Saturday, January 21, 2012

Trying to cram a lot of education into two days

Well it is Saturday so I am working.  Today is a little different because I am still in Charleston and today I am in a meeting with 3 other cleaning business owners.  For the last two days we did a run through of the Home Cleaning Certification class.  For the next several days we are tweaking the material then on Tuesday we are teaching the class again to some actual employees from our companies to see if what works for the owners also works for the techs.  For those of you that may not know, The Clean Trust (Formerly IICRC) has created a home cleaning certification program and I partners with 3 other cleaning companies in creating a training school for this program.  (   In February we are teaching the class in public for the first time and it is really important we work all the bugs out so this first class is just blown away by the content.

 This is really hard work and not to different from what most of us face day to day in our companies.  Cleaning involves a lot of science, customer service skills, and some art all mixed into one.   Trying to train someone on this is both one of the most critical things we do and the hardest.  Generally we do not get people that did well in school as employees so trying to do a traditional class room experience followed by 160 question like we are doing is a challenge.  We need to make sure we address needs of adult learners and different learning styles. 

However the win can be so huge.  Let me give you a real example from what I read in Linked In groups today.  A cleaner posted she had a client with a marble shower.  She has a lot of soap scum build up.  She is not sure what to do because she does not want to damage the marble.  Her decision was to call a professional stone care company and pass it to them.  I am hoping that after taking a training class like ours the tech will understand a few principles.

      1.  The marble her shower is made out of and the soap scum both contain the same basic ingredient, calcium carbonate.   Acid is an effective way to remove calcium carbonate but it does not know the difference between soap scum and the shower stone.
      2.  Acid strength is measured on the pH scale and different cleaning products contain acids of different strengths but this can be determined by reading the MSDS sheets.
      3.  The only 100% sure way to fix this problem is probably to diamond grind and polish the marble, a very expensive proposition.
      4.  Anything we tell a client up front is an education.  Anything after the fact is an excuse. 

So this is how I would want a fully educated tech to handle this.  “Mrs. Smith.  Soap scum is made up of dissolved minerals mostly calcium carbonate which are deposited on the walls of the shower then the water evaporates.  Unfortunately, your shower tile is marble which is also made from the same basic minerals.   I can remove the soap scum but there is a good chance that the acid will damage the tile as well.  To minimize this risk I am going to start with a relatively weak acid and work up slowly until the soap scum is removed.  If I do this and damage the stone, the marble will have to be diamond polished to repair it.  Right now the other alternative is to just skip trying to clean it and go straight to diamond polishing.  Mrs. Smith, would you like me to attempt to remove the soap scum knowing the risk to the tile?”   If yes have her sign something that she understands the risk.  Regardless of her decision, I would talk to her about how to maintain the shower going forward so this does not happen again. 

So that sounds all good but for this to work I need my cleaner to understand how to identify the tile in the shower as well as the soap scum that is causing the white film.  She needs to understand how to remove soap scum and that the solution to soap scum causes damage to the tile.  She needs to know the pH of cleaners and understand how to rank them in order of strength.  Finally she has to be able to communicate all of this to her client.  This is a really big challenge and this is just for one example.  We need to cover every surface and material in the home.  This is why it is so hard to be a truly great home cleaning company.  This is an incredible amount of training we need to provide and at the same time we are under huge pressure to keep our prices as low as possible because the perception is “anyone can clean a home.”

This is both our challenge and our opportunity with the HCT program.  By teaming up with The Clean Trust we can educate consumers on how important it is to find a trained cleaner for their homes and we have given them a means to find one through the certification program.  However the challenge is actually delivering the training in 2 days in such a way that they can pass 160 question test and then take and use that knowledge in their day to day work.   I am very excited about this work because if we can make it work it is a true game changer for our industry.  In addition, everything I am learning on how to teach these classes I am applying back to my own training programs.  I wish I had all the answers on this one but I do not yet.  All I can do is promise we are working very hard to figure it out.


Anne Aldridge - Ocean State House Cleaning said...

I'm very interested in this class. Do you know if a class will be held near Rhode Island any time soon? Thanks!

Carole said...

I had that very same situation happen to me, the owner was very well aware of her problem with soap scum and marble shower. She would only allow a neutral APC to be used in her shower and she would take care of the buildup herself (her cleaning method: she would take a razor blade and scrap it off carefully). Evidently her husband refused to use bottled body wash v.s. soap bars. Fortunately, she didn't have hard water. She admitted that she loved the look of marble but that it was one of the worse decision they made while building their home, she didn't realize that it would be so hard to maintain. She had a lot of marble in her house (floors, counters, shower, etc.).

Derek Christian said...

I have seen a lot of crazy things in homes. A lot of people are installing things in their home that look great but they just cannot be cleaned.

Anonymous said...

" Generally we do not get people that did well in school as employees"...what a horrible, humiliating, and derogatory statement to make regarding not only your employees but to speak for the whole "industry". You should be ashamed. Life happens, the economy happens as well as various other factors that may effect someone's schooling career.

Derek Christian said...

Sorry if you found it offensive. I did say generally not in total but it is a statement I stand by. I am not saying my employees or others in our industry are not talented but they did not generally do well in traditional school. My general manager never graduated high school but I trust her to manage 40 employees and to manage all my accounts including ability to sign checks.

Studies have shown up to 40% of students do not excel in the traditional class room environment, and yes I think a larger than average percentage of those people do work in our industry. Since announcing this class we have gotten lots of questions emailed to us and one of the most common ones is concern over the two day class format followed by a 160 question test because they did not feel they test well. Accepting this fact and designing a class that is attractive to adult learners is one of the challenges we are facing.

The overall desire of this entire training and certification program is to create a way to allow those of us that work in this industry to be treated as true professionals just like plumbers and electricians. I promise any comment was not meant to be degrading but quite the opposite. This cleaning tech has to know chemistry, they do physically challenging work, they need to solve problems on their feet as they are almost always removed from management, and they need to deal with difficult customers.