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Cleaning up to reveal your frontline magic

Susanne Axelsson
May 12, 2021
Cleaning up to reveal your frontline magic

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Cleancorp say it themselves - hiring a commercial cleaner is a bit like buying insurance or visiting the dentist – vital, but painful. So how do you engage staff and customers alike to build a culture of pride and self-leadership and make those who are often working unsociable hours feel seen and valued? 

Lisa Macqueen, CEO of Cleancorp, knows the answer to that question better than anyone. As someone who left their previous role for an international hotel chain, based in some of the world’s most beautiful locations. Her husband asked her to join the family cleaning business, and Macqueen laughs that she left her former career, in her words 'kicking and screaming' at first but quickly realised she had joined her husband on a really special journey to create the business that they would want to work in themselves. 

Twenty five years later they have successfully built one of the biggest commercial cleaning businesses in Australasia and work with brands that are also well known for their exceptional customer service - including McDonalds, Under Armour and Louis Vuitton. 

Listening is the key to great conversations 

Cleaning may not always have been cast in a glamorous light, but in a time when customers are realizing the importance of having a clean working environment, the industry has never been busier, or received so much positive media – and Lisa is proud to be able to differentiate Cleancorp as a 21st century employer who looks after its people first, because that is the key to creating great customer experiences. 

Listening to all feedback, is key to building more impactful interactions between your teams and customers, believes Lisa. Cleancorp once lost a customer because a cleaner forgot to empty some bins in the office. 

As Lisa says "you're only as good as the last clean your team did

Speaking with both customers and their cleaning operatives, they realised that it was important to build a relationship between the cleaning operatives and their clients, just to get to know each other better - many people don't even know their cleaners name!  


“We started to look at how we can improve those interactions and came up with, a very simple method called the ‘Cleaner Card’. It’s such a simple things, but creates such a big impact for the customer and our cleaning operators”. 

The Cleaner Card created for each cleaner can be displayed on an office’s noticeboard and shows a photo of the cleaner and a few quick facts to break the ice. Suddenly, Cleancorp’s customers knew their cleaners as people, not just a uniform – bridging the gap between the customer and Cleancorp employees. And whilst Cleancorp’s retention rate went up as a result, Lisa tells us that the biggest win was for the employees – suddenly they became part of the team. Not just Cleancorp's team, but also the client's team.

“ Out of every single achievement that we've had with this business,  that one changed people's lives.”

Continuously cleaning up the act

As CEO, Lisa makes sure to stay connected to the frontline – but she also believes in empowering those on the frontline to look for improvement opportunities and lead from the front. 

We’ve heard this before, but Lisa stresses again the importance of a great recruitment process to ensure that the right people are hired, not just for the role, but for the company i.e. people who resonate with your core values. Technical skills can be trained, but decision-making, and an eye for details are highly valued by Cleancorp. They call it going the second mile. 

Regular onsite training provides the perfect opportunity for teams to look for gaps in the process and personalise tasks for the customer – that’s the second mile and what customers will remember.

That sense of ownership isn’t always instant - but starts with consistency and care for your frontline employees. In turn, they’ll want to stay and do a great job for the people they serve every day. That sense of belonging, and pride creates the ability to lead from the front, because they understand not only business processes, but also have the confidence, and motivation, to make a change for their own customers and make their day better.


Share success far and wide 

Lisa says that every Cleancorp employee is ready to go the extra mile for customers, but how do you recognise those who go “the second mile”? Giving positive feedback is something that Lisa believes in and has built the business and its people on. 

At Cleancorp, every week there is an opportunity to ask the people and teams in the business who have exemplified the company’s values. By not only sharing these success stories, but asking people to talk about their experience and the results, employees feel acknowledged for their contribution as an expert in their area and this gives them the opportunity to mentor others who have questions and want to learn more…that’s a positive experience for everyone!

Taken a step further – who else is always ready to celebrate your success? Family. By sharing great feedback in a written message, along with a gift voucher, to the employee’s home address, bring that sense of accomplishment and pride to the team members home so they can share in the joys and successes with their family also.

Making frontline teams sparkle

Mindsets have shifted dramatically around the cleaning industry, the simple act of mopping a floor or cleaning a bathroom, and the people involved. 

This mindset is being applied to frontline workers across the globe, in all industries, and businesses, as companies wake up to the value of investing in their frontline teams.

Here’s a summary of some top tips from Lisa on how to create magic for your customers: 

  • Listen…to the good and the bad – from your staff and your customers.  
  • Lead from the frontline, not from the back office. Allow your people to take ownership of their job and delivery. 
  • Give positive feedback to your people and share it with the wider team - even with their family! 
  • Encourage being proud of the work you do and its purpose – you are there to do a great and meaningful job and that is an exception, exciting thing.

About the Author

Susanne Axelsson
Susanne is the Frontline Community Evangelist as well as the author and researcher for Frontline Magic Handbook. She believes happy customers are born out of great experiences. Great experiences are delivered by motivated frontline people.
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