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How Cleaning—and Cleaners—Can Impact the Brand of a Business

It’s late at night and you’ve just touched down at the airport after flying into a new city. Collecting your bags off the carousel, you turn to find the exit for ride shares. The cleaner, who is dust mopping the marble floors, sees you and welcomes you to Dallas. He asks if he can help you find something. Relieved you don’t have to go find someone who likely won’t be standing at an obscure podium this late at night, you thank him and ask where the ride share stand is. He smiles and points to the south-facing door. 

The next morning, you wake up in your hotel room and start getting ready for the conference, which starts in a few hours. As you head out the door, a housekeeper greets you and says good morning. She asks how you slept and if you need anything to make your stay more comfortable. An extra pillow might be nice, you tell her, giving her your room number. She says she’ll make sure to leave another pillow for you, wishing you a good day.

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This isn’t a dream. This is an opportunity. 

Successful branding can increase customer loyalty, improve your image, and create a relatable identity.

If you’re reading this blog post, you already know that a lot of businesses treat cleaning like a commodity. They want the task of cleaning to be done for the lowest cost. And you know why this happens—too many people don’t understand the value of cleaning. They don’t realize how cleaning affects the health and productivity of people who live, work and/or visit their buildings.

But what if we adjust the lens to show how cleaners impact not only the cleanliness of a building, but also a guests’ perception of the business—and ultimately, it’s brand?

This happens two ways:

Facility Cleanliness: More and more consumers expect a quality level of cleanliness. This is true from hotels to schools, restaurants to office buildings. According to hospitalitynet.org, “Studies have shown that among all problems experienced by guests, unclean rooms have the greatest negative impact on satisfaction.”

For businesses with more one than one location or building, ensuring a consistent level of clean across properties is critical to maintaining that brand standard. For example, if you go to a drugstore in one city, you’d expect a consistent level of cleanliness at the same type of store in another city. Target is a store that gets this—cleanliness is core to their brand. As this Forbes contributor notes, “When given the choice between Target and Wal-Mart, many people generally agree Target is a better experience. This is mostly due to the cleanliness of the stores and overall operations.”

As this Forbes contributor notes, “When given the choice between Target and Wal-Mart, many people generally agree Target is a better experience. This is mostly due to the cleanliness of the stores and overall operations.

Target is a store that gets this—cleanliness is core to their brand. As this Forbes contributor notes, “When given the choice between Target and Wal-Mart, many people generally agree Target is a better experience. This is mostly due to the cleanliness of the stores and overall operations.”

What’s more is that online reviews are playing an increasing role in what businesses people support. Some research shows that of every five people who walk through the front door for the first time, at least four of them will have read about the business first online. 

A dirty business can be a big deal—who cleans that store and how they clean will have a substantial impact on that visitor’s experience and perception of that brand.

Customer Service: We tend to focus on the job of cleaning, but in many facilities, cleaners are also one of the most customer-facing parts of a business. We’ve heard so many stories about the impact of an environmental service worker during a hospital stay. It’s not the doctors or nurses who leave an impression, but the person who comes in to clean the room every day.

Similarly, in a hotel, school, shopping mall, airport or retail store, a custodian may be the first person a guest sees when they need something or have a question. If that cleaner isn’t empowered with the right training and support to respond to that question, it is a missed opportunity. 

As businesses look to evolve and separate themselves from the competition, they will look to engage ALL customer-facing employees and operations in developing the experience for people visiting their businesses. Custodial departments can—and will— play a vital role in that effort. As a cleaning professional, the better you can communicate this, the more invaluable you become.

What Happens When People Walk Into Your Building and See Dirt

We’ve all been told that you never get a second chance to make a first impression, but what actually goes into that impression? Research has shown us time and time again that appearance is everything—this goes for whether you’re meeting someone for the first time or patronizing a business. In fact, one study found that 99 percent of U.S. adults would find poor cleanliness would negatively impact their perception of a retail store. When it comes to captivating they loyalty of that ever-elusive generation of millennials, another recent survey conducted by the Health Industry Distributors Association found that appearance really matters, at least when it comes to how they choose healthcare providers.

Appearance matters, but as we all know, its importance can often underestimated when budgets are reduced; custodial operations are often one the first cuts that happen. When labor and cleaning frequencies are reduced, dirt increases—and there’s a good chance your customers and prospective customers are taking note.

Whether you have a staff dedicated to cleaning that includes a day porter or utility specialist or other employees who pickup cleaning responsibilities, keep in mind the following high-visibility areas that could be impacting your customers’ perception of your business:

Entryways: Entryways are one of the first areas a customer sees when they arrive at your building, so this is a critical area to maintain. Floors, doorways, glass, light fixtures and all area leading into the building should be kept free of debris and trash. Using a grabber device, dust pan and or broom, remove all trash that appears in entryway areas throughout the day to make sure your facility shines and leaves a positive first impression with guests.

Glass and Doorways: Glass doors and windows around the exterior of a building quickly shows soil from fingerprints and dirt and leave the impression that the building is unattended when not cleaned on a regular basis. Spray and wipe these surfaces frequently with the appropriate window cleaner on a daily basis, and more often if there is high traffic.

Floors: Protect floors inside the building by using entryway mats both inside and outside the front door. These mats are designed to withhold dirt and allergens, but they also need to be regularly vacuumed and maintained to work effectively.

Inside the building, keeping floors clean requires regular dirt and soil removal by vacuuming carpets. For cleaning hard floors, use a dust mop then damp/wet mop and auto scrubber, depending on the condition of the floor.

Furniture: Restore the luster to hard wood surfaces on furniture by using furniture polish and a clean microfiber cloth. Also be sure to clean upholstery on a regular basis to reduce soil buildup and spot clean as necessary. Furniture can easily move throughout the course of a day and should be moved during cleaning, so be sure to move them back to their original location.

Trash cans: Regularly empty overflowing trash cans and spray and wipe the interior with a cleaning solution to eliminate odors and keep cans smelling fresh.

Vents, Blinds and Baseboards: A good rule of thumb when cleaning hard surfaces in a building is to start high and move downward. Use a microfiber cloth or duster to clean hard-to-reach areas like vents and work downward to lower areas to remove dust and keep surfaces spotless.

Getting the Job Done

Secure cleaning products and equipment in a storage area near the entryway of the facility so they are always available. Make sure cleaning carts are always well-stocked with products, cleaning cloths, gloves and any other materials required to complete the task. And most importantly, establish a standardized method and protocol for cleaning the area so there’s a consistent level of cleanliness at all times.

Cleaning plays a critical role in how customers view your brand. You don’t want them to see dirt when they walk into your facility, because it can mean they might not return. Cleaning for health is critical, but cleaning for appearance also matters as organizations look for ways to differentiate themselves from the competition. If you want to keep customers, make sure your building is clean and that first impression is a positive one.