Quality is the cornerstone of every successful, customer-centered cleaning organization.
That''s why it''s one of the five key principles that make up the framework of the Cleaning Industry Management Standard (CIMS).
Under CIMS, implementing a quality system is a must.
The criteria for quality systems includes defining cleaning service requirements, implementing a quality plan, measuring performance, obtaining customer feedback and committing to continual improvement.
While each cleaning organization can use its own tools and tactics to meet the quality systems requirement, the starting point is the customer''s definition of quality.
Quality is best defined as "meeting customer requirements."
For each customer, cleaning organizations should have a written scope of work or performance outcome that defines the customer''s expectations for each facility.
The scope of work includes mutually agreed-upon tasks and frequencies and/or a description of how the customer defines clean.
However, simply meeting what''s written in the scope of work may not be enough in customers'' eyes.
Customers'' needs and expectations constantly evolve, which makes providing quality services even more challenging for service providers.
To keep up with a shifting scope of work and be positioned to provide quality services, organizations can measure quality in two ways: Subjectively — with customers'' opinions — and objectively — using hard data and impartial information from customers.
Watch The Subjective
The definition of "clean" is very subjective and varies from person to person.
Subjective measures of quality in the cleaning industry are problematic because they are largely perception based.
Typical subjective questions are:
For example, consider the response from a property manager in a large building the day after the chief executive''s trash was missed.
A million square feet could have been cleaned perfectly, but the subjective answers would likely be poor.
The result is that cleaning service providers frequently find themselves in the unenviable situation of meeting or exceeding the performance requirements only to be confronted by a less than satisfied customer.
That''s why it''s imperative that cleaning organizations commit to objectively measuring the quality.
Objective measurement should be the foundation for your quality system.
Your measurement system does not need to be complex.
Review the scope of work and check to ensure what''s written in the scope is being performed by cleaning staff, focusing on tasks and frequencies and asking "yes" or "no" questions as to whether or not each was performed.
Simple "yes" and "no" answers produce more consistent measurements and can help you determine whether your organization is meeting the performance requirement.
Rigorous measurement, consistently gathered and tracked, is the key to proactively identifying opportunities for improvement.
Hard data provides an excellent counterpoint to a customer''s subjective feedback.
Objective data can also be used to validate the customer''s subjective feedback.
When data doesn''t match the customer''s perception, it''s useful to explore the reason for the gap.
When there''s a difference of this sort, one of two things should happen: The data collection method should be modified to more closely match what customer experiences or the customer may also need to be educated about performance levels, as providing objective data can help shape perceptions and can be used to build consensus.
In either case, the key is to use your quality system to build customer communication.
The goal for cleaning organizations is to drive the kind of customer satisfaction that leads them to tell colleagues and other potential customers about the cleaning organization and service.
Remember, quality is a process — not an end result.
Cleaning organizations that gather feedback, measure results and take action to achieve continuous improvement are the ones that build long-term customers.
Jim Peduto is the president of Matrix Integrated Facility Management LLC and the co-founder of the American Institute for Cleaning Sciences (AICS). AICS is the registrar for ISSA''s Cleaning Industry Management Standard (CIMS) certification program. Visit www.ISSA.com/CIMS for more information.