Retaining key clients through consistency of service
Winning new customers in today’s cleaning industry means standing out from the competition. You can accomplish this in various ways, such as providing a broad menu of cleaning and facility maintenance services, offering your services at a lower cost than others in your area, or catering to a “niche” market. However, the best way to retain your key accounts is by providing quality, consistent service across the board.
Many industry professionals and analysts will tell you that raising the professionalism of the cleaning industry requires us to provide service at a consistent performance level in all areas. In fact, consistency is among the hallmarks of the Cleaning Industry Management Standard (CIMS) from ISSA, the worldwide cleaning industry association. To comply with CIMS, organizations must have documented policies for hiring, training, equipment, and resource allocation.
- Hiring policies cover everything from recruitment to selection.
- Training should occur on a scheduled and all-inclusive basis.
- Equipment should be appropriate for the job at hand, and workers should use the same equipment for all similar applications.
- Resource allocation requires that organizations have workloading processes in place and apply them consistently.
These are just a few of the required areas for CIMS certification, but they illustrate the important role consistency plays in the certification process. In addition, in each of these areas—as in all areas of CIMS —it’s a good idea to check back on the policies you have set in place and make sure they are operating correctly.
Lack of consistency in applying standards can wreak havoc in many ways. Recently, while working with a large school district on a cleaning audit, a lack of standards across the board made it impossible for us to equitably evaluate the performance of housekeepers. In its elementary schools alone, assigned tasks in classrooms were appreciably different. In some schools, classroom cleaning meant trash emptying, sweeping, dusting, fingerprint removal, and desk wiping, while in other schools it meant only trash emptying and sweeping. When you add the fact that housekeepers worked with a variety of chemicals, consumables, and equipment brands and types, it is not difficult to guess why it was so tough to rate their performance. The facilities administration needed to establish clear, basic guidelines and then administer those guidelines at each school in order to deliver a service consistent with the district’s expectations.
In another case, two employees working as a team in the same building constantly argued over the best way to clean their assigned area. Management’s solution was to separate the employees and the work areas, allowing each of them to clean their area as they saw fit individually.
While empowerment of employees can be a good thing, in this case, splitting them up so that Employee A cleaned offices one way and Employee B cleaned them another way led to inconsistency of service and confusion on the customer’s part as to the level of service they could expect.
In this business, you cannot guarantee output—or meet your customers’ service expectations—until you can guarantee input or consistency. This, in turn, impacts your business’s profitability by helping you to retain your customer base.
There will always be those purchasing agents who are interested only in the bottom line. However, in the end, they will have to recognize that there is a cost to changing service providers just on the basis of cost and that consistency of service can actually present the better value.