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WHY IS CHANGING VENDORS SO STRESS INDUCING

A facilities manager recently told me that he would prefer to have a tooth pulled rather than changing cleaning service providers because the change affects everyone in the company and the transition can take months to get through, which results in complaints from staff and big headaches for him. The same pain of changing vendors applies to suppliers of other products and services as well, so bringing in a new vendor needs to be very carefully considered.  In fact dropping a vendor and replacing it with a new one has been likened to the break-up of a relationship – because that is exactly what it is, and for that reason it is appropriate to ask – is the new company more “your type,” or just basically the same old company with a different name?  That brings up the more basic question of whether a change really needs to be made at all.  Here are some things to think about:

  • What do you like & dislike about your current vendor? Cost? Quality? Customer service? Ease and availability of communicating?
  • Is the issue with your company rep, or with the company itself?
  • Is there a way to salvage the business relationship through constructive feedback or do you really need to move on?
  • Can this new vendor scale with you as your company grows?
  • What are your expectations for the new vendor and do you have reason to believe they can meet them?

So check references, research and read reviews, inquire about a trial period if that is a viable option from your perspective, and most importantly get to know the new people you will be working with.


So you have decided to jump ship and move on; how does one go about initiating the change?  Going back to the relationship analogy – again because it is a relationship:

  • You can give the supplier the “it’s not you, it’s me” message.
  • We have decided to go in a different direction.
  • Our budget is in transition.
  • However be honest and helpful at the same time. The old vendor may learn from the experience and become a valued partner in the future.  So don’t burn bridges that may be useful down the road.

 

ALLEVIATING THE PAIN OF CHANGING VENDORS

How can this pain be minimized?  We have learned that the following processes make the start-up much easier and smoother for everyone:

  • One on one training. We have found that bringing in extra trainers so that each new worker has a personal trainer to work with makes a huge difference. Trainees rate the effectiveness of their training and we are constantly looking for ways to improve the training.
  • Communication – internal. If everyone on the team knows the scope of work and the hot buttons for that client this eliminates multiple problems during the first weeks and months of the service agreement. We use a smart phone app that has job instructions for each location serviced, translatable into over 100 languages.
  • Communication – external. Staying in touch with clients including daytime site visits by management, QA inspections sent both to clients and our management team, and always being available via phone, email, text, or by any other means.
  • New workers are evaluated using a checklist at the 3 week point after initial training, again at the 3 month point, and yearly thereafter. This along with our quality control program (securecleanbsi/secure-clean-quality-assurance/) lead to consistency and customer loyalty.
  • At about 2 months into the contract we will schedule a walk-through with the new client in order to get feedback on how we are doing and to iron out any minor wrinkles if any that may not have been completely smoothed out by that point.
  • As time goes by we will schedule customer visits at a frequency desired by the contact person – we find that this varies greatly and we will work with the client to reach a balance between the extremes of being a pest and failing to stay in touch.

Our goal at Secure Clean is to maintain long-term relationships with clients and we have been able to achieve that goal through good communication and consistent pro-active attention to quality assurance through the years.

 

Are You Ready to Think Differently About Cleaning?

At your office or place of work there is undoubtedly a small group of people who are responsible for cleaning the building, emptying the trash, and tidying up.  They may be employed by your company or they may be employed by an outsourced professional cleaning service, but either way I am suggesting that we all think differently about their job.  I am recommending that we stop thinking that the beneficiaries of the work of “janitors,” “custodians,” or “cleaning crews” are solely the buildings they clean and by extension the image of the companies who occupy the buildings.  While it is true that this necessary work does extend the life of buildings and that it does indeed reflect positively on the companies whose signs hang on them (for example who of us does not judge a restaurant by its cleanliness or lack thereof), this is secondary to the primary benefit of proper cleaning.

What is more important?  The health of the people who work in those buildings or for whatever reason spend time inside it – including those cleaning people themselves.  Full disclosure: I am the owner of a professional commercial cleaning service.  The first thing we go over with new hires as part of their orientation before they begin working for our company is that they will be guardians of the public health, that their work will impact every person inside the building in which they work.  When I am personally involved in the orientation process I like to compare the environmental services department at any hospital to the medical staff of doctors and nurses; all are necessary for the saving of lives in that facility, but without cleaning, the doctors and nurses would be fighting a losing battle against dangerous microbes, resulting in many casualties.  Cleaning saves lives and protects health.  How does that benefit the business owner?  A quick Google search yielded this information about the cost of absenteeism in the workplace – according to Absenteeism: The Bottom Line Killer published by Circadian, “unscheduled absenteeism costs roughly $3600 per year for each hourly worker and $2650 each year for salaried employees.”   How would you like to dramatically lower those numbers by properly removing and/or killing the virus and bacteria that causes much of the absenteeism?  Yes, many people get sick at work and much of it is preventable.

Here is where the change in thinking begins.  As we appreciate the important health benefits and the bottom line benefits that go along with them, the value of cleaning becomes apparent.  Interesting side note: the ISSA has published this infographic that contains much related material on this topic. http://www.securecleanbsi.com/value-of-clean/.  I recommend clicking the link.

If we agree that cleaning has much more value than we may have acknowledged in the past, can we not also agree that it should be viewed as an investment rather than as an indirect cost?  Is it possible that seeking out the absolutely lowest cost way to clean our building may not yield the results that we and our workers deserve?  Is it also possible that dollars can be saved by reducing absences and improving productivity through the use of proper disinfectants and machines that remove the germs rather than moving them around?  This is a different way to think about cleaning – are you ready to think differently?

Your Cleaning Company Can Help You With Your Sustainability Goals

Fair warning – this is not another article about “green cleaning.”  Is green cleaning related to sustainability?  Yes it is a very important aspect, but it is only the tip of the proverbial iceberg with regard to how a cleaning services company can help your company meet its sustainability objectives.

 

Idealistically, sustainability means that we humans allow biological systems to go on functioning indefinitely, while simultaneously drawing from said systems for our own survival and quality of life.  So we strive to minimize our impact on natural and man-made resources by developing processes that use less electricity, less water, less packaging material, and yes that are not toxic to the environment or people in our buildings.  We minimize our environmental impact.

 

You have heard this all before, but sustainability is here to stay primarily for this reason: it makes fiscal sense, it saves money.  It has been said that it involves the triple bottom line of People, Planet, and Profit.  As we conserve resources, we don’t have to pay for them.  So everyone should be committed to sustainability.

 

How does the company that empties your trash and cleans your restrooms fit into the picture?  Ask your provider why using micro-fiber products saves water and chemicals while removing more soil and improving productivity.  Ask about activated water and its up and coming place in the cleaning landscape – imagine cleaning products that actually work produced on-site from tap water, salt, and a small amount of electricity.  And don’t hesitate to ask about waste reduction and what they are doing to achieve it.  A sustainability oriented company will be knowledgeable about these and other hot-button issues that directly impact your company’s initiatives and will likely be able to keep your costs low while maintaining profitability, which translates to survivability.

10 QUESTIONS TO ASK A CLEANING SERVICES PROVIDER

Often companies in need of a cleaning services contractor put forth little effort to insure that the provider they hire is the best fit for their facilities and for their company. The decision may be based on price, the likeability of the sales rep, or the flip of a coin, then the customer gets burned by poor service and the cycle repeats itself. As a result, many resign themselves to low expectations and poor service from cleaning contractors, most of whom appear at first to be professional and quality oriented. Many facility managers tell us that their cleaning company started out great, but after a year or two they no longer provided the original high quality service that they started out with.

Learning the answers to the following questions will help to prevent this frustration:

1. Does the contractor have sufficient capital to cover payroll and other start-up
costs?
If not, corners will be cut in an effort to reduce overhead costs. Under-capitalization
is the primary reason businesses fail. Ask for a DUNS number to check the credit
rating of the contractor.

2. How do they hire their people?
Is there a recruiting system? An application system? Are background checks
performed? How are front-line workers paid? Are they legal W-2 workers or
misclassified as subcontractors – or even illegally paid cash?

3. What training is provided?
Contrary to the belief of many, cleaning is not mindless work that anyone can do. A
rudimentary knowledge of pH is necessary, and proper procedures need to be put
into place and adhered to in order to avoid damage to your building and potential
injuries to building occupants as well as cleaning personnel. How is training done?
Is there a formal procedure or is it hit and miss? Also what about OSHA required
safety and right-to-know training?

4. How is quality service assured over time?
Is there a quality control system in place? Is there a management team and non-
cleaning supervisors to oversee the cleaning? Is there a formal inspection program
along with incentives for the workers to insure that proper procedures are followed
over time and that cleaning standards are being met consistently?

5. How is communication handled?
Can a contact person be reached any time? What are the preferred methods of
communication? Will you be looped in on any internal inspection reports or other
data?

6. What insurance is carried?
Does the contractor have at least $1,000,000 in liability coverage, and does the
liability policy include coverage for property under their “care, custody, and control,”
lost key coverage, and other insurance specifically designed for janitorial service
companies? Fidelity bonds can also put your mind at ease, although they generally
don’t pay out unless there is a criminal conviction. Another policy that protects you is
Worker’s Compensation. If there is an injury on the job site, who pays? Don’t let it
be you.

7. What special services do they provide?
When your carpeting needs to be cleaned, cubicle partitions or upholstery cleaned,
tile floor stripped & refinished, ceramic tile & grout cleaned, windows cleaned, etc.
can they handle it? Do they have the experience and proper equipment? What other
services specific to your building(s) may be needed in the future and can they be
handled by this company?

8. Where do they buy their supplies and cleaning products?
Are they part of a purchasing group? Do they have buying power to get contract
pricing? If they can’t turn a reasonable profit you both lose.

9. What does their operations management team consist of?
Are there several layers of management and supervision or does their operations
department depend on one or two people?

10. Finally, what questions did they ask you?
Is the contractor interested in your needs and in solving your problems, or was the
conversation a series of elevator speeches?

Hiring a building services contractor is more of a partnership than are most other vendor relationships. It’s important that you are both concerned with the same priority – your business, which is represented in large part by your building(s). Keeping them clean, healthy, and well maintained is vital to your company, to your employees, and also to the building services contractor – if you choose the right one.

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