Opportunities And Challenges The Pandemic Has Presented
Contributed by Adam Povlitz
COVID-19 ushered in an era of remorseless uncertainty, and every industry across the nation continues to grapple with how to address the pandemic safely while making every effort to keep businesses afloat. This has not been easy, and the commercial cleaning sector has its story of challenges to contend with as well. With that, commercial cleaning is among the very few industries that can survive and perhaps thrive in this new normal as we move forward to either defeat this virus or apply the best practices to live with it while still moving forward.
In the early days of the pandemic, business closures caused widespread damage to the commercial cleaning industry. Many of the businesses served by commercial cleaning closed up; for a time, they did not need regular facility cleaning services. This strangled the commercial cleaning industry in the short term. Communications was a challenge, as well. Information about the virus and how to combat it was changing by the minute, leaving strategies and protocols in a perpetual holding pattern as new information and advice were announced almost daily. The other challenge was the inconsistency of information coming in from federal, state, and local governments, and from leading health and infectious disease control institutes such as the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and the World Health Organization.
Take Time to Upgrade Skills and Educate
At Anago, we used the time to learn more about infectious disease control within a community setting. We focused on upgrading our service offerings, including offering nightly and weekly high-touch disinfection services and launching an effort to procure more electrostatic sprayers. Before COVID-19, this level of disinfecting service was not in high demand. Being able to add this into our service offerings quickly helped many of our unit franchisees stay in business and maintain their contracts. There was also our ability to engage with our clients about their situation, the level of employee and guest traffic their business expects, and what levels of cleaning they would require once they re-opened. Many businesses that had treated cleaning as a last-line budget item were now interested in focusing on what previously would have been considered add-ons, such as disinfecting and sanitizing services, and at a higher rate of frequency.
Reassess Supply Chains and Inventory
One of the other issues was the supply chain. The electrostatic sprayers we procured were being shipped from overseas, and with supply chains experiencing delays due to manufacturing shutdowns, it was complicated to obtain the equipment needed to address the pandemic. Cleaning equipment also fell into this category, but thankfully supply chains held up strong, and there was no lapse in getting the materials needed to keep businesses clean. While I certainly do not suggest hoarding equipment and product, it might be a good idea to keep a little extra in your inventory in case of further disruptions to supply chains.
Silver Linings and Expert Knowledge
With challenge comes opportunity, and one of the main opportunities we experienced was the sudden interest in the services our franchisees provide. This enabled us to engage with customers and educate them on commercial cleaning more than ever before. As experts in franchised commercial cleaning, customers turn to us to understand proper cleaning regimens and how to prevent illness or the spread of germs in their office. Cleaning services are still a budgetary concern, with many businesses dealing with half-staff and half revenues. Still, the larger customers who want in-depth services are now understanding the necessity of more frequent cleaning as they learn more about how to re-open in the most responsible way possible.
The other opportunity for commercial cleaning is being able to learn and implement educational aspects of cleaning. Our franchisees go through U.S. Environmental Protection Agency and other environmental training courses consistently. The pandemic has promoted the importance of disinfection services, encouraging our franchisees to gain added certifications in those areas and thus increase their available service offerings. Now, companies are looking to add daytime disinfection during operating hours to their schedule, in addition to upgraded disinfection services at the end of the day. This is a new paradigm in cleaning that serves as both an opportunity and a challenge. Retaining an Anago Franchisee’s employee at one location for nearly round-the-clock work requires careful scheduling on behalf of their franchise owner — but we’re all thrilled to have this level of interest.
Today, the challenges remain. With the roller coaster of businesses reopening, then re-closing, only to reopen again, there are shifts in the expectations of cleaning and trying to establish which services will be needed and at what frequency while keeping costs and contracts stable. With many businesses in a holding pattern, decisions are being made at the eleventh hour. The best thing you can do is maintain constant contact, engage with your customers, and be ready to jump in when the time is right.
Adam Povlitz is the CEO and president of Anago Cleaning Systems, Fort Lauderdale, Florida
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