Management Standards Improve Customer Relations and Your Bottom Line
When a cleaning company first starts out, it usually focuses on client acquisition and revenue as the primary measures of growth.  The focus is generally on marketing and sales activities – in order to generate new interest – and operations generally take a back seat with changes made on-the-fly.

The middle stages of growth present a whole new set of challenges as companies find themselves having to balance continued marketing and sales with improving the recruiting, hiring and training process…all while seeking to trim costs. 

And even when a company has developed a nice steady stream of revenue and a solid customer base and has established a control on costs, there is still work to be done.  And that’s why the ISSA Cleaning Industry Management Standard assumed its place as the gold standard in cleaning business management.

The Birth of the Cleaning Industry Management Standard (CIMS)
The Cleaning Industry Management Standard was developed in response to a call for increased professionalism, improved customer service and more effective management.  Many customers were frustrated with hiring companies that promised quality service yet failed to deliver and were looking for a standard that could be used to pre-qualify potential service providers and gain a level of assurance that the company responsible for protecting the health and well-being of their facility occupants was capable of delivering on their promise.  

At the same time, ISSA, the Worldwide Cleaning Industry Association, sought to increase the overall professionalism of the industry – an industry long plagued by ineffectively managed services.  The Standard was developed through a consensus-based process that brought together members of the cleaning and facility management communities and included full peer review and was published in November 2006.  The standard was then supplemented with the CIMS-Green Building criteria in October 2009.

Today, 174 commercial and residential cleaning companies hold the CIMS certification, with over 80% of those also earning the CIMS-GB designation. 

A Standard for Large and Small Cleaning Companies
CIMS was intentionally created to apply to ALL cleaning companies, including both commercial and residential providers.  By basing the criteria on universally accepted management principles that have proven to be the hallmarks of successful service companies, CIMS provides a framework that is equally applicable to all companies, from solo providers to multi-national companies.  After all, a residential customer is inviting a cleaning company into their home and entrusting them with their possessions; that customer has a right to demand that the company be professionally managed and dependable.  
Besides, investing in business best practices has proven to be the most cost effective way to do business for all companies – instilling new efficiencies and making sure a company has all the necessary pieces in place.

Solving Common Problems Begins with Management
The most commonly cited “problems” by a residential cleaning business owner fall into two main categories: 1) how to find and keep good employees/technicians and 2) how to gain new customers and keep them satisfied. As a comprehensive business management standard, CIMS leads you to solutions based on your company procedures…and guides you to develop them further.

One of the five sections of management best practices is dedicated to Human Resources, essentially requiring the organization to make a committed investment in its workers so they truly feel valued by the company.  This includes requiring that the organization has a full human resource policy and hiring plan and commits to orientation and effective, on-going training.   

With regard to customer satisfaction, the Standard is premised on a belief that effective management and operations naturally leads to happier customers.  Specific provisions that work toward ensuring customer satisfaction include the requirement to have a Quality Plan to measure success, a system for corrective action, and a commitment to continuous improvement.  In other words, a company that dedicates itself to effective operations will naturally position itself as a best-in-class service – a company that a customer would like to welcome into their home.

Creating Leaders through Management Commitment
Arguably, one of the biggest hurdles a business owner has to overcome is making the transition from cleaning in the field (working in the business) to planning and implementing business development and growth (working on the business). The fifth management section of the Standard – Management Commitment – is focused on ensuring that a company has the necessary foundation for sustainable business success.  By requiring a mission, vision and values; as well as continuity and planning, CIMS requires a company to look beyond its day-to-day operations and consider the overarching strategic trajectory of the organization.

The Money Question: Can CIMS Help Me Make More Money?
By focusing on effective management and operations, an organization commits itself to a platform founded on quality and customer satisfaction.  And happy customers are most likely to become long-term partners, leading to referrals, new accounts, and a healthier bottom line. 

The CIMS provisions are based on the concept of improved efficiency and streamlined operations.  An investment in such concepts naturally leads to cost savings as a company becomes more resource conscious in the areas of both product and service.  Further, by investing in management best practices, an organization has the opportunity to reduce workers compensation rates, minimize turnover and develop true, sustainable long-term partnerships with customers.  One CIMS/CIMS-GB certified firm attributes annual savings of more than $400,000 to their implementation of CIMS/CIMS-GB principles.

But more than just saving money, 95% of CIMS-certified companies have increased their account base (in terms of square footage cleaned) within the first two years of achieving certification; we know this because we ask that applicants list square footage on their applications, and we can compare original and recertification applications.  

Managing based on a Nationally Recognized Green Standard
In 2009, the original CIMS “management” standard was supplemented with the addition of the CIMS-Green Building criteria, which set forth a framework for an effective green cleaning program – specifically based on the green cleaning criteria of the US Green Building Council’s LEED – Existing Buildings, Operations & Maintenance Green Rating system.  Cleaning companies, therefore, now have a seminal standard they can use to ensure that they are professionally managed as well as capable of delivering a comprehensive green cleaning program.  

In fact, using a CIMS-GB certified provider is one of the new compliance options in the most recent version of LEED: EBOM – scheduled to be published in November. This is an especially important feature for residential cleaning companies to consider when expanding services to include office and commercial cleaning.

The Marketing Value of Great Management
When a residential customer hires a cleaning company, they are inviting them into their homes and, to a large extent, entrusting them with their possessions. 

In a marketplace where everyone claims to be a professional, dependable and quality organization, customers can attain a level of comfort knowing that a company adheres to management best practices and has demonstrated it by undergoing a comprehensive assessment that is performed by an accredited, third-party assessor.  

Adherence to CIMS/CIMS-GB demonstrates that a company is professionally managed and “walks the walk.”  With another company, customers run a considerable risk. That makes CIMS a highly marketable attribute of any cleaning company.

The CIMS/CIMS-GB Standard is available at and companies are encouraged to comply with its provisions regardless of whether they plan to pursue certification or not.  Simply bringing management and operations into compliance with the best practices outlined in the Standard has tremendous benefits.  Yet, certification is what offers third-party assurance that a company meets the requirements.

Plamena Todorova is ISSA’s Senior Account Executive for Facility Service Programs and is the primary ISSA educational resource for CIMS/CIMS-GB programs and certification. Plamena is also a frequent presenter on effective management, standardization, green cleaning and cleaning for health.