ICS Magazine

20 Questions in Hard-Floor Maintenance

October 7, 2005


There are many variables that are evaluated when developing a hard-floor maintenance program. It does not matter whether it is for a small residential kitchen area or a huge multi-facility campus; a thorough investigation will help to ensure that the customer is happy and you are making money. The following constitutes some of the major questions that need to be asked and answered.

Who is the customer?
You treat some of your customers differently. Your customer could be a prospect; a one-time-only customer; a long-term customer; a multi-location customer; a regional customer or a national customer.

If it is a potential customer with a very difficult job, you may want to expand your estimate to take into consideration the many variables that could go wrong. If it is a national contract with several hundred locations, you will want to be sure that the estimation is very precise. The customer may get special discounts for services.

What is the status of this customer?
Customer status boils down to how important this customer is to the company. If the customer has the potential to make, or is making, a significant investment in floor maintenance services, special consideration must be used in preparing the estimate. Status may get the estimate put in a higher priority position. There may be cases where free services are offered as an incentive to produce more formidable sales.

What is the expectation of the customer?
The customer will always have an expectation of what the job should look like upon completion of the project. By understanding what the customer is looking for, you may be able to discern and convey to him or her both the possible and the less possible. It is up to you to help the expectation become the reality.

What is the priority level of this customer?
The service requested may be one that is needed as soon as possible, or the priority level is such that one customer will be responded to quicker than another. A very high priority level will ensure that no matter when the customer calls, he or she will get quick and undivided attention.

Priority levels are usually assigned to large investors of your services.

Is this a "sensitive issue"?
In all business, things happen. Maybe you missed the service night or a job went wrong. If the customer is angry about a situation, or you are in the process of doing a job again because it was not what the customer expected, then you have a sensitive issue. You need to approach it very carefully and with as much compassion as can be mustered. Angry customers can be hard to handle and should be handled by the manager, not the technician in the field. Sensitive jobs are more about regaining faith from the customer to retain them.

Is this a TAG job?
TAG jobs are generally one-time only jobs, but they can be additional services requested by current customers. Whatever the situation, they will always be a single type of service, such as strip and rinse, strip and refinish, scrub and rinse, scrub and apply finish, condition and burnish or mopping. A TAG job is generally but not always bid at a higher mark-up than a contractual account. If the TAG is a repeat for a customer, or being performed at one of many locations, a certain percentage or discount might be in order.

Is this a contractual prospect?
Contractual customers get special priority treatment and/or financial discounts based on how much business that you do with them. Contractual work is generally a long-term investment by the customer, be it a single service performed on a regular periodic time frame or multiple services extended over an expanded time frame. The contractual customer will generally be quoted using the time/rate/frequency method of bidding.

What types of surfaces are there? Are there multiple surfaces?
Identifying the type of floor covering will help to establish the type of floor maintenance that will be required. It will determine the chemical systems, equipment and service procedure selection. All physical aspects of the job are affected by the floor covering. If there are multiple coverings you may have to have additional equipment or supplies to do the job. It may take a couple of days to do the different areas because the same equipment is required for the different areas.

Is there more than one area?
Having multiple areas to service may require additional time for moving throughout the facility or moving from one place to another within the campus. Allotted time may have to be adjusted to accommodate the individual areas. More time will have to be given if there are multiple locations.

What is the square footage of the area(s)?
Square footage is the only real tangible measuring device you have to double-check your calculations. Individual area square footage will help distinguish how much time might be spent in each respective area. The square footage is the basis for all calculation.

All estimates are based on productivity ratios that are affected by square footage. Whether using the time-and-materials, time/rate/frequency, or price-per-square-foot method of estimating, square footage is the anchor.

What is the total square footage?
The total square footage of the whole operation will give you an indication of the size of the project. Even if you have several smaller areas that make up the job, the total square footage will give you a better understanding of the scale of work to be done.

What is the environment?
The environment of the facility will tell you what kind of soil you will be combating. This may not be as important on a TAG or one-time only job, but it will be very important for estimating the hard-floor maintenance program. The types of soil will help to determine the types of cleaning and coating chemicals will be needed.

What are the traffic conditions?
The volume of traffic across the floor dictates the amount of soil brought in and how it moves across the floor. When there are heavier traffic conditions, the frequency of service should be increased (especially in entry areas and lobbies); if that is not possible, you may have to use more aggressive service procedures that increase the base hours. 24-hours-a-day, 365-days-a-year traffic conditions require special planning and implementation. There is always a much higher liability risk when people are in the facility when you are working. Areas that could normally be done in a short period of time may be extremely difficult due to these types of constraints.

What kind of congestion is there?
There are different types of congestion that I look at: people, obstacles and area. People congestion is self-explanatory; obstacle congestion constitutes the number and size of objects that need to be moved out and moved back, and how it may affect time and personnel allocation. Area congestion may impact productivity due to the way an area is divided up, e.g. several small offices will take longer than a wide-open lunchroom.

What about time factors?
Time factors are the little things that never get looked at individually, but together they eat up a considerable amount of time. How far do you have to walk to get to the work area? How much time waiting for the elevator? Waiting for the security guard? Finding the janitor closet? Hunting for light switches?

All those small increments of time add up to one large piece. If you add those to the estimate it will give us a better budget to work with.

Is there a pre-existing budget?
If there is a pre-existing budget, you have a dollar amount that the customer is used to paying. Look at what you can do within that budget; it may save hours in terms of putting together a presentation or estimate. If the services required are beyond the budget, you must devise a program that will fit within the budget structure.

What is the current condition of the floor?
The floor must be in a condition to be salvageable, is there any pre-existing damage. Is the floor damaged, or in any other way not repairable with maintenance? Does the floor appear to have excessive build-up, yellowing or soil encapsulation? What will it take to get the floor in its best condition?

If there is excessive build-up in the corners, edges and on the baseboards add additional time for detailing. In the case of a newly installed floor, you may want to have the customer sign a waiver if you are being asked to get on the floor before it has properly cured.

When was the last time the floor was stripped?
Based on the approximate date of the last strip, you can estimate the amount of finish on the floor. If you know how much floor finish remains, you will be able to approximate how much time it will take to remove it.

What is the current hard-floor maintenance program?
Identifying the type of cleaning program the floor currently in place will help to determine what needs to be done to bring the floor back in line and maintain it. If you are staying on the same program, this information will affect the cost of chemicals and dictate the types of service to be performed.

These are but a few of the questions you can ask to help in the developmental portion of the estimation. Remember to take the time to get as much information as possible; the more information you have, the better your estimate should be.