Don’t overlook the basics. While it’s important to keep up with the latest advances in floor care, Bill Allen, territory manager for Fagan Sanitary Supply, West Elizabeth, Pennsylvania, warns jan/san distributors not to do so at the expense of daily maintenance.

“Sometimes the most simplistic part of maintenance, such as dust mopping or vacuuming, tends to get overlooked,” he says. “We tend to focus on high-end tasks, like carpet extraction and floor stripping, but the most critical thing is to spend time on simplistic, routine maintenance.”

Waddell’s education sessions adopt a similar approach.

“We give the customer a true understanding that the most important part of floor care is what they do on a daily basis for dry soil removal,” he says. “If you have the proper processes in place for vacuuming and dust mopping, it makes all the difference in the world — and makes it easier to perform other tasks.”

Don’t just tell, show. Telling customers how to operate a piece of equipment leaves room for error. Showing end users the equipment and demonstrating how it operates improves their understanding and helps them determine if it’s the right fit for their flooring needs.

“A lot of our competitors have equipment in a storefront that customers can look at but not necessarily demo, so they have no way of knowing if it will perform to their specific needs,” says Krysten Jefferson, business development manager, Hercules & Hercules, Detroit. “We have a showroom with equipment, and our clients are able to come in and test it or take the equipment to their site where we can work with them to see if it fits their scenario.”

Allowing customers to see products, tools and procedures in action raises the distributor’s training program to a higher level, says Allen.

“When people have hands-on opportunities they’re able to ask questions with more substance and depth,” he adds. “It also allows people to see that not everything goes perfectly, and when it doesn’t go perfectly, how best to address the problem, adjust and correct.”

Do embrace technology. Just as a physical demonstration can improve a customer’s knowledge and understanding of a product or process, using the internet can enhance learning and provide the end user with a more interactive experience.

“Start looking toward digitalization of the industry rather than relying on how things were done in the past,” says
Huizenga. “Our clients are getting younger, and they grew up with computers, so they look for information digitally.”
Last year, Nichols invested in a mobile application that walks customers through floor care fundamentals — from daily maintenance to interim cleaning and restorative care.

“Customers like the fact that they can access the application 24/7 and they can customize it to create their own internal training program,” says Huizenga.

Do help customers market their business. Service departments typically don’t know how to articulate their own worth; therefore, a good training program should focus on teaching customers how to market the value of their operation, says Thompson.

“The other day I saw a van come in here, and on the side of the van it said, ‘We wax floors,’” he says. “Well, we haven’t done that in 50 years. If you market yourself that way you’re just like everybody else out there who doesn’t know what they’re talking about. So as distributors we have to teach customers a new, progressive, healthy way of cleaning floor — and then teach them how to market the services they provide.”

In his education sessions, Thompson encourages customers to identify the types of facilities and flooring they’re going to be cleaning prior to training them on specific equipment so he can help them target and strengthen their marketing strategy accordingly.

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