Don’t just survive, thrive!

Every industry is undergoing an increasing rate of change, and most changes can be both a threat and an opportunity.

Every industry is undergoing an increasing rate of change, and most changes can be both a threat and an opportunity. Which one depends on how well you have prepared your team, your systems and yourself to meet them.

According to IBISWorld, the cleaning industry is set to grow at 3.3 per cent per annum across the 10 years to 2024. This is higher than the average industry growth and will continue to make it attractive to new entrants.

Given the relatively lower costs of entry and low technological barriers, commercial cleaning gets more new entrants than many other sectors. You and your business need to be prepared to respond.

These new entrants will typically enter at the low and mid-levels of the industry and use price as an entry strategy, and while small will focus on intense customer service to woo your clients from you. Many of these businesses start (and die) small, but many thrive and displace incumbents. To survive you must win three battles.

The three most-cited success factors considered key to sustaining a commercial cleaning company in Australia are;

1 People

Good staff remains a key advantage to winning and keeping customers. From working with our clients at freshOps, we see they make up between 40 and 50 per cent of the cost base of most businesses. Even small improvements in their performance can have a material impact on profits. But it goes a lot deeper than that.

Losing good staff (emphasis on good) can severely hurt your bottom line. In fact, the issue of staff retention is twice as large than customer retention, according to respondents in the 2018 Cleaning Maintenance Management (CMI) survey.

This is because good staff impact customer relationships, hold key operating know-how and help bind team culture in remote working cultures.

These losses mount quickly, with more than 45 per cent of companies turning over 20 per cent of team members per annum.

It is estimated 30 per cent of companies replace a third of the team, while 15 per cent of companies replace a whopping 50 per cent of their team annually. That is a LOT of time spent recruiting, training and onboarding team members.

You can be on the better end of the scale with investing time not only in the selection and recruiting process, but in the ongoing support and coaching in the field and using mobile software for remote teams of employees and contractors. Building a stronger sense of team is a huge advantage when looking to improve engagement and retention.

2 Customer satisfaction

In other service industries there is often the opportunity for the frequent “tool-box” talks. These are moments that focus the group on the values of the business and examples of good or bad behaviours.

They are also an invaluable chance to share the principles of what customers are saying they want from you. That is if you capture customer feedback.

Successful businesses strive to get very close to their customers and to capture their feedback as often as possible. At a minimum you need to be asking periodically, perhaps via a survey, and not just at the end of a contract.

Best practice would see the customer being offered an opportunity to provide feedback via digital tools in every encounter. This might include emails, phone calls and even when your team visit site.

But to super-charge this effort, leading field operations tools allow the client access to a portal. Here, they can see exactly what tasks were completed on the last site visit, allowing 100 per cent objectivity in their feedback.

This transparency also allows for both parties to be on the same page in your expectations. We have seen numerous ‘tricky’ client relationships get back on track almost immediately from the adoption of a client portal and the transparency it brings.

This is due to a powerful two-fold effect. If there is an issue the customer is prompted to share their observations, reducing the risk that any lingering frustration leads to a loss of the contract at renewal time.

But secondly this feedback allows management and the team to continuously improve not just at the site in question, but for all clients.

And while this is great, don’t just leave it up to customers to identify areas to improve. Encourage your team to make suggestions and if adopted by the client, reward your team.

This can be intangible by way of rewards, of tangible through small gifts or bonuses. This will align the team’s efforts with your own in wanting to win and keep business over the long term.

3 Innovation

You need to stay innovative to stay alive. When was the last time you rolled out a genuinely new product or service? I mentioned the new entrants who are on the rise, well you can be sure they are trying new things, frantically. This is supported by the CMI survey, which found 87 per cent of new jobs are won from another company.

Everyone on the team needs to be the “eyes and ears” for the organisation. Clients are watching your work, but we also know that the moment we drop the ball that client can very quickly find someone to replace your team with theirs. Don’t give them the chance.

Engage the team to make suggestions and reward them where their suggestions capture new business, retain a client, are cost-reducing suggestions or lead to increased customer satisfaction.

In this way you and the team are aligned in helping your business not only survive, but thrive. Enough talking about it, go and take a fresh look at your operations.

FreshOps is an Australian-made, mobile workforce application and management portal built to assist cleaning management and cleaners.

The author can be reached at martin@getfreshOps.com.

This first appeared in the September/October issue of INCLEAN magazine

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