years ago when I was first marketing software
to the cleaning industry, we received a call
from someone asking us the price of our software.
When we quoted a price, he was shocked; he
thought the price was way over the top. We
explained what software really was and he
was a bit wiser about the world of computer
we would never get such a call. In fact,
nearly everyone in every business, whatever
the industry, must think about using computer
systems to aid their business - from managing
a sales desk and maintaining a customer
list to using the Internet and its capabilities
to enhance sales, to ordering supplies,
or doing research on the latest technological
advances for one's industry.
Note here that we talk of
"computer systems." When computers
first started being used in the cleaning
viewed the physical computer as
the most important thing. For some, selecting
software was an afterthought. Nearly all carpet
cleaning business owners now realize that it is
the computer system -- the hardware components
combined with the software -- that makes the crucial
If you select your computer system
well, you can make your cleaning business more
efficient, and accomplish your daily tasks in
less time. You can also provide better customer
service with fewer staff. In short, an appropriately
selected computer system can be the difference
between profitably and effectiveness in the marketplace.
People in the floor care industry
have long used the latest technology in their
work, from vacuum cleaners to mechanized floor
scrubbers and polishers. There is even a computerized
robotic device that can, for example, be programmed
to clean the floor of a basketball court overnight.
This illustrates a more general
principle: We must first consider the initial
cost of computer hardware and the cost of software,
and take into account the time and expense involved
in the training of staff in the use of the computerized
system. Against this, we must consider the potential
savings realized in material, personnel costs
Purchasing hardware these days is
relatively simple. There are a wide variety of
well-made machines available offering a thousand
times the power of the first PC, at only a fraction
of the cost of the first IBM PC. It used to be
a challenge to decide what hardware to buy. Today,
if you purchase from one of the well-known computer
manufacturers, such as IBM, Gateway, Dell, Compaq,
HP, etc., it is a pretty safe bet -- nearly all
manufacturers use similar components, and most
offer a reasonable support plan.
However, one still needs to know
if the computer is to be used as a file server
or a voice server, for example. In this case,
advice from a professional would be well worth
The human side of the computer system
is also important to consider. Who is going to
be operating and administering the system, ensuring
procedures are correctly followed, backups are
made, and so on? Any computer system emulates
or replicates some sort of human system, generally
providing two distinct advantages:
First, the computer does what it
does with great speed.
The second point is sometimes overlooked: The
computer program helps define and enforce a systematic
method for accomplishing processes. Examining
the processes that you want the software to accomplish
before you purchase the software is important.
There are many cases where purchased software
had to be trashed because the user did not consider
what processes the software was designed to accomplish.
We know of several large corporations that have
spent millions on software projects, only to have
to abandon projects upon completion because the
human processes the software was designed to complement
or replace were not fully analyzed before the
software development project began.
Like a well-run ship, any business,
can benefit from analyzing, defining and improving
their organizational processes. This occurs on
two levels: Within the organization, and between
the organization and its customers.
An example of the first type of software would
be a computerized telephone time-keeping system.
This system type allows employees to call in when
they arrive at their work site and again when
they leave and provides multiple benefits to cleaning
* You pay workers only for time
* You have greater control over the workforce.
* You are notified immediately of absentees through
its "no show" feature.
* Although designed primarily for use inside the
organization, this form of software improves customer
satisfaction because you have greater control
over potentially missed jobs, absent employees
and employees performing a less than satisfactory
job through not spending the scheduled time at
the job site.
Many businesses, in the cleaning
and home health care industry have realized huge
savings in payroll costs, and big increases in
organizational efficiency through the use of cleaner-specific
software, to monitor the check-in and check-out
times of employees working off-site.
The second type of software, which operates on
the interface between you and your customers,
includes scheduling and billing software. This
software maintains job schedules, tracks all customer
information including their likes, dislikes, peculiarities
and payment history as well as all the financial
information you need to track how much each client
owes you. The software includes dozens of different
styles of job tickets and several invoice and
statement formats, so that you can pick the style
that suits you best. Also, schedules can be viewed
in a variety of different ways.
Some software falls between the
two categories, and can be used for work loading,
prior to bidding on a job and simultaneously used
to generate a professional-looking quotation for
Larger organizations can take advantage
of Web-based technology. For example, such software
can provide a web-enabled telephone time tracking
system. Prior to this development, companies with
multiple branches had to buy a telephone time
keeping system for each branch, a costly and redundant
solution requiring each branch to purchase and
maintain its own hardware and software. With web-enabled
software, a cleaning company can purchase a system
running on a Windows 2000 server (which includes
a web server) and that single machine will handle
all telephone calls. The manager of each branch
can then access the data relevant to his or her
branch simply by logging onto the Web site. Costs
are drastically reduced as each branch manager
needs only a Web browser to access his or her
critical information and all computer and software
maintenance can be handled at head office.
Within this article we have
only touched the tip of the iceberg with regards
to what cleaner-specific can do for you, software
and how it can save your floor-cleaning business
a lot of money.