The following is a question and answer interview CleanLink.com held with AK Building Services, a Florida-based provider of janitorial services.
CleanLink (CL): How have you seen the tone change toward commercial cleaning as a result of COVID-19?
AK Building Services (AK): Prior to COVID-19, there was not a great appreciation or value for what commercial cleaning offered and the complexity of cleaning. It simply wasn’t a thought in most people’s minds. Most businesses focused mostly on their facility’s appearance and left disinfecting to bathrooms or medical-level facilities.
CL: Cleaning for appearance has probably been the most common goal businesses have in hiring a building service contractor. Do you think the appearance of cleanliness will be more or less important than it was before once this pandemic ends?
AK: Appearance is always important. That hasn’t changed, and in many ways it’s even more important now. A “clean” appearance is reflective of how clean your facility is beneath the surface. A strong first impression shows your facility not only looks clean, but is clean. In today’s world, people are judging how safe (meaning germ-free) a space is by its appearance. It’s critical to convey to the public that your business is pathogen-free and safe to work with.
CL: What’s been the most difficult thing about cleaning essential businesses during the pandemic and why?
AK: Cleaning essential businesses during the pandemic has been a challenge for a few reasons. The biggest challenge by far has been managing the customer’s fear. Customers who never asked questions about cleaning protocols and disinfectants before are now asking a lot of questions and are truly afraid. They are under incredible pressure to keep their employees and customers safe while running a business. We are helping educate customers about how to disinfect and clean products. Our processes haven’t changed dramatically, but our communication has increased in order to help our customers operate with full confidence.
Also, every job scope has changed. We have always disinfected restrooms, but now clients are changing their cleaning scope to include full medical-facility-level disinfecting of the entire facility. We’ve worked hard to stay on top of each customer’s needs to help them stay ahead of this.
The other big challenge in the past few months during COVID-19 has simply been managing supplies. Just as most consumers had trouble getting cleaning supplies, many commercial cleaners fought to get the supplies they needed to help keep essential service spaces clean. We were able to keep EPA-approved disinfectants on hand, but we had to work hard to make sure that our supplies were managed in a time when there were many unknowns in the supply chain.
CL: Given your experience cleaning universities do you see classes resuming on many campuses this upcoming fall semester? If so, how do you think your jobs will change cleaning these campuses?
AK: Universities and schools will have to have a more rigorous approach to janitorial scope, with more frequent cleaning, disinfecting and day porters. They will be forced to expand their cleaning protocols in order to operate and keep their students safe.
CL: You currently have a lot of businesses who you didn’t work with before asking for your cleaning services. Have there been any businesses that you’ve been surprised to see ask for cleaning services?
AK: We’ve seen a lot more home owners associations requesting daytime and outdoor cleaning services for pool areas. Prior to COVID-19, many HOA’s handled cleaning in house, now they are stepping up their cleaning protocols. This is encouraging to see how people are making a conscious effort to open up safely.
CL: In speaking with customers, what is the number one concern they have regarding cleaning for COVID-19?
AK: “Are you using EPA-approved disinfectants to kill COVID-19 and even if it’s approved, is it safe for people?” That is the number one concern from customers regarding cleaning for COVID-19. Everyone is worried about what is being used to disinfect, then they are worried if it’s safe, and then they are worried whether it will damage the electronics. The next concern: “Are you disinfecting enough?”
CL: How do you expect COVID-19 to change the way you do business in the future?
AK: Now AK Building Services is disinfecting beyond just restrooms. Moving forward, everyone will have the same medical-grade level protocol. Disinfecting will be part of everyone’s job scope. For example, pre-COVID many offices only focused on vacuuming, dusting and trash services. In the future, spaces like this will include regular disinfecting, as well as the normal cleaning services we’ve done in the past.
CL: Have you received much more respect and praise from the public since you began cleaning against COVID-19? If so, what are the people saying?
AK: Absolutely! Since the onset of COVID-19, customers are looking to us as their trusted partner to help them reopen safely and serve their own customers. We’ve become their trusted source to help educate them on COVID-19, CDC guidelines and disinfecting. They are so grateful that they can get the PPE they need, and disinfecting supplies. This whole experience has strengthened our relationship with our customers and helped us build long-term trust in the community.
Janitorial services are a key part of every business. It’s not an afterthought or a nice thing to do; it’s a crucial component of any business in any industry. In order to be successful, cleaning must be a priority.