Cleaning Vs. Image
Date: September, 2017

We’ve all seen hotels, restaurants, shops, grocery stores, public buildings or even airports where the standard of cleaning is poor. Extensive research has been conducted, and it has been concluded that the cleaning (or the lack thereof) affects the overall image of the facility. Most often, poor cleaning results lead to declining business since discerning customers tend to avoid such places. Eventually, the level of cleanliness contributes to a successful business. Along with customer satisfaction, it also adds to employee efficiency! After all, working in a clean environment adds to productivity.

Now, the above addressed issues can be determined as ‘cliché’. However, too often, I have experienced that while most people recognise and acknowledge this, it doesn’t lead towards the proper and sustainable investments. I have been part of the cleaning industry all my working life, and since the past 5 years, I have begun to work more internationally at Unger. Nowadays, I have the pleasure of being the Export Manager for the Eastern Europe, Middle East, Turkey, Africa and India. Previously, I worked in Holland, where the cleaning industry is considered to be one of the most professional in the world. Cleaning is considered to be a real job there, and educational institutes, too, make it part of the curriculum. At Unger, we’re really passionate about window cleaning, which is also a real profession in Holland. Cleaning companies either outsource their window-cleaning activities to a specialist, or they have their own window cleaning department. Considering that window cleaning is a tough job that requires lots of physical exercise, there are strict regulations on the square meters and the quantity of hours they are allowed to work with a water-fed pole.

Unfortunately, even in this ‘professional’ market, budgets for cleaning are always too low, which leads to lower investments and therefore cheap labour and cheap equipment. The main difference between the region I work in and Holland is the labour cost; it is much higher in Holland and is the main investment. In the Middle East and in India, the labour cost is much lower, and therefore machines or equipment are the main investment. A massive challenge is to convince purchasers or facility managers to invest in chemicals, equipment and machines that contribute to the efficiency and health of the cleaning staff. 

Being a cleaner is not an easy job, it’s hard and sometimes the environment where the job has to be fulfilled is terrible and could even be harmful to the cleaner. I’ve always tried to convince managers to involve cleaners in the decisionmaking process while purchasing new equipment; after all, they’re the ones that have to perform the job, so why not use their needs and expertise to make the right choice? Involving them in the process will lead to better motivation of the cleaning staff and therefore better cleaning results. 

On some occasions, there seem to be a huge budget where architects and interior designers have a ‘carte blanche’ and develop the most beautiful buildings and decorations, which will contribute to the most important aspect, the image. Their last concern is how this has to be cleaned, and that surprises me every time. Why invest so much money in the image of a facility but release such a small budget to maintain that image?

We, collectively as an industry, still have to change our mindset here. Although the awareness of the importance of cleanliness is increasing, we still have a battle to fight. Image has become one of the key indicators for showing and experiencing success. Wouldn’t it then make more sense to increase budgets for cleaning in order to keep that image polished? What do you think? .