Evaluating Whether Your Cleaning Partner Is Working Out

The following article was submitted by Erin Fazio, National Director of Sales, ABM Industries
You depend on your facility services program to help you create memorable experiences for fans and guests. Whether you’re unhappy with the quality of the service you receive, trying to improve sustainability, or looking for ways to get costs under control, having the right provider is crucial. From evaluating your current facility services program to re-examining your facility goals, making the decision to switch providers is a complex process.
You can simplify that process by focusing on the outcomes that you expect and the pitfalls you want to avoid. This allows you to develop targeted questions for your current vendor and for prospective ones – if you choose to go out to bid. While it may seem daunting, a thoughtful, careful process will help you address the root of your concerns and avoid them in the future.
Evaluating Your Current Provider
What outcomes are you looking for in your cleaning program? Do you want your facility to be more sustainable? Are you looking for ways to make cleaning more efficient? Sports and entertainment venues are often at the forefront of sustainability, and due to their size and scheduling demands, efficiency is always important. Can your current provider offer tangible evidence that they’re delivering on those initiatives? And if so, are they meeting your expectations for quality?
A high-quality cleaning provider should have the expertise to meet these objectives and prove it. For cleaning efficiency, they should have standardized operating procedures for every area of your facility. Their training programs should teach cleaning staff how to perform those procedures in the most efficient way possible without negatively affecting quality. Sometimes cleaning providers will allow their staff to slack off on meeting the original scope of work and cut corners, only to charge you more for those tasks later on. Others simply haven’t thought about cleaning efficiency – only effectiveness.
When it comes to sustainability, they should be able to support your goals by using Green Seal certified and bio-based chemicals as well as eco-friendly supplies and equipment, such as recycled paper towels and Carpet and Rug Institute certified vacuums. These standards for green cleaning help you avoid greenwashing, the practice of using chemicals and supplies that purport to be environmentally friendly, but are unproven in those claims.
Another thing to consider when evaluating your cleaning provider is their staff. Are they subcontractors or employees? Do they integrate seamlessly with your staff? How do they interact with fans and guests? Customer service is critical in sports and entertainment venues, since fans and guests associate all uniformed personnel with your venue. A bad interaction can cast a negative shadow on their experience. Cleaning staff who work during events should provide friendly, helpful answers to basic questions and respond quickly to spills and other safety hazards.
The next step after asking these questions is to see if your provider can make improvements to their current service. It may be a matter of developing better protocols for quality control and accountability. Your provider should want to maintain your partnership enough to make adjustments to ensure your satisfaction. It’s possible that they take your expression of dissatisfaction as an opportunity to improve and make tangible changes to their service. If not, however, it may be time to make a switch.
Making the Switch to a New Provider
If you’ve evaluated your current provider and decided to make a change, where do you start? The process of going out to bid is time consuming, but it pays off to worry about the details. Before you start drafting an RFP, it’s worthwhile to spend time clearly identifying your requirements. Service providers can meet your needs more effectively if you make your expectations clear as early in the process as possible, so a detailed RFP is crucial. It’ll also make it easier to compare bidders.
For starters, you certainly want to address the issues that you’re having with your current provider. In your request for proposals, ask pointed questions about how prospective cleaning providers would prevent and address your current concerns. Beyond the typical questions about cleaning specifications, quality assurance, and employee training, you’ll also want to ask about safety and workers’ compensation procedures, equipment maintenance, added-value capacity, and cultural fit.
Price is important, but beware of the “penny-wise, pound-foolish” syndrome. Cleaning providers who only care about providing the lowest possible bid may sacrifice quality and safety. In the long run, you could end up losing money due to poor attendance rates, safety issues, and even damage to your facility. And that defeats the purpose of switching vendors in the first place. But that doesn’t mean you can’t ask about pricing models; vendors should be willing to explain their pricing methods to you.
Walkthroughs are a pain – there’s no way around it. But they’re necessary. You’ll get the most accurate bid packages when you let prospective cleaning providers see your facility. It gives them a true feel for the scope of work and allows them to see the facility’s layout, square footage, density, flooring surfaces, and cleanliness levels. With this information, they can assess their capabilities and ensure their ability to meet your expectations. It also provides the opportunity to ask questions that they may have about your RFP or your facility.
When you’re caught up in the day-to-day management of your venue, it’s easy to accept the status quo. You might not be satisfied with your current cleaning provider, but you let it slide because you think you have more pressing issues. But that puts you in a reactive position – when a crisis comes along, you may be scrambling to make a change. Taking the time now to take stock of your current cleaning program allows you to zero in on what matters most to your business and either reset expectations with your current provider, or create a thorough RFP to engage a new one.