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The cleaning of Kildare Village22nd of January 2015
Located within an hour of Dublin, Kildare Village offers one of Ireland’s leading luxury outlet shopping experiences. With over 60 boutiques housing some of the world’s most famous designer brands the Village has become a destination for guests seeking a very special shopping experience – it attracts 2.2 million visitors a year.
Responsible for the daily cleaning of Kildare Village is Grosvenor Services, a facilities services company headquartered in Ireland and specialist in cleaning, facilities management and security. ECJ editor Michelle Marshall visited the outlet to find out more about the daily challenges of providing such high-specification services.
Kildare Village, which is located outside Dublin, is one of a collection of nine Chic Outlet Shopping Villages in Europe. These luxury shopping outlets, located close to some of Europe’s largest cities and operated by Value Retail, are tourist destinations in their own right and are defined by luxury brands, an open-air ‘village setting’ and superior service.
Kildare Village is home to 60 designer boutiques, along with a number of restaurants and cafés; four dog kennels where guests can leave their four-legged friends while they shop; a children’s play area and tourist information centre.
Grosvenor Services has been providing all the cleaning services at Kildare Village since the outlet opened in 2006 – in fact its staff were on-site in 2005 when it was still under construction. Operations manager Clare Aspil was among them. Why has the company kept the contract since the very start – almost 10 years ago - in her opinion? “We have an extremely committed team of people working here,” she replies, “who deliver what the client wants.”
The model of a contract such as this is quite unique, she explains, in that the level of service must be first class, pristine. “Everything has to be perfect,” Aspil continues. “The guests have high expectations of us and in turn our client has given us clear objectives. Nothing but the best is acceptable. Kildare Village aims to be a total experience for its customers and our cleaners are very much of that customer service philosophy in carrying out their daily tasks.”
In fact the cleaners at Kildare Village are also expected to be customer service agents, as guests who need information often approach them, and all of them have the correct information to hand.
Grosvenor Service’s operatives are responsible for cleaning all malls, windows/glass, car parks, offices, washrooms, dog kennels, drains, fascias and signs. They also paint the drains, varnish the benches and maintain the children’s play area. “We literally take care of everything,”
The individual tenants renting Kildare Village shops are responsible for organising their own cleaning, however Grosvenor Services does clean a number of them through separate contracts.
All routine daily duties must be completed by 9.30am, before the Village opens to customers, along with any problem solving and fixing by the maintenance team. Cleaners are then on-site all day to service the washrooms, empty bins and take care of any other tasks that may arise – each of them is equipped with a walkie-talkie. In total there are 14 full-time operatives on the contract.
Mary Horgan, HR director for Grosvenor Services, explains there is also a sizeable element of anticipating needs on this contract. “For example we had significant snowfall a couple of winters ago and it was our team’s responsibility to find solutions to clearing it and keeping the Village functional in an extreme situation. There is also a great deal of detailed work to be done around the site and many features that simply cannot be left neglected.
“It’s the intensity and daily rigour that make this contract less typical than others we work on.”
Group managing director Bernard McCauley adds: “Our strategy is to break the contract down into small bites in terms of tasks to be completed – ensuring periodic cleaning is part of the regular schedule of tasks of course.”
As Joe Walsh, cleaning director explains, standards are monitored through CleanTelligent tailored software which enables Grosvenor Services to carry out bespoke audits. “The on-site supervisor carries out thorough checks at regular intervals – there are daily, weekly, bi-weekly inspections – in order to produce detailed reports for Value Retail. The client can then view, interact with and add comments to the data we present.”
Clearly one of the key reasons this contract runs so successfully and so smoothly is the significant effort Grosvenor Services puts into the human resources element of the operation, and that culture runs throughout the business. “For example the assignment of the work roster is crucial,” explains Mary Horgan, “because we must ensure people are not overworked for example - proper rest periods must be scheduled. The experience of our managers is crucial in getting that right and it has to be closely analysed. Achieving a fair and optimum roster is a real skill.”
And in her role as operations manager at Kildare Village, Clare Aspil places great importance on taking into account her staff’s personal circumstances at all times. “Our staff never have to choose between family and work,” she emphasises. “We try to accommodate and allow for any personal issues and employees can always find somebody on the management team to talk to if they have concerns or problems.”
Operatives are also provided with suitable clothing for working outside in winter because they spend so much time outdoors. “And a cup of coffee offered on a cold morning can mean a great deal,” Aspil adds.
When staff first join the Kildare Village contract they spend two weeks becoming familiar with data sheets, safety policies and the site itself. At the end of that two weeks they know their way around and then undergo on-the-job induction training for three months. In addition they attend the company’s training centre to qualify in cleaning techniques and methods, which is to British Institute of Cleaning Science (BICSc) standard.
Horgan explains: “We formalise staff training, which is then certified. All staff are tested to prove they have the necessary skills and knowledge to fulfil their duties.”
As in most European countries, people from many different ethnic backgrounds are working in the Irish cleaning sector and for Grosvenor Services this represents a challenge in ensuring health and safety procedures are understood. Horgan says: “We try to use symbols and graphics as much as possible in order to simplify messages. And new employees must have a basic level of understanding in English – particularly customer-facing staff.”
For all these reasons Grosvenor Services does not have any difficulty finding new operatives and the company has a strong reputation as an employer. And its approach to training and development is showing results in terms of loyalty and retention of employees. Headquartered in Ireland, Grosvenor Services has successfully expanded into the UK with some major name contracts. How has this been achieved?
Bernard McCauley replies: “Our success has come in replicating a successful model and taking it elsewhere – in terms of methods, equipment and procedures. The key challenge is people, the transfer of knowledge and surpassing the standard expected.
“Our managers and supervisors play a key role in getting the people aspect of the operation right. Consistency of message is crucial and our people are encouraged, rewarded and motivated – however we do also do not tolerate poor performance.”
Grosvenor Services has earned a reputation for providing high quality services to premium retailers, the company’s prime target market. Joe Walsh explains: “Value Retail, along with many of our other high-end retail clients, are fully convinced about the importance of cleanliness in terms of the customer experience and repeat business. As far as they’re concerned, presentation is paramount.” He highlights that, at Kildare Village in particular, Grosvenor Services is not perceived as a service provider by the client, rather as part of the team.
This view is reflected in the comments of Martina Culbert, who is village operations and services manager for Value Retail at Kildare Village. She clearly appreciates the no-nonsense approach Grosvenor Services brings to the contract. “The team here does everything we expect from our service provider,” she explains, “and the fact we work together so closely in partnership means we discuss challenges and new ideas openly.
“Grosvenor Services completely shares our values of prestige cleanliness levels around the village – it’s vital to our brand. I never need to question the service level – I just know it will be achieved consistently.”