Cleaning & Maintenance Management Online

Out With The Old School And In With The New School

July 12, 2012

There are many cleaning organizations today that I would describe as "old school."

In other words, these organizations are operating in such a way that was once acceptable but is now old, outdated and no longer sufficient.

Customers today expect cleaning organizations to be structured, to provide documentation and to excel with communication.

They want to know how workers are trained, how many times an area is cleaned, how and with what products and tools.

And, they want to see it on paper — or electronically. This is the "new school" way of operating a cleaning organization — like a business.

Business owners want one thing: Satisfied customers.

To satisfy customers, businesses need to deliver a quality service.

The best guide for service delivery is ISSA''s Cleaning Industry Management Standard (CIMS); consider it the "new school" textbook.

Service Delivery 101

CIMS is framework for everything a cleaning organization needs to run like a business focused on service delivery.

However, rather than copy a page right out of the Standard, I am highlighting three steps organizations can take to move into new school territory.

1. Customer awareness

Old school organizations do not take customer expectations into account in a structured manner.

They operate under the expectation that customers want cleaning workers to clean, which is why old school organizations often find themselves managing confusion and chaos, spending valuable time "putting out fires."

Quality service doesn''t exist without first defining customer requirements.

Cleaning organizations should have a written scope of work or performance outcome that defines customers'' expectations for each facility and how they are going to be met.

Regular communication with customers allows for these expectations to be managed and fulfilled — even as they change over time.

2. Gap analysis

Organizations that do not take the time to analyze their operations are old school.

All cleaning organizations should take a deep dive into all areas of their cleaning operations annually to identify inefficiencies or gaps — the difference between how the organization should be operating and how it is actually operating.

An easy way to identify gaps is to run through the CIMS checklist and determine whether or not the organization meets each category''s criteria.

This analysis will also ensure organizations have the right documentation where needed.

Once gaps are identified between current cleaning operations and the CIMS checklist, cleaning organizations will understand why they might be having problems in some areas.

Additionally, organizations may find that they are actually exceeding CIMS criteria in some cases.

3. Closing gaps

The purpose of a gap analysis is to help organizations improve operations and eliminate problems and potential problems by coming up with solutions.

Implementing the right solutions, such as business elements, documentation and structure, closes the organization''s gaps and helps it become a more quality, customer-centered organization.

An important part of this process includes communicating to customers the results of the gap analysis and the actions being taken to improve operations.

The Newer School

Since ISSA introduced CIMS seven years ago, many organizations have earned certification, raising the bar for the cleaning industry.

And, the industry continues to evolve.

For example, it is becoming increasingly common for cleaning organizations to require managers to have master''s degrees and/or prestigious certifications such as ISO 9000, the International Organization for Standardization''s family of quality management standards.

The level of professionalism among cleaning organizations is increasing and, as a result, customers have come to expect more than the stereotype janitor pushing a mop and punching a card because the industry is working hard to shatter that image.

The new motto for the commercial cleaning industry is, "Out with the old school and in with the new school."

If you aren''t prepared to make the jump, look to CIMS as your guide.


Dave Frank is a 30-year industry veteran and the president of the American Institute for Cleaning Sciences (AICS). AICS is the registrar for ISSA''s Cleaning Industry Management Standard (CIMS) certification program.