Heightened client expectations and cleaning during trading hours are just some of the challenges currently facing cleaners in the retail sector. INCLEAN NZ assistant editor Lizzie Hunter spoke to SKG Cleaning’s senior executive officer George Manoussakis and operations manager John Conomos to find out more about what cleaning companies can do to overcome these challenges.
What are some of the challenges you’re seeing in the retail sector?
GM: One of the challenges we face with retail cleaning is the fact that a lot more cleaning needs to be done within operating hours. Expectations are also high in the retail sector, because the presentation of a store to the customer is of high importance. Training, therefore, is becoming of paramount importance so our cleaners understand our client’s needs and can prioritise tasks to create a safe working environment.
JC: For us, it’s cleaning while the store is open or preparing to open. Working around staff increases the chances of a potential hazard. I’m also finding that cleaners have less time to perform wet floor tasks. Retail clients also are expecting a very high standard of cleaning to help give them an edge over their competitors.
What is SKG Cleaning doing to overcome these challenges?
GM: I think good training and using up to date, effective equipment plays an important role in achieving results. All of our cleaners go through a training process which involves six to 12 learning modules. Our customer service managers are also trained to understand the specific needs of retail store managers because even though they may all have the same type of store, the expectation varies from manager to manager as well. Understanding a client’s needs is just as important as anything else.
JC: I try and educate store managers and a lot of them get on board because they understand the complexities we face and they get their team to help where they can. They might tell their team to make sure a particular area is clear so that we can get a quick run and then the next day we’re do the next section so we divide the store up and do the wet tasks over a week rather than every single day.
What else can cleaning companies do?
GM: Educate the customer as to what they can do to assist in making sure their store is presented in the best way possible. Most of our clients are very accommodating because they take pride in their stores. Some store managers help out by making sure their staff clean up after themselves or get to the store on time to let the cleaners in before customers arrive. Client education is often just as important as cleaner training.
JC: I think a mixture of training, communication and using quality cleaning equipment. I ensure that our equipment is always fully operational so our cleaners can clean quickly and efficiently. I also educate our teams to make sure they understand their responsibilities. At the end of the day, if there is a slip or fall incident, the responsibility of that falls on us
What is your overall message to the industry?
GM: My advice is to be honest with the client. Don’t promise things you can’t fulfil. Respecting your customer enough to be honest with them helps them understand the challenges our cleaners face. I think clients are now more aware of these challenges and now request evidence of a cleaning company’s processes and methodologies. We provide our clients with evidence of our processes through historical records and references from past and present clients to validate our claims. Providing evidence is quite valuable when you’re trying to convince a potential client why they should employ your services over another provider.
JC: I think a general problem we face in our industry is the people who quote unreasonable budgets. Therefore, my advice would be to make sure that you quote to perform the task to the levels expected, not just to win the job. You need to be able to get the job done properly. I also think it’s important that your staff are trained thoroughly on workplace health and safety. Safety is a big issue when it comes to cleaning in retail and we take it very seriously!