Are tech Companies really “cleaning-up” the UK Cleaning Services market?

For the first time, here are the 3- sides to the story!

Long gone are the days when home cleaning service was a luxury available only to the wealthy. By the end of the 1970s, the cleaning agency business model had evolved to meet the growing demands of time-poor, cash-rich families who needed few hours of cleaning done each week. This agency model afforded ordinary working class people the time to commit to more enjoyable areas of their to-do list.

Finally, the whole truth about the “old-fashioned” cleaning agency

The cleaning agency model provides clients with pre-vetted cleaners, robust key holders and an insurance policy protecting customers’ personal belongings. The often highly responsive service also provides replacement cover in the absence of the regular cleaner. In some cases, the business owners will even attend clients’ homes to offer an initial consultation, providing a truly tailored, high-value service that fit perfectly with customers’ expectations.

The agency model doesn’t always get it right, though, and many of their issues are related to the informal business structure, making it a challenge to win the cooperation of cleaners, who will often default on their allocated tasks. The agency owners are then burdened with reallocating the booking, which at times causes more hassle for the client than it is worth.

However, this isn’t the greatest failure of the model; this is that once cleaners have specified their availability, they are expected to cover a job, regardless of distance, which can be hugely discouraging to cleaners. Despite these issues, many agencies operate highly profitable services in a £10bn industry.

Online Booking Platforms

When Mopp.com entered the marketplace, they appealed to time-strapped professionals, enabling them to book and pay for a cleaner online. Clearly, there are barriers for agency owners to innovate, so tech founders were confident that they would achieve rapid expansion. Mopp.com improved on the agency model, giving cleaners access to sufficient jobs in their local area.

The stance of a second booking platform, Hassle.com, founded by Alex Depledge, was that cleaner operated in the “black market”. The Hassle model for online booking would: disrupt and pull cleaners out of wrongly suggested a proscribed trade. In an attempt to portray the agency model as outdated, they presented exceptionally unbalanced arguments, but no one knew this, other than agency owners who lacked either the will or the PR power to defend their business model.

Experience matters

Although many attempts, very few are qualified to evaluate the role of the agency owner, which was that they work extremely hard to deliver a tailored, professional service to their clients.

Although they often took a larger cut of the hourly cost, this was necessary to keep a labor-intensive business profitable and guarantee a safe service to customers and continued work for cleaners. Rewarding cleaners for hard work is not a new concept, as suggested by techie companies, as reliable cleaners are rarely short of work, even now under the agency model.

Strong work ethos

Cleaning agency owners don’t expect workers to do anything that they aren’t prepared to do themselves. This demonstrates their willingness not to take short cuts but to go the extra mile and become very much involved in the core activity of their business, which often includes on-the-job training and spot checks. The techie competitors who entered the cleaning services market have not demonstrated that they have properly evaluated the agency model. Therefore, the actual challenges of the marketplace have been overlooked, and the techie model not only adopted the same problems faced by the agency model but also invited their set of unique concerns.

Regardless of the benefits of innovative technology, and how far the problems of the agency model spanned, clients are simply not willing to compromise on the quality of service, particularly when they now pay in advance. An outsider’s glance at the issues of the agency model caused techie competitors to focus on quantity as a means of domination. Sadly, this is not the way to build a meaningful cleaning service, and the reason for this is simple: only roughly 1 in 50 applicants for a cleaning job turns out to be a bonafide, reliable cleaner. This, coupled with the fact that clients rarely give an unreliable service a second chance, means mass recruitment to cover bookings is detrimental to business.
Traits of a “Bonafide” professional cleaner

It is one thing to attend the interview for a cleaning job, and completely another to willingly complete that job with pride and excellence. Dedicated cleaners are traditionally known to demonstrate their commitment by following through on a robust recruitment and training process. There is no doubt that the sophisticated client needs the convenience that comes with online booking, but not at the expense of quality. In the modern day, UK what matters is that a service provider delivers on both accountability and easy to access service.
Now- in the world of tech

At present, the popular online cleaning service HomeJoy, although well intentioned, has ceased trading. Hassle.com have now failed to scale and has been acquired by Helpling. Mopp.com is plagued with negative reviews from disgruntled clients.

In a recent Financial Times article Leah Busque, the CEO of Taskrabbit.com, described how only 10% of its 30,000 workers are classified as “more reliable” and use the platform to make a meaningful living. This appears to be a lot like the Pareto principle; a typical ‘quality trumps quantity’ scenario.

Now – in the “old-fashioned” world

In the meantime, long-standing franchises have maintained their market value, and agencies like Amycleaners.com, which innovated to accommodate online bookings, continue to thrive even in the midst of keyword pay-per-click bidding wars and cut-price cleaning deals. Clients apparently still welcome the personalisation offered by these “old-fashioned” companies to fulfil a service in the intimate living space called home. It’s evident that the output of a cleaning service is only as efficient as the work done behind the scenes.

How the modern cleaning service look

The current cleaning solution needs to offer a fair deal to self-employed cleaners, who should also be supported in a practical way to satisfy tax legislation.

Clients should continue to benefit from instant booking technology, whereby they can fit cleaning around their busy lifestyle. However, I strongly doubt, whether tech companies or agency, can “clean up” the market without the owners also being prepared to get their hands dirty (pardon the pun).

It’s now evident that throwing money at the problems won’t solve them, but rather business owners must commit themselves to learning and sharing industry best practices with the cleaners they send to the home of clients.

Reaching the right level of accountability will require more than just promises of high earnings or a face-to-face interview, but rather an old-fashioned robust selection and training process must be implemented, ensuring that each self-employed cleaner can manage their workload within a professional capacity.

This is an area that the well-run “old-fashioned” agency model has perfected and one that is requisite for the techie example if they intend to actually “clean up” the cleaning services market.

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