Adapting purchasing habits to reduce spending goes beyond selecting smart products. It’s also important to be intentional about the quantities bought from distributors. BSCs should also standardize dispensers across clients whenever possible, and issue RFPs for consumables to secure the best deals possible.

“Just as our clients put their contracts out to price-test the marketplace, we need to do the same with our consumables,” says Mandelstam. “Working with your distributor is key in making sure you get the best price, value and service.”

A good relationship with distributors and/or manufacturers can pay dividends. For example, because of Office Pride’s partnership with its paper provider, the building service contractor is able to replace dispensers at no cost to its customers.

“It’s a win-win,” says Hyde. “When we go into a customer and they have an antiquated dispenser or a mix and match of pull towels and roll towels in different bathrooms, we go in and swap it all out with automated touchless dispensers. That’s appealing to the customer, because they’re getting a nice dispenser, [and] because they aren’t being charged anything for it. And it’s not a lease, so it won’t be pulled down if we leave.”

Rework Your Contracts

Finally, perhaps the most important way BSCs can protect their financial position with customers is to have sound contracts from the beginning.

“The first step is making sure you have the right language in the contract to protect yourself and to create the expectation of what’s included,” says Mandelstam.

During the sales process, talk to customers about paper products — who will provide them, what is and isn’t included, usage expectations, what happens in cases of overages, etc. During the facility walkthrough, pay attention to density. If all offices are occupied, rates of paper use will likely be steady. If half are unoccupied, however, usage could double in the future.

“If we’re completely unsure of what their usage will be, we’ll ask to do a three- or six-month trial to get a baseline of their paper usage and then we’ll set that price,” says Hyde.

Also, ask about events in the buildings.

“Special events can really blow your budget,” says Mandelstam.

For example, educational facilities that rent out their gyms for basketball tournaments can lead to dramatic increases in paper consumption.

“Make sure those things are clearly defined in your contract,” says Mandelstam.

Cowan suggests adding a clause to client contracts that gives BSCs the ability to charge for product that exceeds agreed-on usage levels. There should also be language that allows for increases if there are meaningful changes in case prices.

“Margins are too small for BSCs to consider absorbing the cost of someone else’s issues,” she says.

Becky Mollenkamp is a freelance writer based in St. Louis.

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