Nothing makes a bad impression like a poorly stocked restroom. Customers who ignore a scuffed floor or a streaky window can’t help but notice if they run out of toilet paper or soap. Ideally, restroom usage would remain steady and predictable and every employee would be absolutely consistent in checking every dispenser. Ideally…

“Oh, come on now,” says Steve Avery, operations team leader for Brothers Cleaning Services, Inc. in Eugene, Ore., “This is not a perfect world. There is no 100 percent guarantee that supplies are never going to run out.”

But Brothers works hard to help ensure that it rarely happens to their customers. For the most part, stock issues come from either unexpected heavy usage or employee error. Both situations can usually be rectified with proper communication and planning.

Traffic control

Scott Murray is the project manager of B&G Maintenance in the Denver International Airport (DIA) office. Unlike the office buildings and industrial facilities B&G handles all over Missouri, Kansas, and Colorado, the DIA crew faces constantly fluctuating usage, but they take it all in stride because they rely on carefully planned procedures to see them through.

One issue they face is predicting periods of heavy traffic. Everyone knows that airports are extremely busy during the winter holidays, but Murray and his staff also know that Colorado’s beautiful weather will bring visitors during the summer and that Spring Break will bring a flood of skiers and snowboarders.

“We bulk up our inventories for those times,” says Murray. “We also have a summer staffing requirement and a holiday staffing requirement.”

They increase their staff by five to 10 percent during the summer and by 10 percent over the holidays. Knowing Colorado’s fickle weather, they are also particularly cautious about their supply inventories from fall through spring.

“We guard against the possibility that our suppliers may not be able to get to us for a few days,” says Murray. They also remember that if a big snowstorm hits, they have thousands of trapped passengers to take into consideration.

“We just fill our store room. We fill it to the brim,” Murray says.

Predicting heavy traffic in the government and commercial buildings Sharon Dabney-Wooldridge, president of Kleanekare, Richmond, Va., services may not be as straightforward as it is for airports. But, it helps to start off on the right foot. When Dabney-Wooldridge, or her staff, meets with a new customer she will frequently mention that it would be helpful for the customer to provide her staff with a calendar of special events planned for the facility.

“Churches are a good example,” Dabney-Wooldridge says. “They’ll sometimes give us a monthly calendar of events so we can know when to be particularly cautious about supplies.”

If customers don’t provide schedules, Dabney-Wooldridge stays in close contact with the customer and will discuss any special event plans with the cleaner for that building.

“If, for instance, I know there is going to be an event on the first floor of the building I’ll talk to my day porter and remind them to refresh the supplies more often,” she says.

Brothers Cleaning also keep in close contact with their customers and know special events like an open house or a party call for special procedures. But, they take the services one step further.

“We’ll send one of our service associates out in the afternoon to restock and touch-up the bathrooms before the event,” Avery said. “Then they’ll restock again after the event during the routine cleaning.”

Fighting forgetfulness
Staff error can also lead to inventory control issues, but proper training and follow-up can minimize incidents.

“When we train new staff we tell them that they need a system or a method,” says Dabney-Wooldridge. “If they go in and do everything in the same order every time, they’ll never forget anything.”

When Avery is training new staff at Brothers, he lets them in on his secret strategy. Avery walks into the restroom with his dispenser keys at the ready. Before doing anything else, he opens every dispenser in the room. He immediately closes the ones that don’t need filling and leaves the others open to be filled when he cleans that station within the room. When the restroom is clean, all of the dispensers should be closed. When they’re closed, he knows he’s filled them all.

Other problems to keeping restroom supplies well stocked will come up. Vandalism and theft are tough issues to control and can cause supply shortages. However, entering incidents in a log can make it easier to identify possible patterns and potentially stop the trouble.

Caryn M. Gracey is a freelance writer and marketing consultant based in Denver.