As U.S. cases of COVID-19 (the disease caused by the novel coronavirus) continue to rise exponentially, so too grows the immediate demand for janitorial and cleaning services. In an industry that from 2014 through 2019 enjoyed only moderate growth at 1.7% annually, coronavirus is now causing a 75% spike in new job openings in March compared to a year earlier, according to online jobs marketplace ZipRecruiter.
This demand is especially true for commercial office spaces—a challenge compounded by shelter-in-place mandates or work-from-home company policies in a growing number of American cities. Eventually, those workers will have to return, perhaps as soon as early April, 2020, with the expectation that their offices are safe.
Even now, thousands of retailers across the U.S. are seeking cleaning services to disinfect their stores and help lessen customers’ fears. Since the outbreak, ServiceChannel reports dramatic increases in requests for facilities services by retailers so far in 2020, including:
- Luxury retailers – 84% increase in janitorial cleaning and carpet shampooing
- Big-box retailers – 35% increase in HVAC air filter cleanings and janitorial services
- Grocery stores – 18% increase in janitorial cleaning
- Restaurants – 53% average increase in cleaning, primarily in janitorial and kitchen
Add to this the sudden and huge demand in janitorial work orders at healthcare-related offices (up 66%), not to mention the upcoming unmeasurably-high need for residential cleaning services.
A mission to serve, not just to grow
If you own a janitorial, cleaning services, or facilities management company, this is a critical time to act. Beyond the obvious and unprecedented opportunity for growth, you’re on the front lines to help control a global pandemic. How is your business prepared to meet this demand—and its many challenges—right now? Here is a list of key steps and things to consider regarding the current and future services you provide.
1. Hire the right people
Even under the best circumstances, recruiting quality janitorial employees can be one of the toughest aspects of your business. Unemployment in the cleaning industry is already at a record low of 2% and the candidate pool isn’t very large, according to Indeed Hiring Lab. Plus, these require more skill and may even involve technician licensing requirements. Here are some tips to help improve and speed your hiring process:
- Mobile-friendly job listings. First, you should post easy-to-find openings on your website, which should ideally be optimized for mobile, since about 90% of people use smartphones to search. Google’s indexing algorithm penalizes websites that aren’t mobile-friendly, making them appear much lower in search results. Plus, Glassdoor found that mobile-friendly can increase the number of job applicants by 11.6% compared to job listings that aren’t from other employers that aren’t mobile-friendly.
- Simplified job applications. According to Glassdoor, “Lower-income workers complete job applications at lower rates and take longer to complete each application.” Using a mobile device makes this even worse, so asking them to self-describe their skills and education on an online form could deter many applicants. You may want to consider providing the option of simply attaching a resume.
- Posting to job sites. There are many popular websites like Monster.com, CareerBuilder.com, JobVite.com, LinkedIn.com, and Craigslist. However, many such sites require employers to pay fees as high as $999 per month.
- Cleaning associations. You may also try posting jobs on any cleaning associations you’re a member of (or consider joining), such as:
- Offer incentives. With competition high and applicant numbers low, you may find it helpful to stand out by offering incentives to attract quality people. For example, you could advertise competitive wages, signing bonuses, or longer vacation allowances. Some businesses also offer current employees referral bonuses.
2. Purchase the best possible equipment and supplies
Combatting something as deadly serious as coronavirus demands not scrimping on the quality of the tools you use—from disinfectants to application devices to personal protective gear for your employees.
- Use only CDC approved or recommended procedures and EPA registered hospital-grade disinfectants that kill bacteria and inactivate viruses.
- Strictly follow current published OSHA standards for how infected materials are cleaned, disinfected, and properly disposed of as biohazard waste.
- Provide OSHA-approved, fully encapsulated personal protective equipment (PPE) and full-face respirator masks, to be worn at all times by your certified cleanup technicians.
- Develop and follow strict demobilization processes for your equipment, trucks and waste storage areas.
- Consider high-tech equipment. Some cleaning services have found it effective and time-saving to use such technologies as electrostatic sprayers to coat surfaces with disinfectant or even high-powered ultraviolet light to kill bacteria and viruses on hard-to reach areas. But of course, always follow recommended CDC and EPA guidelines.
“Every cleaning is different in its details,” says Global Biorisk Advisory Council Director of Forensic Operations, Jeff Jones. “But the essential process depends on three factors: the chemicals applied to the surfaces, the equipment used to apply them and whether personnel are properly trained to follow CDC guidelines.”
3. Start marketing your services
Even at times of high demand, such as after natural disasters or during the coronavirus crisis, marketing is essential to your business success. Develop a marketing plan and invest in producing the materials you need to inform and be seen by the clients who require your help and to stand out from the competitors in your area—especially those who may be cheaper and/or less reputable than your own company.
- Have a plan. A marketing plan doesn’t need to be extensive. However, such a plan can help focus your thoughts, efforts, and budget to help get the maximum results with minimum waste. Here is a quick guide on how to write a marketing plan for your business.
- Know what makes you different. Carefully consider your differentiators and your target market. Do you have expertise cleaning particular kinds of job sites, such as healthcare facilities, schools, factories, or residences? Craft your company mission statement and “elevator pitch” that’s clear, powerful, and consistent across your website messaging, advertising, and other marketing assets (brochures, flyers, social media).
- Create a target list. Do you know what geographic areas you can best serve? What kinds of buildings are you looking to target (medical offices, day care facilities, retail shops, restaurants, corporate offices, etc.)? Determining this ahead of time will help you better target your marketing and save money.
- Get out into the community. There are many traditional ways to build brand recognition and raise awareness of your essential services. Consider new signage for your building or your service vehicles. Out-of-home advertising (such as billboards or bus shelter ads) can also promote your business on an automatic and ongoing basis. Consider radio or TV advertising to reach a larger audience. You may want to participate in business fairs and local chamber of commerce and networking events. Finally, door-to-door sales can be an effective sales strategy for janitorial services.
Help with the cash flow you need to help
We understand that the ramp up to preparing to meet such a demand for essential services can sometimes challenge your available cash on hand. If you’re an established janitorial or cleaning services business, Fundbox may be able to help, by enabling you to offer net terms to your approved corporate clients, which could extend them trade credit for 30, 60, or 90 days while you get paid within days.
“Fundbox gives real money in our business account so I can make payroll while waiting for checks to come in. It’s been an amazing lifesaver.”
Kimberly Beckford, owner, OZGLO Cleaning Company