Hiring a cleaning service or any service professional can often be a frustrating task. We have all heard the horror stories about shoddy work or people getting ripped off, and we all want to avoid that happening to us. Whether you are hiring someone for work in your home or office, you want to choose the right service provider to work with.

Here are some tips for selecting the right company:

The best place to start is with a referral from family, friends or colleagues. There may be times that you just don’t have that luxury (like for an emergency repair) but when possible, ask someone you know for a referral before going directly to the phone book or the internet.

Whether you have a referral or not, check for an online presence. Most legitimate companies today have websites. However, take it a step further and check for an online presence on sites such as LinkedIn, Yelp or MerchantCircle to see what others are saying about their work performance.

Once you have selected 2-3 companies that show promise, contact them to start the process. Have a checklist in front of you when you call. Find out if they are insured and bonded, if they guarantee their work and how long they have been in business. Are they a franchise or are they locally owned and operated? My personal preference is a local company and not a franchise (I like to support small businesses whenever possible.) If you have a few companies to choose from, it is often best to go with a company that has some years of experience in their field. (Many companies have this information on their websites so you may not have to ask all these questions on the phone.)

If they’ve answered those questions to your satisfaction, you should then communicate exactly what you are looking for. As you are talking to their representative, ask yourself if this person give you a sense of assurance and a feeling of trust. Do they seem competent in their responses? Are they professional? Do they seem like someone that you want to do business with on a long-term basis? The last statement is especially true when hiring a recurring service like a cleaning company or lawn mowing service.

Once they have passed all these tests, it is time to set up an appointment to either do the work or come to your place for a walk-through to get an estimate of cost.

However, you should not base your decision solely on cost. The old saying is true, in that you get what you pay for. You don’t necessarily want to choose the higher priced company either. What you really need to find out is what value you are getting for the money.

A final note of caution: If you are offered a discount, that is only good for “today,” this is a red flag. Your hard-earned money should never be spent in an impulse manner. If a service provider is worth anything, their discount will not be contingent upon you making a decision on the spot. Not only is that type of gimmick usually just that, a gimmick, it’s insulting to your intelligence. If you follow these guidelines for hiring any service professional, you should see great results. And if you are really satisfied with their services, be sure to tell others about it. Word of mouth is the best way to find a service provider, so pass the benefit of your research and good experience on to others.