While our cleaning and hygiene industry is in an enviable position to capture a far larger ‘top of mind’ awareness in the public domain, a lack of evident leadership is hobbling opportunities, believes Sharmini Masilamani.
As Rentokil Initial’s marketing development director and with a wealth of hygiene industry experience, Masilamani is well equipped to comment. Her professional roles have also covered food hygiene and pest control while her present position places her in the group’s global marketing leadership team.
The Sydney-based executive’s thoughts echo those espoused by Pulire chief executive officer Toni D’Andrea in his presentation ‘Cleaning as an Absolute Value’ (INCLEAN, January/February 2013).
Both these senior industry executives emphasise the critically important role cleaning and hygiene plays in public health, the economy and people’s mental wellbeing.
“All people have a right to good hygiene. It’s neither a privilege, nor just for the privileged, it’s a fundamental right and those who deliver services have a responsibility to deliver high standards,” stresses Masilamani.
‘Activism’ and ‘advocacy’ are two words she delivers liberally.
“Our industry leaders need to stand up and talk about hygiene. They need to lead the debates on vital issues such as cleaning’s role in combating cross contamination and infections,” Masilamani states. “And with ‘bugs’ previously localised to healthcare sites moving into more general arenas such as education it’s imperative a louder voice is heard.”
Her strong marketing bent, developed in both advertising agencies and client side, means Masilamani understands better than most about human behaviour and the process of ‘selling’ products and services.
Thus, when addressing public health issues and the increasing threats of flu, SARS, MRSA in public areas, Norovirus and other bugs, global corporates such as Rentokil Initial have prodigious research data to tap.
‘Our business is not just about selling products or services, it’s about leading people’s behaviour.
“We need to instill responsibility into the minds of all stakeholders, the users, the decision makers, the regulatory and the media,” she explains.
“Our industry does not use the conventional media enough and so it’s little wonder cleaning and hygiene services do not receive the required recognition with the government and the property industry. However, the topic of hygiene is so relevant for the social media waiting to explode to demand change.”
Masilamani points out that to-date cleaning and hygiene services have largely been discrete but now more than ever it’s important to have a trusted brand and one that is identified by consumers for its quality offerings.
Research points to offices where there is an atmosphere of distrust between workers, predicated on the fact that not all people are doing the right thing in terms of washing hands and personal hygiene.
Correlation between dissatisfaction at work and rating of bathroom facilities
And, interestingly, there is a correlation between dissatisfaction at work and the rating of the bathroom facilities. More than half of those dissatisfied with work are also dissatisfied with bathroom facilities.
“People don’t speak up when they come across poor washroom hygiene so they need a champion, such as Rentokil Initial, to go into bat for them. The role of a brand of hygiene services therefore is to be the conscience of the people.”
Masilamani explains that marketing hygiene services is about the humanness (of the brand), transparency and creative leverage – to bring issues to light to change people’s behaviour. Product design and appropriate washroom site assessments can engender significantly higher hygiene levels.
For washroom services companies, an initial structured survey determines what hygiene levels are appropriate and what usage can be expected to drive standards. Then, ongoing hygiene audits monitor quality levels.
“Today’s hygiene needs also include air hygiene (IAQ),” Masilamani notes.
Rentokil Initial’s hygiene portfolio, which goes to market in Australia under the Pink brand, includes sanitisers, air fresheners, feminine hygiene, hand washing and drying, toilet and cubicle hygiene and urinal hygiene. They are complemented with washroom paper and dispensers, mats and floor care and clinical disposal units.
In recent years ‘touch-free’ has been at the forefront of innovation but Masilamani revealed there is more washroom innovation on the way with touch-free fast becoming the standard..
“We need to design delivery systems so that people, using the products correctly, are virtually guaranteed a hygienic outcome. We have given a lead with touch-free,” she says.
However, the greater challenge to place cleaning and hygiene firmly on the agenda of Australian government health departments and property management organisations needs to be met.
“We know we can deliver the quality services that play such a critical part in public hygiene, but we need to command their respect as valued partners,” Masilamani extolled.