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Article Details

Published Date: 8-03-2022
Author: Hannah Robinson
Category: Tender Writing & Bid Management
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Recently, we have seen an increase in the use of scenario-based questions being asked in tender submissions. We discuss some examples and how you might respond to this type of question.

What are scenario-based questions?

Whilst previous client references, contract examples and case study questions address a bidder’s experience delivering services in the past, scenario-based questions focus on the hypothetical: what you would do rather than what you have already done. Typically, this will involve a buyer presenting a situation the bidding organisation could face whilst on the contract, aiming to establish their response to confirm they have sufficient processes, procedures and policies in place to manage the event effectively and compliantly.

Recent scenarios our bid writers have encountered include:

  • How a security organisation would successfully manage the early morning evacuation of vulnerable residents from a social housing property for a waking watch contract.
  • How a lift maintenance client would negotiate an entrapment release during a bank holiday, including managing access arrangements, the initial call and customer care.
  • How a health and social care client would provide support to promote independence for an elderly lady following discharge from a post-hospital reablement service.


Why are scenario-based questions asked?

A buyer may want to understand a bidder’s response to a specific situation in a tender submission because:

  • It is a common occurrence. As a result, the bidder is providing reassurance they can deliver day-to-day activities (for example, customer care) compliantly, efficiently and to a high degree of quality, indicating there are no risks attached to them being appointed as a provider. This is also a good opportunity to discuss any added value initiatives that present additional benefits to the buyer, such as technology, innovations or value-for-money arrangements, that make the bidder’s response stand out compared to competitors vying for the same opportunity.
  • It is a high-risk occurrence. In this circumstance, the buyer wants confirmation the bidder has processes in place to ensure the safety of their staff and stakeholders, such as excellent health and safety and/or evacuation procedures. Whilst these occurrences are rare, they could cause significant damage or harm if not managed correctly, and it is of paramount importance the buyer is assured the bidder is fully capable of implementing a suitable response. Additionally, if appropriate, bidders could also outline mitigative/eliminatory measures used to prevent the scenario from occurring, confirming that such an event is unlikely to arise under their management in the first place (e.g. the health and safety measures implemented to protect residents from slips, trips or falls when carrying out construction works in a social housing property).
  • The scenario has presented problems in the past. Scenario questions can often offer some insight into issues or concerns a buyer has regarding certain aspects of service delivery, possibly due to an incumbent provider. As above, this is a matter of providing reassurance to the buyer, demonstrating the bidder’s ability to deliver and how the bidder will avoid making errors that may have occurred in the past. These questions can also often provide a helpful steer or highlight themes key to answering the other quality-related questions in the technical questionnaire.

How to answer scenario-based questions

Based on our experience writing upwards of 600 tender submissions per year, our top tips for responding to scenario-based questions (depending on the service) include:

  1. Be specific. A helpful way of looking at this type of question in a tender is to analyse the problem as if it were real rather than hypothetical: for example, if the bidder was encountering the scenario right now, what would they do to manage it? Who would be involved? What are the timeframes? How would they reassure the buyer or other stakeholders? This makes the scenario seem more grounded in reality and less distant, resulting in a more specific, focused and clear response.
  2. Be bespoke. Make references to the contracting authority’s specification, staff, locations and requirements, evidencing that the bidder has thoroughly reviewed the tender documents and produced a response in accordance with them, for example, providing clear commitments for repair response times or referencing a buyer’s customer care principles when supporting residents. For health and social care tenders, scenarios are often focused around named individuals with specific needs – discussing this person’s requirements in a compassionate, sympathetic manner as if they were ‘real’ provides further reassurance the bidder can accommodate actual service users appropriately and sensitively.
  3. Use previous experience. Whilst the focus of scenario-based questions is forward facing, bidders can also use previous experience to evidence and demonstrate how they have successfully managed similar circumstances before, including any improvement mechanisms implemented as a result. Using statistics, testimonials or detailing performance against key performance indicators provides tangible proof the bidding organisation is fully capable of managing such events if they arise.
  4. Be innovative. As with all tender responses, it is important to be competitive and to go above and beyond the commitments of other applicants. Any innovative technologies or methods of working that help provide a more efficient, effective response to the scenario should be mentioned – do operatives involved have any advanced conflict resolution training, making them more qualified to de-escalate incidents between service users? Does the bidder have state-of-the-art call handling software to manage an emergency call out? Any of these show an ‘edge’ that makes the bidder more qualified, suitable and skilled to successfully negotiate similar scenarios whilst on the contract.


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