A successful partnership comes down to BSCs providing value to facility management firms, says Hewett.

Facility executives agree.

“What we want you to bring to the table is how you can become an extension of our staff and make our jobs easier,” says Jeff Mabrey, senior property manager at Hines in Dallas, Texas. “I think BSCs are making great strides at providing that value.”

That’s not to say that BSCs don’t often get the short end of the stick. As budgets are squeezed, cleaning frequencies are often the first line item to get cut, something that was especially true during the downturn.

“Everybody had to tighten their belts during the recession — we had to tighten our assets, and get our operating expenses in line and as low as possible,” explains Mabrey. “Then property managers like me were also tasked with maintaining a Class A environment. Cleaning got a lot of scrutiny.”

Facility executives contend that cleaning is a clear-cut priority within their building organizations. Nearly 70 percent of survey respondents expect cleaning to return to pre-recession frequencies; however, 79 percent of FMs don’t plan on increasing cleaning frequencies within the next five years. About 64 percent say cleaning frequencies have been unchanged since 2007.

While FM respondents placed price low on their priority list in our survey (only 2 percent say a low price for cleaning is the most important), BSCs paint a different picture.  

Zerivitz maintains that facilities increasingly value the work of service contractors, but he scoffs at the notion that price doesn’t take precedence.
A Contracting Profits survey of BSCs indicates similar sentiment. About 68 percent of BSCs agree or strongly agree that price is the most important deciding factor for facility clients.

“I think there are certain industries and businesses that understand the value of cleaning; and I think there are certain businesses who never will,” Zerivitz says. “If I tell a C-level executive that cleaning affects health, attendance and employee morale they get that at 30,000 feet. But at ground level, they don’t believe it has value.”

When it comes to price, Zerivitz says BSCs are still reeling from the effects of the recession, a fact exacerbated by operating in a highly commoditized industry. He say he has watched as some contractors compete in a race to the bottom.

“There is more irrational pricing in the market than I’ve ever seen before,” Zerivitz says. “I think people are trying to recoup revenue, and in turn there is a compression of margins. They believe that any revenue is good revenue. I don’t agree with that.”

According to Mabrey and others, that type of bottom-of-the-barrel pricing is a huge, red flag.

“Price is always a consideration when we are evaluating a contract, but it is never our end all,” Mabrey says. “Generally, a low bidder gets thrown out right away. We don’t want substandard service.” 

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