What would you do if you learned that the elevator in your apartment building was going to be down for a month while undergoing extensive repairs or upgrades?
In an article that appeared in the Minneapolis Star Tribune, Peg Meier followed the life of Joann Hunt as she adapted to life on the top floor of her apartment complex while the elevator was out of service for a full 30 days right before Christmas.
Meier details the struggles for the 78 year old, active woman that could not negotiate the three flights of stairs in her living quarters. She simply lost the ability and freedom to come and go as she pleased and was left with very few options. To be completely fair, the apartment complex management offered to move her to a first floor unit during the repairs, but it lacked full cooking facilities so Ms. Hunt declined. The repairs in question (to bring the elevator up to code) were slated to take just over a month between Thanksgiving and Christmas. So she was stuck. What a way to bring in the holiday season!
I bring this article to mind not to indict the elevator industry, the apartment complex, or the elevator service company that was doing the repairs. Sometimes extensive work is needed to bring the elevator up to current code and make it safer and more energy efficient. I bring this up to remind building owners that elevators have become more than a convenience, they are essential. This need for updating and repairs can cause interruptions in the lives of those that have come to expect the swoosh of the doors and the familiar ding of the chimes.
So, we’re providing a public service announcement about what can be done to alleviate the stress that similar repairs can make on building users.
Here are some tips that can help you if you are needing some elevator repairs that will leave your tenants and visitors hoofing it up and down the stairs:
- Communicate effectively in advance. Keeping people in the dark is the last thing that you want to do. There is some pain associated with giving people bad news, but that bad news hurts significantly less when a person knows the elevator will be down and for what amount of time. Let people know in advance through fliers, signs, emails, or a quick knock on each door.
- Find ways around the inconvenience. In this story, the apartment complex tried to accommodate the best they could, and it was rejected, but the effort was worth it and likely made the tenant less resentful. Another way to help is to have staff available to help carry things up and down the flights of stairs, if possible. Introduce people to Amazon Prime Now or other local grocery or restaurant delivery services that will shift the stair climbing to the deliverer. Think out of the box to help people.
- Update often. Even after you have let everyone know the plan in advance, update them on the progress that is being made. People will want to know if the contractor is finishing on time, finishing late, or (even better), finishing earlier than planned. The farther ahead they know about changes, the better they can adjust to them.
- Shop before you buy. Shop for the repair not only based on the price, but also based on convenience. Not all elevator companies are the same. Some have the ability to offer more overtime or more personnel to get a job done more quickly. Bid out the job to multiple companies and let them know that price and time frame for the repair will be considered in the bid award.
- Apologize. A heartfelt and genuine “I’m sorry” goes a long way, so apologize for the inconvenience often to everyone that uses or wants to use the elevator and thank them for their patience during the work and after it is completed. Communicate this through the same methods and with the same amount of effort as at the beginning of the process.
In the article about Joann Hunt, she had plenty of things to do to keep her busy. She also had friends that helped her during the month-long repair. She did a lot of meditation and maybe that did the trick, because the inconvenience did not seem to ruin her holidays in the least. However, lots of people would be angry at the notion of several trips up and down flights of stairs for their business or living space especially during the holidays. Not to mention, 3 flights is a lot different than 7 or 10. If you take some time to communicate clearly and shop for timeliness as well as price, people may find a little more generosity for you in their heart, especially during the holidays.