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The Exclusive Magazine for the Building Service Contracting Industry Since 1981

Proof Of Performance

Written by  Ron Segura



If you, a contract cleaner, were asked what is the most essential tool you need to clean a retail facility, like a department store or a mall, what would you say? Might your answer be an automatic scrubber? Plenty of mops and buckets on hand? Maybe lots of warning signs, allowing you to block off areas of the store or mall so you can clean them undisturbed?

While important aspects of cleaning retail areas, none of these answers would be correct. The most important tool a cleaning contractor today can have when cleaning retail stores, malls and 24/7 retail locations, is a smartphone.

Here’s the situation: While cleaning workers are often respected for their work when cleaning a school, an office building or some other commercial facilities, meaning that building users take steps not to dirty-up just cleaned areas, one should not expect such respect in a retail-type facility.

Those same people who respect your cleaning work in the workplace setting might be the very same people who show little or no respect for it in a retail location. Because of this, it is not unusual for a just-cleaned restroom to be soiled in a matter of minutes after cleaning. And when this happens, the client – store or mall manager – will likely be huffing and puffing, complaining that the restrooms were never cleaned.

Proof of performance is necessary, and in this case, the best proof is a smartphone snapshot. Years ago, before the advent of smartphones, such situations could lead to mistrust. The client would have to accept your word that the restroom had been cleaned, but there was always some hesitation about it. If it happens again and again, that uncertainty grows into mistrust.

However, when it comes to trust, today the opposite is true. Not only does the photograph prove the job has been done, but it builds trust between you, your staff and the client. This is why a smartphone can be the best tool in your retail cleaning arsenal.

A CLOSER LOOK AT RETAIL CLEANING For those who have not been involved with retail cleaning, and especially for those considering getting into this potentially lucrative segment of our industry, you should know retail cleaning is an entirely different ballgame. This is primarily because of the restrictions set by the retailer as to when the location can be cleaned.

In most cases, the cleaning must be performed before or after the store/mall closes and while retail staff members are still present. This may be very early in the morning before the location opens, or at night, right after closing. But time is short. In some cases, whereas one or two cleaning workers can tackle the job of cleaning a store in one to three hours, because of time limitations, contractors may need to send three or four cleaning workers to handle the locations cleaning needs so it can open or close on time.

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Further, the cleaning procedures must be very streamlined. There is no time to waste. Each worker must begin his or her duties right away and ensure they are completed by the time the store opens or staff members leave.

While it appears to be phasing out, another cleaning option found in large stores and mega-retailers are what are called “locked-in” situations. This is when cleaning workers are locked in the store in the evening to perform their cleaning duties and then leave in the morning when the store’s manager opens the door and lets them out. The reason for this is to help prevent what retailers call, “shrinkage,” otherwise known as theft.

In place of locked-in situations, some retailers and mall operators now have cleaning performed while the location is still open, but at times when there is the least amount of foot traffic. These times are referred to as “low impact” times because they are times when cleaning has a low impact on retailers who are still open and want to conduct business.

Whichever format is used, proof of performance is something cleaning workers must always keep in mind. Along with having a smartphone handy, here are two more ways cleaning contractors can prove their staff has performed specific cleaning duties as per contract.

TASK VERIFICATION We likely have seen, and many of us must work with, forms that indicate, for instance, that a restroom was cleaned at a particular time and by certain cleaning workers or staff members. This is a version of task verification, but in a retail setting, we need to broaden this out beyond just the restrooms.

Cleaning workers need to “check off” when specific duties were performed in a retail setting as they are completed and, especially if this is done electronically, supplement them with a snapshot. Not only does this verify that specific cleaning tasks have been performed, but because of high worker turnover in the professional cleaning industry, it actually can be a way of teaching new workers what jobs need to be completed in the location.

When task verification is handled electronically, it can be performed using software programs or “apps” now being introduced. This makes it quick and easy to record what tasks were performed and allows for cleaning workers to add that snapshot just mentioned of the completed task. This adds a level of transparency that we have never had before in the professional cleaning industry, making it useful in far more types of facilities than just in a retail setting.

TRACKING AND SCHEDULING Related to task verification is tracking and scheduling. There are some duties in a retail or mall setting that must be performed several times throughout the day. If a mall, for example, is open from 10 in the morning until 10 at night, this means cleaning contractors will likely need to have two or more different shifts all performing similar cleaning duties.

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In such situations, how will the second shift know that a specific area has been cleaned by the morning shift and when it should be cleaned again? Tracking and scheduling involves setting up timetables and cleaning intervals to help ensure cleaning tasks are performed when scheduled. The client likes to be able to see this information. With software and new apps being introduced, this can all be accomplished electronically.

Tracking and scheduling can also prove beneficial when it comes to contract renewal. Contractors will have a much better idea of how much time they are investing in a facility. For example, maybe they did not realize at the start of a contract that specific areas may need to be cleaned three times a day instead of the two they anticipated. Tracking and scheduling can help verify just how much time is being put into cleaning the location. Proof of performance is becoming more and more critical in all types of settings, not just retail. While more and more facility managers view cleaning as an investment in their facility’s health, it can never be denied that it is also one of their most significant expenses. Managers want to make sure they are getting their money’s worth. They want to see proof of performance, and it is up to us to make sure they have it.

Ron Segura is founder and president of Segura & Associates, a janitorial consulting company based in the United States. He has more than 45 years of experience in all segments of the cleaning industry, with 10 of those years spent overseeing the cleaning of more than 4.5 million square feet for the Walt Disney Company. 


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