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Commercial Carpet Cleaning: An Opportunity for Profit and Prestige

How do the carpets look in your accounts? If they look clean and are free of spots, you’re obviously doing a good job. However, if they don’t look so good, those accounts are at risk of being cancelled. You’re leaving the door wide open for another contractor or a professional carpet cleaner to walk in and take that business away from you.

I’m sure that in your mind you have plenty of good reasons why, the carpets are dirty or spotted. But it doesn’t solve the customer’s problem. And it doesn’t do anything to keep a competitor from using those same dirty carpets as a selling point and as an opportunity to get in the door and put you out in the street.

Before that happens, why not use clean and spot free carpets as an opportunity to cement your relationship with the customer and increase your profits. Let’s take a look at how you can do that without a lot of new equipment or added costs.

What’s The Problem Here?

Why are carpets difficult to keep clean? There are usually a number of contributing factors, everything from color and fiber to traffic level and soil content to cleaning method and frequency.

Cleaning is one thing. Spotting is another. If the spots on carpet are not removed on a regular basis, the over all appearance level of the room, area or building goes down hill. The same happens if high traffic areas become soiled and are not cleaned on a regular basis to remove the visible surface soil.

Why Carpet Cleaning is Important

The basic rules apply here. Besides the fact that it puts your income stream at risk and doesn’t look good, there are other equally important reasons to clean carpet on a regular basis:

Health – Carpets hold and hide soil. When soil is not removed on a regular basis it builds up and more readily becomes airborne, even with normal traffic levels. People working in the area breathe this mold and bacteria-laden soil and it settles on other surfaces that then must be cleaned.

Prolong the useful life of the surface – Regular cleaning removes soil that can scratch and discolor fibers. The longer the soil is in contact with fibers the more damage that can be done and the more difficult the soil will be to remove at a later date. Failing to clean the carpet and remove the soil often results in permanent damage that will impact the appearance of the carpet and prevent cleaning from returning it to a like-new appearance. In the long run, inadequate or improper cleaning impacts the life cycle of the carpet, which means it must be replaced sooner than expected.

Cost control – One way to control costs is to spread small amounts over a period of time. If you don’t clean carpets on a regular basis, the work doesn’t go away. When the work is finally done, it will just take longer, will be more difficult to accomplish, and less effective.

Marketing – Your name is on the building and your image is on the line. Each account you have is actually giant billboard for your business. What the billboard says depends on the level of service you provide. It can be the best or the worst free advertising you ever got. This is true for your employees as well as the customer and the public. The quality of service you provide sets the tone for everything that takes place in the building.

Getting and Keeping Carpets Clean

Realizing that a number of factors are at work here means that a multi-faceted approach to solving the problem will be most effective.

Let’s start with the basics:

Prevention – The more soil you can keep outside the building the easier and less expensive it will be to keep the inside clean. Some things that will help you accomplish this are large walk off mats inside and out that are vacuumed daily and cleaned at least every two or three weeks. In addition, sweeping, vacuuming or hosing entry sidewalks is time well spent. This should generally be done daily. In addition, the first fifty feet inside all building entrances should be vacuumed or dust mopped at least twice a day. This is where you can get the most results for your cleaning dollar. Focus your efforts on where the soil is.

Frequency – Regular cleaning and spotting schedules are a must. The longer you let surfaces get dirty, the longer it will take to get them clean. Pick away at it constantly.

Spotting should be done daily in highly visible areas (lobbies and VIP offices), and secondary areas (production offices and interior halls) should have the spots removed at least once a week, if daily is unrealistic. The sooner you remove spots the easier they will be to get out and the fewer you will have to remove. Provide cleaners with the chemicals and equipment they need to do the job and hold them accountable for getting it done. If you make it a priority, they will make it a priority.

Cleaning frequencies should be based on the needs of the area. All carpet areas are not the same. High traffic areas such as entrance and elevator lobbies, and primary hallways may need daily, weekly, monthly or quarterly surface cleaning, whereas carpet in back hallways and most offices may need cleaning much less frequently.

Establishing a cleaning schedule based on the type of surface only, instead of considering the usage and appearance levels desired, is generally a waste of time and money. The most effective approach is to concentrate on where the soil is and cut back on the rest. This will take a little more supervision time and skill, but it will give you a lot better control of costs and results.

Cleaning methods – Your options here are many and varied. Choose a process that actually removes soil instead of just spreading it around. Stay away from sticky shampoo solutions that can attract and hold soil to carpet fibers. The best systems rinse the soil from the carpet, dry quickly and cause no noticeable change in texture or appearance of the face fibers.

Use a systems approach

No one cleaning process or piece of equipment can do it all. Regular daily vacuuming of all entrances and high traffic areas is your most effective cleaning process. This should be supplemented by pile lifting on a monthly basis and followed up with bonnet or some other interim cleaning method to remove soil from the upper portion of yarns. Wet extraction cleaning is also needed on a less frequent basis to remove deep down soil and residues that have become trapped in or attached to carpet fibers.

This is known as a systems approach to carpet cleaning. It is preventive in nature instead of reactive, which is more cost effective and gives better appearance retention results.

What you want to avoid is using one system in an attempt to meet all your carpet-cleaning needs. It just doesn’t work. Not all soil and traffic levels are the same.

Employee Training and Certification

Cleaning carpets is more complicated than mopping the floor. Training in this area is definitely needed. Time and money spent on training is a good investment toward cleaning effectiveness and preventing permanent damage to surfaces. There is also the issue of legal liability for damage to surfaces and injuries to employees and customers.

We sometimes avoid employee training because of the cost, employee turnover, and competition issues. When it comes to carpet cleaning the risks are too great to use these excuses to avoid providing training, which is really in everyone’s best interests.

Carpet cleaning is one of the few skills in the cleaning industry where adequate training is readily available. The Institute of Inspection Cleaning and Restoration Certification (IICRC, ph: 360-693-5675) offers certification for individuals who successfully complete approved courses of instruction which are offered throughout the country on a regular basis.

This training is one of the best investments you can make for your customers, employees and your business. You really don’t understand what’s involved in carpet cleaning until you spend two days in one of these classes. It’s a humbling but well worth while experience for most supervisors, custodians and janitors. Here’s a chance to get a “born-again” cleaner.

Caution – Don’t Believe Everything You Hear

Equipment sales people can be a great source of information at the same time, remember that they are trying to sell a product. Ask for scientific test data instead of marketing research. Before you make a purchase decision talk with at least four satisfied previous buyers and put the equipment to work on a demonstration basis in your building for a week or two. If the supplier can’t provide what you need to make an informed buying decision, shop elsewhere.
Also keep in mind that in order for your employees to properly clean carpets, you must support them with the equipment, chemicals and time needed to do the job.

You Ruined My Carpet!

Ever get one of these phone calls from a customer? The real test is what you do and say after you get the call.

You must to be able to defend yourself. And like going to court, it’s generally not in your best interest to act as your own attorney. The same may be true when a customer claims your cleaners have ruined the carpet. The question is, where can you turn for help? The answer may be a certified floor-covering inspector. There are approximately 400 certified inspectors in the country who specialize in sorting out the claims from the facts. Not all inspectors are equally qualified, so it’s important to check their references closely before hiring such services.

Agreeing to pay for damage you didn’t cause isn’t in your best interests. Many times the problem is, how do you do this without calling the customer’s credibility into question? In the past, I have assisted a number of contractors in determining what really happened and who is responsible, based on the facts, not someone’s guess or opinion. On some occasions, the cleaning contractor did damage the carpet. However, in other cases, the contract cleaning company had nothing to do with the problems the customer was experiencing. In many cases, without the proper information and documentation, the contractor would have ended up paying for the cost of replacement or repair of the carpet.

For more information on certified inspectors in your area, contact the IICRC at 360-693-5675.

It’s Worth the Effort

Keeping carpets clean, spot free and looking like new is not easy in a commercial building. In most locations you have hundreds and possibly thousands of people running around spilling cokes and coffee, dropping crumbs from their lunch and basically making a mess of the place, with a few cleaners at night trying to pick it all up and put a happy face on the entire building before the sun comes up. No easy task regardless of how you go about it.

Using the information provided above to approach carpet cleaning from a logical and organized standpoint will make the task easier and less time consuming. In the long run this will result in a cleaner building for the customer, a more profitable account for the contractor and more pride and satisfaction for those doing the work.