Often, cleaning contracts with a major corporate center, school, or university are for two years—sometimes less. The reasons these contracts are so short can be many; however, for the most part, it is to the customer’s and the contractor’s detriment to have a cleaning contract for just one or two years. But convincing the client of this is not always easy.

Longer-term contracts, of three years or more, benefit both the customer and contractor in several ways:

Better equipment and more effective cleaning. Many times, both the cleaning contractor and the client would benefit from the contractor’s investments in additional equipment and more highly advanced cleaning technologies. However, if the contract is for just a year or two, the return on these investments is limited and the contractor often will be reluctant to take on this added expense. A longer-term contract encourages the contractor to make these purchases, which often allows the customer’s facility to be cleaned faster and more effectively, invariably enhancing customer satisfaction and cost savings. It also allows a customer to specify a particular type of equipment or system.

Dedicated account support. A longer-term contract allows the contract cleaner the opportunity to become more knowledgeable about the facility and develop programs that would address issues not necessarily identified in the original request for proposal. It also allows the contractor more time to upgrade the quality of service, if that has been an issue.

Alternate: Mastering strategies and routines.It takes a new cleaning contractor a month or two—sometimes longer—to become familiar with a new facility, its needs, and even its idiosyncrasies, such as when and where staffers may work late and what areas tend to need the most attention. During this time, profit on the account may be minimal.

And if the contractor must bring in extra workers during this learning period, it may cause the contractor to actually lose money on the account. However, with a longer-term contract, the contractor will likely see the extra investment in time and resources as necessary to keep the customer happy and the contractor’s costs in check—and to save time and increase productivity in the long run.

Time to build quality relationships. As in any relationship, partnering takes time. While the cleaning contractor will want to partner with the client as quickly as possible, the reality is it may take a little time for the contractor to get to know the managers and fully understand the needs and operation of the facility. Taking this time will allow the contractor to suggest ways the facility can be greener, operate in a more sustainable manner, reduce operating costs, etc. In this case, a short-term contract may deprive the client of suggestions to improve quality and help make their operations leaner and cleaner.

Increased security opportunities. Longer-term contracts can increase security in buildings as the cleaning staff becomes familiar with the occupants and their patterns of approved building usage. Cleaning crews can be aware of who should be where and why and can notify the client of any potentially suspicious activity taking place.

Help the Client Understand the Benefits

The first step in convincing a client that a longer contract term is better is discussing it during the request-for-bids stage and—if selected to make a presentation before the major client stakeholders—presenting the benefits as discussed here.

At the presentation, the contractor should show the client a timeline of what will be accomplished and when and should indicate the potential return on the investment that comes with a longer working arrangement in place. For instance, the contractor can point out how adjustments can be made in the contract down the road as the contractor becomes more knowledgeable about the needs of the facility. These adjustments could help reduce the client’s operating costs and foster a cleaner, healthier, and more sustainable working environment.

Ron Segura is president of Segura Associates. His company works with large organizations to streamline their cleaning and building operations as well as promote sustainability and healthier cleaning strategies so that facilities function more effectively and efficiently and realize a cost savings. He can be reached through his company website at http://www.seguraassociates.com.