Technology and the Changing World of Contract Cleaning

In the past decade, we have witnessed a number of technological advances that have had direct influence on the professional cleaning industry. While many of these involved the cleaning tools and equipment we use, what I am referencing here are advances that have impacted communication between our customers, cleaning contractors, and their staff. And we are beginning to see technologies coming online that will allow the very buildings we clean and maintain to connect and communicate with us directly. Again this will help speed up communication but also help streamline cleaning operations and head off any issues before they become complaints.

At one time, not so long ago, a building manager might leave a note for the cleaning crew, either on her desk or in the janitorial closet, alerting them to something in the facility that needs cleaning attention. When morning comes, the manager finds the note is still where she left it on her desk or has found a resting place on the floor in the janitor’s closet. In both cases, it appears that neither the contractor nor the contractor’s staff saw the note and this means the issue was not addressed. This hit or miss communications system did not work in the past and it certainly will not work today when everyone just accepts instant communications to be the norm.

This is why I instruct all of the cleaning contractors I consult with to develop some type of quick and easy communications system for their clients to communicate directly with cleaning crew supervisors, and supervisors with cleaning workers. Just recently a client of mine, a large cleaning contractor in Northern California, equipped all of their staff with smartphones to relay information and issues to their workers – and just as importantly – for workers to relay back information as to how and when issues were addressed.

What they do now is snap before-and-after images of the problem, indicating how they found it and how it was addressed, for all parties to see. This is real-time problem handling, which is what today’s facility manager not only wants but expects.

Technology has also impacted communications in the bidding process. Electronic RFPs can offer so much more information than the paper and print RFPs of yesteryear. Contractors can now include such things as adding graphic floor plans with their proposals; images of office areas, including trouble spots noted and pointed out in the walk-thru; as well as areas that need special or recommended attention. The prospective client is given much more and more precise information this way, often in a more attractive format that is very easy to read and understand. Further, there are two important things to know:

  • Sending your RFP back electronically saves the contractor several hours in preparation
  • In some cases, those bidders who do not respond electronically will be eliminated.