Requesting maintenance proposals from an elevator service company can be a daunting task, because so little is known about elevators in general to the riding public. What is important is that you consider the value of the service in reference to your budget. Various types of coverage are available in the market, so you want to make sure you are choosing a maintenance program that is, not only in line with your budget, but also delivers. It is important to ask the right questions when “auditioning” an elevator service provider. Remember, this is a negotiation, much like buying a car, so looking out for your self-interest without giving up “options” can substantially raise the return value of your purchase. There are two main steps when choosing a service company and contract. The first is to qualify the company and the second is to negotiate the contract.
First, you must truly understand if the elevator company can properly and safely support your elevator system. Many companies may offer service, but understanding if they have the technical capabilities and capacity to give you the service your building needs is another challenge. Just as important, because elevators are transporting the riding public; it is also essential to know if the company is licensed and insured and provides adequate technical and safety training. There are a variety of elevator companies in the market, from large multinational organizations to family owned businesses. Based on your building requirements, here are some key questions to ask:
- Are you licensed and insured? If so, please provide me proof. Every legitimate elevator company should be able to provide this info immediately. Make sure the licenses and insurance certificates are up to date as both are renewed yearly. Most state licenses can be verified via the state website. Insurance certificates can be a little tricky. Many companies do not buy or renew insurance because it is costly, so make sure contact information of the insurer is included.
- Are your technicians licensed? Most states require licensing of individual mechanics. You can ask the company to provide you copies of licenses of technicians that will work on the property. This greatly reduces the building’s liability if an incident occurs.
- How can your company support our elevator system? What technical resources do you have in place? When the elevator is down, you want your elevator technician(s) to be able to repair the elevator as quickly as possible during the first visit, so making sure the elevator company has the technical knowledge and essential components nearby is vital. Most parts should be available locally but some major components may require some lead time. However, in general most parts are available within 24 hours. If the situation becomes critical, ask the company if it has a protocol for elevators that are shut down for long periods of time. The top performing elevator companies have engineers/troubleshooters on standby to help solve complicated situations.
- How many technicians do you have available to answer emergency calls during business hours? Non-business hours?
- What is your average response time for elevator shutdowns during business hours? Non-business hours? Same day service is ideal, but the top performing elevator companies can achieve response times within 2-4 hours during business hours and 4-6 hours during non-business hours.
- How many hours does your typical route technician have designated for maintenance every month? In a 40 hour work week, 10 hours should be dedicated to emergency callbacks and 30 hours should be dedicated to routine maintenance. This ratio also effects response times and performing adequate service consistently.
- For major repairs, how many emergency repair teams are available? Often, major repairs require a team to remove or replace large components such has motors or hoist ropes. The company should have an adequate number of teams to support the company’s service base. Most emergency repairs should be responded to within 24-48 hours. Depending on the nature of the work, most heavy repair work may take days to complete, so try to understand the elevator company’s protocols and priorities if such repair is needed.
- Tell me how your annual inspection process works? Every year your elevator certificate must be renewed, which means the elevator has to be tested and inspected by a State Certified Elevator Inspector. Getting your certificate requires the inspection to be done timely, but it requires a lot of coordination between the building, Authority Having Jurisdiction (AHJ), and the elevator company. Understand the building’s role in this process and expectations of the elevator contractor.
- Can you give me five (5) references of properties you service in this area that are similar to the size & scope of this property? Always ask for references and make contact. Make sure the references also give input on the previous 8 qualifying questions.
Taking these nine important steps will help you choose an elevator company that’s right for your building. After choosing the right elevator company, now you need to negotiate your contract.
NEGOTIATING YOUR CONTRACT
Often many property owners concentrate too much on price. Although price is always important, one should also consider the value of service versus cost. Once you’ve qualified the prospective elevator companies, your next step is to review your proposals and negotiate the best value for the price.
- Coverage: There are many types of service contracts out there. There are Full Maintenance (FM) contracts, which provide routine maintenance and also cover parts and labor for breakdowns caused by normal wear and tear. These contracts are the most expensive, but in many ways offer the best value. There are also Limited Service (LS) contracts, which offer routine service, but do not cover callback repairs, which are typically billed separately. Generally, these contracts are much less expensive then FM agreements and are ideal for budget conscious building owners and newer buildings.
- Billable Rates: Find out the billing rates for services that are not covered under the service contract. Often these rates vary greatly from company to company, so it is important to understand these costs in the event of unforeseen emergencies.
- Frequency of Visits: Ideally, most elevators should be serviced every 4-6 weeks for buildings with hydraulic elevators. For mid-rise and high rise buildings with traction elevators, service visits need to be much more frequent. When negotiating your contract, the frequency can be written in your agreement in order to guarantee required visits.
- Volume Discounting: Typically, if properties have multiple elevators, discounting can be negotiated so don’t be afraid to ask.
- Term: The longer the term of the contract, the lower your upfront maintenance expense. When negotiating an FM contract, know that the upfront costs associated with maintaining your elevators such as insurance, material, and code compliance are costly in the beginning of the initial contract term for the elevator company. Many maintenance contracts have multi-year terms. If you want to have a shorter term contract, your monthly expense will rise proportionately.
Utilizing the five tips listed above, you can be sure to get the best service verses costs for your elevator.