Success Stories
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How To Handle Complaints in the Strata Cleaning Business – Our Plan.

I am sure we could all trade stories of our customers and how they expressed their concerns to us. Unfortunately its the few negative interactions that overshadow the vast majority of positive ones. The most common issue we face this time of year is when a window gets missed during a building cleaning, which then gets blown out of proportion. One of the more humorous (and frustrating) examples is receiving a call on the first day of a two-week project that their window was missed.

So to avoid these issues, we’ve put together a point-by-point checklist of lessons learned over the past 25 years.


Try and stop the complaints before they happen:

• The first step is clearly setting expectations before we start. Building notices are often our main way to communicate to residents: we try to be absolutely clear what we will do and not do, as well as what we need the residents to do.
• Have a dispute resolution process, including where and how to communicate issues. This leads us to….

Cutting out the middle man in the complaints:

• Having residents come to us directly speeds up the process and ensures that they get the answer straight from the service provider. Not only is it more efficient, it saves your inbox getting filled with complaints.

Notify all parties as to the current job status:

• Job Confirmation – Dates, scope of work, site notices.
• Reminder Email – Does a notice need posting? Window screens removed?
• En route – Site contacts know to be prepared for arrival.
• Job Completion – we’re done, check for any issues.

Defusing complaints by calling them cases and categorizing them into buckets based on their features:

• Customer Service – not really an issue but we return.
• Technical – Its a technical issue and we could have done better or simply missed something.
• Damage – We unfortunately damaged something and need to repair.

Preparing our customers knowledge by providing informative content like our blog site:

• Articles on the technical aspect of cleaning.
• Content outlining what clean looks like.

Large Projects In The Cleaning World are Different – Critical to put the contractor through a selection framework

It can be a tough process for a Strata to undertake a large cleaning project. Their requirements often involve significant complexity, much of which may not be apparent to the residents when they first set out.

When the strata receives quotes back, they are confused when contractor submit prices and scopes that are wildly different. Moreover selecting the lowest cost often leads to an unsatisfactory outcome, as key facets of the job are unaddressed. This can lead to essential work being uncompleted or a second vendor being called in to complete the job.

How to avoid this situation? First is to grapple with number of essential questions.

  1. Why? Is the project required? what needs to be done?
  2. Clearly defining Specifications – Scope Of Work are not clearly defined
  3. What approach to cleaning? What are the industry standards for
  4. Vetting Contractors – are they reputable? Do they have the capacity and technical ability?
  5. What is the proposed workflow? How disruptive will it be for the location’s residents.
  6. What is the deficiency plan?
  7. Is there a clear point of contact and management structure for both the location and vendor.
  8. Is there a clear communication pathway and approach for providing project update.

When sourcing a contractor for a large cleaning project best results are achieved when you consider above and not simply engage the lowest bidder.

The Benefits of a One Source Vendor

A significant majority of our clients only contact us for a one type of service, like carpet cleaning or dryer vent cleaning. Yet our firm, like several others actually offer a wide array of services for residential buildings.


There are a number of benefits with going with a single provider for multiple services, over several different providers. Perhaps the most important is familiarity. A multi-service provider tends to have better corporate memory and internal communications: staff from one service line can provide their knowledge and advice to ones in others. They can point out a building’s unique requirements and identify efficiencies, which will improve the quality of service we can offer.

Furthermore one-stop vendors tend to be larger and have more stability in their staff. It is much more likely that the same individual(s) who completed the work the first time would be the same for subsequent visits. These factors result in one major benefit: reduced costs. One-stop venders pass on those efficiencies in terms of a discount as they expect to take less time to finish the same work.

A multiple service provider also greatly simplifies administration. With the overall cost reduction factored in, it is unlikely that three different service providers can offer a lower price than a bundled service package from one provider. In addition to these direct cost savings, there are indirect savings for the property manager, who does not need to manage bids for the different services. Furthermore any problem, especially complex ones, can be resolved more quickly as there is only one number to call.

So with better quality of service, lower costs and less administration, going with a bundled service makes sense. Call us today.

ServiceMaster Clean

Modern Carpet Maintenance

whittakerWe’ve discussed carpet maintenance programs a number of times in E-tips and other articles. To maintain a carpet’s appearance far into the future, it is essential for it to be on a maintenance program. Manufacturers often require them to have a program to maintain their warranty status. They set this requirement to ensure that the damage to the carpet is not due to manufacturing defect.  A number of issues such as discolorations and greying out due to abrasion, can be largely prevented by regular carpet cleanings.

There is not just one approach to maintain a carpeted floor however.  In the past few years, carpet manufacturers have started to include the option of an intermediate clean, using what is called a “Whittaker.” Like how the company Xerox is synonymous with photocopying, Whittaker is a brand name of a type of agitating carpet cleaners currently on the market. Simply put, it uses two (or three) brush rollers that are spun in opposite directions at high speeds. This allows for what is called a deep pile cleaning, which is when the area at the bottom of the carpet fibers are agitated by the brush action. This helps to dislodge dust, dirt and other debris, which can later be picked up.

It should noted that Whittakers are really not intended to be used on their own, but rather in conjunction with a vacuum and a periodic hot water extraction. It does not have a traditional extraction system; the rollers will pick up most of the hairs and larger pieces, however dust and smaller particles will not be removed. That occurs either through the extraction clean or during a building’s regular vacuuming schedule. Whittakers are also designed to work with our existing cleaning products and crystallizers, which helps to remove stains and discolourations. They are activated when agitated by the rollers and then removed through the vacuum or extraction.

Functionally, you will not see any difference in how we offer Whittakers: we are using them regularly during maintenance cleanings in conjunction with a hot water extraction. The only obvious difference may be in how much cleaner the floor will look afterwards.

We also employ Whittakers in buildings with a program as an intermediate step between day-to-day vacuuming and a full extraction clean. In these cases we may use a Whittaker at a higher frequency to agitate the carpet to enhance the effectiveness of the building’s regular vacuuming. The Whittaker cannot deal with an entire range of stains and discolourations that are found on carpets, so a spot will be necessary as usual.

Gutter Guard Vs Gutter Foam – What Works In The West Coast Climate

Fall is upon us in the Lower Mainland and with it comes dropping leaves,


How Do You Clean This? 

as well as the heavy storms that will break branches and nettles from large evergreen trees. As a result, the health of a building’s gutters is at the top of many property managers’ minds. One approach to dealing with these issues that we see from time to time, is a leaf guard gutter. As you may have seen, this system basically adds a lip to the top of the gutter, which prevents leaves from entering into the channel. Although this is generally effective at its role, Leafguards are not well suited for the West Coast environment.

In particular the Lower Mainland has a very gutter-foam-2high number of conifers with nettles, like pines or hemlock. When their twigs and nettles fall, they bypass the guard and enter into the drainage canal and will start to form a slimy difficult to remove blockage over time. We have had dozens of these calls over the past few years, and they pose a problem: often the LeafGuard system’s warrantee is usually voided when opened up to clean. They still need to be cleaned but they cannot easily be opened and often can’t be opened without damage.

This year we are starting to deploy a new weapon in the war against clogged gutters; Foam Guards. As its name suggests, it is a foam insert that sits within the gutter, which allows for water and small particulates to travel unimpeded to the downspout while preventing larger debris from getting into the system. It is a dramatically more effective system in our climate. It is nearly impossible for debris to get into the system, and larger pieces of foliage are for the most part blown off the top due to wind and weather.

Although gutters with the foam guards still require a gutter-foamclean every year or two, they are far quicker than a normal cleaning call because they can be easily removed and without damaging the gutter system.

Perhaps the best part is that foam guards are significantly less costly than leafguards; and can be retrofitted into a building’s existing gutter systems in a tenth of a time it takes to install the alternative.

Best practice for gutter cleaning is be on a gutter maintenance program and to use gutter foam in challenged areas.

Real Time Field Management At Work – Real Time Updates & Reminders

In the last few weeks, some of you may IMG_0398have noticed that we’ve been sending some emails notifying you about scheduled services for the buildings you manage. This system is connected to our real-time field management software, and are tied to actual dates and events. Its part of our broader effort to bring you a higher level of service.
We currently send two emails. The first is a reminder for an upcoming service. We implemented this system because we noticed that building representatives often forgot about the upcoming work, or were never informed of the date it was scheduled for. Perhaps a more serious issue was the failure to post building notices. This would often cause problems: screens on windows were left up, residents were not home for dryer vent cleanings.
This was not always the fault of building representatives: the emails we send could be blocked or missed. Thus by sending a reminder, we ensure that everybody is on the same page as to the upcoming service.
The second email we send informs you of when a job is complete. Often, and especially for large technical work that my sprawl over a large complex, it is difficult to know when our staff has completed its assigned work. However by leveraging our field management systems, all work is marked complete by staff upon finishing their work. We then automatically send an email a few hours later based on that status change. While we originally thought of this as a courtesy email, we realized there was a very useful purpose for our customers: they could now bring up problems to correct.
The system is still fairly new, and there are still a kink or two to be worked out, but by far we’re pretty happy with the result. We hope that you will be too.

ROPE ACCESS IN ACTION ! “The signature Woodwards 43 tower” The Cleaning Of An Historic Giant!

In the past week, ServiceMaster Clean Vancouver has been cleaning the Iconic Woodwards Building in the downtown core. While this is a phenomenal opportunity, it also presents quite a few technical challenges for our technicians. First, the building incorporates a number of different architectural styles, which emulates its different history. However many of its features vastly increase the difficulty of cleaning the building. It is really a fantastic example of the advantages of rope access system employed by ServiceMaster Clean.

Here, a technician wears a safety harness that is connected to a rope via a mechanical descender. While this may seem more risky, rope access is much safer than other systems. It is also more efficient: technicians can move up and down, have more ability to move side to side than any other method. It is the preferred method to clean very high-rise buildings outside North America, such as the world’s tallest building, the Burj Kalifa in Dubai.

The signature Woodwards 43 tower exemplifies the advantages of the rope access system. It has large cornices (the lip at the top of the building), which limits a lot of the options for cleaning. For example the Bosun chair cannot be used with this feature, because they cannot get under the overhang.


But, as you can see in this photo, our technicians are able to re-route their lines under the cornice, which brings them much closer to the building. This represents perhaps the biggest disadvantage of Bosun chairs: they are really only a descent system, with very limited mobility options for a suspended worker. Individuals cannot attach themselves to different lines, go up, or even conduct a self-rescue, if part of their equipment fails. Another example of chair’s limitations is the presence of large exterior metal girders on each floor of the W43 tower.



Since these are not balconies and there is no place to latch onto, the girders all but rules out the chair as a viable cleaning method. Rope’s flexibility allows workers to latch onto different ropes in order to provide a safe, effective work environment at height, as this before and after photo makes clear.


In January Worksafe BC introduced a series of new regulations for rope access work, that required all technicians and supervisors to have specific levels of training appropriate to their role. This will mean that some companies will need to invest in training to bring their staff up to the minimum standards, and will result in some higher costs being passed along to the customer. This is not the case with ServiceMaster Clean Vancouver, as we are already broadly compliant with the regulations. All of our rope access technicians were required to obtain a recognized rope access qualification before they took their first step off of a building; we considered this a matter of basic safety.

Bosun Chairs did not face any new regulations. This was not because the method is superior to rope access; rather it is because it is less. Workplace BC acknowledges that chairs cannot be used in a wide variety of situations, so its current regulations are sufficient for its limited use. Even so, unless a tower is an unremarkable box, Bosun Chairs are slower, and more cumbersome to use than rope access. The only difference is that the training standards are far lower, so the labor costs are lower.

So when you’re considering exterior cleaning of high-rise towers, it is really important to understand these considerations and make your decision accordingly.

Success Story – How We Recover From A Mistake (Customer Letter)

ServiceMaster Clean our Commitment to Quality.

We’d love if all of our jobs went perfectly, but unfortunately there are frequently complications. Recently our exterior technicians attempted to access a series of dryer vents in a unit of a townhouse complex. It was pouring rain and they tracked some mud onto a customer’s staircase. In an ideal world, this should not have happened, but it did. Unsurprisingly she was upset. The customer called her property manager to complain, who then called us. Obviously, this was unacceptable, and we really believe in keeping our customers happy. We then turned quickly to a solution.

Upon hearing of our error, the two technicians returned to the customer’s unit and apologized. Next, we scheduled a carpet cleaning for her entire house. We received this email a few days later.

Hi Peter

I am writing to thank you for the exceptional service you provided to me following the problem with my mud stained carpets on the day that the dryer vents were cleaned at XXXXX in Port Coquitlam.

That day, the weather couldn’t have been worse and you were very proactive in resolving my problem with the carpets. ServiceMaster came on the following day and the carpets are clean again. Here again, the service was excellent, the technician was efficient and so pleasant, and I am a very happy!

It is very rare these days to find a company that truly looks after their customers with the courtesy and professionalism that you displayed that day under difficult circumstances. Thank you for looking after me.

Please forward my message to your company manager so that he/she is aware of the exceptional manner in which you represent the company that you work for. Your actions and problem solving skills are the reason your company has gained a new customer. I will be calling ServiceMaster in the future for my carpet cleaning needs.

Kindest Regards,

While the carpet should never have been dirtied in the first place, it is our commitment to fix the problems we created and keep the customer happy.

Customer Success with gutter maintenance programs!

customer_support_to_sucessOur job at ServiceMaster Clean Residential is to make our customers successful; end of story. However our “customer” is not a single entity. In reality there are two. The first is the property managers and then there are the buildings and their residents. While you are there to represent the interest of the buildings, they also have their own needs that must be taken care of.

ServiceMaster’s gutter maintenance programs are an example of how we enable both to have success when it comes to dealing with their gutter systems throughout the year. Lets go through many of the stories that we encounter. You ask us for a quote, you select the gutter maintenance option on behalf of your strata. For this your building benefits from a higher level of service, one of the benefits being service calls included after the initial cleaning of the gutters.

Our production team cleans the gutters at your building provides a completion report on the overall condition, which often includes some pictures or video footage. Unfortunately, gutter cleaning in the lower mainland is not a one-time event. As a rainforest with large numbers of coniferous and evergreen trees that shed needles year around, drains can become plugged all throughout the year. So its not uncommon to have someone from a building call a few months after a clean about a badly overflowing gutter, and how the world is going to end if its not dealt with ASAP.

Your next move is where the success truly happens for both you and that building.

You contact us, we respond within an hour and we dispatch a crew soon after. They attend to the area, rectify the problem and provide a report we then forward to you (and you can forward to the affected building). It should also be mentioned that you wont be getting an invoice for the service call, so at the end of the year your budget number will be your actual, not an initial service and multiple services afterwards.

This leads to success, for both you and the building you represent, which is what we are in the business to do.

For more information on gutter our gutter maintenance programs please click here

Complaints Into Compliments: How Scotchgard Met a Strata’s Expectations

During a recent staff meeting, one of our technicians told the following story:

“I’m doing a carpet maintenance program at a building downtown.  They have called to complain about their lobby carpet outside of the elevator being dirty several times.  It is a high traffic area; people are bringing their bicycles and garbage out through there, so it always looks dirty.

I’ve gone back to re-clean and re-clean, but the area out front always looks dirty.  So, I was getting really frustrated, always going back.  Then I went in, roto-scrubbed the carpet, steam extracted it with the truck mount, bonnet cleaned it after, got the carpet looking really good and clean.  Then, I put Scotchgard down.  I didn’t even tell them, I just put it on the carpet.

They don’t call me anymore.

Now out front the carpet looks really good.  When I go in and do the maintenance, there are a couple of spots or stains but they just come right out.  It was worth it for me to cover the expense myself.  It saved me going back over and over, and the customer is happy now.

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