What would you do if your carefully hidden customer service efforts were unexpectedly thrown into the spotlight?
Todd Hopkins, CEO of office pride commercial cleaning services, faced this challenge when COVID revolutionised the cleaning industry.
Todd was suggested to me by customer service guru shep hyken in response to my request for customer-focused leaders to interview. It was a fantastic suggestion!
Todd has authored/co-authored four best-selling faith-based books, including The Carrot Chaser, The Janitor, Five Wisdoms for Entrepreneur Survival, and most recently, The stress less business owner, in addition to founding office pride, a faith-based cleaning service.
I spoke with Todd to find out how he’s been able to maintain his business’s growth and what effect COVID has had on it. The following extracts from the interview include excellent advice for those seeking to advance their career by delivering a superior employee and customer experience.
Tell me about your business, how it got started, and where it is now.
We’re a twenty-eight-year-old industrial cleaning franchise with 130 franchisees in 25 states. Our franchisees are now offering disinfecting facilities on the front lines. Our specialty has always been janitorial services. But, of course, things have changed now.
Customers have previously said, “I don’t even care about cleaning.” You guys all come in and do your work. And the fact that I don’t have to worry about you means you’re doing your job well.’ That’s something we’ve known for a long time.
They now want to see us. They want us to go from being the most invisible to the most visible people on the planet. ‘Will you send over somebody in uniform just to go around cleaning things?’ they’re asking. Since their workers expect to see their workplaces washed and disinfected on a regular basis.
The dynamic has shifted our industry, which has been fascinating. customers get to define what they really want, as you know, which is an important aspect of the customer experience. They want the cleaning crews to be noticeable right now because it gives their workers confidence.
Tell me more about the origins of Office Pride.
I wrote a college research paper on how to start a janitorial franchise. Then I made it into a legitimate business. I began by cleaning buildings myself in order to get a better understanding of what consumers want and how they want to be served. I understand what it takes to keep a client.
We started franchising three years later, and I shared my enthusiasm with the franchisees so that everyone in the company understands that without customers, we don’t have a business, and they don’t have jobs.
I like the concept of assisting people in starting their own businesses. I enjoy guiding them. As a result, our corporate staff has grown to 24 employees. We don’t sell anything; instead, we teach franchisees how to run and expand their own commercial cleaning businesses.
Our goal is to “honour God by positively affecting people and workplaces,” and we’re a faith-based organisation.
We recognise the meaning of producing an emotional result. I’m guessing your goal isn’t just to keep offices clean anymore, particularly now that customers want you to be more visible. Can you tell us all about how office pride differs from other companies?
Customers, at the end of the day, want professionalism and continuity. They aren’t always looking for the cheapest alternative. And if anyone is promising perfection, the consumer will interpret it as a promise that cannot be kept, and they will lose faith.
‘We’re not fine, but we’re serious,’ we tell customers up front. We’ll correct it if we make a mistake.’ That is something that consumers enjoy.
They usually tell us when we do a sales proposal, “You guys aren’t the cheapest, but you’re certainly the most competent.”
The key is to preserve integrity in the service delivery process, as well as responsiveness and good communication. You don’t want to leave a client in the dark.
When a customer phones, they expect someone to pick up the phone. Our franchisees are helpful in this regard. That is what keeps the company running.
When it comes to integrity and consistency, we certainly want to be at the top. We understand the importance of this to our customers.
When you look at your franchisees, I’m sure you’ll find that some are more professional than others. What indicators do you have as to how professional your franchisees are?
Professionalism begins with a neat and tidy appearance. It’s an issue if you’re wearing a filthy uniform. You must keep yourself clean and presentable. The janitorial closet should be tidy, well-organized, and well-maintained. That should give you an idea of how the structure looks.
Another factor is getting on schedule. If we say we’ll be there at a certain time, we turn up every night at the time we say we’ll be there and do what we say we’ll do.
When customers call, we answer their calls. That is the essence of professionalism.
There are eight fundamental principles that we follow. The first is to respect God, and the other seven are all about delivering outstanding customer service.
many companies conduct surveys to learn more about what’s going on, while others use organisational metrics. How do you keep your finger on the pulse of how your franchisees’ customers feel about them?
It’s easy. I was taught several years ago by one of my first clients, and I’ll never forget it. I sent her a short survey and demanded that she complete it. ‘I despise filling out surveys,’ she said. You should describe the structure to me. I hired you to keep the place clean.’
Since then, that has been my philosophy.
How do you assess the performance of franchises?
We’ll begin by focusing on customer retention. The way we assess satisfaction is whether or not we are retaining our current customers. Growth isn’t the goal; retention is. You could gain a lot of customers and lose a lot of money. You should have satisfied customers even though you’re a sales machine.
I’d rather keep the customers we already have.
Any of our franchisees are happy with their current situation. They aren’t really rising, but they never seem to lose anyone. So they’re content, satisfied, and unconcerned.
I’d like to see them becoming more involved in learning, but guess what? We’ve done our job if they’re satisfied. We’ve given them the tools and resources they need to start a company and achieve their goals. That’s fine. Others are in the process of expanding.
What motivates you to stay in touch with your customers?
I listen to a lot of books and podcasts, and I just finished Verne Harnish’s Learning the Rockefeller Habits.
Intelligence is one of the next major kpis, according to him: How much time do you spend collecting knowledge from your clients? Are you talking to them? How many hours a week do you spend talking to your customers and learning what they value?
It’s probably less than an hour for most people, if at all. ‘Hey, how are you doing?’ I also call a franchisee just to check in. And how are things treating you out there?’
See, if I understand what they’re going through, I can put on my strategic thinking hat and use this organization’s muscle to support them.
And being a good franchisor entails doing just that. I believe in getting details from customers.