Losing Cleaning Contracts

Poor Employee Performance or Poor Contract Management?

Supervisors and site managers in the commercial cleaning sector have it tough. They have to execute contracts they didn’t negotiate, then get cleaners to perform miracles. All the while, their managers are breathing down their necks and blaming them for clients threatening to cancel contracts. But whose fault is it?

Cleaning Tenders And Bids: The Start Of A Cleaning Contract

Cleaning services fiercely compete for commercial cleaning contracts in Auckland, especially in the commercial sector. There are many available and can be found at the NZ government site, tender boards, or even through agencies. But the zeal to get the contract sometimes means undercutting competitors or implementing cost-cutting measures that are not always practical to implement.

As cleaners’ wages are often the highest cost factor, it’s usually the first expense to be slashed to the bone. Finding the right staff available to service the cleaning contract should be considered before quoting to establish availability and costs.

 It’s a good idea to find out from cleaning supervisors what is doable- miracles are possible, but they take some careful planning. There are also other areas to be considered when working out cleaning tenders- transport can be reduced by employing cleaners close by, and suppliers of cleaning materials can be open to negotiation on prices. We have some suggestions on our blog but dare we suggest that cleaning services businesses in Auckland also reassess what a satisfactory profit is?

Whatever numbers have been crunched, they are going to end up in a commercial cleaning contract. It’s crucial to have clear terms and various online resources can help, such as Legalvision guidance.  It’s also a good idea to engage a solicitor to draft a basic cleaning contract template for use across the board.

The often forgotten but crucial elements of the contract are that the terms must be clear, implementable, and effectively communicated to have meaning and give substance to the contract. Paying attention to these three things irons out several problems before they happen, and makes contract management more efficient.

Managing Contracts and Managing Cleaners

Once the deal is sealed, the new broom- quite literally, starts sweeping clean. Newly sourced cleaners are keen to show off their skills but soon find out that what is expected from them is almost impossible to do in the time allocated. Mostly, they will do their best, even working unpaid overtime, skipping breaks, or even over-exerting themselves. But- not unreasonably, they immediately start looking for another job, and- because the work is tiring, they resort to doing their best, but this may not meet the terms of the cleaning contract.

This phrase ‘standards have fallen’ is oft-repeated by a company representative complaining about the cleaning. So, you ask what aspect of the cleaning has or is not being done. The reply is often along the lines of, well it’s all being done, but the standard is not what we have come to expect. Requests for specific examples that can help to rectify the problem are usually fruitless and the standard answer is ‘not really it’s just that standards have fallen.’

For the commercial cleaning services company, it’s frustrating so a talk with the client and with the cleaners follows. Quite often, there is nothing wrong with the cleaning and everything according to the contract is being fulfilled. Yet this may very well be the beginning of the process of the client trying to replace their cleaning services.

Why does this happen? It can happen for several reasons, but the principal reason is that the customer’s expectations of the cleaning process are not reflected in the cleaning schedule, as it changes with time, or it may only be unrealistic and not take into account natural deterioration in the building.

For example, it may be that some employee has found cup rings on their desk and complained that these are not being cleaned. The cleaners, when approached about this, maintain that they can never clean that desk because it is always full of documents. Or somebody has moved their workstation and complained about the amount of fluff and dirt accumulated around the wiring of their computer. As a result, they postulate that the cleaners are obviously not doing a good job. Even though they are doing their best under trying circumstances.

Contract management goes a lot deeper than just ticking the boxes of the cleaning contract. It’s about finding effective solutions for the client’s cleaning problems while balancing the needs of cleaners to retain good staff. Properly communicating the essence as well as the terms of the contract to all parties is vital to its successful conclusion- and renewal.

The cleaning supervisor or site manager has a difficult balancing act and plays a pivotal role in keeping the “love/hate” triangle between cleaners, clients & senior managers on track. And keeping the contract in force.

Resolving Problems With Cleaning Contracts And Employment Conflict

In their article on resolving problems, Employment New Zealand identifies more serious employment issues and has some effective solutions.

But how are the problems specific to office cleaning services in Auckland overcome? The best way to address concerns is to carry out a cleaning survey of the premises. Details can be highlighted, and a possible remedy suggested. For example, desks can be polished on a rota system and when it is time for a block of desks to be polished the individuals whose desks are being done are informed of the impending cleaning and instructed to clear their surfaces. If they do not, then they cannot complain if they are not polished. The communication element is key and communicating about communicating must also be addressed with clients.

Having produced a detailed cleaning survey, a meaningful sit down with the client is more easily facilitated, with discussions on which parts they would like to implement and which can be ignored. On this basis, a revised (and more realistic) quote can be provided. It’s good PR and both parties are then clear on the extent and standard of the cleaning. What was subjective before becomes objective and measurable. The cleaners should know precisely what is expected of them, and the client should have a more realistic and accurate appraisal of the cleaning.

Cleaning surveys carried out correctly can reduce complaints and the potential loss of contracts. It also alleviates the problems of overstretched cleaners and reduces employment conflict. With the conflict between manager and employee out of the picture, cleaners are less stressed, and more willing to go that extra mile.

Tendering and contract management

There is an invisible strand that must be woven through all parts of a cleaning contract to ensure that tendering and contract management both serve the purpose of the other function. In operational terms, the cleaning supervisor or site manager will need to keep a close eye to ensure that contract management stays on top of the current needs of the client and interact with the client and cleaners regularly.