During a time of economic downturn, businesses everywhere are finding it necessary to tighten the belt.
This overall market trend has not left the cleaning industry untouched.
Marketdata Enterprises estimated the commercial contract cleaning and maintenance services industry to be at approximately $94 billion in 2004. Business was booming!
According to the same source, after three short years, the same industry was down to $74 billion.
Companies are trying to figure out how to continue improving business while cutting costs.
Traditionally, those two objectives seem to contradict each other.
However, many building service contractors have discovered a new technology proven to boost business and reduce costs.
They have discovered online tracking software.
Online tracking software helps companies automate business processes like customer service and quality control.
It is web-based, accessible from anywhere and from multiple devices.
It gives the user priceless information and functionality to run and manage their business.
This software could include such features as a client communication portal, client surveys, inspections, job scheduling, work orders, reports and graphs of trends analysis, time tracking, supply inventory and asset management.
The results of using such software are timely in this time and age.
Companies who have implemented online tracking software developed specifically for the cleaning and maintenance industry have reported four main benefits: Client retention; employee productivity; reduction of costs; and an increase in sales.
"With (our online tracking software), it is my estimation that the (our) customer satisfaction has increased by 40-50 percent," says Danny Choate, quality control manager for Dale Rogers Training Center Inc.
When times are tough, companies will make just about any offer to steal their competitors'' customers.
Your competition will probe around until they can find any dissatisfaction with your service, and then completely blow it out of proportion, trying to create an environment of a "need to change" for your customer.
If your customer has any negative feelings whatsoever that are unresolved, you have a great need to worry — even if your price is reasonable.
The keys to retaining clients are: Resolve their negative feelings through effective communication; correct deficiencies in services found through on-site inspections; and take long term corrective action based upon accurate measurement of performance over time.
Rich Reagan, vice president and general manager for FMI Services Group at the time, credited their online tracking software in keeping a $1.4 million dollar contract.
They needed something to set them apart from their competitors in order to renew the contract.
The client was blown away when they saw FMI''s new online tracking software and what it could do for them.
FMI beat the competition and was able to keep that account.
According to Reagan, the online tracking software has "streamlined communication between their clients and their management," making it easier than ever to retain clients.
Traditional methods of communication like on-site log books, phone calls and e-mail are sufficient, but not as effective as online tracking software.
The easier it is for your clients to communicate with you, the more they will communicate with you.
The more they communicate with you, the more you can resolve any issues they may have. And, the longer you can keep that account.
"The productivity of our operations personnel has increased by 25-30 percent through their use of (our online tracking software)," adds Tim Conn, director of operations for Anago Cleaning Systems.
The number one expense in the cleaning industry is labor.
With the recession upon us, no one can afford to waste time.
Productivity in your company is increased when the evaluation, correction and adjustment of performance is made easy, accurate and based upon solid results of measurement.
This cannot be done effectively through manual or paper processes.
Online tracking software gives companies the ability to easily measure performance through hand-held devices and a web-based interface.
With just a few clicks and/or a few bar code scans, you can measure time, quality and quantity of performance.
Not only will you be able to correct deficiencies in services as they are found, but you will be able to monitor performance over time and make permanent changes that will bring about the most effective results from your employees, thus helping them be more productive.
Your inspectors will know which buildings need the most attention and your cleaners will know which services to focus on more than others, bringing about optimal customer satisfaction and quality control.
Mark Moninger, president of St. Moritz Building Services, calls online tracking software "revolutionary to the service industry."
Since implementing online tracking software, Moninger has reported that customer service, quality control and providing services are much more effective.
He also noted that management time is more focused thanks to the depth and quality of organized information.
Reduction of costs
"With (our online tracking software) we were able to reduce our staff by two full-time positions, providing a savings of $48,000 per year," says Joseph Jenkins, president and CEO of BearCom Building Services.
Reducing costs is usually equated with sacrificing quality.
However, companies using online tracking software have reported an increase in quality while reducing costs.
BearCom, a Salt Lake City building service contractor, was able to replace a full-time inspector and a full-time customer service coordinator with the use of their online tracking software.
Whether in the cleaning or other industries, computers and automation have proven to reduce labor costs.
Increase in sales
Companies have always been hungry for new business; few can survive without an influx of new clients.
There are so many cleaning companies looking to win new accounts.
What will set you apart from the others?
Price is not the only factor considered when evaluating bids.
Numerous companies have reported that online tracking software has been instrumental in winning big contracts.
During the bid process there is simply no comparison between the companies that offer modern technology and those that don''t.
Online tracking software will put any company leaps and bounds ahead of the competition.
Through online tracking software, you can show your customer how you will be held accountable for all contractual work.
Customers feel assured that their agreements will be honored.
Clients like the idea that they can log in and see inspections, schedules and that their requests are being tracked.
Customers feel informed and taken care of without much effort from you.
Scott Murray, while with BG Service Solutions, said, "Total revenues within our division have more than doubled in the past two years, and we credit our success to (our online tracking software)."
According to Murray, the company spent about one third of their proposal time explaining how their online tracking software will resolve the ongoing problems that the customer has experienced with past cleaning companies.
Obviously, if you want to impress potential clients, don''t forget the technology.
Not all online tracking software is the same.
Do your research and compare before deciding on which software is best for your company.
Michael Jenkins is president of CleanTelligent Software (www.CleanTelligent.com). Michael ran a successful cleaning company for years before developing CleanTelligent — Online Tracking Software specifically used in the cleaning industry across three different countries. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.