Do You Know Your Clients?
If you asked any window cleaner specializing in high rise work, or large commercial buildings what they think building owners and facility managers expect of them, you’ll hear a ton of different answers – from clean glass to insurance coverage.
Wouldn’t it be nice to hear it first hand? Well, we did. With a collaboration of many different managers and owners, we found out that what they said was pretty much what the window cleaners’ perspective is. But, more was said by them that gives a very interesting and important look into their thinking. With this information, as a window cleaner, we can form our business in such a way that we can give them EXACTLY what they are looking for.
Of course, I won’t disclose EVERYTHING that I found out. We still have to keep a competitive edge, but when I first started I wish someone would have told me these things because it would have saved a great deal of embarrassment.
What They Said
A growing number of large property managers find it more cost effective to outsource just about everything, not only window cleaning but management for the entire building. Safety was also a subject that ranked very high on the things talked about, and of course as we all are very well aware of, budget budget budget. Take a look around. How many of the tenants in their buildings are still there? How many buildings are now empty? I’ve lost quite a number of buildings this year because of just that alone.
Many building owners do have facility managers on staff who manage and maintain their buildings, but owners of a number of the larger buildings contract with commercial real estate management companies, or janitorial companies…they both subcontract out for window cleaning and other janitorial work.
Choosing A Vendor
Many of the major commercial real estate management companies perform the same tasks as a facility director, managing all building operations from who stocks the toilet paper to security of the building and the general maintenance. Of course, to sum it up in one sentence does not really do their job justice…because those of you who have dealt with managers, I am sure you have noticed that they are always busy. There is always a “fire” that needs to be put out.So, that being said, they have a very high set of standards.
Of the facility managers that I have spoken to, several of them chimed the same song, so to sum it up; the first thing that is considered when they choose a vendor or a service provider no matter what it is, is if they are comfortable with them. There was more; Have they worked with them before? How quick was the turnaround? Were the jobs done in a timely manner, on time and efficient? Were they disruptive to their tenants? Were they competitive in their pricing? Any issues with their insurance certs? Did they comply with the local laws, state laws and/or OSHA? Were they professional in appearance and in their mannerisms?
One said that when they start the bidding process, they do NOT always recommend the lowest bid. That it is mainly about seeing where the bids are in relation to each other. Sometimes money is a factor, but most times it is not THE deciding factor. As noted above, there are other issues at stake besides the money.
Put yourself in their chair for a moment and YOU try to pick someone. How would you do it? The cheapest price, even if they do have insurance with the correct limits, has warning bells all over it. If its me, I’m thinking “okay, whats the catch? Either he has no clue what he’s doing, he’s desperate (may not be in business long enough to complete my contract), or he’s going to raise prices on me to make up for that loss”. So if price was the deciding factor, the risk analysis may have been lacking when the decision was made.
In addition to clean glass, what else do building management companies expect? If the vendor commits to a certain scope of work, they expect that scope of work to be accomplished. Don’t for a second think that just because the building is vacant that you are not being watched. Always assume you are being watched and always assume you are going to be on YouTube by morning. You absolutely must stand by your promise to do what you said you would do.
One such facility manager here in San Diego related; “What I like to know first of all is their approach to safety. If the first question they ask is Where is the building’s OPOS, then I know that safety is key for them. I want to know how they train their people. I want to know their incident rate and what they are doing to keep that down. Next is weather or not they are able to actually do the job that they are looking to bid on. Can they handle the scope of work? Last but not least, what is the quality of their work that they put out and how good is their customer service?”
The last thing that any property manager wants at their building is to see it on the 6 o’clock news and the main story being a tragic accident. Even though that would be bad publicity, nobody wants to have people injured on any of their jobs. He go’s on to say; “the vendor we choose we see as part of our team. Communication is key, and if it is done right no one will be put in a position where people can be hurt.”
“Any evidence that demonstrates that a window cleaner is sincere about safety is a big plus,” says Dave Johnston of the Building Owners and Manager’s Association International (BOMA) which represents building owners, managers, developers, leasing professionals and providers of the products and services needed to operate commercial properties. “Evidence of safety training for workers, a work plan for the specific building, and evidence of the window cleaner’s safety plan will show the building manager that the window cleaning firm is dedicated to the tasks of cleaning the windows and to provide safe conditions for the window cleaners,” says Johnston. “Building managers and owners do need to look at references, safety record, managerial background, experience in like type of work, evidence of insurance, accommodation of and courtesy to tenants as well as price. At the end of the day, a quality job is going to bring the window cleaner back to the building,” he says.
Based on what I have heard from the building owners and property managers alike, the window cleaning company’s image is of the utmost importance. From individual appearance and courtesy, to clean and professionally lettered uniforms and trucks, image brands them with a great quality job. The buildings that they own are top of the line, and they expect their vendors to look and act like it and like they belong there. Using name tags is a good idea, being as some of the buildings where we clean the windows at, the tenants have trade secrets, and they want to know who is in the building.
Bottom line is this; make sure that you are the top professional in your industry. Make sure you can be the company they can rely on. If you do these things I can assure you that you and your company will be successful.