The future of cleaning (part 2): Condo Disruption Series
Private Space Cleaning
Years ago in the early days of my professional life I was sharing a place with a friend. We knew each other well enough to know we needed a cleaning lady. Both of us were clean by nature, but as so often happens with housemates, we also knew that we weren’t going to dedicate part of our weekends to vacuuming carpets and washing toilets. So we did what most people do when they want a home cleaning person. We asked around. Namely my mom and my mom’s friends.
We hired the first name we got. A phone call later we were committed to $80/week for cleaning every Wednesday morning. Everything started out fine, but feedback was difficult. Areas we cared about were being missed. We had suspicions she didn’t put in a full morning. And to make everything that much more difficult, her english was non-existent which made any sort of communication a challenge.
Eventually, we took the coward's way out, and left a polite note letting her know that we no longer needed her services. Her son then called to find out what was going on; we had a brief and awkward conversation; and the whole thing dissuaded me from ever getting a cleaning person again.
I’d wager that historically 80% of the home cleaning industry operates this way. Small independent operations led by recent immigrants. The other 20% are a little more organized with a website and have fleet of cars with Molly Maid written on the side. Of course, these operations charge more and probably don’t necessarily offer better services. Just brand recognition to make people feel more secure that their house won’t be robbed.
So that’s the way it was and is. Or almost. The times are changing and entrepreneurs are seeing the value of being the next Uber. Take an industry or service that’s been static for decades, apply modern technology that most established companies are slow to embrace, and whamo! you’ve got something better.
Let me digress for a few paragraphs to the taxi industry and Uber. With very few exceptions, nearly all my taxi experiences have been negative for the last 20 years. Operators keep dirty cars, employ rude or bad drivers, and I pay huge prices with most of the money traveling up to a mystery set of medallion/license owners, not to the driver. My 10 kilometer trip costs me $35 + tip, and the driver might see $10 if they’re lucky.
Calls and complaints clearly have no impact on improving performance, the problems have existed industry wide and globally for years with no noticeable improvements. (I will note that London, Singapore and German Taxis seem to have been exceptions to this rule. They may have been pricey (not Singapore), but the experiences were mostly good with clean cars.)
Uber has been well received and experienced huge growth, not just because of a low price and convenient ordering feature, but because they take feedback very seriously. If a driver’s rating falls below 4.6 out of 5, they’re at risk of being ‘deactivated’. This ensures excellent service.
Drivers also have the opportunity to rate passengers. And if a passenger misbehaves, or leaves a mess, they pay a fine or are no longer permitted to use the service. Everything about Uber embraces logic and rewards good behaviour. On both sides. The end result is a happy customer and a happy employee.
This is what was missing from my home cleaning experience. I want the opportunity to change things up in a non-personal way. I want to give feedback easily. I want my feedback to be heard and mean something. And most importantly, I want to get the right service.
So what’s out there? Who’s making a difference? One great example is iRestify. They’re using tech to benefit themselves, the cleaners and the customer. Pricing is transparent, ordering is online, and a customer can personalize the level of cleaning they need. So I placed a call and spoke to Erifili Morfidis, Co-Founder of iRestify to learn more about what’s changing in this industry, what they’re doing to be different and what it means to the condo industry.
When we launched in 2015, iRestify’s focus was traditional homes and the commercial market. We learned very quickly that condos were a big market for us. It started with real-estate agents who needed a condo cleaned with minimal hassle. They liked the transparent pricing, speed to book and no commitments or contracts.
That evolved quickly with AirBNB becoming more and more popular. Some condos suddenly had 20 or more units being rented out on a short-term basis. With many of the owners opting for a cleaning service, condo boards wanted to control their security risk by restricting cleaning services to one, two or three providers. Because of the background checks we do on our cleaners, the insurance that we have, and the way we provide our services, we’re an easy choice for boards when they want to go exclusive.
All our cleaners are independent contractors. When an order for service is placed, they get a message and they have the opportunity to accept or decline. The cleaners get paid a decent wage, they choose their hours and neighbourhoods and are happy not to deal with difficult estimates or marketing their services.
As a customer, you may have a weekly arrangement, and you can request the same cleaner week after week. Or, you may elect to change it up every now and then. Perhaps have a deep clean done every 3-4 months. Complete flexibility to get the cleaning service that suits your demands.
Condo boards also see value in the way we operate when it comes to choosing someone to clean their common space. Building managers can easily augment cleaning service to meet short term demands. Increasing or decreasing services through the course of a year. Cleaning doesn’t always demand exactly the same services week after week, so flexibility is important.
And that’s iRestify. Handy.com based out of the US and operating some Canadian markets offers similar services, however, their quoting system isn’t nearly as detailed. And to get a quote the user needs to register their email. Molly Maid, AspenClean and others follow a similar approach.
How is this disruptive to your condo?
Multiple service providers cleaning short term rental units could pose a security risk. Are controls in place or being enforced to address those security concerns.
Are there efficiencies and savings to be found in using a software driven cleaning service like iRestify or Handy.com?
Cleaning companies may start competing for exclusivity in your condo. Be sure to prioritize this appropriately against other issues your condo is dealing with.
What should your condo do?
Give some thought if going exclusive with cleaning company makes sense for your condo. Is it in the best interest of your community? Will owners feel an exclusive policy is too restrictive?
If security is a concern for your board, owners and residents, consider private space cleaning exclusivity as a tool that can be used to limit security risk.
In your next building census or survey, ask how many people are using external cleaning services. The answer may surprise you.
If you know a good cleaning service that has embraced technology and should be added to this list, email firstname.lastname@example.org