The cleaning industry has become somewhat more efficient with operations and keeping costs down in the last two years – and in the wake of an improving economy – a tone of cautious optimism is apparent. This is according to the 2013 Cleaning Industry Insights Survey from P&G Professional.

According to survey respondents, cutbacks on luxuries have been reduced and pressures have eased. However, loss of business and customer dissatisfaction are the leading causes of worry, keeping key decision makers on their toes to ensure continued improvements and efficiencies.

The survey results were based on the responses of more than 400 cleaning industry professionals and key decision makers across Healthcare, Food Service, Commercial and Hospitality sectors. This study follows the inaugural survey which was released in late 2011.

Pressure across the cleaning industry to keep operating costs down has dropped by six percent since 2011; however, the one exception to this is the Healthcare sector where levels of pressure are perceived to be higher than those of other sectors and levels of “extreme pressure” have risen slightly from 27 percent in 2011 to 35 percent in 2013. Similarly, cleaning professionals in the Healthcare sector were also somewhat more likely to look at cutting back on office supplies, luxuries, employee benefits and staff.

Important Factors for Continued Success
Looking at both 2011 and 2013 results, consistent importance is placed on a few key business factors for the cleaning industry as a whole. “Keeping customers satisfied” was ranked the biggest area of business focus at 32 percent in 2013 (33 percent in 2011) for all sectors. When it comes to selecting cleaning products – “product performance and efficacy/ease-of-use” remains the most important factor, at 44 percent in both 2011 and 2013, beating out “price” at 31 percent (consistent with 30 percent in 2011). Respondents also revealed in both 2011 and 2013 that “products that get the job done right the first time” is the most helpful factor when performing cleaning services.

“The fact that managers are continuing to report customer satisfaction, product efficacy and products that get the job done right the first time are of utmost importance is reassuring, as this is what P&G Professional is committed to,” said Kevin Wenzel, Associate Director, P&G Professional. “We understand that every experience counts, and that noticeably clean environments shape customer perceptions - whether it be the cleanliness of surfaces, the shine of the floor, or the softness of the towels. We focus on developing products that deliver these experiences, and that work harder, so that cleaning staff don’t have to.”

Challenges Remain
Despite the fact that two-thirds of respondents overall are “extremely proud” or “very proud” of their business’ cleanliness, hygiene and cleaning procedures, managers continue to report challenges with their cleaning staff’s “quality of work,” (60 percent) “lack of interest, motivation or dedication” (53 percent) and “employee turnover” (36 percent).

“These same concerns topped the list in 2011,” continued Wenzel. “Businesses should seek out a cleaning products supplier that will act not only as a vendor, but also as a partner, by going beyond supplying product to also include training, education, service and support. This is an area in which P&G Professional thrives by offering a wide range of easy to access training and educational resources both online and off.”

Additional survey highlights include:

• Business efficiency over price hikes: As in 2011, finding ways to become more efficient remains the preferred way for businesses to improve their bottom line. In 2013, 78 percent of respondents indicate the preferable action to improve their business’ bottom line is to “find ways to become more efficient,” rather than “raise prices” (15 percent).

• More effective at keeping operating costs down: An enormous nine out of 10 respondents (88 percent), report their business as being effective at keeping operating costs down in the past 12 months. Perceived effectiveness levels have increased by five percent when compared with 2011.

• Efficiency improved by waste reduction, negotiation, and effective products: Nearly six in ten respondents overall (59 percent) report “reducing waste” as the top way in which their business has become more efficient over the past two years. This was followed closely by “better negotiating on products and services” (47 percent) and “using more effective products and services” (43 percent).

• Cleaning product “value” still defined by quality, effectiveness, and versatility: Across all sectors, respondents are most likely to associate “value” in cleaning products with “high quality or effectiveness” (40 percent) followed closely by “versatility of use, single product for more than one purpose” (32 percent), ultimately trumping “low price” (13 percent). These priorities remain consistent with 2011.

• Perception of the current climate: Though only about a third of respondents (36 percent) feel that the recession is over, three quarters (75 percent) expect business within their sector to improve within the next twelve months. Those in Hospitality/Lodging are particularly optimistic that their sector will improve in the coming year (88 percent).

• Fewer cutbacks: Respondents are reporting fewer cutbacks in 2013 than in 2011. Cutbacks on office supplies dropped from 50 percent in 2011 to 38 percent in 2013, and cutbacks on staff luxuries dropped from 45 percent in 2011 to 33 percent in 2013.

• Cause for concern: “Reduction in business, caused by economic downturn” is identified as the leading cause of worry in terms of business in general (44 percent overall), followed by “customer dissatisfaction” (38 percent).

• Customers and cleanliness are king: The top three causes for worry about cleaning or disinfection overall are “customer dissatisfaction or complaints” at 44 percent, “food sanitation/food poisoning issues” at 27 percent and “pests or vermin” at 25 percent.