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December 2011
Anything. Anytime. Anywhere.
By Suzanne Fulton

     Walk into the recently enlarged Charlotte headquarters of Commercial Flooring Solutions, or CFS as they are more commonly known, and you will be immersed in an environment that appears clean, fresh, modern, welcoming and efficient…just the attributes the company prides itself on providing to its clientele.

     Cleaning office flooring and textiles is what CFS does, but beyond that, owners Elizabeth and Michael Crippen want their company to be known as the ‘concierge of clean.’

     “We believe in doing far more than just cleaning people’s floors,” asserts CFS CEO Elizabeth Crippen.

     How is the moniker “concierge of clean” manifested? The people at CFS not only anticipate a client’s needs and preferences, but also respond with solutions anything/anytime “with pleasure,” as employees are trained to say. Many customers have stated their deep appreciation for how CFS has repeatedly demonstrated that mantra through performance beyond expectations.

 

Clean to the Core

     Such “yes” behavior and speedy response coupled with enthusiastic attitude, is the essence of CFS’s company culture, reports Michael Crippen, president. Employing and training staff, rather than contracting to outsiders, ensures that desirable behaviors consistently happen and the terms of each contract are met. Drivers of company vans are even trained to allow merging cars to get in front of them on the road.

     The tagline Anything/Anytime/Anywhere captures their service orientation and both principals firmly believe that is what has sustained their company’s growth. The culture they have developed at CFS is very strong; something that is nurtured and cultivated internally.

     They consider themselves ‘solutionists,’, and their philosophy of ‘Yes’ is an allusion to the fact that meaningful customer experience is what they are in business to deliver, and what every associate is focused on.

     “Truly world-class service is vanishing in today’s business environment”, says Michael. “We seek to make every interaction with our clients a positive one, and to consistently go above and beyond the call. We are not in the customer satisfaction business; we are in the customer delight business!”

     Comments Greg Scharlemann, property manager of Childress Klein Properties, a large firm that has many millions of square feet under property management, “The CFS/MilliCare team exemplify the anytime, anywhere motto. From last minute phone calls to odd ball requests.”

     The core services of CFS are: hard surface maintenance, grout restoration, disaster recovery, flooring consultation and—in partnership with MilliCare—cleaning of carpets and textiles (furniture, cubicle walls, drapes), odor remediation and protection of fibers. The company is unique in their industry by providing an online tool to customers where they can plan, manage and view their floor cleaning schedule and completions.

     This tool also allows the user to quickly demonstrate accountability as well as be proactive. They can produce and share plans, status reports, and any program data with their superiors. Property managers and human resource managers especially appreciate that using this software reduces their administrative load so that they may tend to other tasks sooner. Cleaning schedules at one or more sites can be planned or viewed on the Web 24/7 and, likewise, customers can use the system 24/7 to place requests or have their questions answered.

     The software system, called CFS Enterprise Solutions, is an example of going beyond cleaning floors. The impetus for its development was a request from a major client who asked CFS for a “data capture” system for scheduling and tracking maintenance completions at its multiple locations. The sophisticated software that CFS developed met not only the needs of that client, but also propelled CFS to a national operating level. Presently, all customers can use the Enterprise Solutions program, but it is especially beneficial for large, national scope companies.

     “No other flooring solutions company offers such a comprehensive management system,” claims Michael. In fact, he reports that many clients have said, “You really don’t have any competition in this industry!”

     The appreciative comment of Betsy Hidalgorojas, manager of corporate services of Coca-Cola, is another illustration of how CFS routinely performs beyond expectations.

     “I want to thank you and your team for coming out at the last minute to help us. I stopped by on Sunday afternoon (Mother’s Day) to find your team busy cleaning our entire executive office and auditorium area…We had a water leak the day before, and after being repaired, there was debris everywhere…Our shareholders meeting is tomorrow, being held in this same area. Your team not only came in on Mother’s Day to help us out, but they did a wonderful job. You would never know that any construction/repair had been done. I want to express my gratitude for a job well done…Your customer service is absolutely the BEST…Thanks again!”

 

Clean Technology

     CFS uses MilliCare proprietary dry-centered technology for cleaning carpets and textiles. This dry system is very much on trend and has many advantages for use in busy sites. It is structured to prevent unwanted pollutants from becoming airborne, impacting employees. After preparing the carpet with a spray, technicians apply MilliCare’s proprietary polymer to the carpet and work it in. The polymer absorbs soil from deep inside the carpet, then the technician removes both. As a bonus, because this is a dry cleaning method, the area can be returned to normal traffic in short order. The process uses no client water and 89 percent less energy than typical hot water extraction.

     Textiles are revived by cleaning with a solution that is sprayed on. The droplets that form act as little scrubbers, which are subsequently removed by the technician along with allergens and stains. This allows budget-conscious owners to keep rather than toss and replace furnishings.

     MilliCare provides CFS and its other franchise partners with regular training and state-of-the-art information about how to best serve a wide assortment of commercial and industrial workspaces. In turn, CFS ensures that its 140 employees, who are spread throughout the country in nine sites, receive regular training in person and via online video sessions.

     CFS practices and procedures embrace the Carpet And Rug Institute’s message, “Proper, consistent carpet maintenance is critical to extending the life of the carpet, sustaining an optimum performance and appearance level, and maintaining a healthy indoor environment within your facility.”

     CFS products and services are also designed to be eco-friendly. CFS recycles all packaging and components, and their cellulosic polymer is biodegradable. Polymer will soon be shipped in recyclable bags rather than pails, which results in dramatic size and weight reduction in freight transportation. Likewise, to reduce shipping volume, primary pre-spray chemistries have been reformatted into dissolving tablets. Also, the dry-centered technology used allows for less energy to be expended and less water wasted.

     The CFS/MilliCare proprietary system directly supports four of the six LEED-EB (Existing Buildings) categories for certification: using water efficiently and conserving energy; reducing ozone and exploring renewable energy sources; using recycled materials whenever possible; and greatly extending the life of textiles and carpets to keep them out of landfill.

     CFS can help clients qualify to earn specific points in an additional LEED category, Indoor Environmental Quality.

     Additionally, all primary carpet maintenance chemistries are Green Seal certified.

     “Our entire franchise organization is certified carbon neutral by the non-profit Leonardo Academy,” Michael adds.

 

A Growing Enterprise

     Since formation in 1996, CFS has been expanding in a steady process—by acquisition of existing MilliCare franchises or by start up. Their pattern has been to study information about growth history and predictions concerning certain geographic areas, and then consider purchasing a franchise that is for sale or establishing a new one.

     CFS operates nine franchises across the U.S.—in Charlotte, Baltimore/Washington, D.C./ Northern Virginia; Raleigh, N.C.; Greenville, S..C; Charleston, S.C.; Miami; San Francisco; and Los Angeles. The Crippens are quick to point out that their expansion could not have been accomplished without the partnership of Bank of America, who has acted as the financial engine for their growth and expansion. Not surprisingly, the bank is also a customer.

     If a customer needs cleaning service in another locale, CFS can seamlessly provide services by subcontracting to another MilliCare franchise. Michael says that they developed this unique subcontracting model to provide consistency in training and methods, and guarantee a customer identical service and results anywhere they do business.

     “It mitigates the risk for the client,” he added, in reference to subcontracting to companies in the same franchise family.

     By using CFS, customer property managers facing a logistics dilemma can come up smelling like roses. Reports Mike Shoe, facility manager of Jones Lang LaSalle Americas/Citygroup Account, “I was in need of a carpet maintenance plan at one of my sites in northern Kentucky. CFS was able to provide this plan and connect me to another MilliCare rep in the area. As a result, my client was very complimentary of my ability to mobilize a solution from 500 miles away.”

     Elizabeth Crippen, formerly a successful restaurant entrepreneur, switched directions after having two children. She sold the restaurant and its land and invested the proceeds into CFS. In 2002, she joined Michael at the firm and expansion began. Michael, the founder, had long been in this industry, having begun his career selling for Milliken Carpet. There he learned about the chemistry of the dry method of cleaning carpet and of the need for ongoing maintenance to ensure client satisfaction.

     Elizabeth and Michael, both of whom have business degrees, attribute their success to their drive to grow the company and do whatever it takes to make each client’s experience fulfilling. This, in part, entails serving as knowledgeable counselors. With 15 years’ experience, there are a lot of flooring maintenance issues or needs that they can anticipate for a customer. They listen to their customers, and, if necessary, bring in other resources to address specific issues.

     Satisfied customers are many. One of those is Carolina Panthers/Bank of America stadium, which has used the carpet cleaning services of CFS for 15 years. They originally asked CFS for an eight-year life for their carpet, and have realized nearly twice that. Michael attributes that to the CFS commitment to proactive maintenance.

     In addition to running a growing company, the Crippens are parents of three young children.

     “It’s been a whirlwind 10 years,” she says, since she joined the firm.

     The Crippens plan to continue to grow their business nationwide and are looking to expand into new markets. Also, venturing slightly off path, they are now launching an enterprise that complements their existing business. Named CFS Holiday, this division offers environmentally sound and cost-effective holiday décor. Services include concept creation, design, production, logistics, support, set up, take down, removal and storage of holiday decorations.

     All in all, what began as an opportunity to help out a client has turned into a significant growth opportunity. That’s “Anything, Anytime, Anywhere” thinking for you!

Suzanne Fulton is a Charlotte-based freelance writer.
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