The cleaning industry finds itself struggling to sustain the core principles that are valuable to its customers and the final consumers of cleaning, the building occupants. Many people will assume that we only dump the trash, clean the restrooms and dust the blinds. This may be reality for some of the market, but others are looking for more than this tactical perception of cleaning from our industry.

The first step is to understand that cleaning is viewed by the public as a “health product.” Many companies have identified that cleaning is good for business: a facility with a clean image and high level of hygiene attracts and retains tenants, and enhances the customer experience. In other words, clean buildings help generate revenue for corporate America.

Our purpose
With a better understanding of our role as owners, managers and leaders in the cleaning industry, we can redirect, educate and elevate the awareness of the value we provide as an industry.

Consider the four cornerstones of cleaning:

  1. To enhance the image and appearance of buildings: Whether the customer is a visitor of a hotel, a student selecting a university, or a tenant seeking an office, their decision to do business within the building is affected by its appearance. Dirty buildings do not sell well. Explain to your customer organizations how they can use their clean buildings as a marketing tool to grow their business and reputation.

  2. To protect and preserve assets: Floors, carpets and other surfaces must be cleaned regularly and properly. Failure to protect and preserve these surfaces through cleaning only leads to higher costs later when building owners or managers have to replace worn, damaged and soiled surfaces. It is important to help your customers understand the implications of cutting back on cleaning frequencies and reducing the life cycle of building assets.

  3. To improve health and hygiene: Cleaning businesses will not make money performing basic, tactical cleaning. We must focus on best practices in cleaning in order to clean for health and hygiene. Using a better vocabulary to describe our industry will generate value and increase margins. Enhancing hygiene and focusing on occupant well being is worth more than “we clean your building.”

  4. To increase safety and reduce risks: A good cleaning program includes best practices to protect occupants from not only the risk of infectious disease and cross-contamination, but also the risk of slips and falls. Cleaning contractors can help reduce risk and liability, and also enhance the safety program for the building manager.

It is easy for an industry to lose its way. As leaders and industry stewards, we all must identify the core principles of the service we provide. We must redirect our message as an industry. Our message must be consistent, direct and clear. We must work hard to promote the value of cleaning.

Dave Frank is a 30 year industry veteran and the president of the American Institute for Cleaning Sciences, an independent third-party accreditation organization that establishes standards to improve the professional performance of the cleaning industry.