A Cleaner First Impression

Insights from the ISSA seminar
Tuesday, October 9, 2018

Public perception can make or break a business, and that perception can be magnified at such venues as sports arenas and other large facilities where first impressions and good experiences go a long way towards ensuring repeat visits.

“You only get one shot at a first impression,” says Steve Spencer of Spencer Consulting. “If their first impressions are good, customers are likely to come back. If their impressions are bad, you may not see these customers again; and if they do return, they’re going to remember that bad impression.”

A facility’s entrance, the lobby/reception area, and restrooms are the areas most likely to inform that first impression. Not only should these areas be well designed and attractive, but they need to be well maintained on a continual basis.

Overcoming Large Venue Challenges

The specter of negative publicity can give nightmares to those in charge of facility maintenance. However, there are many opportunities for janitorial or sanitorial (jan/san) distributors who are hired to help these providers overcome such obstacles.

This year, Joe Davis, a senior account executive with Procter & Gamble (P&G) Professional joined Steve Spencer to tackle the topic of “Public Spaces and Sports Arenas: What They Say To The Public,” during a recent ISSA seminar for cleaning industry professionals. Here, he outlined several unique challenges to maintaining large venues, such as sports arenas and other public spaces:

  • Multiple sectors within one location (e.g., hospitality, foodservice, and athletic facilities);
  • the need for a large cleaning staff, which can lead to greater employee turnover challenges and additional training requirements; and
  • larger risks of public infections.

“Whether it’s a university, professional sports stadium, or another large facility, there are a number of reasons why scale is important,” said Davis. “This includes added health and safety concerns and the addition of many touch points. Think of all the different places visitors can be found within a public facility after they have paid for their tickets and are ready to be entertained.”

Preventing a PR Disaster

It makes economic sense to operate a properly cleaned and maintained public facility. When spectators experience a good stadium environment, for example, they tend to purchase more food, return more frequently, and have a more enjoyable experience.

“Image is everything when maintaining a large venue, as is finding efficiencies that save both time and money without sacrificing the cleaning process,” Davis said. “That’s why it’s essential to work with the right partners to ensure quality. Implementing a proper cleaning program with the right partners is not only a cost saver for many companies, but it can also be a profit saver as well.”

Davis also highlighted the unique demands placed on large-scale cleaning operations for such venues as the Olympics. If anything goes wrong, such as a viral outbreak, the negative publicity could be magnified throughout the world.

Take, for example, the 2014 Winter Olympic games in Sochi, Russia, where maintenance crews cleaned after 5 million people, took care of 2 million square feet of surfaces, and washed more than 30,000 linens every day.

“Imagine all the impressions made on visitors at this event. Then imagine if a pathogen had been able to spread through the foodservice area where so many international travelers were staying and enjoying the Olympics,” Davis said.

No doubt, business can be negatively impacted if things go awry. And indeed, noted Davis, there have been several restaurant chains in recent years that have had to overcome negative publicity resulting from foodborne illness outbreaks.

“It’s important to make sure a venue’s cleaning staff is well trained, and that there is a contingency plan in place if something bad does take place,” he added, noting, “It’s not always about the cost of a (cleaning) program, but rather what you invest in to make sure that program (or lack thereof) doesn’t cost you more in the long run due to negative publicity.”

Getting it Right (The First Time)

There are several considerations for getting a large-scale job done right the first time. First, Davis stressed, is to simplify training programs, where possible, for those staff members in charge of keeping a large-scale facility clean. As well, its important for jan/san distributors and anyone in charge of facility maintenance, to truly understand and teach the difference between “cleaning” and “disinfection.” He noted that “cleaning” is the act of removing soil from a surface. “Disinfecting,” on the other hand, is the act of killing/reducing microorganisms from a surface that can cause disease, odors and/or spoilage.

“Many people do a great job of cleaning surfaces, but it’s better to use a disinfectant to complement the cleaning power of a detergent. This is done to remove pathogens that can make people sick,” he explained, adding, “Multipurpose products that can clean and disinfect in a single step may provide the best value.”

Lastly, Davis suggested maintenance professionals in charge of large venues work to streamline products used by their staffs to make the cleaning process simpler and more efficient. Jan/san distributors can help through recommendations and training.

Davis concluded his presentation with advice gleaned from Jan Matthews, who was head of cleaning and catering at the 2012 Summer Olympics. Words of wisdom included:

  • Select vendor partners who bring added-value to a business, not just cost savings;
  • be clear on requirements and expectations when contracting;
  • develop a strong measurement model and ensure it is enforced;
  • put a mechanism in place for customer feedback, and then act on this feedback; and
  • ensure that workers understand, and are recognized for, the importance of their jobs.

“Cleaning can be an unpleasant task, and it’s sometimes a thankless job. The more these staff members are given good training and products to work with, while having their work accurately measured and are properly rewarded, the greater the chance there will be a positive outcome,” added Davis.

Contact Steve Spencer at stvspg@hotmail.com and Joe Davis at davis.jj@pg.com for more information.

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