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Top 5 Summer Challenges for Cleaning Companies and How to Fix Them

Top 5 Summer Challenges for Cleaning Companies and How to Fix Them

Ah, Summer! Time for suntans, cookouts, sprinklers, and for those in the cleaning industry, a rats nest of scheduling conflicts to untangle.

Changing seasons always bring new challenges for cleaning companies, from springtime mud to Winter Holiday Chaos. Summer, though, is surprisingly one of the most challenging. Just when you think you’ll finally get to relax comes a whole host of logistical issues from customers and employees alike.

Surviving and thriving through the Summer season as a cleaning business owner or manager requires the perfect blend of adaptability, proactive communication, and a little boost of advice from a professional cleaning expert. After 20 years of coaching cleaning buainesses through long, hot summers, here are what I’ve found to be the top five summer cleaning conundrums and solutions to conquer them.

nice manicured red nails using the calendar in their phone

1. Clients Playing Scheduling Musical Chairs

I get it, summer means school's out, and the siren call of exotic vacations and spontaneous getaways is hard to resist, even for the most loyal clients. Unfortunately for cleaning companies, this often translates into a chaotic game of calendar Tetris, with clients constantly canceling and rescheduling, often last minute.

The Solution

Email clients before the peak vacation season hits, warning them that the prime slots will fill up faster than a kiddie pool on a hot day.

Remind them that their favorite cleaner deserves some hard-earned vacation, too, and that your team needs to know their clients' plans in advance to schedule their vacations without turning their best customer’s schedule topsy-turvy.

Request that clients share their vacation plans upfront, allowing everyone to work out a harmonious summer schedule. Remember, just like putting on sunblock before you jump in the pool, reaching out to clients early will result in the greatest reduction of chaos.

If you missed the window this year, put reminders on your calendar for late next Spring NOW! Don’t completely give up on organizing this Summer, though, because again, just like sunblock, late is better than nothing and can keep your business from getting burned worse.

frustrated brown woman with mutliple hands holding phones and paper at her

2. Cleaners Dancing the Summer Staffing Shuffle

Just like clients, your dedicated cleaning crew also needs some well-earned downtime. After a long Winter of Holiday Party cleans followed by months of deep Spring cleans, Summer looks like the perfect time to take a break finally.

Cleaning staff members may call in sick or request last-minute time off, often due to past denials of recharge requests. This can leave you short-staffed, especially when they feel entitled to a break after hard work during the Winter and Spring.

The Solution

Remember that consideration, fairness, and transparency are two-way streets. Discuss the challenges of summer scheduling during team meetings upfront. Make it clear that you truly value your cleaners' hard work and see it as your priority to ensure everyone gets the downtime they deserve. Then explain that while everyone deserves a vacation, it's impossible for everyone to take one at once.

It's your job to foster a sense of comradery within your team so they all understand that everyone wants vacation time around popular summer holidays.The only truly fair thing to do is distribute those slots as equitably as possible.

It means that everyone will get something they wanted, but not everything they wanted. This is good news when you realize it's ensuring your hard-working co-workers get some quality time with their families too.

Request that your cleaners submit their preferred vacation times at the start of the summer; the sooner, the better, along with backup dates if you can’t give them their top picks. If you’re really organized, you can even post a calendar with the number of vacation slots available for popular long weekends, so everyone knows in advance there is a limit to how many people can be out for things like Labor Day long weekend.

Do your best to give each employee at least one of the dates they care about. Ideally, share the final vacation schedule with the team, so everyone can see that the distribution was fair. Even if you don’t share the full schedule, be sure to note popular vacation dates where you are minimally staffed publicly so everyone that remains knows when coverage is tight and understands how critical it is for them to show up and not come down with a sudden case of “beach day.”

3. The Heat is On... Inside

When the mercury starts to soar, cleaning can quickly transform from a routine task into a sweat-drenched marathon if clients forget to adjust the thermostat. When customers leave on vacations, or everyone works outside the home, it's not uncommon for people to keep thermostats at higher temperatures while they’re gone to save money and the environment.

It’s all too easy for customers to forget about their cleaners and unwittingly leave them in unsafe conditions. Thousands of cleaners suffer heat strokes nationwide every year, so solving this common mistake is not optional, it’s a summer safety must!

The Solution

Get ahead of the heatwave. Send multiple emails to clients, some funny, some serious, pleading to your clients, "Don't Melt Your Maid!"

Ask for clients to set their thermostats to safe working temperatures (OSHA Guidelines suggest less than 77°). Ask the client’s permission in advance to tweak their thermostat if they forget, and gently warn them that you reserve the right to cancel service if the home is dangerously hot and cannot be cooled in a timely manner.

Equip your team with moisture-wicking uniform shirts and cooling towels to help them beat the heat, proving you're the coolest employer in more ways than one! Even if you can’t afford new gear, reminding your staff to hydrate and take breaks is free and critical. Some employees are prone to pushing themselves too hard unless they are sure management supports them in prioritizing self-care.

kids in a living room on a sofa throwing clothes around and making a mess

4. School's Out, Clutter's In: Cleaning with Kids Home

With the kids home for the summer, your clients' houses may resemble obstacle courses that put their usual clutter to shame. Even your most organized clients are prone to show chinks in the armor when battling these pint-sized mess mercenaries, leading to everything from beach sand to craft project glue coating, even the tidiest of homes.

While we all applaud kids having summer fun, unfortunately for cleaners, more stuff strewn around means more time tidying up before the actual cleaning can even begin. If this issue isn’t headed off at the pass, it can result in either a loss of profitability, as cleaners stay longer than paid for, or a loss of clients, and customers bristle at surprise extra charges they weren’t expecting.

The Solution

When kids are out for summer, it is time for their parents to attend cleaning company summer school! You’re the teacher, so communicate and educate. Explain to clients that cleaning efficiency is maximized when clutter is minimized, or simply put, they get more bang for their buck when their cleaner isn’t picking up before they clean.

Educate clients that they are the best ones to "housekeep," also known as putting things back where they belong before the cleaner "house cleans," AKA removing soils. When cleaners are asked to housekeep, it is near impossible to accurately guess where everything goes since they don’t live at the home, so things will inevitably be put back in the wrong spot and lost.

If your cleaning staff has the personality for it, you can even offer to charge for a little extra time for your staff to teach their children how to pick up before cleaning, as an outside adult is often more happily listened to by most kids than their own parents.

Finally, politely clarify that your business charges by the hour and reserves the right to raise rates for the summer if their cleaning conditions consistently require more time.

lady wearing a turtleneck sweater talking on the phone

5. Stop the Summer Slump by Keeping Client Counts Climbing!

Summer vacations don't just impact your existing clients. Potential customers are busy soaking up the sun rather than looking for new cleaning services, leading to a slowdown in lead flow. Even consumers interested in making a change or starting a service may be harder to pin down to quote, close, and start their schedule due to summer scheduling conflicts.

This slowdown in lead flow can have long-term ripple effects, as the sooner you sign any client, the higher their net long-term revenue value. So waiting a couple of months on even a few clients can represent thousands of dollars of lost business.

In a business where cash flow is king, slumps can make it even harder to afford to invest the appropriate amount of marketing dollars. When the business starts to surge again in the Fall, addressing this issue head-on is key!

The Solution

Tap into your existing customer base and turn them into your unwitting summer sales team. Implement a Win-Win-Win referral program: For every successful referral, offer a cleaning discount to both the referrer and the referee and a bonus for the cleaner who made the clients love your service so much they had to share it.

Some customers may not be motivated by discounts for themselves, but it is a rare heartless soul that bypasses the opportunity to give their favorite cleaner a cash bonus for free! It's a three-pronged reward system that will boost customer retention, referrals, and cleaner morale.

close shot of a man surfing a wave

Ride the Wave by Getting Ahead of the Curve

In cleaning, communication is key to any long-term healthy relationship. The summer cleaning challenges we face as a business can primarily be addressed with proactive, transparent, and empathetic communication.

While reading this article may make you feel like you are already behind, remember it's always a good time to start communicating better with people you care about. And technically, you are now officially really ahead of the game for next year!

It's all about creating a win-win scenario for your clients, team, and business. As soon as you master it for the summer, it becomes that much easier to apply these new solutions proactively throughout the year.

Let's be honest, while summer presents its unique challenges, every season has its quirks. Few challenges in life or business can’t be vastly improved by proactive communication and intentionally seeking mutually beneficial outcomes.

Lastly, but most importantly, don’t forget to set calendar reminders NOW for next Spring. Next summer, when the temperatures start to rise, and the last school bell rings, you'll be ahead of the game with your clients and your crew confidently and loyally standing behind you. This the surest path to success no matter what the season.

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