Many of mankind’s great developments have come about because of one simple word – ‘why?’ Asking this seemingly simple question led to the discovery of the concepts of gravity when an apple fell on Isaac Newton’s head and volume when Archimedes took a bath, for example. Jan-Hein Hemke, Managing Director of contract cleaners and soft service specialists Facilicom, explains why the company has adopted this question as a central part of its business acquisition and retention strategy.
Whatever industry you operate in, sometimes concentrating on what’s happening, where it’s happening, when or even to who is not the most important strategic focus. The crucial thing is to establish why, in order to take significant steps in business development.
To many, the contract cleaning business may seem like one of the most straightforward around. Someone has premises that need cleaning and there are companies available to clean it. It’s just a matter of bringing the two together. It’s hardly rocket science, and to a large extent it works that way, but sometimes there’s more to it, and we like to find out why.
Why information is important
For instance, one of our clients did not have a problem with the levels of service delivery it had been receiving from its previous supplier, but things just hadn’t been working out.
We knew we could meet the service delivery requirements if we were awarded the contract, but wanted to know more about the issues that had been experienced. When we investigated further with the client, we established that the issue was with the client’s weekly meeting with their HQ in the USA. The system showed that the level of provision of the cleaning service was poor. However, the service provision was in line with the contract, but the previous cleaning operatives hadn’t been trained on how to use the management system, so weren’t inputting all the cleaning entries – hence the poor reception in America. We trained our operatives to use the client’s system prior to start up, which means they are correctly entering data, and now everyone is happy.
Rather than a continuing cycle of broken relationships and poor communication, by asking more about the situation we’ve secured a long-term client. We won’t stop asking them questions now either!
The ‘why’ question also came to the rescue for a well-known travel brand. It had been experiencing problems getting consistent levels of customer service from its own operatives in different departments. Companies would probably not normally share this sort of information in a tender situation, but because we asked about the client’s wider issues, and why things weren’t all working as they should, it became apparent.
Although not part of the cleaning element of our service, it was an issue we could resolve. All our operatives are ‘Hostmanship’ – the art of making people feel welcome – trained. In addition to improving standards through our own operatives, we also extended Hostmanship training to include the client’s directly employed staff. This means that customer service has improved across the company – which benefits everyone.
Better relationships mean better business
It won’t come as a surprise to many that better relationships lead to better business. When suppliers and clients understand each other it is easier to work together and build long-lasting associations. It is easy to take a silo approach and only discuss issues that seem directly related to the contract in hand. However, as we’ve shown, asking the why question can open up opportunities and solutions that may otherwise never be possible.
It’s easy to make assumptions, but if you want to find out what clients really want you need to ask them. Most won’t be ready for the question, but persevere and you’ll probably be very pleased with the results.
If you’re not asking clients, why, then why not?