The cleanliness of a facility is often based on appearance. In some cases, cleaning professionals are often targeted because, until recently, there was no scientific way to tell whether a facility or areas within a facility were effectively sanitized and left in a healthy, clean state. At the same time, facility managers are trying to assess the current needs of their buildings, while also dealing with cleaning and maintenance issues on a day-to-day basis.
There are several instances where intervention is needed because facility managers are unsatisfied with the cleaning work being performed, while cleaning workers are unhappy with the managers, believing their criticisms are unjustified. At the same time, cleaning workers have issues with other cleaners and their supervisors. As a result, facilities can become highly dysfunctional and building occupants can suffer.
With the goal of streamlining cleaning operations, the following are some tips for expressing and receiving cleaning-related issues. Cleaning issues will always be prevalent in building maintenance, but when an issue isn’t addressed, a complaint is warranted. With this in mind, here are some suggestions to ease the process of voicing and resolving issues to ensure problems are addressed, to eliminate dysfunction and keep everyone focused on maintaining a healthy, clean facility.
Tips for building managers on addressing cleaning issues
- Be sure to investigate an issue promptly and thoroughly before intervening. Communicating issues allows the contractor the opportunity to investigate and develop a solution. Given a day or two, if possible, the cleaning service may be able to rectify the situation on its own and eliminate the need for further action.
- When an issue has not been addressed and a complaint is justified, building managers should know that diplomacy and professionalism always work best. The goal is to remain rational and clear-headed while speaking in a coherent manner.
- Once a problem reaches complaint status, approach it as soon as possible. Give it appropriate time to be corrected on its own, but after that, the longer it festers, the more likely the issue will turn more personal. This is something you want to try to avoid. Ask the contractor when you can expect the correction to take place. Unless it is an unconventional problem, within 24 hours it should be corrected and a solution should be in place to prevent a reoccurrence.
- How the problem is communicated should be described in the contractor’s proposal. A meeting, either by phone or in person, should be set with the contractor to agree on the process. Words and emotions often can be misconstrued in an e-mail, which mars the diplomacy and professionalism called for, creating an us-versus-them situation.
- Once the problem has been discussed, give the cleaning contractor adequate time to address it. If the complaint has not been handled in an appropriate amount of time, then writing a letter is the next step. The letter should be sent to someone in a management position.
Tips for cleaning contractors on addressing issues
- The first step is just to listen. A cleaning contractor or supervisor should carefully listen to the complaint stated. Becoming defensive or interrupting the facility manager will only make the process more difficult.
The first reaction from the contractor should be to empathize with the building manager. Put yourself in his or her shoes to better understand the situation.
- One of the smartest things a cleaning contractor can do is apologize, even if the situation is not his or her fault. Apologizing is part of the empathizing process and helps to remove much of the tension often created in the situation.
- Next, the cleaning contractor must handle the situation. As long as the issue is justified, thank the manager (or building user) for bringing attention to the problem and promise to follow up with a cause of the problem and solution.
- If the investigation finds that the problem is not the vendor’s fault, the issue must be discussed with the facility manager in the same diplomatic and professional manner in which it was presented. However, if it is the fault of the contract cleaner, the problem must be addressed and corrected as soon as possible.
Ron Segura is president of Segura Associates. His company works with large cleaning contractors to help them build their businesses, as well as with corporate and university campuses, helping them streamline their cleaning and building operations so that they function more effectively and efficiently to realize a cost savings.