The reason I ‘fell’ in to the cleaning industry was firstly by accident (I was involved in selling cleaning franchises) and then stayed in the industry as it became blatantly obvious that the industry was amateurish, unprofessional and also an enormous opportunity for a company who could introduce better working practices, increase productivity, improve customer service and in some cases, save the clients money.
Our industry doesn’t really help itself. The image of the cleaner is a middle aged woman who potters around doing bits and pieces, who talks too much and takes regular cigarette breaks. There is little talk of advancements in equipment and chemicals, evolving systems and schedules which improve productivity, training and the main one, the benefits of continued supervision. The supervision often involves electronic audits, managing service level agreements, looking at ways to constantly improve what we do and building relationships and trust with both staff and the customer.
How the initial consultation (or sales) meeting is managed and then subsequent discussions regarding what exactly the customer wants to be cleaned for the money they’re wishing to pay, is absolutely vital. Getting the correct specification agreed is so important for the success of the ongoing relationship. We see so many cleaning companies lists of tasks which have been agreed at sales level but the poor operations teams and cleaning operatives have no hope of completing as there’s simply not enough time and money being invested in the cleaning by the client. Honesty is always the best policy.
The cleaning schedules are then to be introduced to the cleaning team and the cleaners trained to use the equipment and chemicals in a productive and safe way. Productivity should never be at the expense of safety. Ensuring that risk assessments and method statements are sufficiently detailed for each task and that the cleaning operatives understand the risk for each and every job they’re asked to do is really important.
Supporting the individual members of the cleaning team, not only with enough equipment and consumables to be able to carry out their work but also by ensuring they are paid correctly and on time and get their entitled holidays. By making sure they are made to feel important is crucial as cleaning can be a very lonely, unappreciated role. We take time to talk to the operatives and listen when they have concern and sometimes worries, often these involves personal issues where we can also help in some cases. Our phone bills are testament to the amount of conversations going on!
Some clients understand that all of this is just a part of what we do, some really don’t care less. We do try to involve and educate where we can but only customers who appreciate how important cleaning is to their own business will understand. The introduction of the new ‘Living Wage’ is to be welcomed as cleaning operatives have historically been in the lowest paid categories along with other service industries like security and catering. Costs will inevitably rise for everyone but this must be seen as a positive move and long awaited. The challenges relating to cost increases will need to be carefully managed from our customer’s point of view of course by working closely with them and ensuring that the cleaning productivity is high and they’re receiving value for money. There will be a need for some adjustments in some cases but at the end of the day the people who need a monetary increase the most will benefit and that has to be great news.