In this post, we’re going to cover RFP questions to ask vendors when choosing a facility maintenance services company.
Every business is familiar with the RFP (Request for Proposal) process. Some find the process efficient and helpful; others dread having to sort through pages of text and try and make the right facilities maintenance RFP decision!
Bill Germanis, President of Kleenway Services, has been dealing with vendors and RFPs for over twenty years. From first-hand experience in dealing with literally hundreds of RFPs and dozens of vendors, Bill recommends the following 10 questions to include when preparing your next facilities maintenance RFP:
1. How long has the vendor’s business been operational? Anyone can set up a website these days and sell services. Check out the business history. This can be a key indicator as to whether the company is legitimate and able to offer a sustainable facilities maintenance service for your organization.
2. Which quality accreditations do they possess? There are various kinds of cleaning certifications that can sound good on paper. You want to check for quality standards that are recognized in the facilities maintenance and commercial cleaning industry for their rigour and relevance.
- ISO 9001:2015: an international standard for quality management
- CIMS & CIMS-GB: the North American cleaning industry standard, with additional green building cleaning criteria
- IICRC certification: specifically created for the cleaning and restoration industry
- Green Cleaning Institute Certified (GCIC): International green cleaning standards
- AODA compliant: Ontario-wide standard for accessibility (remember to check the accessibility standards for your specific province or state)
- WHMIS training: health and safety standard
Additional “bonus points” should be assigned if the vendor has experience working within LEED EBOM requirements. This means that beyond green cleaning, they are going above the regulated standards in order to maximize operational efficiency and minimizing environmental impacts.
3. How is the management team structured? This step is often overlooked, but it gives a more accurate idea of the company’s size and capabilities than just a general overview. If you can’t find a good description on the company website, request an organizational chart that identifies the management team structure. Check for functional departmental heads that provide structure to the organization e.g. Operations, Finance, Human Resources and Quality Control.
4. What operational processes and procedures do they have in place to ensure consistent and reliable service?
Items that should be included in the vendor’s response are:
- Mandatory, quarterly (or prescribed interval) quality audits
- Internal management meetings
- Onsite supervisory inspections
- Setting client-driven KPIs (key performance indicators) that are unique to each service contract
- Business intelligent reporting for management
5. Do they have a structured onboarding and training program for employees? Structured onboarding and training provide consistency in training delivery but also provides the opportunity to create customized content, completion records and certificates and individual reports. Ask for details or look for an online portal that allows management to administer, track and maintain training schedules for all co-workers. Training topics should include:
- Health and safety procedures
- Specific job functions and duties
- Product and equipment usage
- Cleaning and maintenance methodologies
- Customer relations
6. Does the organization have a documented Sustainable Purchasing Policy and Green Cleaning Policy? This is important to identify because it indicates whether the vendor is able to support your facilities maintenance sustainability goals. Also check to see if they provide training to employees on green cleaning practices.
7. What performance reporting is provided to clients? You want to make sure you’re going to receive regular, transparent reports on the facilities maintenance service and commercial cleaning that is being provided for your facility. Reports could include:
- Quality audits and onsite inspections
- Tracking of Key Performance Indicators (specific to each client and project)
- Work loading reports
8. What are the range of services the vendor provides? Part of the RFP process involves specifying the services you require. In addition, however, it’s a good idea to ask what other services are being provided so that you can compare the breadth of services offered between vendors. Examples include:
- Janitorial/Commercial Cleaning
- Floor Maintenance
- Carpet Maintenance
- Window Cleaning
- Procurement Support and Inventory Management
- Waste Audits
- Special Events Prep and Clean Up
- Emergency Fire or Flood Cleanup services
- Emergency services such as a 24hr support line that has a live agent
- Abatement and Restoration services
- Plumbing and Electrical Repairs
- Exterior Grounds Maintenance and Landscape
- Winter Property Maintenance
- HVAC Mechanical Maintenance and Repairs
9. Are they able to provide a current client list? Vendors should be required to provide a current client list, with testimonials or references, to support their credibility and service level. References should be comparable across all vendors. For example, if you’re managing multiple facilities in different regions, ensure the vendor has references that support the fact that they have offered services to a similar client.
10. Does the company have a legitimate website? The website should include client logos or testimonials, as well as an overview of the management team and services provided. The website should also provide information on whether the company has a physical location. This is a crucial indicator of the size of the company, and for the longevity of the business.
What should I include in my RFP for facilities maintenance, and how do I make sure I can compare all the vendors the same way?
There are 4 steps in a typical RFP process.
- Identify and define your needs internally
- Write the RFP and use it to solicit vendors
- Review and evaluate bids
- Select a provider and sign a contract
The first two steps, however, are critical for success in steps three and four.
In order to write an effective RFP, you should have a good understanding of the services that you require and what you want the RFP to accomplish. By articulating these to potential vendors in a clear, direct way, you increase your chance of receiving proposals that give you the information you require.
This, in turn, makes it easier to understand what is being offered and compare all the vendors in the same way: who is going to meet our needs best, under what conditions, and at what costs.
“Keep questions clear and direct. Indirect questions will likely result in indirect answers that don’t provide the information you need. Also, only ask the questions that really matter, and ask every vendor the same questions. This makes it a lot easier to do comparisons across vendors.”
For example, a checklist that specifies required or preferred qualifications is far better than an open ended question such as, “What are your qualifications?”
A final word of advice: remember to update your RFPs. Too many facilities managers, feeling time strapped or in a rush to solve a problem, recycle an older document. The cleaning industry is evolving almost daily, with new equipment, technology and products in addition to changing regulations and compliance requirements. The only way to stay on top of new ways to optimize performance, reduce costs and the delivery better services is to keep on top of what’s out there. An old RFP looks at how services “were” delivered; an updated RFP looks at how services can be “better delivered” now, and in the future.