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3 steps to remain zen during a difficult conversation

January 23, 2020 in Grow your Maid Service, Training

Last Updated on August 11, 2023 by The ZenMaid Team

Have you ever been in a difficult conversation with a client that you desperately wished you could escape? Perhaps a client just canceled his cleaning for the fourth time this quarter. Maybe an employee broke something at a client’s house. Or a client asks you to explain why you are charging so much.

We’ve all been there! Chances are, if you own a cleaning business, you’ve likely faced challenging scenarios like these.

Three steps to remain zen in a difficult conversation

Words are a powerful thing. When used wisely, they have the ability to transform any potentially negative situation into a positive one.

Here are three steps to ensure you remain calm, collected, and most importantly, professional during any difficult conversation.

Step 1: Wait before responding

Wait before responding. It’s as simple as that.

Take some time to collect yourself before calling them (or emailing if the situation isn’t super serious). If the situation isn’t urgent, even consider waiting to call or email until the next day so you can take a night to sleep on it.

Before you respond, think about the situation from all angles and try to understand why the other party is so upset. Put yourself in their shoes and imagine how you would want a company to respond to you if the situation were reversed.

If the person calls you out of the blue and you’re not in the right place mentally (you feel yourself getting worked up), then tell the person that you will call them back. It’s not the best idea to have the conversation without knowing all the facts or without being prepared.

Need help taking a breather? These are proven ways to calm yourself down before you talk to a client:

  • Breathe – If you’re angry, anxious, flustered, nervous, take a deep breath. This reduces your fight-or-flight response and helps you calm down. 
  • Admit your emotions – Don’t bottle up your anger. It’s okay to feel angry or anxious sometimes. You just need to know how to handle these emotions after you admit that you have them.
  • Challenge your mindset – Ask yourself if your thoughts are justified, rational, and necessary. Reframe your thinking from a negative mindset where you only think about the worst outcomes, to a positive mindset where you can see a silver lining. Consider reaching out to a mentor or trusted friend if an outside perspective would help with this.
  • Visualize tranquility  – Imagine yourself in a calm state. Unclench your jaw, close your eyes, and be still. Relax all of your tight muscles. 
  • Play some music – As cliche as it sounds, music really does have healing powers. This helps you get out of your own head and listen to something else for a change.
  • Go outside – If you’ve been typing away at your computer all day, then you may need some fresh air to release some tension. Whether it’s hot and humid outside or below freezing, a 15-minute walk can do wonders for your mental health. Plus, exercise and vitamin D are great ways to boost your immune system
  • Eat and drink well – A healthy diet and proper hydration work wonders for your mental health.
  • Practice yogaYoga poses can help you de-stress and calm your mind. You can search for at-home yoga sessions or take a class at a nearby studio. If you are pressed for time, even a five-minute yoga session is better than nothing.

Remember, practice makes perfect! Practice these habits when you’re not feeling overwhelmed. Then when the time comes to use them during a difficult conversation, it will feel like second nature. 

Step 2: Remove emotion from the equation

As a cleaning business owner, you will never be able to satisfy every single customer 100%.

Know that bad reviews are going to happen, and unfortunately, some customers are going to be upset over something trivial.

It is difficult to not take complaints or negative feedback as a personal attack, but remember — they never are.

Put yourself in someone else’s shoes. Ever had a bad day and unintentionally snapped at someone that didn’t really deserve it?  

People can feel the energy you emit, and if you are frustrated or upset, chances are, it will only escalate the situation.

Step 3: Respond professionally

Once you’ve removed emotion from the equation, it’s much easier to respond in a courteous and respectful way.

Clients want to feel like you value them as customers and that you take your business seriously. Your customers pay your bills, so you should always provide them with the service they deserve.  

Never have a difficult conversation through a text or Facebook message. Pick up the phone and call them. Only 7% of communication is through words used in the message — the rest of human communication is understood through body language, tone, and pitch. 

No matter how many emojis you use, tone cannot be 100% understood over text. Even if you crafted a sincere response, your client may not take your response at face value.

If you want to communicate effectively, a phone call or a face-to-face meeting is your best option

A client may be in a defensive mode before the conversation— and expects that you will be as well. This can lead to misunderstandings that may escalate the situation.

Be prepared before you talk to them so that you are ready with a professional response no matter what they say.

Difficult scenarios you might face in your cleaning business

Need some real-life examples to help? We’ve picked some of the best good go-to responses to help keep you zen when you deal with tough convos. Here are some of those common scenarios.

Scenario #1:

You want to drop a client you really like, but the distance (or other reason) just doesn’t work with your schedule anymore.

“I am so sorry to be the bearer of bad news, but due to scheduling conflicts coupled with the distance, I won’t be able to clean for you anymore. I have absolutely loved cleaning for you, but just can’t make it work with the distance. I have an awesome referral for you that is much closer and I hope you understand!”

Scenario #2:

You want to drop a client because they complain about the tiniest things and are never happy.

“I absolutely love making homes sparkle and that is why I went into this business. I never want any of my clients to feel unsatisfied and I just don’t think we are a good fit for you. I would hate to disappoint anyone and would much rather you be 100% satisfied, so I am going to give you the name of someone that has a bit of a different approach that might work better for you and I truly wish you the absolute best.”

For more on this topic, check out our article How to fire a difficult cleaning client kindly.

Scenario #3:

Your employee broke something and the client wasn’t home when it happened.

“Hi Judy, I was just calling you to let you know that there was a slight incident during your clean today. While we try our absolute best to be careful, sometimes accidents happen in this line of work, and unfortunately, Tom accidentally knocked over one of your glass unicorns when she was moving the vase to dust underneath it. I am so so sorry and I just wanted to let you know and offer to repair or replace it if the value is under $100. If it is worth more than that, then I would be happy to file a claim with our insurance company so we can get that taken care of for you as soon as possible. I hope you will forgive us and let us continue to make your home sparkle!”

Scenario #4:

Your employees did not do a good job and missed a ton of stuff. The client is upset and wants a refund.

“Thank you so much for your feedback. I truly value it as it is how I can coach my techs to consistently improve over time. I understand there were quite a few things missed in your home today, and that is absolutely not our standard. Occasionally, in this line of work, it does happen, which is why we have our 100% happiness guarantee. We are going to make sure you are satisfied, without a doubt, and can be back at your home tomorrow at 9 am to take care of the things that were missed. Thank you so much for understanding and please always let us know if there is anything we could be doing better!”

Scenario #5:

Your client cancels last minute constantly, despite consistent reminders of your cancellation policy.

“Hi Jim, thank you so much for allowing us to clean for you these past few years. We have noticed an increase in last-minute cancellations, and while I completely understand that sometimes things come up that are unavoidable, it makes it very difficult to operate my business when it happens too often. With notice, I am usually able to fill the empty slot so that my cleaners aren’t out of work, but it’s very difficult to do at the last minute. I haven’t charged you any cancellation fees thus far because I really do try to avoid that since I know clients can’t always help it, but going forward, any cancellations made within 48 hours of your cleaning will be charged at half price so that I may continue to provide my employees with expected wages and keep consistent cleaners in your home. Thank you so much for understanding!”

Scenario #6:

You arrive at a cleaning only to discover it is not at all what was described and there is no way you are going to get it done in your estimated time. You may need two to three times as long.

“Thank you so much for allowing us into your home so that we can help take some of the stress of cleaning off of your shoulders! It’s always a little tough to judge the scope of a job over the phone, and while most of the time, we get it right, sometimes certain homes need more time than estimated. During our initial phone call, I promised to let you know if it was going to take more time, and now that we are here in person, I am certain we will need at least twice as much time to make sure we get it to our standard of cleanliness. I had no clue you had so many beautiful glass unicorns and I would, of course, make sure all of these prized possessions are dust-free for you so that you can breathe easier and go to sleep happy tonight. So, I just want to get your approval before starting anything that this job is going to be approximately $XXX to get it sparkling from top to bottom.” (If they seem shocked, tell them that you have another suggestion and that would be to knock half of it out now, and half on a second visit)

Wrapping up

Something we didn’t cover in this article was how to have difficult conversations with your staff team, but we’ve got you covered! Head over to this article for more on staff communication. 

Did you find these tips and scenarios helpful? We recommend copying them into a separate document so you can refer back to them as needed. Remember, you’re not alone when it comes to facing challenges in your cleaning business. In fact, we’ve got a Facebook group for like-minded maid service owners to support each other in a safe community. Join today for ongoing support!


Amar is the founder and CEO of ZenMaid Software, Inc. He started and ran Fast Friendly Spotless, a maid service in Orange County, CA. With the help of customized software to automate work he successfully operated the service in under 30 minutes per day. He created ZenMaid scheduling software to help other maid service owners do the same.

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