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Customer priorities for cleaning chemicals2nd of May 2012
Efficiency, cost-effectiveness, safety, sustainability… what do customers want most from their chemical solutions? Ann Laffeaty finds out.
There are so many professional cleaning products on the market today the customer is spoilt for choice. Some solutions are claimed to be completely safe and sustainable while others are marketed on features such as their value for money, cost-effectiveness and efficiency. But which of these qualities resonate most with customers?
Sustainability is a top priority for many, according to Premiere Products international division director Mark Hughes. “We’re finding that there is an increasing drive towards environmentally friendly formulations with independent certification,” he said. “We launched a sub-brand around 18 months ago – Ecoforce – which holds the EU Ecolabel. People are transferring over to this range and we are gaining new business and attracting a great deal of Europe-wide interest.
“Cost will always be important but in many tender documents there is a certain amount of budget set aside for environmentally friendly purchases.”
He feels that customers are moving away from simply paying lip service to environmental concerns. “They want sustainable products that can also perform – and our products have been independently tested to show that they perform as well as traditional chemicals,” he said.
Besides sustainability and cost, Hughes says the appearance of a chemical product can also be important to customers. “People like to see a foam, for example, even though with general purpose detergents the foam has no cleaning properties,” he said.
Ecover’s International business-to-business manager Johan Tops says his customers demand a combination of three qualities – sustainability, cost-effectiveness and efficiency. “Sustainability remains very important and in the last few years we have had good growth in double figures,” he said. “Customers really want to stay with sustainable solutions, but there is also a clear focus on cost price and efficiency. We have found in the contract cleaning sector in particular the market has become very cost-focused.”
He says that four Ecover products – said to deliver the sustainability, efficiency and cost-effectiveness demanded by the customer - together account for about 80 per cent of the company’s turnover. “The other 20 or so products we offer – such as graffiti removers, periodical cleaners and other more niche products – represent the remaining 20 per cent,” said Tops.
He says that another requirement of Ecover’s customers is colour coding. “Contract cleaners like their products to be of different colours so that cleaners can quickly identify them, whatever their native language,” said Tops. “So we not only colour code the labels but we also colour code the products themselves. Floor cleaner is green, for example, while our interiors cleaner is blue and our sanitary cleaner is red.”
Ecover uses food-grade dyes in these formulations to ensure they are environmentally friendly. “We think this is unique in the cleaning chemicals market,” said Tops.
Cost-effectiveness is a top priority for Bio-Productions customers according to managing director Mike James. “End users are looking for value for money – and they don’t care how they get it,” he said. “Actually they say they are looking for value, but often they are actually seeking something cheap.
Make cheaper products
“Some people expect to buy products at the same price as they were two or three years ago, and some of our rivals are reformulating their products to make them cheaper. We too have been asked by customers to do this but we have refused, since the reformulated product would not be as effective as the original one.”
In direct contrast to Premiere Products’ Mark Hughes, he feels many customers these days merely pay lip service to qualities such as safety and sustainability. “People are talking about the need to be sustainable but we feel that ecolabelling is very much like joining a club – you pay your money and you receive your ecolabel badge,” he said.
According to James most customers continue to demand efficacy from their products, but this is where problems arise. “If you dilute the product to reduce the price, you reach the point where the biggest expense will be the extra labour you need to make the product work,” he explained.
“If you’re having to use a lot more energy and time to clean an area, the product suddenly becomes more expensive.”
He says it pays to be a niche company in these difficult economic times. “Our toilet blocks and universal cleaners are doing well because they are innovative and are tailor-made for the job in question,” said James.
He says that besides low cost, customers also care about the look and smell of their chemical products. “Some customers want their toilet cleaner to have a blue or yellow dye to make cleaning more visible, for example,” he said. “They also want their chemical solutions to have a fresh aroma so that the room smells like it has just been cleaned.”
Managing director of Bonasystems Steven Phillips says the top priority for his customers is to have safe, clean, germ-free surfaces. “Effectiveness is a key issue – our customers need to know that our products will deliver the right solution for them,” he said. “But as well as cleanliness and hygiene, slipping accidents are a major concern for companies and public bodies.
“Compensation payments made to employees and members of the public can prove a costly addition to the bottom line, and the resulting high price of insurance premiums is another unwanted expense. Add to this adverse publicity and damage to a company’s reputation as a result of accidents and the numbers really do start to rise.”
He said Bonasystems’ products – such as the company’s anti-slip floor cleaner, Bonamain - are designed to reduce the risk of accidents in both wet and dry conditions.
According to Phillips factors such as scent, colour coding and ease of use - without major alteration to existing processes - are all important to customers. “They also appreciate the level of after-sales support we offer in terms of training, manuals, ongoing advice and consultancy,” he said.
Although cost is important to Bonasystems’ customers, Phillips argues that efficacy can provide its own savings. “Our anti-slip know-how can pay dividends in saving money for customers – for instance, one retail customer saved almost 79,000 euros on its annual insurance premium through its work with us,” he said. “Sustainability is also important as companies are now more aware than ever of the impact their actions can have on the environment.”
Safety is a top priority for Novozymes customers according to regional marketing manager Evolene De Gentil Baichis. Effectiveness is another key concern, along with long-lasting effects that are also cost-efficient. The company produces a range of biochemical cleaning solutions for the cleaning sector.
“The world is becoming more and more focused on sustainability and the need to ensure that cleaning products are safe for the environment,” she said. “This focus means retailers and manufacturers are under increasing pressure to provide safer, less toxic cleaning options while maintaining the efficacy of their products.”
Sustainability is also a high priority with Evans Vanodine customers according to export sales manager Roger Hulme. “More of our customers are becoming aware of the environmental consequences of their actions and are looking at suppliers to offer products and services that have as low an impact on the environment as possible,” he said.
Evans Vanodine uses an internal scoring system to assess the environmental impact of its products. Other 'must-haves' for Evans Vanodine customers are consistency of performance and clear labelling of packaging, says Hulme.
“Fresh pleasant smells, high quality trigger bottles, user acceptability, colour coding and ease of use are also important, as is effectiveness at the recommended dilution rates,” he said. “In the food and catering sector customers want high performance products that are safe to use and backed by hygiene security and effective procedures.”
Latest products from the company include the Eco e-zone Concentrates range featuring three products for washrooms, interiors and floor care.
Hulme says cost is also a key issue for customers – but that cheap cleaning chemicals can be a false economy.
“When it comes to cleaning, quality counts - and any evidence that standards are slipping because low quality chemicals are being used or corners are being cut will have an immediate negative effect, outweighing any money saved in the short term,” he said.