Cleanliness is critical to a museum’s business strategy, says Greg Prather, director of facilities and exhibit maintenance for Chicago’s Museum of Science and Industry, and he hopes his building service contractors share his main goal: to keep visitors coming back.

Providing a clean, warm welcome for 1.5 million guests per year requires constant communication and a good working relationship. These factors make it easier for all employees to feel like they’re on the same team.

“We do our best to make the entire team feel like they are part of the museum family,” Prather says. “In return, employees work very hard to always show the museum in its best light.”

But it hasn’t always been this way, he says. A lot of time and hard work by all museum staff, including BSCs, has built the relationship between them.

“Generally speaking, contract cleaners are reluctant to take ownership for problems and oftentimes fail to provide adequate follow-up with customers to confirm satisfaction,” Prather says.

It is important that both in-house and contract employees provide good customer service and not be afraid to go the extra mile.

Employees should think of themselves as part of the organization. Customer interaction in a dynamic museum environment is required.

It is critical to have an open line of communication, whether it’s informal or face-to-face. All day long, the contract cleaning crew is available via radio because specific needs related to museum guests and special events may come up at any time.

Also, BSCs are encouraged to become part of the service delivery team by answering guests’ questions and pointing them in the right direction toward exhibits.

Meanwhile, employees should be looking for problems before they start.

“The really good contract cleaners pay close attention to detail,” Prather says. “The contract cleaners that distinguish themselves as professionals are proactive.”

For example, to stay ahead of the game, BSCs should follow the primary circulation patterns throughout the building and focus on areas where most of the traffic flows.

And when workers come to Prather with a problem, he expects them to bring at least one possible solution to the problem, he says.

To keep problems at a minimum, Prather asks both in-house and contract service employees at the museum to follow his three-step process.

• Understand the problem. If a service provider is responding to a call from a museum employee, the service provider should make sure the problem is understood by discussing the customer’s needs with them.

• Perform the service in a professional manner. Service providers should use high-quality equipment and materials to get the job done. They also should smile and be courteous.

• Confirm satisfaction with the customer. Make sure the job is complete. Find out if there is an opportunity to exceed expectations by adding a special touch.

The Museum of Science and Industry is a little over 1 million square feet. There are many hot spots to look out for: glass doors, floor finishes, litter, brass and stainless steel, restroom counters, sinks and floors.

“When a customer walks into the museum for the first time, their impression must be ‘Wow,’” Prather says.

When BSCs walk into the building where they work, they should want to see customers with positive reactions, as well.

“Treat the building like it’s your own,” Prather says. “Treat customers like your livelihood depends on it because it does.”

by Kelly Patterson, Associate Editor