The guy that stops by to do maintenance on your elevator seems nice enough and knowledgeable, but really what do you know about him and the company you have hired to take care of the heart of your multi-story building? The heart is a perfect metaphor for an elevator, because it keeps people flowing quickly and efficiently vertically through the various parts of your commercial building or apartment complex.
So, every month or so you see a guy with a tool belt and clip board show up and then he disappears into a room that is locked and off limits to the public. He reemerges occasionally to check out the hoistway and car, and then may or may not stop by your office to debrief you on the health of your elevator.
It can be like a visit to the doctor’s office with something minor. You see a person in white lab coat come and go as you wait. When you’re finally in the exam room they briskly come in, look in your throat or other less comfortable places, ask a few questions and then give you a list of parts that need medicine or additional work in words you can’t pronounce or understand.
However, if you have ever been to the doctor with a heart ailment, and not just a headache, the visit is a bit more serious and you know you wouldn’t trust just anyone. Instead you rely on personal references, doing some research and finding out if the physician is qualified. In other words, you wouldn’t put your heart in the hands of a podiatrist or an intern fresh out of medical school.
The same should be said about the building’s heart or elevator. How well do you know your elevator maintenance company and the guy that wanders in with the tool bag? Is he a seasoned specialist or a first year med student? After all, his knowledge and experience, and the company’s helpfulness and responsiveness is what you are paying for. Here are some basic questions to help building owners separate the quality, professional maintenance providers from the pretenders when shopping for a new alternative. Remember quality elevator maintenance companies will never object to these questions and will more than likely appreciate that fact that you are doing research:
- Are all of their technicians certified and licensed? If the answer is no, hang up the phone and call the next one of the list.
- How many years of experience does the elevator technician have that will be working on your elevator? Will the same technician be maintaining your elevators every month?
- Can they provide you with a list of references? Ask for at least three, preferably with similar elevators to yours. Call them! They can best tell you whether a company lives up to what the sales rep promises.
- Is part of the maintenance process a check-in and check-out at your building? This should include a debriefing of any elevator problems. Techs who don’t check in and out may be disguising how short a time they are actually there.
- Will they provide a cost estimate and explanation before work is done? You shouldn’t get any surprises with your monthly bill.
- Will they let you know in advance when they are coming? That’s common courtesy, but some companies take the attitude of “We’ll show up when we show up. You’ll have to accept it.” If they don’t inform you of the schedule and no one sees the tech, how do you know if they really came? Your “regular” maintenance may be less frequent than you expect.
- Will you have a primary contact regarding all service and maintenance? Having one person responsible for your account gives them familiarity with your needs, and beats telephone bingo, where who you talk to is random chance.
- What is the policy on after hours and emergency visits? Is 24 hour-day service available if needed?
- What is the typical response time for service calls, both during work hours and after hours?
- What are additional charges? For instance travel charges and minimum hour charges: every elevator company has policies for these. Are they willing to discuss this openly and honestly?
- How do they handle your questions or complaints? If you call them with a question, is someone readily available? If you leave a message how quickly can you expect a call back? Ask their references this question too. If you hear horror stories of a customer chasing a sales rep for 3 weeks, they apparently don’t want your business.
- Lastly, read your contract carefully, and ask questions about anything you don’t understand or are concerned about. Rates aren’t the only thing that are negotiable. Long contract terms, automatic rate increases, and one-sided indemnification are all common gotchas. Review the exclusions to make sure they’re reasonable.
Armed with these questions you will be able to find the best possible maintenance team to keep your elevator pumping and in tip-top shape and avoid some of the headaches…or heartaches. Just don’t be afraid to ask questions! We love it when we get a call about our maintenance service at Phoenix and there are lots of great elevator companies out there that feel the same way, it just takes a little research to weed out the good from the bad.