Cleaning Up Your Act - The Importance of Frontline Acknowledgement, with Lisa Macqueen
In February 2022, hundreds of leaders from service businesses across the world gathered together online to take part in the Global Frontline Experience Summit, an event we are delighted to sponsor and host again after its hugely successful first run in 2020. It was a phenomenal event with a contagious heaping of inspiration, excitement and possibility for anyone working in the customer experience and frontline service space.
If you missed the summit, brought to you by our Frontline Magic Community don't worry! All of the sessions are available right here, and are just as powerful the second time around.
As you skip out the office after work, a team of hardworking cleaners enter the building - spraying, wiping and polishing to create a perfectly clean work environment for the next day. It’s easy to take for granted. When was the last time you said thank you to the cleaners? Had a conversation with them? Coming to think of it, do you even know their names? Cleancorp is one of Australia and New Zealand’s largest commercial cleaning franchises that takes a unique approach to customer relationships. After realizing their cleaners felt underappreciated, CEO Lisa Macqueen set out to cultivate an environment where their employees felt valued, seen and personally connected to their customers. She quickly learned that small changes yielded BIG results, for both employees and customers.
Unnoticed, Undervalued & Underappreciated
A few years ago, Cleancorp was experiencing the classic “growing pains”, such as a high turnover rate for staff and losing customers as a result of that. To get to the root of the problem, Lisa did what many service businesses forget to do when there’s an issue: talk and listen to the frontline first.
Lisa gathered employee feedback to find out what need wasn’t being met, and the results were “mindblowing”. Lisa found that their frontline cleaning operatives, while they were doing fantastic work, were “never acknowledged or even noticed by [their] customers”. There was one cleaning team where this lack of acknowledgement was felt strongly. They were cleaning an office block, five days a week, that had around 400 desks. It was also the same cleaners who’d arrive to do their work as the same office staff packed up and headed home. But the staff members rarely acknowledged the cleaners or interacted with them in any way. Lisa said that “there wouldn’t even be eye contact”. But that acknowledgement was very important to Cleancorp’s cleaning team, and in fact any service team. Lisa said she could understand why, “imagine going to work everyday and nobody acknowledges you, nobody looks at you and nobody talks to you. It’s difficult”.
Solving the Disconnect: Bringing Customers and the Frontline Together
Lisa’s main takeaway from listening to her frontline team was that there was a “massive disconnect” between customers and the frontline. It was so big that there “was no communication, backwards and forwards”. Customers didn’t want to communicate and cleaners had resigned themselves to putting their heads down and getting on with it.
So, Cleancorp came up with an idea that was quick and easy to implement, but would also meet the needs of their staff. Lisa asked all cleaners to send in a photo of themselves. Not in uniform, but a photo from their everyday life, like with their family or on their last holiday. She also asked them to provide three facts about themselves that they would share with a customer. All that information was put together to create a cleaner card, which included photos and bios from all the cleaners on the team.
The “Unbelievable” Results from Simple Acts
The results were “unbelievable” and the turnaround was very quick. Cleaning operatives were saying that communication was finally opening up between them and the clients. The cleaner cards meant they could connect with clients more easily and, all in all, Lisa said it was “an incredible exercise in bridging the gap between the customer and cleaning operative”. From then on, cleaner cards became a mainstay for Cleancorp.
Bringing pride to work is integral to employee success. Something as simple as cleaning cards showed cleaning operatives that they are valued. Lisa said that it “meant a tremendous amount to our team, internally”. As a result of initiates like these, staff churn slowed right down, and the relationships that were built and developed increased client retention. Before the cleaner cards, customers didn’t know their cleaners, and something as simple as a missed bin could lose an account. But once relationships were established, it created more trust, communication and loyalty.
For Cleancorp, the cleaner card program has been in place for over fifteen years. The program has evolved with the company’s branding over the years, but has stayed true to its original purpose. Lisa highlights the simplicity of this small action, “it’s a very simple process, it won’t cost a lot of money, but it will make a big difference to your business”.