LOUISVILLE — If your institution or business is in the market for a laundry service provider, how can you tell which candidate is a ‘quality’ linen processor and which is not? Or, if you are in the running to provide laundry service for a new client, what are they likely to expect of the provider they ultimately choose?
Helping administrators and managers alike learn how to go about making this determination was the task of Carl Rau, North American laundry market manager for Standard Textile Co., when he agreed to present What to Expect from a Quality Laundry Processor during the Association for Linen Management’s annual educational conference last summer.
CLEARLY DEFINING EXPECTATIONS KEY TO FINDING RIGHT PROCESSOR
When in the market for a processor, Rau suggests utilizing requests for proposals (RFPs). An RFP is an invitation for suppliers to submit a proposal for a specific service.
First, it’s vital that you clearly establish the service model—customer-owned goods or rental, limited service or full service including linen distribution, etc.—that you are interested in before you move to the RFP stage, Rau says.
Developing an RFP will help to clearly define detailed service requirements, including identifying organizational goals/objectives and stakeholders, and comparing one service offering to another.
Some of the information that the average RFP will seek or define is:
You should be looking for companies that are able to:
• Consistently produce the quantity of goods that your operation requires.
Therefore, the RFP should define the dates and times of service, as well as the circumstances under which the supplier will provide emergency service and how it will be conducted (if different from standard service).
• Consistently produce the quality of goods that your operation requires.
“We all have a different view of what white is, so when we’re looking at quality ... you know what you like and you know what you don’t like.”
Because quality is in the eye of the beholder, it’s imperative that measurable criteria are spelled out and made part of the RFP process early on so that it is clearly understood by all parties, Rau says.
A supplier may choose to bid on the service or respectfully decline the opportunity depending on the extent of your organization’s quality demands.
• Confidently undergo and pass third-party verification or review, either operationally or of the goods it has processed.
• Offer a quality assurance manual for review, particularly when dealing with healthcare goods.
• Provide good customer service. “The communication side is probably most important. If you hear about the issue and deal with the issue, then it really doesn’t become a problem. You want to make sure that every level of the organization is communicating with your organization, and that you’re comfortable with it.”
• Provide the level of computerized production tracking and reporting as requested.
• Continue providing laundry service to your organization in the event of an emergency, and regularly maintain connections with other service providers on a regional basis rather than a local basis.
• Offer its service at a fair, competitive price and describe in detail how your organization’s costs may fluctuate because of loss charges, cart rentals or other charges.
Finally, once you’ve carefully evaluated the candidates and made your choice, you’re likely to find that the “winning” provider:
• Understands your organization’s expectations and can restate them;
• Is willing and able to align its services and products to meet your organization’s needs; and
• Will support your organization to meet all of your organization’s customers’ needs and expectations.
“You’re looking for a strategic partner and not just a provider anymore,” Rau says.