Research the Problems and Perceptions of Problems

Step 3: Research the Problems and Perceptions of Problems

Prior to your first meeting of your company’s problem-solving team, do a little research to understand how the known issues affect your outsourcing relationship.  Don’t forget to look at the perceptions of those issues.

Follow these steps:

Schedule a series of meetings with the key people involved within your company to gather their views and opinions about the outsourced services.  Before the meetings, create a list of questions that covers the key problem areas.  This will not only give you information needed to address the issues, but it will also show your colleagues that you are taking constructive action to deal with the outsourcing issues.

Analyze performance reports for the last 6 months to a year.  You should look for trends of improvement or reduction in consistency and quality of service levels.  Also note how many service targets have been missed and how frequently.

Hopefully, your team has been tracking performance.  Even if you only have paper records, it is important to spend the time and put this information into a spreadsheet for analysis.  If you are using one of the better Janitorial Management Software or Maintenance Management Software systems to actively track performance every day, you should have quite a bit of information available to help in your research.

Identify a set of performance measurements that accurately reflect your improvement goals to address the perceived and actual outsourcing issues.

Talk to your colleagues to see if they have experienced similar issues and see if they came up with a solution.  Essentially learn from other people’s mistakes.

Compile all of your research into one report and have a group of colleagues in your company review it and confirm your conclusions.

Step 4: Informal Discussions between the Client and Service Provider

Prepare a set of questions from what you learned during your research, which should be similar to the questions you asked your colleagues.

Start with your main contact to review your set of questions.  Your goal is to understand how your client (or service provider) perceives your relationship and where they think improvements could be made.

Below are some guidelines to understand perceptions of performance:

Are requirements clearly stated 100% of the time?

Does each organization live up to its promises?  Does each party get things done when promised and are the agreed actions completed up to performance standards?

Are invoices paid on time?  Are invoices dealt with promptly if disagreement about charges occurs?

Are performance review meetings held?  Are they well organized and constructive?

Are problem escalation procedures followed?

How is the overall outsourcing relationship rated?  Do both parties have issues?  What steps can be taken to come up with a compromise?

The key here is to be open to the fact that you might not have as done a good of job as you thought.

This is the stage where you need to listen, not to justify your actions.  This is constructive criticism that you should pay attention to because your client (or service provider) is giving you direct feedback.  If they aren’t happy, then neither are you.

In part 4, we will review steps 5 and 6 of Challenging Failure.  Step 5 deals with developing proposals for remedial action.  Step 6 covers agreeing on an action plan.

Establish Communication Channels

Step 1: Establish Communication Channels

Communication is vital when dealing with an outsourcing relationship.  Frequent and effective communication will be very important in this turn-around process.

A few things to consider:

Balance informal and formal meetings.  Neither is sufficient by without the other.  Not all issues can be solved over lunch nor can they be sorted in a formal meeting with many attendees.

Review meeting agendas to make sure that the issues discussed are relevant to the overall problem.

Work with people that you feel work productively.  However, these people must command respect from their colleagues and have the authority to make important decisions.

Set up meetings to analyze issues, develop an appropriate action plan, and to monitor progress.  Emphasize solutions to problems and service improvement.  These are not meetings to point fingers.  Instead, take a positive and constructive approach to problem solving.

Remember:  It is easy to forget the need to communicate, but without effective communications, you will not be able to keep and build good relationships.

Step 2: Review the Contractual Arrangements

Investigate the exact nature of your contractual agreement carefully.  It’s a bad idea to rely on your memory or opinions from others.  You actually need to review the contract.  This will ensure that you don’t have situations where proper procedures were not followed.

Make sure you check the contract for the following points:

Is the contract properly signed by both parties?

Is the contract regularly updated and did both parties sign the latest version?

Are the performance standards defined adequately and are they being met daily?

If you find that the contract is not adequate, you will at least know where your organization stands and can avoid groundless claims and unwarranted threats.

Beyond definitions spelled out in your contract and communicating with the other party, there should be a well documented Service Delivery Plan.  This plan gives you a roadmap of services that will be performed, and can be administered through advanced Janitorial Software or CMMS Software to make tracking progress simple & effective.

In part three, we will review steps 3 and 4 of Challenging Failure.  Step 3 covers researching problems and perceptions of problems.  Step 4 covers informal discussions with both parties.

Outsourcing Relationships: Challenging Failure (part 1 of 6)

When dealing with a failing outsourcing relationship, getting back on track can be achieved by following a ten step program of improvement.  Before we can get to the 10 step process for success, we need to review 10 important concepts.

1.  Realize that people have different perspectives on problems and you need to
remain objective at all times.

2.  Don’t be a contributor to the problem; be part of the solution.

3.  Set Milestones: It is rare to jump from a failing relationship to a successful one

4.  Make sure that everyone is clear about roles, responsibilities, and ownership
of issues.

5.  Talk and listen to your service provider or client.

6.  Refer to facts, not hearsay or rumor.

7.  Documentation of progress is going to be required.  Tracking can be simplified
with tools like CMMS Software and Janitorial Software.

8.  Don’t threaten the other party; this doesn’t fit well with the open and honest
relationship you’re working hard to build.

9.  If you are the client, and the situation deteriorates, you will still be dependent
on your service provider (at least in the short term).  You will need to work closely
with your service provider to transfer services to another provider.
You can’t just simply walk away.

10.  Instead of seeing the other party as the cause of all your problems, work together
to fix your problems.  In this way, you have a higher possibility of saving your

In part two, we will review steps 1 and 2 of Challenging Failure.

Performance Based Contracts: Defining Client Satisfaction

Defining client satisfaction sounds easy, right?

More traditional Performance Based Contracts usually define client satisfaction to a reasonable degree, with just enough wiggle room to make all parties work together to solve issues.

In the best case, Performance Based Contracts clearly state what will satisfy your client, such as clean the restrooms 3 times a day, police the grounds twice per shift, perform preventive maintenance quarterly, etc.  They will include the clause “to client’s satisfaction”, but there are clear guidelines for performance.

In the worst case, Modified Performance Based Contracts do not define client satisfaction for most areas, and have clauses that state work will be done “to client’s satisfaction” as a substitute for real performance definitions.

Modified Performance Based Contracts place a heavy burden on the service provider, because “client satisfaction” can change frequently, sometimes day to day.  As a result, the service provider is unsure how to mobilize staff to meet client goals, and the client feels that the service provider isn’t performing adequately.  Over time, this can create an undesirable relationship between the service provider and the client, compounding issues.

Understanding how to overcome the challenges of a Modified Performance Based Contract is critical for the service provider AND the client.

So how does the service provider begin to provide targeted services that are appreciated by the client?

Document what you are currently doing – Clearly understand the value you deliver.  Once this is achieved, meet with your client and explain how you are achieving “satisfaction”.  A client worth keeping will tell you what needs to be changed to better satisfy their needs, which usually includes some form of Corrective Action Plan and Preventive Action Plan.  You may feel that you don’t have resources to meet these needs, and you will probably have to realign resources before too long.

Document progress towards your objectives – Act on the items you discussed with your client, but clearly document what you are achieving and also document your struggles.  When your client sees an honest effort to meet their stated needs, they should be more willing to discuss how to overcome your challenges.  If you can show your client that you are doing a proactive job, their confidence in your ability to deliver “client satisfaction” will increase.  Don’t be shy – ask for client feedback throughout this process.

Confirm and present a plan – Confirm what you have learned while documenting your progress, and present a plan to fix any issues that could not be fully resolved.  If you have included your client in your progress, there should be no surprises at this point.  Clients will be more inclined to be reasonable and grant requests that improve service if you have done a diligent job up to this point.

This may seem like a lot of work, because it is.  However, these three steps can be simplified using Facility Maintenance Software.  Examples of what can be achieved by using some of the better software systems include:

Work Plans
Service Delivery Plan
Preventive Action Plan
Service Request Management
Work Performance Documentation
Quality Performance Documentation
Employee Performance Documentation

Facility Maintenance Software can help you identify areas of opportunity, improve quality & consistency, and prove that objectives have been met.  The right system can help you clearly define “client satisfaction”.

Janitorial Quality: Expense or Investment?

What is Janitorial Quality?  Definitions can vary widely, but at the most basic, Janitorial Quality means ensuring that the service provided consistently meets the expectations of the client.

Janitorial Quality can be elusive, because clients want to receive what they think they have paid for, but they don’t always agree with their service providers on levels of performance.

How can you determine if your Janitorial Quality Program is an Expense or Investment?  You should start with what you know.

Do You:

Perform regular quality inspections?
Perform corrective action on deficiencies you find?
Prepare quality reports on your inspections and corrections?
Attend regular quality meetings within your company and with your clients?
Create Quality Plans?
Perform quality training with your staff?

It might surprise you to know that all of the items listed above are an Expense!

However, they are all necessary expenses.  If you fail to perform the actions above, at some point, your client will surely let you know, which can lead to a bad day or worse.

So, how do you transform Quality from an Expense into an Investment?


Using the actions listed above as a road map, Preventive Action can actually pay for all of the efforts you expend on Janitorial Quality.  But, Preventive Action is not a simple reaction to problems or complaints.  Preventive action involves analysis of Quality performance, including trend and risk analysis, and employee proficiency tracking.

It is important to do it right, so you can maximize your cost savings and client satisfaction.  If tasks are getting done too quickly, chances are that Quality will not be what your clients expected.  But, if you focus too much on Quality, tasks will not get done in a timely manner, and it will cost you too much money.  It is up to your managers and employees to find the proper balance between the two.

Preventive Action doesn’t have to cost a lot or take all of your manager’s time.  There are a number of Janitorial Software tools available that will help you better control performance.  For your efforts, you will receive a great return on investment by avoiding costly issues, and possibly getting more business through a clear demonstration of your capabilities and your reputation for excellent quality.

As a result, Preventive Action can lead you to more profits, which will transform Quality from an Expense into an Investment.