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Picture this: you’re out to dinner with your spouse. You’ve had an incredible meal and the air between you is filled with laughter and meaningful discussion. You pay the bill and decide to hit the restroom before heading home. When you open the door, the inside is something you can only describe as a scene from “Saw”. 

The room is filthy. The trash bin is over-flowing which is odd since the dispensers are empty. The scent nearly knocks you over. And ultimately, in that moment, everything you thought you knew was a lie. “If the bathroom looks like this, what does the kitchen look like?”

Whatever your level of familiarity with the above story is, the sad reality is we’ve all had instances where we’ve encountered a restroom like this. As a facility manager, this may even be an issue within your own workplace. But why is it such an issue? Why is it so difficult to keep restrooms clean?

According to the American Institute for Cleaning Sciences, restrooms only make up for five percent of a facility’s total square footage, yet it represents 50 percent of all consumer complaints. So if something so small can make such a huge impact, shouldn’t we start our work there?

The short answer is “yes.”

Restroom cleanliness tells a much bigger story than the difference between clean and dirty. It paints the picture of your facility as a whole. Below, I am going to detail three ways to keep your restrooms looking clean while minimizing the complaints. By implementing these actionable steps, you will be able to see results right away while making things easier for your staff, customers, and everyone in between.

1. Maintaining the Energy Levels of Your Cleaners

If you’re a runner, the starting line is important. This is where you have the most energy. It’s the place where you can identify how much you can expend so you aren’t running on fumes by the end of the race. The same concept is important when identifying the ways to keep your facility clean.

Start every cleaning regimen with the most visible and used restroom in your facility. The truth is 20% of your labor budget is going to be poured into the restrooms. By starting with the most visited restrooms within your facility, you are leveraging your cleaners’ energy against potential complaints at the start of every shift. You are going to get the most out of everyone at the start of their shift. So in order to keep those pesky restrooms clean, simply start where the problems are most prevalent and work outward. 

It may seem counter productive if you are making your cleaning teams walk an inordinate amount of time from where they clock in or start their day. However, it’s important to know that everyone gets tired. If you are struggling to keep your restrooms clean, it may be because your teams are gassed by the time they reach the areas that require more energy of them.

2. The Right Stuff in the Right Places

We’ve already outlined that when it comes to restrooms:

  • Only 5% of a facility’s square footage is represented in these areas.
  • 50% of consumer complaints originate from restroom cleanliness.
  • 20% of your labor expenditure is going to be poured into them. 

However, there’s another thing to be aware of when trying to keep your restrooms clean:

  • 40% of your facility’s dirt and grime is going to be present here.

So what do we do with this information? Assuming that your teams are already lugging around a stockpile of items required to clean the 40 percent of soil that is present on your toilets, floors, sinks, and dispensers, your staff may be wasting time when it comes to your consumable stock. 

Ask yourself: Where is the toilet paper, soap, paper towels, and all the other things people need to ensure that they have a pleasant restroom experience? If these items are located in a central closet or an area clear across your facility, it may be time to invest in a stock area or mobile closet that is closer to the restrooms. When stock is low, the amount of time it would take for your cleaner to retrieve those items may interrupt their routine or it may not seem worth it to them altogether. Cut out your cleaner’s internal dialogue by providing them with easy access to these items.

In fact, when a consumer enters a restroom and notices that a certain item is missing, 6 out of 10 people will look for the item to refill themselves. In these cases, you are building in an automatic fail-safe. If it occurs that your cleaner wasn’t able to replace a certain stock item, you have the item still available and have already cut your chances of a complaint by 60%. 

3. Get an Extra Set of Eyes on the Situation

At Zoë Facility Services, we perform internal inspections at all of our facilities. This process is one of the essential ways that we have become a trusted provider in the industry. Similar to a “secret shopper”, this system uses a person without much skin in the game to actively follow up on cleanliness and the work being performed.  

Maybe you are focused on keeping your restrooms clean but you’re still getting an exceptional amount of complaints. If you’ve already taken the steps of alerting your teams, issuing discipline and coaching and are still seeing issues, getting an extra set of eyes on the situation may be what you need.

Find a trustworthy colleague or partner that will not formally complain but keep eyes on areas that are causing you concern. This is a helpful way to keep your restrooms clean because of it’s anonymity. The truth is that a cleaner is going to do their best work around you but by using an anonymous party, you will be able to see the truest form of the work being performed.

This method will help you understand what is getting done and what isn’t. You’ll discover whether it’s a lack of care from your cleaner, or perhaps just filthy patrons. Having a “secret shopper” allows you to be active in your follow-up and gives you all the information you need. We believe strongly in inspections because it enables us to stay ahead of complaints and course correct before anything becomes an issue. Whether you decide to outsource to us or find your own “secret shopper”, this process will radically change the results you are seeing.

Keeping your restrooms clean is not an easy job. However, making a few subtle changes to your current cleaning regimen can make a huge impact to the results you see. By leveraging your team’s energy against the scope of work, creating easier access to resources, and implementing a process of active follow-up, the complaints will diminish and your restrooms will see a significant increase in cleanliness.