We have all had the experience: your car just stops going. The engine revs, but you just don’t go forward well at all. You “baby” it as best you can to your local mechanic, he hooks it up to a zillion diagnostic gizmos with plugs and wires, he updates the operating system, performs all the recalls and finally, after the plethora of the clamps and diodes are removed and the computer goes dark, your car is pronounced good to go. The problem is when you pick the car up, it makes it home, but the next day isn’t good to go at all. As a matter of fact, the vehicle isn’t going anywhere.
Guess what? Misdiagnosis.
Now you have to trudge back to the garage, make arrangements again to have it worked on, line up a ride and get ready to argue the bill.
In the world of elevators, building owners and managers see the same thing. The elevator is busted, a frantic call is made, tenants are freaking out and your phone is lit up like a Christmas tree with complaints. When the repair guy finally shows up, because you have seen this movie before, you strategically place yourself in the repair guy’s most likely path, with arms folded and foot tapping impatiently. He fidgets with his tool belt as he walks, acting as if he is all set to dive in. As he nears, knowing that he can’t avoid a conversation, he spits out an excuse, a weak apology about being late and then says, “It probably just needs to be reset.”
Here we go again.
Then the waiting game begins as you pace like a striking teamster; all you need is a placard stapled to a strip of pine wood. When he finally emerges from the machine room door an hour later, he says, “All done, must have had a power surge.” After thank you’s all around and a hearty hand shake, he exits the premises. But then, not an hour later, it breaks down again. By this time it is after hours and the response is not so prompt.
DISCLAIMER: Before I go any further I just want to say that the vast majority of elevator mechanics are extremely capable and competent. I am talking about the small minority.
What was the problem? For some reason, the elevator mechanic was just guessing. The other options are limited. Either something else broke that miraculously presented the exact same symptoms, or the technician is just not that bright. So let’s be generous and assume incompetence instead of ignorance. How do you respond?
Rock and a hard place.
Let’s face it: at the time the elevator mechanic is in charge as only he can get the elevator running right then. Only in extreme cases (or never) should a verbal confrontation ensue. However, the next day, if you have seen this pattern repeatedly, specific actions should be taken:
- Contact the company that maintains the elevator. Go over the head of the elevator mechanic, other technicians, the sales guy or the dispatcher. Especially if this has not been a one-time affair, consistent problems require a manager or owner of the maintenance company. Don’t settle for less.
- Don’t discuss the matter over the phone in detail. Instead express your displeasure and schedule an in-person meeting on your premises. If they won’t schedule a visit, it will show you how much they really care about your business. Skip to number 9.
- Prior to the meeting, review your contract! Know what you signed on for, before the meeting.
- Document, if you aren’t already keeping a list of ongoing problems and failures, costs associated, poor service, and failures of service do so or compile one. Check the elevator log in the machine room for visits and notes regarding the unit. Make a complete list of issues that need to be addressed.
- Don’t accept an apology until the problem is resolved. Far too often, the apology is just a tactic to diffuse a situation. It seems to be in everyone’s current customer service playbook. Instead, when someone starts with, “I understand how you feel, and I am sorry…” cut them off! Explain that the most important part of the apology is making the aggrieved party (you) whole. Sorry’s can be handed out, when the problem is fixed. “I’m sorry” has become meaningless, and the easiest words to speak in the English language.
- In the meeting, address the immediate situation first. Keep in mind, it is OK to ask for a different technician. Not all are created equal and you might have drawn the short straw when it comes to mechanics.
- Once the immediate problem has been resolved, start working on the longer-term or systemic issues.
- Take good notes, record action items and email a list of duties going forward so everyone is on the same page.
- Most importantly, regardless of how things have gone, send a certified letter to the elevator maintenance company and indicate that you wish to terminate the maintenance agreement. This will prove you are serious and give you leverage when negotiating future contracts. Also, if things prove to be an ongoing problem, then you have officially served notice. Keep in mind in most cases your letter will not kick in for a few years! That’s right you are tethered to this company for a while, but the certified letter will severe your relationship when the contract is up. Then you can find another, hopefully better company.
If you follow these steps, you at least can have a plan when it comes to the few times that there is consistent poor service provided.