Helping Hand

As challenges from the COVID-19 pandemic reverberate across the country, very few in the commercial cleaning industry have made it out scot-free. Some building service contractors (BSCs) have had services dialed back or cut entirely, and countless facility cleaning managers remain in at least a partial state of limbo awaiting the green light on re-opening.

Distributors have struggled, too. There’s no easy way to tell customers that disinfectants are back ordered for the foreseeable future, or that electrostatic sprayers might not be available for months. By no fault of their own, demands on most products have skyrocketed while supplies have dried up.

An opportunity remains, however, for distributors to overcome those deficiencies by assisting customers in other ways. By being a reliable source on chemical safety, re-opening strategies and alternative solutions to supply shortages, distributors can flip some of the pandemic-induced negatives into positives — building stronger customer relationships in the process.

Address Customer Needs

While many end user concerns are universal and link back to shortages of hand sanitizer, wipes and personal protective equipment (PPE), Bill McGarvey, director of training and sustainability for Imperial Dade, Bordentown, New Jersey, says the variance of re-opening protocols and pandemic restrictions require distributors to take a case-by-case approach.

“Those who adopted electrostatic sprayers and back loaded disinfectants before the pandemic hit are certainly in better shape, but it’s no secret that distribution as a whole is in a bad spot right now with supply chain challenges,” says McGarvey. “Still, that doesn’t mean distributors are sitting at home watching Netflix. They’re talking with customers every day, working out solutions for alternative supplies and serving as a reliable consultant.”

To keep up with and better understand unique challenges customers are facing at different stages of the pandemic, Imperial Dade routinely hosts call-in forums for customers in particular sectors of the industry. These conversations give distributor reps more insight into how they can help, while also providing facility managers and BSCs a platform to discuss relatable challenges and solutions among themselves.

Conversation topics could include chemical safety, updated recommendations from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and their impact on cleaning tasks, and strategies for meeting social distancing guidelines — such as staggered shifts and classes to meet capacity limits. By contributing to the discussions and scheduling them continually as the pandemic evolves, distributors would be able to pitch in with different solutions such as plexiglass barriers for classrooms or office spaces, signage, directional matting and more.

“We’ve hosted calls with customers based on facility type, including private schools, K-12, higher education and more. The feedback has been very positive,” says McGarvey. “Trying to understand where people are coming from is a big part of what we’ve done, and it gives everyone the ability to hear ideas and perspectives that perhaps they wouldn’t otherwise hear.”

Echoing the importance of routine check-ins with customers, Keith Schneringer, director of channel marketing and sustainability at WAXIE Sanitary Supply, San Diego, says distributors can also help customers develop a checklist of tasks centered on occupant safety during the re-opening process.

While customers have a tendency to focus on the disinfecting, social distancing protocols and the aesthetics of their building, Schneringer notes that other factors — such as indoor air and water quality — can play equally-important roles in the cleaning for health discussion.

“A shiny floor and clean windows are great once everyone returns, but preventative measures such as entryway matting to stop particles and pathogens from being tracked inside should also be considered,” says Schneringer. “Other issues to look out for are drain maintenance so pathogens aren’t traveling across the facility, and air purifiers to help enhance air cleaning in the building.”

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Chemical Safety Guidance For Customers