Smart technology is not only a common phrase within the facility management field; today it is virtually ubiquitous with optimized facility operations. Over the last several decades, facility managers and building services contractors have deployed and integrated smart solutions for everything from HVAC, lighting, and inventory control to disaster management, security, and building occupancy, helping to advance smart buildings from concept to reality.
With smart solutions being developed, proven, and adopted, it was only a matter of time before smart restroom innovations came to market. Not unlike other smart technologies, smart restroom technology relies on the Internet of Things, sensors, and an application to collect, relay, and analyze data – and it is proving to be an investment with the potential for a highly valuable return.
Cleaning program optimization
With smart restroom technology, the custodial staff has real-time information on the state of the restroom and a checklist of hygiene-focused tasks to complete. The more dispensers and fixtures that are connected and the more detailed the checklist, the more robust and actionable that real-time information is.
Sensors collect information such as dispenser product levels, faucet water pressure, toilet water flow, and battery power levels, which leads to insights on how frequently the restroom and specific dispensers, faucets, and toilets are used, as well as peak usage times and overall foot traffic.
Sensors also identify issues such as a jammed dispenser, a clogged toilet, or a leaky faucet, which allows the custodial staff to quickly rectify the situation. Automated task alerts help ensure critical touchpoints, like doorknobs, toilet and faucet handles, and towel and tissue dispensers are monitored, cleaned, and sanitized regularly.
Big deal, you say? Indeed! All of this data takes the guesswork out of restroom cleaning and maintenance. It empowers informed and impactful operational decision-making and helps create improved custodian workflows. It supports maintainer retention by making the job of the maintainer more manageable and helps improve cleanliness and hygiene by prompting maintainer action when and where it is needed. As well, it buoys sustainability efforts by reducing stub roll waste and driving water efficiency.
Let’s put numbers to this cleaning program optimization. Customer data shows a 95 per cent reduction in unnecessary dispenser checks due to smart restroom technology. In a high-rise office building with 600 dispensers that are checked twice daily, that equates to saving an estimated 1,485 hours of labour per year. One customer has achieved zero per cent towel waste, and another improved their on-time task completion rate by 135 per cent in their first year using smart restroom technology.
Customer experience improvement
It’s no secret that public restrooms can elicit a significant number of user complaints related to odours, product outages, clogs, wet floors, and so much more. While some in facility management may view these complaints as a normal part of doing business, more and more are finding that smart restroom technology can help alleviate most – if not all – of them. Case in point: a recently renovated state-of-the-art sports arena leveraging smart restroom technology had zero restroom complaints during the 2022-2023 NBA season.
But the benefits of deploying smart restroom technology extend far beyond the restroom itself.
A survey on public restroom perceptions revealed that 51 per cent of consumers have avoided using a specific public restroom due to hygiene concerns, negative expectations of cleanliness, and concerns about paper towel outages. Yet another survey found that 50 per cent of consumers said they have chosen not to return to a business at all because the restrooms were not clean and stocked.
That latter research also found that for 90 per cent of both live venue customers and restaurant customers, a clean and well stocked restroom contributes to their overall satisfaction with an event or dining experience; and for 89 per cent of employed consumers, a clean and stocked restroom contributes to their workplace satisfaction, more so than free parking, on-site fitness, and childcare facilities.
Further validation of the value of a positive customer experience is found in a Harvard Business Review article, which found that customers who had the best past experiences with a brand spent 140 per cent more than those who had the poorest past experience.
These statistics clearly convey that a good public restroom experience contributes to a better overall customer experience, and that often means more money spent by the customer.
By delivering on the previous two value drivers, it should come as no surprise that smart restroom technology may also warrant a premium above base rent.
A recent study of commercial real estate professionals found that 93 per cent of property managers and 98 per cent of commercial real estate brokers consider consistently clean and well-stocked restrooms important for attracting and retaining tenants. In fact, similar to employed consumers, they found it more important than free parking and on-site cafeterias, workout facilities, and childcare centres.
Further, more than 90 per cent of property managers and 90 per cent of commercial real estate brokers believe a smart monitoring system that helps maintain restroom cleanliness warrants a premium over base rent. As well, two-thirds of property managers and 57 per cent of commercial real estate brokers put that premium at or above three per cent.
Every day, technology solutions continue to get more innovative, and facilities continue to get smarter. This is not a reason to delay embracing the smart restroom solutions available today; rather, it is a reason to reap the incredible value proposition currently available with the recognition that said value will only increase over time.
John Strom is vice president and general manager of Innovation at GP PRO, a division of Georgia-Pacific. In this position, John leads the team responsible for all aspects of the company’s KOLO™ Smart Monitoring System, an award-winning open platform smart restroom solution. To learn more about GP PRO and its smart restroom solution, visit www.gppro.com.