Cleaning & Maintenance Management Online
February 2014 Lets Talk Shop

Be Proactive Instead Of Reactive

Implement systems to anticipate client concerns and measure cleaning results.

February 2, 2014

As we move further into 2014, it’s time for reflecting on the past and following up on resolutions for the future.

The cleaning industry is often seen as being more reactive than proactive, but when I work with my clients to roll out a bidding process (RFP) for cleaning services, they want contractors who will take a leadership role and drive change throughout their organization.

Consider the situation with Harry.

He is the president of a multinational cleaning company that has held many of the same contracts for over 20 years.

Through most of that time, Harry felt pretty confident that he was meeting his clients’ needs, but lately there had been a lot of turnover in management at the properties his company serviced, along with a shift in attitude.

The new managers asked different questions.

They didn’t just want to know what Harry’s company would clean for what price.

They were asking about how Harry managed his employees and what measures he had in place for quality control.

They suggested that a reallocation of labor might result in better and more efficient cleaning and fewer complaints.

Harry was asked to come up with a plan to present at the next quarterly meeting.

Controlling Your Future

Harry realized that simply reacting to clients’ complaints wasn’t enough anymore.

To retain current clients and attract new ones, he needed to find new ways for doing business efficiently as well as anticipating questions and having ready answers.

Harry needed to be more proactive.

In his research, Harry found that many companies used workloading software to:

  • Better allocate labor
  • Increase productivity
  • Communicate work assignments to both the workers and the client.

He also learned that he would need to implement a real-time inspection system, allowing him to address problem areas immediately by providing additional training to the worker or reallocating some labor to increase the frequency and fix the complaints.

This technology would also be a great way to communicate to his client that he was on top of the issue, and they could easily use it to see the results on their own dashboards at the touch of a key.

Time Well Spent

Implementing these systems takes time and resources.

Valid data output requires accurate input as it relates to space management, area types and tasks and labor estimates.

However, a well trained, managed and organized labor pool can make a significant difference in the effectiveness of the cleaning operation. 

At the next quarterly meeting Harry had a much better handle on the labor cost of his business.

Because of the accuracy of the information, it was determined that by reallocating some assignments from one cleaner to another, higher traffic areas could be cleaned at a higher frequency and at no additional charge while, at the same time, bringing up the quality level.

He was able to visually demonstrate this to his client through the use of colored drawings showing each work assignment.

Now the management team knew exactly the day it should expect things to be done and could better communicate the cleaning schedule to its tenants as well.

Harry no longer dreaded those quarterly meetings.

Instead he came prepared with ready answers and new ideas.

Don’t wait for your clients to force you into a change.

Take some time to reflect on what you could be doing better.

Then set clearly defined goals for being more proactive.


Judy Gillies is the founder and president of The Surge Group Inc., a cleaning consulting company located in Toronto that helps facilities managers improve their cleaning operations. She is one of the authors of Behind the Broom, A Manager’s Guide to a Professional Cleaning Operation. For more information about Gillies or to get your own copy, visit