Creating a professional industry standard within the industrial and commercial cleaning industry serves to enhance industry role-players’ credibility and drive further employment opportunities, according to services group Bidvest.
The prevalence of ‘fly by night’ companies could set back efforts to achieve this goal through their “complete disregard for industry standards”, says Bidvest Managed Solutions Group MD Johan du Toit.
“There is, however, a big drive by the National Contract Cleaners Association to professionalise the industry and, ultimately, this initiative will elevate the credibility of the entire industry, thereby also creating sustainable employment opportunities.
“I am confident that by continuously raising the bar with regard to standards and best practice, a greater understanding and appreciation is created for this often unappreciated but essential service,” he says.
The level of service currently provided by cleaning companies in South Africa is generally good, says Du Toit, adding that service levels vary from company to company. “Most clients outsource their cleaning services, mainly because they are not cleaning professionals and generally cleaning companies provide a high-quality service to address this need,” he adds.
Bidvest Prestige Cleaning operates a call centre helpdesk with a response time matrix to enhance its offerings, engage customers and monitor levels of client satisfaction, explains Du Toit. “This is supplemented by service-level agreements based on specifications and scope.”
Further assisting Bidvest in ascertaining client satisfaction are quality controllers in healthcare environments providing data on handheld digital devices that process the data in terms of scoring and quality. “In addition, key accounts staff are advised to regularly visit top clients to obtain direct feedback, considering the bigger picture or vision as to where one would like to be aligned with the client going forward,” he says.
However, it is not always possible to consult all clients and this will largely be determined by a company’s infrastructure, “therefore, it remains a careful balancing act, but it is not completely failsafe”. “All relevant quantitative and qualitative inputs should be collated on a customer relationship management platform to provide a holistic overview for management,” says Du Toit.
Playing the Cards Right
“It is crucially important to specify the job correctly, irrespective of whether you stand the chance of losing the deal,” he sates.
“Be upfront by detailing quality, frequency and quality of equipment and consumables. Sales staff should also be involved during the handover process to ensure that what was promised can be effectively delivered,” says Du Toit, adding that, as far as possible, sales and operations staff should operate within the same division. This will ensure both departments can operate in unison to create an understanding of adjustments in terms of norms and to be kept abreast of new innovations.
Further, the growing trend to deliver sustainable and environment-friendly solutions is playing a key role in the industry.
“Corporate companies initially created the demand, with environment-friendly products originally being perceived as expensive – however, they are not,” he says.
“Speaking from our own experience, we made significant strides in the implementation of environment-friendly products at the Confederations Cup in 2009 and the FIFA World Cup in 2010 at seven major stadiums,” adds Du Toit.
Bidvest used this experience to completely convert to green products during 2013.
“It is important to realise the initial setup costs of going green are slightly higher than conventional products; however, maintenance and sustainability come in at the same price,” he states, adding that, by these means, it is therefore clearly the way to go from an environmental perspective as well as differentiating a company’s client offering.
The Bidvest Academy has discussed a pilot phase with the Green Building Council of South Africa in terms of which cleaning professionals can assist their clients in achieving a green star rating for existing buildings. “It is important to realise that green cleaning is not just about chemicals, it also involves equipment, techniques and knowledgeable staff, which is imperative considering staff are a cleaning company’s biggest asset,” says Du Toit.
Basket of Services
Bidvest Managed Solutions Group was created specifically to cater for an all-encompassing offering in the market, he states.
This basket includes cleaning, landscaping, toilet hire, training and events. Comparing a full offering of solutions by a single group to outsourcing different companies to cater for each individual aspect would require a considerable administration and invoicing effort.
“By providing a basket of services, you are performing one person’s duties for that company. This is where facility companies have been quite successful. They have actually pushed that administrative service or function onto the bundled supplier.
“Thereby, as a self-service supplier, you now perform the consolidation process and just generate a single invoice or statement,” says Du Toit.
He adds that this practice is also becoming more broadly based, as many procurement managers opt for the ‘one company, multiple service’ approach.
Specialised industries best understand the economic benefits of using an outsourced cleaning company, states Du Toit, adding that the food, hospitality and healthcare industries are leaders in cleanliness and hygiene, as contamination poses the biggest risk in these market sectors.
“Cleaning will definitely continue to grow as an industry offering many business and employment opportunities. Government may still opt for in-house cleaning, but private business, in general, will continue to outsource cleaning.”
In terms of equipment availability, he suggests that the local industry will continue to follow European trends. “To maintain a professional face for the industry, a complete database of professional and compliant service providers will be developed and be used by facility owners to make informed decisions regarding the appointment of reputable contractors.
“Staff training will continue to be an important aspect in the creation of industry career opportunities, thereby increasing standards and boosting professionalism,” concludes Du Toit.