Service providers occasionally encounter the dubious question: "Your proposal looks good, but how do I know your company will deliver everything you've promised?"
In response, we produce a stack of company training procedures, letters of recommendation, industry certifications and a host of corroborative documents.
Still, the question begs an answer: How can we prove to the prospect that all cleaning tasks will be performed thoroughly and on time?
Documentation of a systematic quality inspection program is part of the answer.
We are familiar with the axiom that employees perform to the level that we inspect, not expect — and that our value is only as good as last night's performance.
In-house managers as well as building service contractors (BSCs) must locate and close quality breaches in order to continually improve service delivery levels.
A systematic quality assurance (QA) program can offer a competitive advantage in securing new contracts and maintaining existing ones.
One BSC calls their QA program "golden handcuffs."
In other words, the customer is so impressed with the ongoing quality levels that they would never consider making a change.
A quality assurance program is essential because it:
- Validates contract compliance and improves customer satisfaction levels
- Measures each worker's skill and performance level to quantify and then retrain, re-motivate, reprimand, recognize or reward staff members as appropriate
- Identifies neglect or accruing blemishes that can be remedied before escalating to a complaint
- Reduces the cost of rework to correct neglect and reduces wasted management time addressing reoccurring cleaning issues.
Be Proactive In Your Approach
Unchecked quality breaches may compromise customer health and safety.
Putting out fires is reactive, whereas monitoring performance to assure continuous improvement is proactive.
Emphasis should be on zero defects or 100 percent first-pass yield.
The "inspecting to correct" process will identify problems before overall quality levels deteriorate.
Inspections help enforce cleaning ownership and employee accountability for performing in accordance with established standards.
The overall goal should be to develop trained technicians who know how to self-inspect and self-correct cleaning problems.
Unfortunately, poor workmanship tarnishes the reputation of the entire department.
Visitors may judge the cleaning department as lax and top management may view it as incompetent.
Eventually, someone else may be recruited to manage the cleaning operations.
Cleaning management must remove barriers that rob workers of the pride of workmanship.
That includes reforming the process so defects do not repeat.
Likewise, employees need feedback, both positive and negative.
Corrective feedback is geared to upgrade overall performance and should never include demeaning remarks.
Quality assessment helps identify areas of neglect and gauges the amount of "eye for detail" expressed by each worker.
A scoring system allows meaningful tracking of cleaning deficiencies and remediation.
As Lynn Krafft, fellow International Custodial Advisors Network (ICAN) board member puts it, "Cleaning inspection forms add another set of eyes to those of the assigned cleaner and will help him or her develop better soil vision."
Inspected And Expected
Some building owners/managers require that contractors or in-house supervisors perform all the inspection work and keep the complaint monkey off their backs.
In other cases, a regular walk-thru by all parties involved is required.
Many BSCs prefer performing the inspections confidentially to ensure corrections are handled before they become public knowledge.
With the introduction of smartphone and iPad inspection systems, the process can be taken to a whole new level.
Customers can view the inspection process in real time.
They see how easy it is to access the system and leave voicemails that are instantly transcribed or e-mails/texts that identify cleaning issues or project requests.
Some of the advanced systems also work offline — in case there is no signal reception — and allow input of global positioning satellite (GPS) information, building temperature, humidity and adenosine triphosphate (ATP) scores.
Additionally, communication with customers and your staff, using actual before and after photos, takes QA to a higher level.
Total transparency is a great way to counter low-ball bidders who have no intention of fulfilling all the required cleaning tasks.
A significant goal is to develop self-directed work teams who inspect and correct cleaning problems at the service level.
With proper oversight and a systematic approach, this is achievable.
As coach Vince Lombardi once said, "Perfection is not attainable. But, if we chase perfection, we can catch excellence."
Gary Clipperton, president of National Pro Clean Corporation, is a 40-year industry veteran and provides bidding, workloading and quality assurance software as well as training manuals, videos and consulting to the JanSan industry. Clipperton, vice president of the International Custodial Advisors Network (ICAN), can be reached at (800) 796-4680 or Gary@NationalProClean.com.