10 Crucial Questions to Ask When Hiring a Commercial Cleaner

10 Crucial Questions to Ask When Hiring a Commercial Cleaner
  • For some business owners, simply going with the cheapest quote becomes the default option. Hiring the cheapest commercial cleaning company can be a recipe for trouble.
  • Instead, assess the value they provide by asking about their cleaning staff, processes, cleaning products and quality control.
  • Enquire about their customer service too, such as response time and service guarantees.​
  • Arrange a meeting and ask these 10 crucial questions to ensure you hire a commercial cleaning company that provides the quality service you require.

Choosing and hiring commercial cleaners can be a bit of a minefield. However, for some business owners, simply going with the cheapest quote becomes the default option. Unfortunately, making your decision on price alone will leave you looking for cleaners again in 12 months’ time or maybe sooner.

Hiring a commercial cleaning company 

The cleaning industry is one of those industries with a very low barrier to entry.

Anyone can run out, get an ABN, head down to their local cleaning supplies store to purchase a vacuum cleaner and some chemicals, and away they go. Therefore, it’s crucial that you spend the time to investigate fully the ins and outs of the cleaning company that you want to hire.

When you contact a cleaner or cleaning company, don’t just meet them at the front door and take them straight into a tour of what is required.  Book a meeting room, sit down with them and have them answer a few key questions. It’ll quickly help you establish how they operate and what you can expect from them once you’ve hired their services.

10 questions to ask before you hire a cleaning company 

Your list should include 10 crucial questions below to select the best commercial cleaning company for your business.

  • How do we communicate requests, problems and issues?
  • How do you handle customer service? What time frames can we expect responses for resolving issues?
  • What service guarantees can you provide?
  • What type of training and security checks do you provide for your staff?
  • Do you have cleaning staff, or do you subcontract the work out?
  • Will cleaners follow a detailed work schedule or checklist?
  • How are germ and cross-contamination issues handled and avoided?
  • What kind of chemicals will be used on site and can you supply the Safety Data Sheets (SDS) for them?
  • What are the processes for cleaning toilets and bathroom areas?
  • What quality controls and checks do you have in place to ensure reliable, consistent and hygienic service delivery?

1. How do we communicate requests and issues?

It may or may not surprise you, but many cleaning businesses are born because a cleaner thought they could do better than their boss.  However, if you’re a business owner and have read Michael E. Gerber’s The E Myth, you’ll understand there is a glaring difference between a technician and an entrepreneur.  

Although not all, quite a few cleaning business owners operate quite inefficient management systems.  A clear indicator will be those who list a mobile number on their website. You are busy and the last thing you want is to make several phone calls to leave voicemails just to get something simple resolved or you have to wait days for a response.

Innovative suppliers will have 1300 numbers that are always answered during business owners. Not by themselves, but someone who fields all enquiries and requests. Or they may operate an email service desk, where every response is turned into a ticket and responded to immediately, which helps them ensure requests don’t fall through the gaps.

2. How do you handle customer service? What time frames can we expect responses for resolving issues?

In my experience, communication is one of the biggest problems with service delivery. Often as the client, you don’t know who to contact when you have an issue. Do you call the supervisor or the owner?

When you are busy, you also need to know how quickly you expect to have your issue resolved. While it depends on the issue, it would be nice to have some guarantee that all issues are resolved in a timely matter and that you are kept up to date with the progress.

3. What service guarantees can you provide?

This leads to the fact that ISO Accreditations, fancy websites, sharply dressed sales reps don’t always lead to better outcomes. Some small mum & dad cleaning company can deliver exceptional services far more reliable than a larger nationwide provider.

Therefore, you need to get some guarantee around service delivery and know the steps you can take if you are unhappy with a service. There will be those that offer to clean your commercial space for free, but don’t come back to resolve what wasn’t done. Others will keep returning until you are satisfied. However, it’s important to establish what measures they will take to ensure those issues don’t arise again.

4. What type of training and security checks do you provide for your staff?

The cleaning industry is very transient in nature and for the most part, is considered unskilled labour. Most businesses will do their very best to recruit experienced and well-trained cleaners, but this isn’t always possible, so they often need to hire workers with little formal training and a year or two of experience.  

To ensure their team always delivers a good job, how they train their staff and manage the security of keys and codes are critical when you could likely have 3 or 4 different cleaners looking after your premises over the next 18 - 24 months.

5. Do you have cleaning staff or do you subcontract the work out?

Subcontracting has taken a little bit of a turnaround in the right direction recently. However, in past years, it had some very dark days. Sham contracting was rife in the cleaning industry, where services could have been contracted under ABN agreements between 2 or 3 parties.

While you may have been paying so much for the service, the actual person doing the work could have been an overseas student, for example, working under the minimum wage set by the Fair Work Ombudsman. This obviously isn’t going to lead to the best service.

Some cleaning companies have taken a hard stance on subcontracting, and only directly employ their workforce for tighter controls and supervision of the service delivery. However, subcontracting is still very much a common method for delivering cleaning services and can still deliver the outcomes you are after, but again, you need to make sure how issues and problems are resolved between these multiple businesses.

6. Will cleaners follow a detailed work schedule or checklist?

It’s not uncommon for cleaners to get an hour-long walk around of a premise and then be told not to stuff up.  Keeping the team informed and up to date about what is required on which day, time and by which method is critical to getting a reliable and consistent cleaning service. For as long as I can remember, paper checklist in cleaning folders compulsory, where cleaners can check what is required.  How often are these guidelines covered in layers of dust in the corner of a cleaner’s room?

Modern suppliers are using field management solutions with mobile technologies to deliver the scope to the cleaners on their mobile devices with dynamic task lists that they can simply follow as they arrive on-site each night. You should ask if the contractor is using any mobile technologies. After all, they are running a mobile workforce and most industries are embracing mobile technologies rather than piles of paper checklists and sheets.

7. How are germ and cross-contamination issues handled and avoided?

At the end of the day, the most important outcome for your premises is the safety of your employees, and cleaning plays a vital role in this. Sick days cost businesses millions of dollars per year, so we want to make sure that your premise isn’t contributing to this.

Ensuring your cleaners are using modern cleaning methods is critical. Colour coding is used within the industry to ensure that they don’t mistakenly clean your desk with the same cloth they just cleaned the toilet with.

Whether it’s the microfibre cloths, mop heads, microfibre mops, buckets or chemicals, the industry has some pretty clear colour coding standard, so make sure you ask the contractor what their procedures are when it relates to cross-contamination. 

8. What kind of chemicals will be used on site and can you supply the SDS for them?

Whether it’s generic cleaning chemicals, ultra-concentrated, green, non-toxic or ionised water, most contractors have a go-to range of products. They may promote them as part of their unique service offering, but make sure you know what they are going to be using on site when it comes to chemicals.

If you have sensitive staff on site, this will become more paramount, as certain products may set off allergic reactions. You must be comfortable with what they are using. I don’t think there is any right or wrong product as manufacturers have removed most dangerous chemicals out of general-purpose cleaning supplies, but it’s worthwhile for you to know.

Therefore, it’s very important that they can supply you with the SDS for these chemicals and more so that you ask for them.

9. What are the processes for cleaning toilets and bathroom areas?

I’m sure you wife or husband cleans your bathroom at home with a different method than you, so the method in which the contractor cleans your bathrooms is important. Simple things like, will they periodically remove the toilet seat and clean under the hinges? Do they clean the S bends? Do they use Toilet Brushes? How do they handle hard water stains? Asking how can help you establish a professional vs. a rookie.

10. What quality controls and checks do you have to ensure reliable, consistent and hygienic service delivery?

How often do they inspect the cleaners’ work? How do they ensure the scope is met regularly? Do they use paper checklists or modern field management tools?

It’s all fine to say they have the most experienced, reliable and well-trained staff in place, but find out what the business does to control and manage the daily service delivery. While monthly inspections may be enough when great staff are on site, ask them if these check-ups increase when new staff commence.

All the questions above will really help you flesh out who you want to engage and will help you make a decision that isn’t price driven but value driven. In the cleaning industry, the saying, “pay peanuts and get monkeys” still very much holds true.

Martin Callan

Founder & CEO at freshOps

The Founder & CEO of getfreshOps.com a Simple, Affordable and Intuitive Professional Cleaning and Janitorial Business Software Solution that helps business Grow while saving Time & Money. With over 20 years experience in the Commercial Contract Cleaning Industry I've gained plenty of experience delivering Reliable, Consistent & Experienced Cleaning Services. However, this has not been possible without adopting a systems first mindset.