Cars are beginning to drive themselves.
Virtual reality is rehabilitating stroke patients.
Autonomous, robotic microscopes are helping to clean up the world’s water supplies.
And yet many janitorial services business owners are still operating primarily with pen and paper.
For those who are using technology, it’s often a series of tools each solving a discrete problem rather than a complete system that improves their operation as a whole.
With the novelty of “green cleaning” long gone, and price competition becoming more intense than ever, many business owners are looking for the next big thing that will set their company apart.
And those who find innovative ways to improve the quality of their services and raise the bar for the whole industry are easily standing out from the pack.
To help inspire you to be among those companies who innovate to improve, we’ve listed 6 ways you can raise the bar in the commercial cleaning industry by using a combination of technology and outside the box thinking.
1. Report Problems to Clients (Not the Other Way Around)!
We recently surveyed nearly 500 owners of commercial cleaning companies, and 81% said that they have had a client tell them about an issue on-site that they felt their cleaner should have communicated to them first.
What many don’t realize is that it’s entirely possible to know about these issues before you hear about them from unhappy customers.
But when you don’t provide the tools or systems for reporting those issues, cleaners aren’t going to go out of their way to tell you about them. Especially if they know you are at home sleeping when the issue arises.
By creating a system for reporting problems you will be able to proactively call your clients and explain the situation before they discover it themselves, allowing you the opportunity to reassure them that you are in the know and that you will make it right.
Here are a few methods you can use to have cleaners report problems to you:
- Google Sheets
If most of your cleaners have, or are willing to sign up for a free Google account, you can use the Google Sheets tool (it’s like Excel spreadsheets, except online) to collect reports of on-site problems. You’ll need to create a spreadsheet like the one we’ve provided below, then have each of your cleaners download the mobile Sheets app onto their phones so they can update the spreadsheet while still on site.
You can also use the more sophisticated and powerful AirTable tool for problem reporting. We like AirTable because it’s still easy to use and doesn’t require a Gmail address to login. As with Sheets, your cleaners will need the free mobile AirTable app on their phones to report problems on site.
- Janitorial Software
We’re biased, but a janitorial software like Swept is our preferred solution for problem reporting. 1) Because it’s specifically designed for that purpose, and 2) because it allows you to keep all communication regarding each of your sites organized and in one place.
2. Know How Your Cleaners are Feeling
When Swept founder Michael Brown ran his own cleaning company he had his virtual assistant, Tera, spend 1 hour each week calling a handful of their cleaners, asking them for feedback about their jobs and summarizing this information in a report. Tera would cycle through the cleaners and touch base with each of them every few weeks.
This simple 1-hour task created a feedback loop that allowed Michael to better predict when a cleaner was going to leave, or know when their performance and attendance was on the decline.
While you can do this same process in your own business, Michael also built a mood tracking feature into the Swept app. This feature automatically prompts cleaners to report how they’re feeling about cleaning once a week. With this insight into how cleaners are feeling, managers can be better prepared for tough conversations around things like attendance and performance.
3. Speak Your Cleaner’s Language
If you’ve ever had trouble communicating with a cleaner because their native language was not English, you know the pain of explaining a task to them, watching them nod in agreement, and then realizing later that they clearly did not understand your instructions.
One easy way to overcome this challenge is by using a translation tool (like Google Translate, which is free) to provide detailed cleaning instructions in their native language. Not only will this resolve many miscommunications with your ESL cleaners, but help them to feel supported and valued, which in turn will make them more likely to stick around.
4. Support Cleaners Even When You’re Not On-Site
Even if your cleaners speak English and have been fully trained by you or another person on your management team, they will still have questions from time to time during a shift.
We recommend creating cloud-based (ie. not hardcopy, but rather digital documents that can be updated in real-time) cleaning instructions for each of the locations you service. This will help improve performance by giving cleaners a clear picture of what a successful shift looks like at each site.
5. Let the Public Keep You Informed
We may work in the janitorial industry, but we’ve also been on the other side:
As a patron at a restaurant whose restroom soap dispensers are empty.
Or a traveler at an airport whose washroom floor is strewn with toilet paper or paper towel.
And instead of helpfully reporting this to the nearest employee, our reaction is often to keep our disappointment (and sometimes even disgust) to ourselves.
Except for promptly reporting it to our dining partner or travel buddy, of course.
The good news is that technology can now prevent these kinds of unreported experiences at facilities your company services. AUR2 is a great example of a tool that provides you with a means of collecting real-time feedback from the public via SMS (text) message notification.
Similarly, Swept janitorial software offers a Public Surveys feature that allows you to be notified of new voice or text message alerts from the public via email or text, and stores the reviews and ratings in the Swept web app.
6. Change the Way You Hire
At the end of the day, your cleaning staff are your best asset, and the more important members of your customer service team, so hiring the right people is crucial.
But you already know that, right?
The thing is, when we talk about hiring the “right” people, we don’t mean the ones who are willing to work anytime, anywhere.
Or even those who have worked at many other cleaning companies.
In fact, both of those characteristics should be red flags when seeking the best candidates for a job!
The key to hiring cleaners who will stay long-term is to hire the best match for each of your positions.
In other words, if you are filling a shift that requires someone to work nights on the west side of town, you should look for someone who wants to work nights and can easily access that area, either because they live nearby or they own their own vehicle. The more the job suits their schedule and lifestyle, the more likely they are to stay.
Now, this isn’t rocket science, and the idea in itself isn’t all that innovative. But to make it easier to hire this way, we created a free online tool called Cleaning Jobs that sorts and stores cleaner applications for you, based on the best match for each position. Not only will it help you to think through the right questions to ask applicants (so they can also screen themselves out), but it will create a database of cleaners from which you can hire in the future.
We think it’s pretty genius, and invite you to sign up for free at cleaningjobs.co.