Home / Insights / Contracting custodial services: A step-by-step guide

Contracting custodial services: A step-by-step guide

Contracting custodial services: A step-by-step guide

More than ever, commercial property owners and managers are contracting commercial cleaning partners that specialize in the client’s business type.

It makes sense. Delegating these services to proven and trusted commercial cleaning partners can help businesses reduce costs, diffuse risk, and increase facilities program effectiveness. An efficient external provider also takes pressure off of internal staff members, allowing them to focus on mission-critical projects. Most of all, the right commercial cleaning provider helps build a better business environment by creating safer, cleaner, more appealing spaces.

For all these reasons, specialized facility types – whether industrial, medical, or other commercial spaces – are seeking commercial custodial service providers that are experienced in their area of business.

Finding the right commercial cleaning provider

It’s not always easy, however. In recent research from Gartner, 77% of buyers state that their latest purchase was either “very complex” or “difficult.”1

That’s a stunning number – and a really unfortunate one. Especially in the medical sector, where cleanliness is uncompromising, we believe contracting with a new facilities services provider should be a smooth, seamless, even enjoyable process.

To help property owners and managers of all types have a better customer experience, we’ve put together this step-by-step guide to contracting. And remember, the right commercial cleaning program is cost-effective, flexible, and tailored to your facility’s unique needs.

A step-by-step guide to contracting your custodial program

Below, you’ll find helpful insights to consider as you begin the process.

1. Teamwork makes the dream work

To get a clear understanding of whether a custodial services company is the right fit, you’ve got to ask the right questions. That means getting input from key stakeholders long before your Request for Proposal (RFP) is written. By including the right team in the RFP writing process, you can identify pain points in your current facilities program as well as aspirational goals. Then, you know what questions to ask potential providers and what specialized skill sets to focus on.

When your team can clearly identify needs and goals, it allows you to examine potential providers with clarity. Company history, including industry knowledge and experience, capability of delivering services – and, most importantly, references from other, similar clients – should all be considered and weigh heavily in your vetting process. How a company has performed or is performing in comparable facilities is a strong indicator on how they will perform in yours.

Don’t be afraid to ask for any of this information. A reputable and stable company should be more than willing to share this with you.

2. To save time, take time

Even the best commercial cleaning provider can’t conquer the time-space continuum. Make sure your team maps out enough time for an orderly, thoughtful research and vetting process, vendor selection, and transition plan.

Seasonal workflow changes in your business, COVID-related changes in your onsite population, and other events can all affect the timing of your new program. Give yourself and your new provider every opportunity to succeed by not having to rush into day one.

Additionally, take time to establish open and transparent lines of communication. While no facilities operation will go flawlessly 100% of the time, having a smooth and simple chain of communication with your service provider  is critical to the overall success of the operation.

3. Choose value over cost

So you’ve received proposals from several commercial cleaning providers. All have some experience and all say they can fulfill the requirements of your program. How do you decide? Base your analysis on overall value, rather than straight cost.

For example, if a custodial services provider reduces costs by paying lower-than-average wages, or doesn’t invest in training and career development, turnover will become an issue. Constant rehiring can be costly – and lead to less-than-optimal results on your campus. Your custodial services provider should be able to show how they recruit, retain, and reward employees for bringing their best work to your facilities.

The takeaway here is that a vendor could be less expensive through operational efficiencies – or by cutting corners. Make sure you examine their proposals carefully, so you know which is which.

A great tip for vetting prospective service providers is to incorporate a grading scale or matrix, with values associated for each of the required areas of the service. This allows your team to grade or rank service providers, which ultimately helps you select the company that is the best fit for your needs. For example:


  • Organizational structure  0-25 points
  • References 0-25 points
  • Proposed approach 0-25 points
  • Cost 0-25 points

This process should uncover the top two or three most capable responders.

However, the contracting decision should not be based solely on the written response to your request for services. The response is like a resumé, and like any good hiring manager, you should follow up with an in-person interview, including a live presentation of offered services and price. This gives the potential client and contractor the ability to clarify your needs, identify areas possibly not addressed up front, and ultimately ensure that everyone has the correct expectations for services provided and their costs.

It’s also a great opportunity to see if you truly want to work with each other. Is it the right fit? Will it be a true partnership or a client-contractor, work-pay arrangement? The partnership culture will be critical to success of your program.

4. Look for flexibility and capacity

If 2020 taught us anything, it’s the importance of flexibility in custodial services programs. The country is preparing for a return to in-person, in-office business – but that will look different for each commercial space.

Your facilities services provider should have teams that specialize in your industry, and should have the flexibility to shift service levels to meet your organization’s needs.

And if your overall needs increase over time – as the onsite population grows, for example – make sure you’re contracting with a commercial cleaning provider with enough capacity to maintain established levels of service. They’ll grow as you do, building a stronger partnership over time.

5. Let your custodial services provider make life easier

We cannot stress this enough: Contracting with a new custodial services provider should make life easier for property owners, managers, workers, and other stakeholders. There should be no surprises and no headaches.

That said, we also know the right transition process makes a world of difference. Ask a potential provider about its approach, including:

  • What does the transition timeline look like?
  • Can you outline specific tasks and their dates?
  • Who will the onsite team members be?
  • Can current in-house staff be brought on?
  • Is there a single point of contact as questions arise?

Having this information well in advance can create a smoother transition and a better start to your new program.

6. Look for experience

So much of a successful facility services program comes down to experience. For the best possible experience, choose a provider that can:

  • Understand and respect your work and your industry, providing services that enhance your onsite environment
  • Offer experience in emergency cleaning and COVID-19 mitigation strategies
  • Draw on a deep nationwide network of suppliers and service providers
  • Offer a robust quality assurance program
  • Use technology to track key performance indicators (KPIs), trends, successes, and areas for improvement
  • Show a track record of successful long-term partnerships
  • Support your program with dynamic, experienced leadership

And finally, choose a provider that makes you and your team feel comfortable in your decision. Contracting your custodial program is always a big adjustment, but with the right team by your side, you’ll benefit from a program that improves each year. By partnering with industry experts for your commercial cleaning needs, you and your team are able to focus more specifically on your business mission, while delegating these tasks to a trusted and capable service provider.

Take the next step

To learn more about how The Clean-Tech Company can help your commercial spaces level up with a new cleaning team, reach out to us at [email protected].


The illustrations, instructions, and principles contained in this website are general in scope and for marketing purposes. We assume no responsibility for: managing or controlling customer activities, implementing any recommended measures, or identifying all potential hazards.


Gartner research: “The New B2B Buying Journey and Its Implication for Sales.”