To succeed when bidding for social housing maintenance contracts, tenderers need to demonstrate that they truly understand: the sector, the client, the residents and the communities in which they work. If you can show good knowledge and empathy with the points below, you will find your tender evaluation scores starting to move northwards.
Show you get the context your client is working in – the effects of the ‘bedroom tax’; rent reductions; changes to welfare benefits; cost pressures including paying for final salary pension schemes. Your bid should also show how you will help your client comply with their statutory and regulatory obligations. What about their mission, aims, values and customer care charter? Illustrate the synergies between your organisations.
Mirror your client’s use of language. For example, are they a Council or a Local Authority? Are they an Arms Length Management Organisation (ALMO)? Are they a Registered Provider, a Registered Social Landlord, a Housing Association or a Co-operative? What do they call the people who rent their homes – Tenants, Residents, Customers or Services Users? These may seem minor, inter-changeable details – but they are not!
- Think Local
In many cases you are bidding to local authorities or local housing organisations. So, burnish your local credentials. Will you have local staff, local offices, local suppliers, local sub-contractors? Do you have links with local colleges? local charities? Can you mention some of the local communities / estates in your bid and show that you understand any unique challenges they may bring to your service delivery.
- Community Benefits
Offering these is becoming increasingly important. They started life as a non-scored part of bids … however, the times they are a changin’. I saw a bid recently with community benefits scoring 20% of the overall technical submission. Also, don’t just stick with the trusty x number of apprentices to £y million of spend. Consider other community benefits e.g. school and college placements; mentoring; volunteering; sponsorship of local third sector organisations / charities to name a few.
- Customer Care
Social housing really is all about customer care. Will your tradespeople all wear branded uniforms and display photographic ID? Do you have a policy on how to treat vulnerable customers? How do you handle ‘Do not visit alone’ customers? Do you have robust mechanisms for obtaining customer satisfaction feedback .. and not just the postal survey that very few actually complete? Also, what do you do with the feedback?
- Appointments and Penalties
Gone are the days when clients will wear a contractor who does not make repairs appointments. What appointment flexibility do you offer? How do you monitor whether appointments are kept? Do you pay compensation for missed appointments?
- Employee Monitoring
Social housing organisations include some very vulnerable people within their properties. Are all of your staff, and sub-contractors, Disclosure and Barring Service (DBS) or Disclosure Scotland checked? Do you ensure the checks are kept up-to-date?
- Asset Management – Integration
The vast majority of social housing organisations have invested in asset management software. They want to be able to issue works orders through this direct to contractors; and they want the contractors’ IT systems to be integrated with their software. To succeed, you will likely need to evidence both functionality and successful case studies.
- TUPE / Pensions
Whilst some contracts are coming to the market for the first time and will likely have TUPE staff (some on final salary pensions), other contracts may have been tendered out a number of times during the past 30 years. Either way, you will need to demonstrate how you will comply with TUPE, integrate staff into your organisation at no detriment and provide assurance that you will honour the staff terms and conditions, including pension rights.
- Mobilisation & Exit Strategy
Your bid should show how you will effectively mobilise the contract at minimum disruption to the client and their service users. It will also need to provide information on how you would manage the contract exit in the event that you were unsuccessful the next time the contract is tendered.
This list of 10 points to ponder when bidding for social housing contracts is by no means exhaustive. For further information, please contact Andrew Morrison, Managing Director of AM Bid Services Ltd. Andrew is professionally qualified in housing and has extensive experience both on the client and the contractor side of bidding. He is also a Fellow of the Chartered Institute of Housing.