While cleaning contractors may provide acceptable service for their clients, they often do not take it to the next level. When this occurs, contractors may not be able to ensure true customer satisfaction, and as a result, customer loyalty—one of the ultimate goals of any contract cleaning or service business.
Acceptable Service vs. Satisfaction
Providing “acceptable service" essentially means the contractor is meeting the expectations of an agreement with a client. Providing "satisfaction," however, requires taking the level of service above and beyond the stipulated service agreement. There are different ways to accomplish this, but the bulk of the responsibility rests on supervision, upper management of the company, and/or the actual owners of the contract cleaning company.
So what are we saying here? Specifically, making sure the customer is satisfied is the responsibility of those key segments within the company—supervisors, managers, and owners. These are the personnel who invariably make service promises to the customer when submitting a proposal.
These promises go beyond the scope of services for the client. They become key performance indicators, and it is based on these that the customer determines if they are genuinely satisfied with the cleaning and maintenance performance at their facility.
Interestingly, this may be just the opposite of what many cleaning contractors believe. Often, service providers assign the responsibility of ensuring customer satisfaction to the actual cleaning staff. The belief is that if the crew is doing its job, the customer will be happy.
While this is very important, it does not lead to true customer satisfaction. Many times the customer will be happy with the work provided by the cleaning crew, but may feel abandoned by the contractor management. For example, I hear the following complaint frequently: “While the cleaning is fine, I’m not impressed with the [janitorial] company management. Prior to awarding them the contract, the cleaning company managers and owners were very visible and eager to please. But once the contract was awarded, they essentially disappeared until it was time to rebid.”
Engaging for Higher Satisfaction
Clearly, customer satisfaction involves more than just having the crew do its job well. So, how do we earn this higher level of customer satisfaction and loyalty?
One of the first things we must do is engage with our customers. Now, today we hear the term “engage” quite a bit, especially as it refers to reaching customers through social media. But that is not what I mean here.
In this case, I am talking about ongoing, face-to-face interaction between supervisors/managers and the customer. For example, conduct regular walk-throughs with the customer; suggest ways the client might improve their facility operations; discuss ways they can save water, energy, reduce waste, or promote recycling; and suggest additional services that can help make the facility cleaner and healthier.
Going from service to satisfaction by way of face-to-face customer interaction is an issue in any service business, but it becomes more complicated in the professional cleaning industry because most of our work is done in the evening, after our customers have already gone home for the day. This creates challenges for supervisors, managers, and company owners; however, it is no excuse for failing to meet with your customers. It is very important for the customer to see you and meet with you and for there to be ongoing customer engagement.
This should sound like a reasonable suggestion for most contract cleaners, and it is one that is vitally important.
Connecting With the Client
Several years ago, Allegiance, a Utah-based customer feedback and loyalty firm, conducted a survey to determine the difference between service and real customer satisfaction. According to an article, “The Difference Between ‘Satisfaction’ and ‘Loyalty,’” published by former magazine ABA Bank Marketing and Sales, engagement is necessary because it results in an “emotional bond or attachment ... and it develops as a result of ... repeated and ongoing interactions.”
While there are other strategies we can discuss to help ensure true customer satisfaction, staying in touch with the customer is at the top of the list. And if you have not been doing this, start now. It can transform an acceptable cleaning service into one that provides true customer satisfaction and, with it, customer loyalty.