5 Absolutes to an Accurate Janitorial Service Price

5 Absolutes to an Accurate Janitorial Service Price


I have literally reviewed or responded to hundreds of technical requests for proposals for janitorial services. I have seen the good, the bad and the ugly in RFPs. It does not take long to realize how imperfect RFP’s are.  While I have covered the pitfalls in the RFP process in past posts (see 3 Tips to Improve RFPS or Strategic Sourcing), it is the information provided in RFPs to help assess price that is the subject of this article.
If janitorial service buyers want pricing that truly reflects their expectations, then buyers must know what information janitorial service companies need to accurately price their janitorial services. This post will provide insights into the key factors that commercial cleaning companies need to derive an accurate price.
Most price inaccuracies are due to one of two things or in extreme cases both:
  1. Incomplete data needed to price a facility’s janitorial services; and/or
  2. Insufficient time to assess the facility’s requirements.
The problem is magnified for national janitorial companies, like Varsity National Cleaning Company LocationsFacility Services, who bid on geographically disperse portfolios. When hundreds of buildings need to be assessed, it is virtually impossible to visit all sites. It is an even greater impossibility to assess the needs and expectations at each of the locations, at least in the typical time frame given. This makes complete, accurate data in the RFP essential to accurate pricing. When you get wide dispersion of janitorial-price-points back from the RFP, that is your clue that the necessary facility data was incomplete or insufficient time was given to assess the facilities.
When commercial cleaning companies price inaccurately, it is rarely positive—even if the price is low and seems attractive. If the contractor has underpriced the janitorial service, beware of industry malpractices (See As Price Falls, What Lies Below?). In underpriced situations, malpractices will creep in like cockroaches in the night, making them hard to detect. This happens because forces to make a profit —to run a business— are real, and the pressure can cause normally good people to justify a malpractice. If it is overpriced, then you are paying a higher cost for less value , which is never a good decision (see Strategic Sourcing).

Happy businessman showing five fingers, isolated on white

Here are FIVE ABSOLUTES needed for any buyer to ensure contractors calculate the price for janitorial services accurately:

  1. Cleanable square feet by floor type: Different flooring types require different processes that either slow or speed up the cleaning production rate (Cleaning production rate = Square Footage / total cleaning hours). All too often, the gross square footage is provided leaving out a break down by carpet, VCT tile or other hard services. Getting an accurate break down of your surface types will help janitorial contractors match the appropriate production rate (See Under the Hood: Janitorial Pricing).
  2. Accurate separation of cleanable square feet from gross square feet: It’s all too convenient for some buyers to lump the square feet into a gross square footage. Yet, in attending bid walks, we often find vacant offices or cubicles, utility rooms and some common space that does not require cleaning. Always “right-size” your cleanable square footage. Never just throw out a gross square feet number alone, for contractors to chew on. It will result in a bloated price.
  3. Accurate head count in the facility: When pricing consumable
    products like toilet paper, paper towels and liners, you need an accurate head count in the facility. If you have a visitor login or badge security system, you can get quick and accurate numbers for your facility’s traffic. Breaking that head count down by gender helps to improve the price of the consumable products. Even better, provide the direct history of consumable purchases (e.g., cases of toilet paper per month). Head count also helps determine the facility occupancy density which affects general cleaning production rates (More people = dirtier facilities and increased wear on surfaces).
  4. Give more time to finalists for bid walks: Most janitorial service RFP’s include a site visit (we call a bid walk).  Most of the time, the site visit is a quick and rushed tour of theTwo Businessmen With Clipboard In Warehousefacility with multiple competing bidders. If you want to improve pricing, I recommend only offering bid walks to pre-qualified contractors. Then, increase the time each contractor has to assess you facility’s unique requirements. Since you are dealing with a short-list, have them make their visit separately from competing contractors. This approach turns your site visit into a blind interview. You will learn more about that contractor in how they approach the site visit than you would from any proposal. This not only improves the accuracy of the bid, but it will also give you key insights into how each contractor will approach your facility.
  5. Customers’ Pains: The customer pain points are often hidden, and rarely identified in an RFP. Think about that: rarely do people admit their mistakes by saying something like, “Hey we got burned on our last contractor, that’s why we want someone new.”  Likewise, customers do not openly announce in an RFP, “Our company is going through financial struggles, we must cut cost to survive.” However, knowing those pains would truly change both the contractor’s motivation and the creativity forming love affair that would spawn creative solutions. Proposal, offering and price all change for the benefit of the buyer if customer pains are disclosed. There is a different approach – see my post on 3 Tips to improve RFP’s.

Download our white paper: “5 Things Janitorial Companies Know About Their Price, That You Don’t

Marc Collings

Senior VP of Sales and Marketing at Varsity Facility Services
Marc Collings is Varsity's Vice President of Marketing for Varsity Facility Services. Marc oversees the company's growth, branding, positioning, customer support and analytics. In this role, he has positioned the company as a customer solutions leader for lowering cost and improving quality. He also led the company-wide rebranding and strategically positioned the company as a sustainability leader, serving on a committee for the EPA, obtaining the Ashkin Group award for sustainable leadership, leading Varsity's CIMS Green Building certification with honors, and developing Varsity's S.H.A.P.E. sustainability strategy, which improves service results along five dimensions: Safety, Health, Asset Preservation, Productivity and the Environment.

In 2011, Marc's team won the large company category, "Best in the Industry" marketing materials from the Building Service Contractor Association International (BSCAI). Marc also directs Varsity's proposal writing, sales process and tools development, marketing campaigns, corporate website SEO performance and customer support center.

Marc has spent his career developing strategic capabilities that enhance value to customers and the company. A Lean Sigma Green belt himself, he developed the company's Lean Sigma offering, providing an innovative solution to customers' need to lower cost while raising quality. He led the development of JanOPS, an industry-leading janitorial operating system, which brings standardization and service consistency to large campus and geographically disperse national accounts.

Prior to this position, Marc was responsible for strategic management at Varsity. He has initiated or directed multiple strategic technology initiatives, ranging from a corporate website, a corporate intranet, a web/smartphone based quality control system, a learning management system, a corporate content manager and knowledge wiki, salesforce.com deployment and customization, and an Android app which facilitates the GROW sales process he has developed.

Marc is the author of several leadership and management training manuals, field guides, marketing collateral and case studies. He speaks Portuguese and Spanish and holds a bachelor degree in English/Technical Writing and a Masters of Business Administration in Finance from Idaho State University. Marc enjoys mountain biking, skiing, fishing and golf. He is happily married, and he and his wife Victoria enjoy raising and spending time with their four children.

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