As the adage goes, you only get one chance to make a first impression, and as a brand, this impression can very easily make or break your business. When it comes to cleaning in the retail sector, often overlooked is just how much can go right or wrong on the customer experience end.
Since larger established retailers outsource their cleaning services to facilities management companies, how their brand is received by their customers can undoubtedly be positively or negatively impacted by the cleaning staff who interact with the shoppers. One must remember that the customers are not always aware that the cleaning staff are outsourced and not directly affiliated with the retailer. This means that a lot of the time, the retailer is absorbing the conduct of the outsourced staff, which then plays a role in the holistic experience of their customer.
The question then becomes, how do cleaning service providers align their offering with their client’s brand and what they as a retailer want to achieve? The answer, I believe, comes down to instilling a customer-centric culture within your organisation.
RESPONSIBILITY BEYOND JUST CLEANING
Customer-centricity is essential in providing a good shopping experience. Since cleaning staff in retail environments are not back of house, but rather front facing, cleaning service providers need to select staff who can go beyond just their cleaning tasks. Chances are, when a customer enters a retailer, one of the first people they encounter is a member of the cleaning staff. They may stop and ask them for directions, and how the staff member responds and handles these interactions can go a long way in the client’s satisfaction with your company’s services at large.
Here are some steps cleaning service providers can take to embed a customer-centric culture within their company:
Hire staff who possess good people skills. Preferably workers who are not overly shy, but rather enjoy interacting and have a positive disposition.
SET CLEAR EXPECTATIONS
Communicate your expectations around customer centricity. Make it clear to your staff that they are expected to interact positively with the client as well as the clients’ customers.
Provide new staff with in-depth training. If necessary, call on outside customer experience experts to train staff on how to approach their front-facing positions. Training should not be a once-off. Continuous improvement is key.
Build positive relationships with your staff. Treat them fairly and keep the lines of communication open. Motivated staff are customer-centric staff. And rest assured, your client is noticing how your staff are treated.
Get regular feedback and insights from your clients on their interactions with the cleaning staff. Use this insight to identify areas for improvement.
One must remember that the customers are not always aware that the cleaning staff are outsourced and not directly affiliated with the retailer. This means that a lot of the time, the retailer is absorbing the conduct of the outsourced staff, which then plays a role in the holistic experience of their customer.
CUSTOMER JOURNEY MAPPING
Put yourself in both your clients’ shoes and the shoes of their customers by way of mapping out their entire experience at each touch point. This will give you a better idea of what interactions with cleaning staff are most likely so that you can empower your staff to handle those interactions appropriately.
UNIFORMS AND EXPERIENCE
Make sure your cleaning staff have uniforms that are in good condition. Also, be sure to communicate your expectations around being well-groomed for work each day. This not only instils a sense of employee pride in their job but reflects positively on the organisation as a whole.
Set performance metrics related to customer interactions and recognise and reward staff who excel in this area.
Nathalie Schooling is the CEO of nlightencx, South Africa’s leading multi-disciplinary customer/client experience specialists voted as the global CX Agency of the Year in 2023. Nathalie and Brendon Bairstow-Klopper presented the keynote address on Building a Customer-Centric Business at the recent Cleantex Executive Summit held in Cape Town.
For more information, visit: www.nlightencx.com