Rolling out the red-carpet treatment

Superior carpet care in commercial buildings has come strongly into focus during COVID-19, and cleaners are being advised to value their services and insist on high standards if they want to create lasting business success.

At a time when the importance of cleaners such as carpet-care professionals has never been higher, Pat Muller has some sage advice – do not under-value your services.

Muller is a chemical product specialist and respected industry educator at Legend Brands, a provider of equipment, chemicals and expert training for professional cleaners in the United States.

He often puts the following question to managers and cleaners: “If you went out tomorrow and doubled your prices, would you lose half your customers?”

Most respond that while some “price-sensitive” customers could rebel, the majority of their clients would stay loyal.

“I’m telling you that people will pay top dollar for top-shelf service,” Muller says.

His point is not to encourage cleaning businesses to indiscriminately impose dramatic price increases, but rather to help create a more sustainable and profitable enterprise that respects its work and offers customers a strong value proposition. The typical outcome from smarter price setting is that cleaners do far less work for a lot more money.

With the COVID-19 pandemic underlining the magnitude of proper carpet care in commercial facilities – carpet is, after all, the biggest filter inside most buildings – Muller believes fostering trust is the key for all cleaning teams.

“Your customers don’t hire you just to come in and clean their carpet,” he says. “They hire you because you know how to come in and do it correctly. But you need to develop that trust and respect so that price is never a discussion point.”

Market on the rise

A new market study from Global Industry Analysts, titled Carpets and Rugs – Global Market Trajectory & Analytics, predicts the international carpets and rugs market will reach US$38.8 billion by 2026.

It suggests the market will be driven by new technologies aimed at improving durability and aesthetics amid strong demand for premium carpets from the commercial sector.

The report It indicates there will be strong demand for tufted carpets because of their stain-resistant nature and long life, while woven and nylon carpets will also experience growth in a COVID-19 world where cleaning efficacy is crucial.

Godfreys, which has provided Australian consumers with a popular range of carpet-cleaning equipment and total cleaning solutions for almost 90 years, is determined to stay at the forefront of carpet-cleaning trends.

Daniel Pisaniello, general manager of wholesale for Godfreys, says the pandemic has resulted in a change of mindset on carpet care, with customers calling for enhanced support and education.

“Traditionally, our industry can be heavily focused on price. However, we have noticed customers looking more for the right products and advice, rather than price being the main point of focus.”

Pisaniello is proud of how his team members, including the senior leadership team, have risen to the COVID-19 challenge.

“We decided to think, act and behave differently,” he says.

“This, in turn, has helped our team members provide clients with the best knowledge, support and advice on how to effectively clean and take care of their equipment.”

With the pandemic putting a premium on hygiene, Pisaniello has no doubt that more commercial businesses are coming to understand the need for more regular carpet maintenance in their facilities.

“A well-planned carpet-maintenance program lays out how you will clean and care for your carpet on an ongoing basis,” he says.

“It will ensure your carpet continues to look its best and help you avoid costly problems down the road.”

Tom Forman, business manager for Commercial Property Cleaning (CPC) in Underwood, Queensland, agrees cleaners need to school their employees and clients on the value of proper carpet care.

“I cannot emphasise enough how regular maintenance services and education on how to perform services is the key to success with carpet cleaning.”

Forman says carpets are often designed to conceal how dirty they actually are, and regularly scheduled professional maintenance draws out impurities and particles which become embedded in the carpet and its fibres.

“This aids in the longevity and appearance of the product in addition to removing traces of unwanted smells,” he says.

Product and technology trends

On the technology front, Pisaniello notes Godfreys is witnessing the development of better battery-operated vacuums that give consumers greater flexibility and convenience.

“Over the past year, developments around technology and battery designs have allowed for improved runtimes without sacrificing air flow and performance,” he says.

Digital LD screens are also appearing on various models to easily communicate battery life and key information to the operator, while sensors built into the roller brush of many models provide greater performance when cleaning different types of flooring.

According to Pisaniello, orbital technology is being used more and more to clean carpets deeper and more effectively than some conventional methods.

“Carpet shampooers and extraction units are also more readily available for all types of consumers, from large commercial units for industrial markets to smaller compact units for everyday households.”

Muller warns facility owners and cleaners alike about the choice of carpet fibres, explaining he is not a fan of some of the newer fibre technologies.

He prefers quality nylon fibres that are widely considered to be more resilient than the newer generations of synthetic fibres and which bounce back from crushing and matting more quickly than any other synthetics.

In terms of carpet-cleaning chemicals, Muller says the technology has improved and Legend Brands advocates a product such as Prochem’s Ultrapac Extreme with Nano technology, a powerful pre-spray for carpets that can also be used on tiles and grout in heavy food soil areas.

To remove urine stains and smells, he recommends Un-Duz-It Unleashed by ProRestre OdorX, a solution that is sold by some distributors in Australia.

Regardless of the technology or chemicals being used, Muller has clear advice for business owners or cleaning technicians.

“Do your own real-world testing. Do not choose your professional cleaning products based on what someone else says or uses. You have to find what works best for you.”

Tips for best practice

Education and training are the starting points for great carpet care.

CPC has rolled out an education initiative for its employees who deliver carpet-cleaning services.

“Staff should be trained on how to treat initial and prolonged stains, and the nature of carpets and fibres, to deliver the best service and result for a client,” Forman says.

With about 40 years’ experience in the industry, Muller is also an advocate of training, but believes simple cleaning methods can still get the job done because carpet fibres, whether they are wool or synthetic based, have not changed dramatically over the years.

Spraying anti-microbial chemicals incorrectly and without educating the customer or your staff on proper dilution, application and warnings and cautions in buildings, he argues, is only likely to create a “new generation of chemophobic people”.

“The main pitfall we see in commercial facilities is improper maintenance, which in turn leads to abrasive soil damage in traffic lanes, as well as such an extreme soil load your maintenance cleaning processes and chemicals cannot remove all of the deeply imbedded soils, spots and stains, doing long-term damage.”

He says carpet needs to be vacuumed daily. “Everyone knows this – this is a well-known best practice, but nobody does it and everyone complains that their carpet looks terrible.”

For cleaning businesses that are in discussions with new customers, Muller suggests asking a series of fundamental questions.

  1. How old is the carpet? – he says some of today’s new synthetic fibres are as bad as the polyester fibres of old in their ability to stand up to foot traffic, and if a customer points to two-year-old carpet with major traffic damage then you know it is not a quality nylon. This will influence your cleaning regime.
  2. Has this carpet ever been professionally cleaned? – this will provide some indication of how the carpet has been treated in the past.
  3. Who cleaned it? – knowing which cleaning company has been engaged in the past, allows you to make an assessment on whether the customer hired the previous company based on price, or on having the job done correctly.

Typically, Muller says cleaners rush from job to job and do not communicate with their clients.

“But there’s some really important information you need on the history of the carpet, so slow down and ask those questions.”

Forman agrees that when a cleaner initially goes to a site or meets a client, it is important to gather data on the floors’ surfaces just as a cleaner would for general cleaning spaces.

This allows cleaners to put together an appropriate quote and maintenance schedule.

While quality machinery is essential in the cleaning industry, he adds that it is equally important to clean your machinery after use.

“Educating staff on how to clean machinery correctly is needed for equipment maintenance but also how to identify any spots or stains on carpets and how to best treat and remove them, from spot cleaning to a full carpet-cleaning service.”

Likewise, maintenance and servicing is essential to allow equipment to function at its highest level.

Over time an older machine, although seemingly running okay, will lose its power thrust and suction power. The power thrust is a major part of hot-water cleaning as it gets deep into the carpet and the suction needs to be strong to extract as much water as possible.

Knowledge is power

For the last word on cleaning, Muller defers to the late Bob Bonwell, a well-known industry figure from Indianapolis in the US who started as a carpet cleaner and over the years built Advantage, a highly successful cleaning and restoration supply house.

His motto was “You can’t outperform your knowledge”.

With many cleaners yet to return to full-schedule cleaning because of current conditions, Muller suggests they invest in their cleaning skills and knowledge.

On the business front, he urges cleaners to stop doing presentations to clients in which they find themselves apologising for the high price of their services. His advice? Give them the price and ask them when they want you to start.

“It’s a confidence thing!”

This article first appeared in the July/August issue of INCLEAN magazine. 

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