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The World of Commercial Carpet Cleaning

February 15, 2008
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Successful textile cleaning companies that continue to grow in and survive during lean times are those that do not rely solely on residential accounts. Residential accounts are adversely affected by factors beyond one’s control, including weather. In many areas of the country, cleaning becomes a seasonal service.

Commercial accounts provide a steady source of work and income all year long, month after month. They provide peace of mind, knowing you can count on a certain amount of income every month even when residential cleaning is slow. Commercial accounts also provide a great referral source; employees and patrons of commercial accounts will often inquire and use your services.

There is a world of work in the commercial arena. Professional corporate offices, restaurants, schools, hotels, movies theaters, health care facilities, casinos, commercial vehicles such as buses and aircraft, apartment buildings, timeshares…you get the picture. Most of these facilities require cleaning on a monthly basis, providing secure work for your company.

Securing commercial work and bidding for these accounts requires specialized training combined with top-notch communication and presentation skills. The ability to sell your service is crucial to obtaining commercial accounts. Consider enrolling in an IICRC Commercial Maintenance or local trade association course. Courses such as these teach the science and current cleaning technologies necessary to maintain carpet in a commercial environment. Education adds tremendous credibility to a company, something vital in today’s business environment.

For bidding purposes a professional bidding as well as marketing program should be utilized. There are computerized bidding programs available on the market. Sales letters, customized maintenance programs, proposals and contracts should be included in the program you select for your company. Of course, if you have a strong business and marketing background you can develop your own marketing and bidding materials. Remember, however, there is something to be said for computerized programs with a proven track record. There are different ways to break into the commercial market and sell your services. An easy way to get your foot in the door and start working commercial accounts is to offer a cleaning maintenance plan that is flexible, a “flex plan” if you will. If you have the business savvy and experience, the ultimate way to secure commercial work is by signed contract. This legal document states the terms of the maintenance program, which should include information on the pre-existing condition of the carpet being maintained; interval of cleaning; price of cleaning; methods of cleaning to be employed and terms of payment. Prior to using any legal contract, it would be wise to have it reviewed by an attorney.

Now, with all this said, first make sure your company is prepared to handle commercial work. Most commercial work is done off hours on weekends and at night. When going full force into commercial cleaning, many underestimate the tough aspects of working off hours combined with cleaning commercial carpet that may exhibit improper and infrequent maintenance. Consider the following carefully before starting a commercial carpet cleaning division.

Off-Hour Work and Labor. Commercial contracts will require technicians to work off hours. Are your technicians willing and available for these hours? Are your technicians reliable? Perhaps you will need to hire and pay more in salary to technicians that handle off-hour commercial work. Are you and your family prepared to have Dad working off hours, normally considered family time?

Equipment/Cleaning Systems. Many cleaners new to the commercial market do not take into account the need to be able to employ low moisture systems such as encapsulation cleaning for maintenance and hot water extraction for restorative cleaning. A well-thought-out commercial cleaning system will use a combination of maintenance cleaning systems, followed by restorative systems employed to rinse the carpet fibers when the carpet develops a heavy soil load and low-moisture systems are no longer effective in removing the soils and oils to achieve an acceptable appearance. Is extra equipment available in the event of malfunction? Canceling commercial cleaning accounts for equipment breakdown or labor issues is unacceptable to clients, and may lead to poor business relations in addition to loss of work and income.

Management. How much will your expenses increase? Perhaps you will need to hire a manager with previous experience in textile maintenance to run the night crew.

Sales. The foundation of commercial work is bidding and the ability to sell contract work. Who will accomplish this for the company? Will you need to hire a sales executive with experience dealing with commercial accounts?

Bidding for Commercial Work
  1. Identify prospects for commercial work in your area. Refer to Yellow Pages, mailing lists and local business networking organizations, to name a few.
  2. Call prospects to pinpoint decision makers. Larger corporations have many layers of management. Send introductory sales letter stating your reason for contact. For example, the sales letter could include the following: “Our professional textile cleaning company would like to provide you with a cleaner and healthier indoor environment. Our company uses the latest technology in commercial carpet maintenance and our technicians are IICRC certified professionals. We would appreciate the opportunity to tell you about our money saving maintenance programs and how we will enhance the overall appearance of your facility. We will be calling to make an appointment.”
  3. Call to schedule a follow up to your sales letter appointment.
  4. Prepare a short presentation. Computerized commercial bidding systems are available for laptop use and can be used right in front of a prospective client. It shows current use of technology and gives a good impression to your prospect. Ask for brief tour of facility for measurement and pre-inspection. Make sure you use a professional pre-inspection kit.
  5. Thank the prospect for his or her time and advise them that a written proposal will be forwarded.
  6. Follow up to proposal. Offer to take client to lunch or schedule appointment to further discuss the proposal. Have the contract ready to sign at that time.
Flex Plans and How They Work
The flex plan is similar to a gentleman’s agreement. There is no contract signed, but the professional textile cleaning company will provide a price list with service options to choose from, with suggested cleaning frequency. The account that chooses the flex plan for their cleaning maintenance needs is one that is not ready to commit to using your services, but is willing to give you a try. They will refer to your price list and will also provide you with their requested frequency intervals for cleaning. The company is not obligated to your service at these intervals but agrees to accept your phone call and discuss if service is necessary at this time. It gives the account a feeling of control without obligation.

The plan allows you to build credibility with the account and offers the opportunity to further build your business through referrals. Initiating a flex plan is also a way to keep your competition at bay. Most managers, even under a flex plan, will advise that they have a cleaning company when a competitor calls. That’s a big plus!

Maintenance price list for flex plans. Please note, this is just an example. Prices should be based on current market rates combined with profit margins necessary for your company to be successful:

Spot Cleaning @ $45 per hour
Pile lifting/Deep vacuuming @ $.14 per sq. ft.
Encapsulation cleaning/Traffic Areas @ $.12 per sq. ft.
Restorative Hot Water extraction @ $.20 per sq. ft.
Carpet Protector @ $.10 per sq. ft.

Additional Considerations
In your proposal, how often will cleaning take place? This is known as the requested frequency of contract cleaning, whether weekly, monthly or quarterly.

Initial restorative cleaning. In regard to initial cleaning, if carpet is heavily soiled, you will need to provide restorative cleaning measures. This way you begin your maintenance program with the carpet in its best possible condition. This restorative cleaning process should be a separate line item in your proposal and contract and billed at a higher rate. There is more expense involved in restorative cleaning.

When writing a written proposal be sure to remember each commercial carpet installation is different. Many factors contribute to the overall maintenance requirements. The following must be evaluated and addressed in your proposal.

  • Type of carpet (construction and fiber)
  • Type of facility (restaurant; high-rise office building, etc.)
  • Traffic patterns
  • Number of occupants
  • Type of weather
  • Soil types, outside dirt tracked in, food, drinks
  • Manager’s expectations
  • Budget for cleaning
Explain in the proposal that your service will protect the client’s investment. Carpet neglect leads to permanent wear, substandard appearance and a waste of money. Enhance their image. Carpet is a major part of the overall appearance and comfort level of the facility. Soiled and damaged carpet detracts from corporate image.

Explain how your service will help safeguard the comfort and well being of your valued employees and customers. Studies have shown employees and customers are more comfortable in clean environments. Carpets that are clean and well maintained contribute to that feeling of well-being. Customers return to facilities where there is a clean, comfortable atmosphere.

The end game of a maintenance program is an overall plan to provide the client with a series of benefits. The benefits translate to improved appearance, image, a healthier indoor environment and financial benefits by adding extended life to the carpet at reasonable costs, using the latest in earth-friendly, environmentally sound cleaning systems operated by IICRC-certified personnel.

The world of commercial carpet cleaning can certainly be demanding, but it can definitely be worth the challenge. Commercial accounts will help your business grow and infuse it with some serious capital. Commercial work puts your company out in front of the business community and helps establish beneficial relationships.

Okay, use your education and the suggestions in the article to go out and make 2008 a great year for commercial carpet cleaning.

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