I was having a conversation with a custodial services manager for a large organization. He happened to mention that he was glad he was no longer a building service contractor, and was able to have an in-house staff. I asked why he was so happy and he answered, “Because I don’t have to interact or deal with demanding and unreasonable customers.”

I have known this person for several years and I have to say, I was a bit taken aback. Anytime we provide a service, we have a customer. For facility executives, it is an internal customer. This includes anyone within an organization who at any time is dependent on the services the department provides. They are the employees, staff or patrons within your facility.

It’s important that managers outline how these customers should be treated and develop a program that results in a satisfied internal customer.

The Foundation

You are responsible for communicating the services your department provides, which starts with a baseline of what building occupants can expect from your team. This includes the scope of work, how requests and complaints will be handled, and the frequency of which service will be provided.

Laying this foundation is vital in the development of a program that results in a satisfied customer. If they have unrealistic expectations, explain your workflow, priorities, processes and timelines. Then, reinforce your goal to provide top-notch service.

There are four key components to keeping building occupants satisfied.

1. Communication
A strong communicator is also a great listener. Listen to the reasons why building occupants are not satisfied with your service. Listen to your staff regarding items that may be preventing them from performing their job at an acceptable level.

Communication can be written, verbal or electronic. But no matter how it is communicated, custodial managers must make sure the process goes full-circle. Listen to the customer/employee concern, respond and fix the problem, then follow up with that individual.

This process solidifies customer confidence in your service. When you receive an email that requires additional work or research, let the person know that you received it and you will work on it.

2. Make Them Flag Wavers
In every organization, there is a person or two that are known to complain. With these individuals, we can either deal with them or make them a flag waver for our department. I always chose the latter.

How is it possible to make a chronic complainer into a supporter of our department? Let me relate an example of what I mean.

My office at Disney was on the Studio in Burbank. I oversaw several buildings, including a couple that were off lot, of which I wasn’t able to visit as often as I’d like. In one building, there was a woman that sat on the fourth floor of a six-story facility. Amazingly, this woman knew about every trash can and dispenser that was missed by the custodial crew the night before. After a week of hearing her complaints every day, I arranged to meet her at her building.

In our meeting, I thanked her for the excellent observations and for her taking the time each day to inform me of all our deficiencies. Without her observations, it would be impossible for the department to correct itself and satisfy the building occupants.

So I asked a favor of her. I asked if I could call her on a regular basis or come by periodically to check in. A smile appeared and she said I could contact her anytime.

I also asked if I could use her as an internal resource if I ever encountered a building occupant that felt our work was lacking. She agreed, and she did become our biggest flag waver.

3. Be Responsible
An internal provider of service is responsible for setting clear guidelines about what building occupants can reasonably expect. The internal customer also must communicate expectations regarding the scope of work.

One of the biggest elements of a customer dissatisfied with the quality of work is the scope of work. Often, policies written several years ago are still being performed, but are no longer applicable because of building remodels or changes in cleaning initiatives.

The bottom line is, we could follow the current scope of work exactly as written and still not provide a quality that will satisfy the customer. Managers need to identify those segments of the scope that need to be redesigned and then discussed with the internal customer.
4. Customer Responsibilities
In order to provide the best customer service, custodial managers need the cooperation of building occupants. Managers should sit down with key building occupants to explain service capabilities and limitations. With concerns to quality, openly discuss ideas to improve services.

For example, when special requests arise, it is important to have enough lead time and provide information that allows the department enough time to complete the task to the satisfaction of the customer.

Managers who find they are constantly working on customer ‘emergencies’ must clarify to occupants the strain this causes the department. A successful outcome depends on the mutual respect and consideration of all team members towards each other.

A clear communication between internal customers and custodial executives is essential. Managers should strive to provide the same quality of service in-house that the organization provides for the external customer. 

RON SEGURA, founder and president of Segura & Associates, has over 45 years of experience in all segments of the cleaning industry. Ten of those years were spent overseeing the cleaning of over 4.5 million square feet for The Walt Disney Company, as well as the management of the Document Services department. With eleven years of consulting both domestic and internationally, Segura & Associates has been assisting organizations to perform at maximum efficiencies. Ron has assisted hundreds of organizations in the reengineering of their operations so that they are able to provide a high quality of service and still meet budgetary requirements.