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The janitorial industry is getting more and more competitive. It’s getting harder to win contracts if building service contractors aren’t at or near the lowest bid. Although price often wins contracts, quality retains clients. Janitorial companies have to find ways to control costs and improve quality at the same time. One way to do that is to focus on efficiency. 

The stats relating to customer retention in the cleaning industry are sobering. More than 50 percent of commercial cleaning contracts are lost every year. For the most part, business owners aren’t looking to lower their janitorial costs by changing cleaning companies. They just aren’t satisfied with the service they’ve been getting. 

Prices are calculated using production rates. The faster janitors clean, the lower the price, which increases the chance of winning contracts. Experienced salespeople can determine how long it will take to clean a facility pretty quickly. But, how much time do they spend workloading the facility to find ways to increase production rates (i.e. reduce cleaning times), improve quality and lower costs at the same time? 

 As a result, bids are determined backwards. Many salespeople walk into a prospect’s facility and think about what price they need to be at to win the job. But, they’re really approaching bidding backwards. Attention should initially focus on efficiencies that can be put in place to increase production rates. What workflow will be most efficient? Can switching to backpack vacuums or other types of equipment reduce cleaning times? Will a team of two janitors get the job done more efficiently than one?

Unless BSCs service very large accounts, they might not be thinking about how efficient their equipment is. However, simple changes such as using backpack vacuums instead of canisters can significantly reduce cleaning times. Another example are bucketless flat mops. They are more efficient and get better results in many cases than string mops. These alternative products may be more expensive initially, but the investment can be quickly recouped by reducing labor costs.

Of course, change is never easy. People are creatures of habit. BSCs tend to use the same types of equipment and supplies because it’s easier than trying out something new. But, the secret to efficiency lies in keeping up with technology changes and trying out new, more efficient equipment.

The “612 Cleaning Times” book published by ISSA demonstrates how high-efficiency equipment and tools can improve productivity. The guide is very detailed, comparing the cleaning times one can expect with different types of vacuums, mops, etc. However, this book should just be a start. To increase accuracy, BSCs should conduct their own time studies with the equipment they use. In addition, BSCs should conduct the time trials with new products for comparison. For example, cleaning the same facility with backpack vacuums compared to uprights or canisters. 

By making a change to more efficient cleaning equipment and tools, BSCs are also improving their quality. Picture this: a BSC has budgeted a certain amount of time to clean a facility. If it takes the cleaning crews longer to vacuum because they’re not using high efficiency backpack vacuums, it’s wasting valuable time and hurting quality at the same time. By spending too much time vacuuming, janitors have less time to devote to other tasks. 

These product changes can be used as an effective sales tool. If BSCs want to show prospects how they’re different from the prior cleaning company, look in the janitor’s closet to evaluate the type of equipment the prior company was using.

This is the approach Ace Cleaning Systems takes. For example, when touring a facility, if there is an upright or canister vacuum in the janitor closet, it’s a perfect opportunity to explain the benefits of a backpack vacuum and how using this product will improve cleaning quality while staying within budget. 

Janitorial companies have to find ways to compete on price to grow their business. BSCs shouldn’t fall prey to buying less expensive equipment, just to lower their costs going into an account. Contractors need to think long-term and make the investment in high-efficiency equipment, such as backpack vacuums, to reduce labor costs and improve quality. That’s the key to client retention. 

Zachary Shor is president of Ace Cleaning Systems, Inc., Coral Springs, Florida. Ace Cleaning Systems is a full-service, privately owned commercial cleaning company serving the Broward and Palm Beach County areas. Learn more by visiting or contact Shor at