Psychology of Pet Odor Jobs: How to Handle Common Customer Challenges

Psychology of Pet Odor Jobs: How to Handle Common Customer Challenges

Written by Shawn Bisaillon

If you've been cleaning carpet for any length of time, you'll agree that pet odor calls are more complex than typical carpet cleaning jobs.

Not only do you need to address the Ps of pet odor-poos, pees, and paws-but you also need to manage a fourth P-people.

There is often a psychological element to these kinds of jobs that many carpet cleaners find challenging or even intimidating. However, by learning how to navigate these situations, you can establish yourself as the go-to pet odor expert, fueling your repeat and referral business.

In this article, we'll explore how to manage customer expectations and navigate some of the most common customer challenges during pet odor cleaning jobs.

Managing Expectations Begins With Your Behavior

Before you can even begin to address the stain and odor, it's critical you manage your customers' expectations. This work begins with you.

When your customer calls looking for help with a pet odor problem, it's important you keep the pet/owner relationship in mind. Their pet could be a new puppy their children adore, an ailing older dog that's been part of their family for years, or a beloved cat they rescued. Even other animals, such as rodents and reptiles, elicit an emotional reaction from their owners.

During the initial call, and throughout the entire job, avoid making negative comments. Saying things like, "I really hate cats, they're the worst," or "Sounds like you should get rid of that dog," will not win you any favors, and in fact, could be the reason that your client calls someone else.

Instead, remember that your customer likely has a strong emotional connection to their animal. Even though it has peed or pooped on the carpet, it may still be living in the house for years to come.

Your job is not to pass judgment, but to provide your expertise. Keep your focus on asking questions. Be clear on what you can and cannot do. And above all, be professional.

Challenge #1: When the pet owner is in denial about their pet's accidents.

Surprisingly, even though the homeowner has called you in because they need you to perform a service, they may deny-quite firmly-that their pet is the cause of the problem.

You may hear things like, "My dog would never go on the carpet" or "My dog only had one accident" or "My cat never goes outside the litterbox."

This is where a black light is an invaluable tool to show your customer what the naked eye can't see. It's hard to deny the truth when it is glowing on the floor.

However, never lose sight of your compassion or professionalism. While it may be tempting to turn on the black light and say, "I told you so," a better response would be, "Here's what I'm seeing. And here is what I can do to address it."

There's no need to argue. Simply state the facts and propose a solution.

Challenge #2: When your customer wants the job done fast-too fast.

While every customer wants their carpet cleaned as fast as possible, there may be times when you encounter customers who demand rush service.

You may have a homeowner who wants the carpet cleaned before their partner gets home or before an event they're hosting. You may have a realtor selling a house that smells of pet urine, and he wants to get the property on the marketplace right away.

They may ask you to do the work quickly or say, "Don't worry about the extras" without performing more intensive treatments where needed.

While it may be tempting to rush through a job and collect your fee, ask yourself these questions:

  • Would you want your name associated with that quality of work?
  • If the customer is unhappy with the results and calls you back because the odor is still there, are you accountable for the work?
  • Could you guarantee removal or significant improvement of the odor if you rush?
  • If the customer isn't happy and calls someone else, do you want to be known as "the last cleaner who didn't do a good job?"

Managing expectations in this situation requires clear communication with your customer. Help them understand why you need the appropriate amount of time to be thorough and ensure high-quality results they'll be happy with.

Challenge #3: When the job goes from cleaning to restoration.

The general guideline when it comes to addressing pet odor problems is if more than 30% of the carpet is affected, the job is no longer cleaning or maintenance, it's restoration.

In these situations, the carpet is likely permanently damaged, and you may even need to talk to your customer about replacing the carpet versus restoring it.

You may hear things like, "Can't you just clean it?" or "It's not that bad, is it?"

This is where you, as the expert, can help your customers understand that beyond visual appearance, they should first consider the health and safety of those in the building. Carpet that is heavily soiled with urine and feces should be viewed as a biohazard and treated seriously.

Additionally, performing intensive odor treatment-which involves injection, deep flushing, removing and replacing padding or pillow inserts-can be expensive. It may be more cost-effective for your customer to simply replace the carpet than to pay for restoration.

In this situation, your customer may feel embarrassed or ashamed that the problem is so bad. Remember to maintain your professionalism. Keep to the facts and your expert recommendations.

Pro-Tip: Always get a signature sign-off that your customer acknowledges the limitations of the job, understands your recommendation, and note if the client declines the recommendation.

Challenge #4: When the customer doesn't understand that "pet-resistant" is not the same as "pet-proof."

As carpet care professionals, we understand that there is no such thing as a 100% pet-proof carpet. While some brands may market themselves as "pet resistant" or "pet friendly," all carpet is susceptible to damage, particularly if it has occurred repeatedly or been left untreated for extended periods of time.

You may hear your customer say, "But my carpet is stain-resistant!" or "It's supposed to be pet-proof!"

This is where the consumer's understanding of carpet is very different from the technician's understanding.

Your customer may be angry (not at you, but at themselves or whoever sold them their carpet). They will certainly feel upset.

Again, maintain your professionalism and present your recommendations. Can the carpet be cleaned? What can you do for certain spots? What can you recommend for the future?

Conclusion - Being Professional Pays Off

The reality is, where there are pets, there will inevitably be repeat offenses, leading to frequent calls for help. This means you will have a lot of opportunities to showcase your expertise and market your services as a pet odor removal specialist.

Pet owners, realtors, veterinarians, groomers, pet supply stores-there's a long list of potential clients looking for a trustworthy professional for help.

Training Opportunities for Carpet Cleaning and Odor Removal

Want to learn more about carpet cleaning? Interested in diving into the world of odor removal? The experts at Jon-Don highly recommend attending IICRC Carpet Cleaning Technician (CCT) and IICRC Odor Control Technician (OCT) with Shawn Bisaillon. These certification courses are ideal for new and experienced carpet cleaners looking to improve their skills and job knowledge.

Learn more about IICRC classes with Shawn Bisaillon at LEARN.JONDON.COM.

About the Author

Shawn Bisaillon has been teaching professionally for over 20 years. He holds credentials as an Approved IICRC Instructor, IICRC Master Textile cleaner, and Master Restorer. He has trained cleaning specialists all over the world in all facets of the cleaning industry. Shawn and his wife Ana have operated a successful multi-truck cleaning and restoration business in Denver, CO for more than 15 years.