What Should You Look For When Comparing Cleaning Companies?

Take A Good Look To See What They Are Hiding Under The Carpet…

In today’s economy, property owners and managers alike are constantly scanning the horizon, searching for opportunities to outsource their building cleaning and maintenance services to specialist companies in order to improve operational efficiencies. When it comes to finding a cleaning services company that will provide best practices at the right price, successfully managing the vendor selection process is mission critical to obtaining a good fit.

Size Matters
Long before drafting a specification, a tender request or short-listing companies, spend plenty of time clearly identifying your requirements. The more you detail your expectations – eventually within your tender document — the more precisely your needs can be met. If this is your first experience in dealing with cleaning contracts, talk to vendors informally to help you uncover the range of services available.

Once you’ve nailed down performance measures, it’s time to tackle the tender request. A finely tuned tender document gives cleaning companies the necessary information that ensures an accurate response — and makes side-by-side bid comparisons much easier.

Later, when the quotes come in for your cleaning services, don’t get caught comparing apples with oranges. Be specific — up front — about your requirements (see the chart below).

RFP Requirements for Building Cleaning Services

* Cleaning Specifications*
* Employee training
* Indemnifications
* Quality Assurance
* Supplies:
o Quality? Quantity? Who pays?
* Cleanable Square Footage
* Equipment:
o New vs. Used
* Insurance Requirements:
o Rates and coverage limits
* Recycling
* Supply Storage Areas
* Communications
* Hours, Days of Service
* Payroll Taxes: NMW.
* Holiday pay
* Environmental ISO14001
* Safety
* Workers’ Compensation
* Contract Duration
* Identification:
o Badges, Uniforms
* Personnel Screening
* Staffing Levels
* Pay rates

*Each addition task or frequency of clean in your cleaning specification will equate to additional labour costs as time = money. This will affect the cost of the bid.

gold medal

Narrowing the Field of Cleaning Companies
When deciding which companies to consider, use these criteria as a guide:

Commitment to Quality
Does the company really have a quality assurance program to “Inspect what you Expect?” Do they have a formal accredited Quality Management System such as ISO 9001?

Many companies talk about their “green” credentials but do they actually operate to recognised standards, which are externally assessed such as ISO14001?

History repeats, so references should be a major factor in your decision. Talk to referees, visit their buildings and inspect the quality of the vendor’s custodial services. It is often useful to visit sites they manage which are not similar to your own so you can determine their range of capabilities.

Scope of Resources
Is the vendor able to expand with you? Do they offer the operations manuals, training programs, management or back office support you need?

Existing Relationships
Relationships are a key factor in the bidding process. Not all cleaning companies are created equal. Large contracts require a large trust level.

Cultural Match
Is the vendor large or small? Local or national? Do they mirror your requirements in terms of scope, locations, and objectives? Do they participate in reputable industry organisations? Do you feel comfortable with their level of professionalism?

Added-Value Capacity
Do they offer additional services that can be easily ‘bolted-on’ to their current contract with you thus removing a third party suppliers overhead contribution thus making a financial saving for you with no visible degradation of service levels

The bottom line is critical, but beware of the “penny-wise, pound-foolish” syndrome. Cheap cleaning companies could end up costing you more in the long run. Make sure you identify the labour, equipment and supplies needed to do the job thoroughly by comparing every quote closely.

walk around

The Dreaded Walkaround aka The Site Survey
Hosting a cleaning walkaround is probably not high on your list of fun, but it is the second major ingredient in receiving an accurate bid package. Whatever you do, do NOT delegate it to a junior member of staff. To get a true feel for the scope of your work, companies must see the facility’s level of cleanliness, types of supplies, square footage, flooring surfaces, building density and the like to ensure they can provide the service levels you need. If a junior staff member who neither knows nor understands the ramifications of the cleaning programme guides them, you run a high chance of giving out a very negative message of your expectations.

Pulling Back the Curtain: Understanding Pricing Models
Once you’ve reviewed the proposals from the cleaning companies, you can prepare your pricing model. Most include:

* Labour, including payroll taxes, insurances and benefits
* Direct Operating Costs, including supplies, uniforms, transport, equipment, PAT tests, employee screening, training etc.
* Overhead and Profit

Vendors should be willing to fully explain their pricing model and answer any questions about their services and pricing methods.

Apples to Apples:
Selecting the Vendor to Provide Your Building Cleaning Services
Selection often distills down to two simple (yet complex!) factors:

* Can the vendor do the job?
* Can we work well together?

How well does the cleaning company stack up? Which one offers the right mix of service, staff, equipment and price to get the job done right, on time, on budget everytime?

To find the answers and ensure fair comparison, revisit your tender requirements and examine these details from their quotation in particular:

Labour – Verify the number of cleaning hours (not head count) received per day. While the National Minimum Wage was supposed to level the playing field we strongly advise you also check that wage rates are realistic. This is simple to do by researching cleaning recruitment adverts in your locale. There is no point employing a contractor who gives you a cheap price by paying their staff below the local going rate. All that does is lead to a revolving door syndrome where you get constant staff changes. If there is to be a transfer of incumbent staff to another contractor, be aware that TUPE applies. This EU legislation governs the Transfer of Undertakings and Protects Employment rights and is a legislative nightmare that is beyond the scope of this blog. Please contact us for additional, site-specific advice.
Employment Costs. Ask for National Insurance contributions and holiday pay including Bank holiday payments to be broken down by category and compare. Ask for explanations of any large discrepancies
Insurances. Accredited service companies should have documented proof of required public liability and employers insurances. Ensure that there is cover available to at least £10m for any one accident. Remember especially dangerous services where operatives work at height, use specialist machinery or handle dangerous substances all require additional cover which will be detailed in the main policy but not on the certificate that most companies use to prove they have cover.
Equipment. Does the bid have enough budgeted to do the job? Compare among the different janitorial companies. What is their repair policy – how long will it take to repair? PAT testing – how often?
Supplies. Be sure to agree on quality. Tissue, soap and towels are a major expense in cleaning services and can be a major complaint area if quality is not agreed upon. Determine whether stock is delivered ‘just in time’ or on a planned schedule basis. It can make a big difference to you if you are the one everyone calls when the loo rolls run out!

Armed with this well-planned selection process, your hiring decision is bound to be a success!


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