Updated: Dec 7, 2022
Transparency is one of the pillars of the Happy Window Cleaning Business Model. This is why every prospective customer is given a detailed itemized estimate which includes anything that might not be seen from the pictures No one likes surprises and everyone deserves the right price for the services delivered. In the estimate. For example, the Happy Representative, (usually Cherie or myself, sometimes Noah or one of the other technicians) ask if there are any French windows because it is often impossible to tell from pictures whether the lattice (grids) is between insulated glass or rather if they are small panes. So we ask you to be informed if the latter is the case so that we can provide accurate pricing. Many small window panes are geometrically constructed and are more time-consuming to clean than fewer large panes in a given unit. Similarly, the proposal covers things like the occasional issue of “build-up” for those homes that have not been cleaned for many years.
Part of how we reach the best price for your project while remaining financially sufficient is by using the advantages of current technology to look at the project and calculate our costs for the particular required tasks. This is accomplished using satellite imagery (Google Earth) and pictures of your home found online at real estate pages or else from pics that we ask you to send us. Estimates are free to you, but obviously, we have administrative costs (in this case, it is for the time spent making the estimate).
Pre-internet days we would have someone physically visit every prospective site even though homeowners were often getting multiple estimates from competitors which added considerably to our overhead and increased our collective price points. Even with the technology mentioned above, we are willing to perform in-person estimates when the customer or the situation requires us to do so. Some of our older clients are not able to get outside to snap a picture, or else, emails and attachments can be a challenge for them. There is a special place in our hearts for those who really couldn’t do the job themselves, even if they want to. On the other hand, some properties are not trackable by Google Earth or there’s just no information at all online because it’s a new construction. In this case, we go out of our way to drive and do the estimate if the homeowner is not able to send pictures.
Nine times out of ten we can and do provide a very accurate estimate based on simply reviewing the pictures of the architecture from the front and rear. For example, a basic raised ranch that is 1,800 sq. ft. casement-type windows, with two walkout patio doors including screen cleaning, is a $200 job., At the very most, maybe $235, if the home happens to sit on a difficult site so far as staging our ladders. A single-level ranch by contrast is $150.00 for inside and out. Now if you live in a home that has windows with special circumstances, say they are screwed shut for your security, please understand that removing and replacing those screws is going to take additional time. Since our technicians are well-trained and proficient in their division of labor, they can clean windows in a fraction of the time it would take the homeowner.
Division of labor and specialization is the other side of the coin, and distinct from the cost of delivering service and it is what makes America truly great. If you think about it, that set up saves us all valuable time. If it would take a homeowner six hours to clean his own windows, the economic value of outsourcing the job depends on the economic value of the home owner’s time. A nurse, for instance, who earns $28/hr.at her job, after her employer matches payroll expenses has an economic value of $35/hr. So if she spends six hours cleaning her windows she would be getting $210 of value for $200 because that is what the opportunity cost is of doing the job instead of her going to work that part of the day (not accounting for overtime and other benefits).
It is so important to read the written proposals we send so that our offer is properly considered by all parties before acceptance. When a prospect agrees to an estimate without actually reading the particulars of the proposed agreement, the potential exists for all involved parties to be surprised. Expectations in such cases, may not reconcile with the facts of a particular project.
Sadly, there are companies out there that use a business model based on price alone. The one I’m thinking of advertises to clean home for $99.00, but upon close inspection, the value they offer for such a low price is always much less than the value of the Happy Window Cleaning standard cleaning. This is why it is so important to investigate what a company will actually do for the money you are about to pay them. More times than not lowballing the competition results in surprising the homeowner with a bunch of add-on fees before the job is complete. Think about it. We use small vans, very fuel-efficient, and the very best tools. No one is more proficient at window cleaning than we are.
I want you to know straight from the horse’s mouth that Happy Window Cleaning does not engage in what we consider to be deceptive business practices. Otherwise known as “bait and switch”. Instead, we opt to practice old-fashioned rigorous honesty, and that explains the detailed email we send our customers when we give an estimate; and most of our prospects appreciate the transparency.
Happy Window Cleaning outlines most every possible situation where we might need to charge additional fees right upfront and in writing. What is more, we will always talk to you before we apply additional charges to your bill. All we are really after is a fair shake. Happy Customers value transparency and accuracy. That is part of what we mean when we use our tagline “Happy Customers Have the Best Views” All it takes for an accurate estimate is a wee bit of communication and a willingness to get things right.
You might be surprised to learn that window cleaning in Michigan is not a high-margin business. There is nearly $40 an hour just in labor for a two-person crew. . I was looking at our expenses yesterday and realized that to date we have paid over $700 this year just for the internet connection we use to send our emails! The vans we use are efficient fuel wise and reliable but they will need to be replaced at some point. We have a person working in the office full time so that we are always there when you need us. We really do our best to be good stewards of the resources you give us. What is more, many of these overheads continue over the winter months when our revenues are slim. If you think about it, managing such peaks and valleys requires frugality and commitment to service.
All of that said, we wouldn’t be a successful company if it not for the fact that most of our customers are the sort of people who understand these things. We are so grateful for the blessing you all have been to our family. I sincerely hope that the way we run our company properly reflects how we truly feel about you. Please take the time to review your estimate and help us to arrive at the right price point so that the only surprise you will have is what a great view of the gardens you have when we’ve completed our work.
Update as of 12/2022; labor is now costing $50 per hour for two people, and Fuel is double what it was when this article was published. To explain labor, our people earn $20 an hour. Employment taxes cost 1.3 times their hourly rate in addition to their pay. On top of that, we have costs for 401K plans, healthcare plans, and other administration costs with third parties, dues, and subscriptions that are necessary for our staffing programs. All of that is about $25 per hour per person, and we usually use two-person crews to get the projects completed in an acceptable timeframe and to keep people from burning out sooner than usual. Even our specialty ladders have risen in price by 100% in cost. Our price points and strategy to remain financially sufficient have changed accordingly.