In this article, Andrew Howarth, director of Flexicount discusses how the latest footfall technology is helping businesses to better manage their washroom facilities and help keep reputations intact.
The data difference
For many businesses, washrooms will simply be regarded as a basic amenity. A standard feature which is there for building users’ comfort and convenience.
Few, however, will realise just how important they are to a company’s image and reputation. Research has shown that the overall state of a washroom has significant impact on a visitor’s perception of an organisation, with some respondents even stating that a poorly maintained facility would make them less likely to work or spend money with that same business.
The problem is that cleaning, much like other disciplines within support services, faces a high degree of financial pressure. Today, the operating margins for cleaning contracts continue to grow thinner in a seemingly never-ending ‘race to the bottom’, with many companies now having to drastically reduce provision in order to remain profitable. Yet just as the margin falls, expectation rises, with clients now demanding greater value at a price that continues to diminish. This leaves many cleaning companies choosing between not bidding for work at all and winning contracts that are likely to be unprofitable in the long-run.
Evidence-based resource management is one way out of this problem. Not only to help recover the margin lost to a competitive business environment, but also to ensure that client sites remain up to standard and reputations intact. But what does this look like in practice?
The rise of footfall counting
The need to extract as much value as possible from a contract often means that poor practice and unnecessary wastage sets in. This is unproductive, not to mention costly, and only compounds the pressures that service providers have to work with. Luckily this unproductive cycle can be broken with the right kind of footfall counting technology. It gives companies the advantage they need in order to maintain a consistent level of service without having to go into the red.
A good footfall counting dashboard will allow management to understand exactly how use peaks and troughs across different parts of a building throughout the working week, providing real-time information on where attention is needed most while also allowing for strategic forward planning. If the service provider, for example, can see that the men’s washroom on floor six of the client’s facility is rarely used during the latter part of the week, they can then scale back provision as the evidence suggests there is little need to devote resource to it. This intelligence frees up time and labour, allowing it to be used within another part of a client facility that sees greater usage and, therefore, higher chance of a negative experience.
Better understanding of an asset’s footfall will also allow more accurate staff scheduling. Once a solution has been installed for a certain length of time, washroom trends can be determined and peaks in use anticipated. Management can then begin to match their available labour and materials according to these seasonal demands, which then sees staff time being saved for the tasks that actually matter. This is particularly useful for companies with large estates to manage – with footfall data a service provider can anticipate demand and flex resources according to specific need by washroom location. This information will also eliminate the all-too-common scourge of unnecessary overcleaning.
A lack of clarity around the function of an asset means resource will often be dedicated inaccurately, leading to unnecessary expenditure, wasted labour and, more often than not, an unhappy client. Ultimately, footfall data allows washrooms that are used most often to be cleaned most often, meaning money saved and a positive user experience. It may not be the final word on eliminating ‘race to the bottom’ culture, but it’s one way of recouping the money lost to a competitive business environment while also keeping clients happy.