Technology - the key to better service and adding value for cleaning firms

16th of September 2015
Technology - the key to better service and adding value for cleaning firms

Benoit Maerten is managing director of Temco Facility Services Europe in Belgium – one of the largest service providers in the country. Having joined the company as a newcomer to the sector in 2011, and with a background in management systems, he quickly saw ways in which to make the business smarter and more efficient.

Having come to the cleaning sector from a background in financial management and software solutions, Benoit Maerten very quickly observed significant developments that could be made in this area when he joined Temco Facility Services. Now, as its managing director, he has implemented core system changes that have brought very real benefits to his staff and clients alike.

What were Maerten’s initial observations on entering the cleaning sector? “My first thoughts were that we were a time-consuming and labour-intensive industry in terms of the back office systems being employed. Therefore my first objective was to implement more efficient systems.”

This constituted replacing traditional paper functions such as accounting, invoicing and payroll with computerised solutions. Managers were then issued with tablets to enable them to work more effectively off-site, and access all information on their clients. “Now we are fully integrated, internally and from the point of view of what the client sees,” he explains.

Clients now use an e-platform to tailor Temco’s services more closely to their needs. Planning of visits by Temco area managers is also in the platform, alongside all operational details about the site, the specification, etc.

“This means another member of staff can take over on an account if necessary, with no hassle for the client,” continues Maerten. “Any member of Temco management has access to all details about that contract.

And clients can access all information about their job online - with confirmation of all tasks carried out - without the use of any paper.”

As far as Maerten is concerned, the implementation of such efficient operating systems enables Temco to serve its clients much better. “I seek to exceed customer expectations,” he explains. “Cleaning companies in general are often operating in a defensive mode, waiting for complaints and then explaining why things go wrong.

“I believe good customer care and communication is generally lacking in the industry. In the past the customer was not so interested in how problems were solved, how the whole cleaning operation happened, but now they want to be involved and they expect us to be much more transparent and communicative. They expect to see complaints and other issues recorded, and how they have been followed up.”

Solutions partner

For Maerten the objective for cleaning service providers is clear. “We must be a solutions partner. The truth is that cleaning is not a service clients like very much, it’s a commodity. Staff working in a building just want the cleaning to be cleaned without them having to be involved, and the FM manager is ultimately responsible for ensuring that happens. For his part, the FM manager simply wants issues to be resolved and the staff within the building to be content.

“At the moment cleaning companies are just not responding fast enough, and with sufficient transparency.”

He continues: “In my opinion cleaning companies do have a customer service mentality but not a customer service communication mentality. When problems arise our clients now want to know about the process of solving them. But many companies are unwilling to share such a lot of information with their clients - there is just no longer any place for secrecy.

“The industry as a whole is reluctant and resistant to change in my view but there is no avoiding the fact we must all be more transparent.”

Maerten explains that through the implementation of IT systems his area managers now have more time for the cleaners and for the company’s customers. “We have put more focus on regional managers, area managers and those responsible for looking after the cleaners themselves. They can be out on the road more, offering support and training where necessary.”

How was the new way of working received by the Temco managers? At first they hesitated about it, but now they are very open to it because they can see the very obvious benefits it brings. “For example, they can do customer reports while they are at the client’s premises so the amount of admin they have to do has decreased dramatically. The time-saving efficiencies are clear.”

By implementing its new system Temco is in effect forcing its managers to be more in touch with clients, and that has attracted a very positive response from the clients. “We decide with them what level of information and service they want right from the beginning. And what has been agreed must be carried out – there is no cheating. We have found our clients now feel they have a supplier who is a real partner.

Trust of clients

“Another interesting consequence of operating in this way is that we have many more discussions with clients about other services we may be able to deliver than we did in the past.”

Maerten is now confident Temco is a more professional organisation, operating to European standards. “The client’s trust has always been an issue for the cleaning industry traditionally but our new levels of transparency bring that trust which is a fundamental issue.”

“Cleaning is cleaning after all – we can make the difference in the management and the tools we offer to customers. So many cleaning companies are not delivering cleaning as a service organisation, they are not adding value. The actual cleaning service is a given – what we must ask ourselves as cleaning companies is where we offer added value for our customers.”

www.temcoservices.com

 

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