After months of adjusting to COVID-19, it’s no surprise that we are redefining standards of cleanliness. What used to be a “grudge expense” for virtually every type of business or physical operation is now embraced as a source of personal safety and peace of mind. We discussed the new definition of clean with GSF USA, a global cleaning services company and past Otherwise client. Through 2020, their commitment to “caring about clean” — the foundation of the brand illumination work we did together in 2015-17 — has moved from behind-the-scenes to storefront window. Here are some of the insights that Kurt Kuempel, General Manager of their Illinois location, has to share.
How has your team adjusted to new demands presented by COVID-19?
At the outset of the pandemic, it was scary being among the first essential workers. There were so many unknowns for our staff and our customers, and what used to be a steady ride became a roller coaster. The biggest change we are seeing is that today, customers are actually talking about the importance of “clean.” Everyone wants to be involved and wants to talk about chemicals, equipment, protocols and processes. And the people aspect is more important than ever. We’re having transparent, substantial conversations with customers about what “clean” looks like for them going forward. Ultimately this experience has shown us GSF has had its priorities in the right place for many years, and it’s gratifying to see these priorities shared by others.
How have the needs of your clients changed?
Our customer base is quite broad, from school districts to commercial offices, manufacturing and medical facilities. Each type of facility and customer type has unique criteria and parameters, but the thread that weaves through them all is their prioritization of more cleaning, more frequently, including a return to utilizing a larger team of people, particularly during the day. (Disinfecting is a moment-in-time activity; so you can disinfect a space every night, but as soon as people enter and use the space the next day, it’s reinfected.) So, the best practice is to increase the frequency of cleaning, and this involves more people onsite during the hours the space is active. This desire to increase cleaning teams by as much as 20% — and therefore incur higher costs — is a radical shift in priorities for virtually every customer that has historically focused on cost and staff reductions.
How has COVID-19 affected your industry as a whole?
Technology is a big part of industry change. So many new innovations have hit the market — foggers, sprayers, misters— everything that you can possibly imagine. The best technology out there right now is electrostatic technology; essentially it’s a way to disperse chemicals quickly and effectively. That will forever change the industry. It’s unique and different, but it’s not new; it’s how they paint cars, it’s how farmers spread chemicals, but now it’s new to the cleaning industry.
How has GSF been ahead of the curve in meeting new standards of cleanliness and service?
As the U.S. subsidiary of a nearly 60-year old global company based in France with a worldwide staff of nearly 40,000, we are part of a company culture that focuses on long-term strategies, investment and innovation. Within this context, we are unique in our approach to chemicals in the domestic market, given that we invested in equipment that allows us to produce chemicals onsite long before the arrival of COVID-19, so we have been simply maintaining what has become a new industry best practice without incurring significant investment or ramp-up time.
When you look back on these months of transformation in the cleaning industry, what are you most proud of?
We’re most proud of how we have doubled down on our core values by supporting both employees on the front lines, and in turn, our customers. By remaining true to our commitment to clean, we have demonstrated to customers the importance of fair compensation, training and development as we empower our staff to achieve the highest levels of professionalism and success. One of the best examples of the impact of our philosophy can be seen in this video.
We are beyond thankful for the amazing team at GSF that has continued to meet all of the challenges we have confronted in the past months. And while the workplace world continues to redefine what “clean” means in our new reality, we are proud to be on the frontlines of adapting and improving to keep our communities safe and healthy.