How to know that a change will be a change for the better.

When it comes to a commercial cleaning company, an old saying certainly applies:

Better the devil you know than the devil you don’t.

In other words, at times it seems like it is better to deal with someone you know—even if they are not ideal—than take a risk with an unknown person.

This thinking keeps many companies from making changes from current vendors, even if they are moderately to significantly dissatisfied with their service. This especially holds true in the arena of commercial cleaning services.

In our conversations with prospective clients it is not uncommon to hear the following comments:

  • “They (our current vendor) will do a good job for a while, but it seems to fade if I don’t stay on top of them. This same thing happened with the last two companies that we worked with.”
  • “You know, they do an okay job, not great. But I don’t know if we are ever going to find a company that really does a great job”
  • “How do I know that you are going to do a better job than my current company? They told me the same things when they ‘sold’ me on their services?”

The good news is that there are professional and reputable commercial cleaning services in the industry who provide excellent service. The bad news is, it is often difficult to distinguish which companies are going to be a good long-term partner and which ones are just trying to make another sale.


Three Questions to Ask a Commercial Cleaning Company

Use these three questions to ask to help you distinguish between a potential, reliable partner and another commercial cleaning company just trying to make a sale.


Would you provide me a brief overview of your company’s service philosophy and current strategy for growth?

What you are looking for here is some clues regarding how invested the cleaning company intends to be with you as a client and how they intend to provide service to your facility. For example:

Unhelpful response:

“There is no job too large or too small for our company. We provide great service because we hire great people. Our managers are some of the best in the business and we have been in business for more than 30 years.”

Helpful response:

“The first step in our process is to discover your needs and service expectations. Afterwards, we then design a program that will meet your service and budgetary requirements. We believe that the keys to our long-term, consistent service are sound hiring and training practices, accountability and encouragement from our area managers, and scheduled meetings with you and your team to monitor success. Our growth strategy is such that our new growth will not impact service to our existing clients, and we are seeking to work with clients who value longer-term partnerships.”


Would you show me how you calculate your price?

In this question, you are trying to discover how many man-hours have been estimated to complete the base scope of work, the expected hourly wages that the company intends to pay their team, what types of equipment (and cost) have been included, etc. This would also be a good time to clarify the specific tasks that will be performed as a part of the base scope of work.

Good long-term partners are transparent in their pricing. And they will be willing to discuss all their assumptions and justifications for their price calculation.


What is the leadership structure of your company? Who is my contact? And how long have they been with your company?

This series of questions should provide insight regarding the level of latitude that your primary contact will have to ensure quality at your facility, if there is stability in your primary contact role, and the accessibility of senior leadership should issues arise.  Turnover among cleaning team members is an ongoing challenge for most janitorial services vendors.  However, you should be seeking a vendor partner with very little turnover in their operational leadership, (regional managers, branch managers, area managers, etc.) as these are the people with whom you will establish a close relationship and who will ensure that work remains consistent throughout the life of your agreement.


Further Discussion Points

Tell me a bit about 2 or 3 clients whose size and scope are like ours. Will you provide the company name, contact name, telephone number, and email address of these clients?  And, tell me about a client whose business that you have lost.

This question provides a great opportunity to probe a bit deeper about how well the vendor knows their clients. It will also provide an opportunity to discuss how they approached the start-up with these clients, how they have resolved issues with these clients, and finally, how they improved upon the work of the previous vendor.  In asking about “lost business”, you will have an opportunity to check the integrity of the vendor. Do they accept responsibility for losing a client?

Lastly, before you consider another provider, you should ask yourself: What is my expectation level on cleanliness?

We often hear from prospective clients, “Look, I just want my building clean,” but “clean” is very subjective. Providing specific items and expectations which are most important to you will open a dialogue. And prospective vendors will be able to explain how they will take care of these items. And they will go a long way toward establishing a healthy relationship with your next provider.



In closing, settling for lackluster commercial cleaning company is inefficient and frustrating to you and your team.  By asking these questions, you will increase the probability of finding a long-term janitorial partner. And not just another partner, but one who will provide dependable, long-term, worry free service.