As a commercial facility manager, it’s up to you to determine which vendor is best qualified to handle your national maintenance and repair requirements.

Lots of companies provide maintenance and repair for HVAC, electrical, signage, plumbing and other building systems. When it comes to managing maintenance and repairs at multiple locations, choosing the right vendor is one of the most crucial decisions you’ll make in your job. The right provider will save you time, headaches and of course, money. Choose the wrong vendor, and the costs can add up quickly.

To help aid your decision-making process, we’re presenting a three-part series, entitled Selecting the Right Vendor to Service Your Stores. In this installment, we’ll highlight some important criteria to consider as you devise and implement your selection process.

Vendor history:

  • How long have you been in business?
    The company that maintains and services your building systems, whether they be HVAC, electrical, signage or plumbing, should have a depth and breadth of experience over years – decades preferably. Someone new to the business may be able to provide adequate service. But like anything, experience matters.
  • Who are your current customers?
    What types of businesses do those customers operate? Retail? Office? Industrial? Multifamily? How many locations do those customers own? What’s the average size of those customers’ facilities? Where in the country are they located? And what specific services (e.g., preventive maintenance (PM), repair or replacement) have these customers outsourced to this provider? You’re really drilling down with questions like these; but the answers will give you great insight into how this potential provider could service your retail stores.

Operational information and expertise:

  • What services do you provide?
    Ideally, that list should include every service needed to keep building systems running smoothly throughout the year, from comprehensive PM to troubleshooting, repair and replacement. It should also include a full range of administration and support services and tools to ensure accurate, timely reporting to you.
  • How long have you been delivering each of those services? Some companies will list a variety of services that they offer. In reality, though, their greatest strength may lie in delivering one or two key services, while they only have limited experience delivering other services that they list.
    For example, they may say they offer electrical or HVAC project management; but in reality, they have only completed a few projects that were much smaller in size and scale than what you require.
  • Who are your internal experts who can assist me with each of the services that you provide?
    For example, do you have an in-house HVAC or electrical technician that I can talk to when I need to, as opposed to someone from customer service? Providing maintenance, repair and replacement at dozens, hundreds or even thousands of locations is a complex task, and an enormous responsibility. The vendor you delegate to handle this must have in-house experts that you can call on when you need technical information, whether it’s for a simple question, a routine issue, or an emergency.

Quoting process and approvals:

  • What is your quoting process?
    It’s a simple question: “Tell me how your quote process works. From the time I call you, to the time I get the quote in my hand, what happens in your company?”
  • What is your current quote approval percentage?
    Quote approvals are votes of confidence; statements of trust. You can always find a cheaper quote. But if eight out of 10 times, a customer approves a vendor’s quote, then that speaks volumes about the level of trust that vendor has established with the customer.
  • How do you as the vendor evaluate the accuracy of the quote – i.e., the amount of time for the labor, and the price for the material?
    National facility service providers subcontract work in most markets they serve. It’s how the business operates. If, for example, one of your stores in Tuscaloosa, Alabama is warm and getting warmer by the minute, a national vendor will dispatch an HVAC technician who will then issue a quote back to the National Service Provider to fix the problem. If he estimates six hours of labor to replace a compressor, who in the service provider’s company is validating that quote before it is sent to you? The technician said a replacement compressor would cost $2,000 as the material expense; is it really a $2,000 compressor, or is it a $1,500 compressor?As the customer, you want to make sure you’re getting the right labor and material at the right price. It’s essential, therefore, to know precisely what the national vendor you hire does to “watch your back” in all service-related matters. A technical person with direct experience in that service specialty should be reviewing all quotes from a third party contractor, prior to passing it along to the customer.

Account supervision and reporting:

  • Who will be responsible for my account?
    Who is the key go-to person at your company? Many national facility service vendors assign customer service representatives to this role. Customer service reps do well taking work orders and processing them. But when you have an issue you feel needs escalated, many times the service rep needs additional assistance.A higher level of service results from a provider who assigns a business manager to each customer – a sales-oriented professional who is adept at negotiation and understanding your business. A business manager’s job is to intercede before issues and problems arise, view those problems from the customer perspective, gather facts, make sense of it all, and work with the customer to resolve the issue.
  • What types of reports can I expect to receive from your company?
    If you as a customer award a national vendor 500 stores, that represents a major spend. You need – and deserve – top-notch reporting; there’s just too much at stake for anything less. That said, what kind of reporting does that vendor provide? What types of reports are available to you? Do you as the customer have the flexibility to decide? For example, do you want to know dollars spent on electrical PM versus electrical repairs? How about the HVAC PM to TM ratio – i.e., for every dollar spent on HVAC PM, how many dollars do I spend on HVAC repairs? What about the age, make and model of specific building systems and equipment at specific stores—or all your stores, for that matter; is knowing that important to you? In a larger sense, are the reports they generate valuable and actionable, or do they simply report dollars spent?We think strategic reporting – and proper analysis of facts and figures – is essential. A proprietary management system like CLS Facility Services’ PM Logic® provides comprehensive reporting that is ideal for national building services management. We believe it’s the standard by which any national reporting system should be measured. Check it out and then see how another vendor’s reporting system stacks up.
  • How are your service calls handled?
    Recall a recent problem with one of your locations, whether it be HVAC, electrical or some other building system issue. Then, ask the provider you’re considering how they handle such emergencies, and to follow it through to resolution. Ask them to take you through the steps that they follow, from start to finish when responding to your needs.  When the Tuscaloosa store we mentioned earlier is heating up fast and you call that HVAC vendor, what happens next? Do you ask for anyone in particular, or are you connected with whoever is available? What is their response time for emergency service? How quickly can you expect them to arrive on site for a regular call? Will they call in advance to let you know the status of the technician?
  • Do your service representatives work out of your office, or are they remote?
    Many remote service representatives work from home. As a result, they’re subject to a variety of potential home-related distractions during the day, and sometimes, those distractions can occur when customer issues arise. Conversely, office-based service representatives are focused solely on delivering customer service from the centralized office in which they work.

The more information you have, the better equipped you’ll be to meet your national facility management challenges strategically, so we hope you found this post helpful. In our next installment of the Selecting the Right Vendor series, we’ll offer some strategies for implementing a trial period with the vendor you select. In the meantime, if you are looking for a facility management company for 2016, learn more about CLS Facility Services by contacting us at 800-548-3542 or by filling out our contact form.