Everyone cleans: Even Donald Trump washes his hands.
“Clean” has real value; yet, the public perception of people who clean is not on par with the value society places on the “clean” condition.
The services they provide, though, directly impact the health and lifestyle of themselves, their clients and their community.
Cleaning properly or improperly can quickly bring on consequences — good or bad.
How do we know what “clean” is and how do we know when we are “cleaning properly?”
How does a professional housecleaner become trained to know?
People value soldiers, policeman, doctors and nurses because they are folks in roles known to protect us or rescue us from danger.
In essence, that is what professional housecleaners do.
To engage in those previously mentioned professions, you must go through extensive training and understand the rules, behavior and the science involved in practicing those professions.
When we formed the Association of Residential Cleaning Services International (ARCSI), we knew that we needed to develop a program of instruction and certification for technicians and that it would have to be a peer-reviewed, industry-wide accepted program.
It would have to be an ongoing program that incorporates updates and refinements, as any reputable professional certification does.
This would allow it to become widely known by the public at large, and becoming widely known and accepted is critical to success.
This was discussed at great length among the original ARCSI Board of Directors in our first strategic planning meeting.
We agreed to move ahead in that meeting with a certification program for professional housecleaners.
After evaluating our options, we chose to approach the Institute of Inspection, Cleaning, Restoration and Certification (IICRC).
They had done a great job with improving the carpet cleaning industry through their approved schools and instructors, and they embraced the idea and agreed to adopt the program into their system.
Laying The Groundwork
After getting the program approved, we had to develop it, pulling information from many places.
Regarding health and hygiene, the Cleaning Industry Research Institute (CIRI) was very helpful.
Several members of their Technical Advisory Board steered us to information that documented hygienic cleaning practices.
One noteworthy resource Elizabeth Scott recommended was the International Forum on Home, Health and Hygiene.
We also relied on existing programs that the IICRC had in place, such as Fire and Smoke Restoration, Carpet Cleaning Technician and many approved standards to use as reference material.
To have the interest, cooperation and contribution of world-renowned microbiologists, industrial hygienists, textile engineers and, most of all, people who clean homes made the project more of an exciting adventure than a burden.
Now, we needed a way to teach it.
The ARCSI Board of Directors conferred and decided they did not have the resources to open a school and retain instructors; it would require developing a curriculum with annotations and having it approved by the IICRC.
Then, instructors would have to be selected, vetted and approved by the IICRC.
It would be at least one to two years, and that was optimistic because the IICRC Certification Council only meets twice a year.
Bruce Vance, the HCT Committee chair, discussed the options with me, Tom Stewart, who is also a committee member, and Derek Christian, who sat on the ARCSI Board.
We did not want to see a gem for our industry die or become irrelevant, so we decided to take the risk and move ahead with writing a referenced manual and setting up a school.
As it produced fruit, we wanted ARCSI to benefit because the program would not exist except for the association.
They agreed to sponsor six classes the first year.
The name of the school is the Institute for Service Excellence (ISE), and we have already had four of the six ARCSI-sponsored classes and a few private classes.
This is what we are observing: In just a handful of classes, there are over 100 who have completed the course.
Of those attending, all the top franchises have been represented by their home offices and have stated their praise for the program.
The graduates are also seeing how to use the HCT program as a strong marketing tool in making the role of the professional housecleaner one to be valued.
Represented businesses are attracting and capturing more clients at higher price points.
Taking the book on a sales call and referring to it when a customer suggests using something inappropriate makes you different and more valuable in the mind of the consumer.
Showing your IICRC card as part of the sales process designates you a true professional.
It makes the customer consider you valuable and trustworthy, knowing you care about doing a great job for them.
You have invested in yourself, and your knowledge makes you the expert.
The IICRC HCT course is designed to assist residential cleaning services make their standard operating procedures better.
The HCT course is not prescriptive; rather, it focuses on the end result.
There are absolutes in the course, specifically those related to the science of cleaning and safety.
For example, using upright vacuums, canisters or backpacks is a personal choice notwithstanding certification.
Marketing Your Knowledge
While the program is designed primarily to educate the individual and prepare them for an examination, it also gives business owners tools to improve their business and their marketing efforts.
The Internet is a great tool for education, and we are working on ways to help companies keep education and professional development costs in line while adding immense value in the form of knowledge and skill development.
We have hopes to release an online program that is designed to be an orientation for new employees.
In summary, people generally don’t respect those who clean.
However, when you think about cleaning, everyone does it — and most value cleanliness.
People who clean professionally have generally not been taught very well.
They may be taught one way in one company and another way somewhere else.
It is entirely possible that everything they have been taught is incorrect.
Now, there is a way for those engaged in the profession of cleaning homes to proudly hold their heads up and say, “I know how to care for this home.”
These are the kinds of employee you are looking for, and the same goes for customers and potential clients.