delivers new videos dishing expert advice on cleaning products, tools, DIY substitutes, and practical, timesaving solutions to everyday problems. Melissa has appeared on the Today Show, and has been featured in InStyle, Real Simple, and Better Homes and Gardens.

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