7 Things to Ask Before Hiring a New Cleaning Contractor

COVID-19 has added new concerns for facility managers to address with prospective service providers

Cleaning Contractor

Even though much of the country has seen impressive winter snowfall this February, spring is not that far away. And for many facility managers (FMs), it is during the spring and summer months when they send out requests for proposals (RFPs) for facility cleaning. Typically, these are delivered to cleaning contractors that have been prequalified, for instance they have the necessary insurance. But this year, FMs must consider many things beyond if the contractor has the right—and right amount of—insurance. COVID-19 has changed everything including how to reframe RFPs.

Further, cleaning contractors should consider the following information as a heads-up. Expect RFPs to be much different going forward. With that said, here is my advice to FMs looking for a new cleaning contractor in 2021.

Start fresh.

The first step starts with you. In the past, many FMs took their old cleaning RFPs and, for the most part, just put a fresh date on them. After all, cleaning typically does not change that much. Right? Wrong. Cleaning is now all about health. A safe and healthy facility is what cleaning contractors and the professional cleaning industry are now expected to provide their customers. This new focus should be reflected in your revamped RFPs.

 With your revised RFP in hand, here are seven areas to ask about before hiring a new cleaning contractor this year.

1. Education and certification?

FMs should ask if their prospective cleaning contractors have received special training on infection control. If they have, it shows that their organization has taken the pandemic very seriously and taken extra steps to learn how to minimize the spread of disease through proven and effective cleaning strategies. There are new accreditation programs available too such as the GBAC STARTM Service Accreditation, offered through the Global Biorisk Advisory CouncilTM , a division of ISSA. This accreditation provides third-party validation of a contractor’s cleaning, disinfection, and infection prevention protocols and procedures.

2. Coronavirus cleaning experience? 

According to Cleaning and Maintenance Management magazine’s 2020 Building Service Contractor Benchmarking Survey, 90% of respondents performed coronavirus cleaning services last year. Because of the seriousness of the pandemic, I would highly recommend that FMs hire a contractor that already has experience dealing with this virus. Until the COVID-19 vaccine is widespread, effective cleaning and disinfection will remain our best defense against the spread of this disease.

3. Employees versus independent contractors?

Select a cleaning contractor that hires its own employees. This is more important now than ever before. This way, the contractor has total say in how their staff performs their duties, how their client’s facilities are cleaned, and how they incorporate ways to help stop the spread of infection. When work is outsourced or handed over to independent contractors, the cleaning contractor loses this influence. In a worst-case scenario, the independent contractor could even introduce health risks to a facility.

4. Bid charges? Look at these last.

I’ve seen FMs turn to the last page of a bid package to find out the cleaning contractor’s charges, skipping just about everything else. FMs cannot do that now. Because trained cleaning workers should be viewed as infection control experts, FMs should review the entire proposal first to see what COVID-19-related cleaning programs the contractor offers. These will keep people healthy and the facility open and operating as we labor through this pandemic.

5. Quality control?

Look for a cleaning contractor with a formalized quality control program in place. This program should include:

  • Monthly/quarterly facility visits to meet with FMs and perform facility inspections during business hours
  • Submission of monthly/quarterly inspection reports to management
  • Regular inspections during cleaning hours, followed by corrective actions with custodial workers if necessary
  • A system of tracking customer requests and confirming those requests have been addressed
  • Established key performance indicators (KPIs), such as how customer complaints have receded over a set period
  • Measures that make it easy for the FM to contact the contractor or provide feedback.

6. Cloud-based technology?

Quality control programs such as those referenced above should be available to FMs using cloud-based software applications provided by the prospective cleaning contractor. When it comes to COVID-19 and fighting this pandemic, these systems offer much needed transparency, providing FMs with important information they need to know when they need to know it.

7. Advanced or new technology?

Finally, we can’t complete a discussion on what to look for when hiring a new cleaning contractor in 2021 without discussing disinfecting technology. While the old methods—clean, wipe; disinfect, wipe—can still be used in many situations, with COVID-19, we must assume the pathogens that trigger the disease can be found just about anywhere. Depending on your facility size and purpose, you may want more coverage. Ask the contractor if they use electrostatic sprayers or even UV-C systems, now often used on buses and in airports. These disinfecting technologies are designed to disinfect a wide range of surfaces quickly and thoroughly.

Professional cleaning to protect health has never been as paramount as it is today. Asking these questions will help you ensure your new cleaning contractor helps you accomplish this, keeping you and your facility users healthy.

Posted On February 17, 2021

Rick VanderKoy

President, Secure Clean Building Services

Rick VanderKoy is president of Secure Clean Building Services, based in Marengo, Illinois. This family-operated business cleans office buildings, industrial facilities, medical clinics, schools, and other commercial facilities throughout the Chicago area and the state of Illinois. VanderKoy can be reached at [email protected].

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