A smarter approach to contract retention
30 October 2023
Contract review time can be a white-knuckle experience for many cleaning businesses. You think you’ve maintained decent audit scores, but, as Sam Roberts observes, is that enough: have you delivered the expected outcome and will they or won’t they sign on the dotted line?
CONTRACT RETENTION is all about trust. You shouldn’t wait for your client to raise an issue with you as if you’ve been caught out like a naughty schoolboy. By the time a client complains it’s too late – trust is damaged. Flagging a problem and proposing a solution before your client even spots it demonstrates your transparency and hands-on management, and that you’re not sleepwalking through the contract.
You’ve been TUPE’d
Since TUPE legislation protects your employees’ jobs, if the client decides to terminate your contract, they’re obliged to retain all the cleaners. This means that, harsh as it sounds, what the customer is effectively terminating is their relationship with you.
If this keeps happening, it’s time to question why the management part of the service is so disposable.
Cleaning providers need to proactively manage their delivery, but to do this you must have both real-time data and detailed insight into your operations that drive real improvement.
It might feel like you have to be everywhere at once, but the truth is you don’t. In fact with the right technology you can actually be in less places, with less resource, and achieve far greater results. The secret is dynamic cleaning, backed by watertight data capture and transparent real-time reporting.
Let’s start with dynamic cleaning
Dynamic cleaning is one of those rare phenomena – a development that’s a win for everyone involved. Soft FM companies can cut costs and improve the quality of their delivery, customers enjoy better value and higher standards, and the cleaners are under less pressure with clear direction on where to focus their efforts and maximise their productivity.
It involves the intelligent deployment of works management software combined with a network of Internet of Things (IoT) sensors. These might include, PIR (person in room), footfall, door open and desk occupancy sensors to identify areas that have seen heavy usage, allowing the software to automatically direct cleaners to where they are needed.
Let’s look at how this works in practice. One client has a contract to clean a 36-floor site with over 100 washrooms. Seven cleaners were required to attend the washrooms alone.
Simple door open sensors were introduced to indicate footfall to each washroom, which after a specified number of visits, triggers an alert to the team’s smart phones to attend.
This means that while every area still has a daily clean, the two previously scheduled spot-check cleans have been replaced with an automatic call based on usage. With the most intensively used areas receiving the attention needed to keep them spotless, at the expense of the time previously wasted checking washrooms that hadn’t been used.
Call room service
To supplement the door sensors, the introduction of IoT call buttons enables building occupants, if they notice a clean is needed, to alert the cleaning team.
This drives user engagement and changing perceptions of the service. Instead of moaning about the state of the office kitchen, and blaming it on Dave from Accounts (sorry Dave), staff can simply press the call button to request a clean-up. When they then see cleaners turn up 20 minutes later they’re impressed with the prompt service.
Ace your audits
A year on, audit scores have improved dramatically, with dynamic cleaning. Now, if there are no reactive jobs coming from the washrooms, cleaners are instead directed to spend their time in areas that previously received the lowest audit scores. This common-sense approach has pushed 5/10 audit scores up to 9/10 as the cleaners now have the time to clean properly.
So far, we’ve talked about the benefits of dynamic cleaning for a single site but these are multiplied when you’re working across several locations.
It’s also worth mentioning that the principle behind dynamic cleaning can be applied to almost any task in any industry. Sensors can flag when bins are full and need emptying, when public toilets are dirty and need cleaning, or when bulbs in a car park have blown and need replacing.
Taking a wider view, rather than pest control companies employing operatives to drive around the country checking if an animal has been caught in a trap, sensors can alert them when traps need emptying, resulting in time and fuel savings. Door mats, hospital ward curtains, laundry stores, consumable monitoring, temperature checks, lux levels…
You get the idea – this is a concept that can be applied to almost any aspect of your operations, with benefits that scale exponentially with the size of your business.
Present and past performance
This is by no means an exhaustive list of potential use cases. Essentially, dynamic scheduling is about exploiting the power of two sources of data: real-time usage of a facility and past audit performance. By aggregating these two data streams, businesses can effortlessly produce efficient and effective work schedules.
In short, it’s all about working smarter, not harder.
Data, data, data
Now your operations are dynamically optimised, it’s time to look at the information that is collected to start making those data-led enhancements which lead to exceptional service and increased contract retention.
The key is to collect far more detailed data on everything, auditing individual locations and the input hours across the same areas. If you can show your client that you are cognisant of both your efforts and your results, that you know where you’re doing well and where you need to direct your management efforts, you’re far more likely to build a trusting, open relationship with them that will put you in a far better position to retain the contract.
Digitalisation may seem like an abstract objective but in reality, it’s about practical solutions that give you oversight, understanding and control. Using a workflow management app, you collect data on everything your staff do, and a properly structured database lets you pull this data out in an intelligible way.
With this in place, there are some remarkably simple measures you can take. For example, in the same way your cleaners are expected to clock in to prove their presence on-site, you can ask your managers to do the same. Showing how often you actually visit a client’s site sends a powerful message. It’s a sign of commitment to your client and demonstrates that you care and are actively and transparently managing your team.
Even when you’re not on site, remote sensors and active use of your works management application by your employees keeps everyone in the loop – a live dashboard provides real-time updates and it’s easy to see what is happening on a daily basis.
Getting out what you put in
Out-put based specifications are all the rage these days in FM, and conventional wisdom suggests that the only way you can prove you’ve done what you were contracted to do is through your audit scores.
But, even if your scores have been consistently high, if they’re not showing any sign of improvement, it could be viewed as a reflection of how actively (or not) you’ve been managing the contract.
Striving to achieve perfect scores is not necessarily the answer, in fact it could be argued that you’re overstaffed and that consequently, your client is paying too much. Instead, it can be more effective to benchmark their site against other sites you clean and show that performance is in line with the standard your business expects.
Low scores are not something to hide. Use this as an opportunity to demonstrate your transparency and the strength of management to track improvement. Analyse the stronger and weaker areas of your offering and reallocate resources around the building where they can have the most impact. Reducing cleaning hours spent in higher scoring areas and diverting them to lower scoring areas to bring the scores up really professionalises your approach.
All of this relies on gathering the necessary data. Of course, you can’t simply look at a jumble of figures and identify what’s going wrong – you need a smart system to read the data and report by exception so you can start thinking about solutions. That’s where a platform like mpro5 comes in. I can’t stress the importance of this enough, because your works management software is what sets you apart from the competition. It determines the speed at which you understand what, if anything, is going wrong in the contract in near real-time and gives you the opportunity to show how you’re putting it right.
It will also demonstrate your commitment to driving change and digitalisation: this is the future of cleaning and FM, with companies that embrace it being rewarded with better customer relations and stickier contracts.
Sam Roberts is sales director at Crimson Tide
For more information visit www.mpro5.com
Tel: 01892 542444