A contract operation is like a machine. In order for it to function properly, all the parts must work together. This is particularly important when it comes to bridging the communication gap between cleaning providers’ sales and service staff.
As a cleaning consultant, I have seen far too many situations in which the sales representative promises services the cleaning staff either can’t or isn’t aware it is required to deliver in an effort to win a contract.
A recent client experience serves as an example. The bidding process came down to two providers that the client found equally impressive, though in slightly different ways. Being a multibuilding facility, the client chose to hire both companies.
In their bid proposals:
Provider 1 repeatedly referenced a solid training program as well as an inspection program to measure employee performance against the scope of work. In addition, the provider supplied a detailed plan for continuous follow up with both its employees and the client to ensure services continued to meet the client’s expectations.
Provider 2 exhibited impressive expertise during the bidder walk-through. The representative critiqued the work of the incumbent cleaning provider, noting what it was doing incorrectly or wasn’t doing at all. The client was particularly impressed by the representative’s high level of confidence and knowledge, right down to specific chemicals and equipment to be used in the facility.
Fast-forward several months:
Provider 1 was providing services as promised. The facility cleaning staff had received extensive training at the provider’s corporate offices along with site-specific training at the client’s facility. Regular inspections comparing how the client’s perception of service matched up with the provider’s perception uncovered a few minor hiccups that were easily corrected in a timely manner.
Provider 2 was not performing as well. The staff members were unsure of their responsibilities and which chemicals and equipment they should use to complete daily assignments. Of particular concern was a tile floor that had received much critiquing from Provider 2’s representative during the walk-through. The representative had proposed an initial service to restore it to the client’s expectation. That restoration never happened and Provider 2’s staff could not clean the floor to the client’s satisfaction. Eventually, my client asked Provider 1’s staff to work on the floor.
The problems between Provider 2 and my client demonstrate a classic disconnect between sales and operations. In this case, the individual doing the walk-through for Provider 2 didn’t communicate to the cleaning staff the knowledge or promises made to the client.
There are two important lessons here that can be applied to all cleaning providers:
a) Sales and operations staff must communicate so that each knows the intricacies of the facility, the promises made, and how to best deliver services that meet client expectations within the prescribed budget.
b) Training, follow-up, and communication are critical components in any successful operation. The Cleaning Industry Management Standard, a performance standard created by ISSA, has identified these three components as critical management best practices.
The best method to resolve a similar situation in your company will depend on your operation and its management. I know of a service provider that requires sales staff to work on new contracts for the first month after the contract is awarded to ensure that everyone is on the same page. As with a machine in which some gears don’t mesh, a cleaning operation in which the members do not work together will not function successfully for very long.