How DO you choose a company to maintain your air conditioning systems?
Enjoying my 25th year in the industry and having developed great relationships with hundreds of customers both past and present, the single most daunting task I see them face is that of comparing planned maintenance proposals from different air conditioning companies, in order to choose a provider.
Why? – Because there is no set standard for planned maintenance work to air conditioning systems.
A quick dust-off of your filters once a year can be regarded as planned maintenance work … not very good planned maintenance work admittedly, but planned maintenance work none-the-less. At the other end of the scale your equipment can be dismantled fully, have each part meticulously cleaned and be put back together on a monthly basis.
The above examples are clearly extremes, but they illustrate how you can have a little maintenance for a little money or a lot of maintenance for a lot of money, and how the lack of a set standard for the planned maintenance of air conditioning systems poses a real challenge to those trying to choose the best supplier.
The best value comes from adopting a planned maintenance regime whereby a worthwhile level of maintenance is provided. It needs to be carried out by appropriately skilled personnel at set intervals relevant to your activity.
There’s really little benefit in carrying out a planned maintenance visits that don’t allow sufficient time to carry out the tasks necessary to prevent an impending breakdown.
Planned maintenance should be preventative maintenance, and whilst a low cost maintenance proposal may look good value at the offset, if this cost is then accompanied by the cost of several call-outs and repairs that could have been prevented with a better level of maintenance, then the value returned by the maintenance plan of course becomes poor.
My top 10 tips for choosing a company to maintain your air conditioning systems are are follows:
- Take the time to find out a bit about the company you’re considering. The Internet allows us all to market our services at a relatively low cost today, but some of the companies behind the websites have very few resources. Try to find out how many staff they directly employ, and most importantly whether their mobile engineers are directly employed. If you’re going to be relying on them for support, you need to make sure they’re able to deliver.
- Try to find out how long the company has been trading. This may seem obvious, but there’s something inherently wrong with companies that change their trading name every couple of years, and it’s normally their ability to deliver a quality service!
- Make sure that the company is specifically geared-up for planned maintenance and reactive service work (not all air conditioning companies are). Some companies primarily focus on installation projects and use planned maintenance work more casually to fill any gaps in between. Ask to speak to the Service Manager or ask for a sample maintenance contract to be sent to you.
- Ask for a list of staff qualifications and experience. You don’t want inexperienced engineers learning their trade at your expense, so make sure they appear competent and up to the job. The minimum qualifications you should be looking for is an NVQ2 and an F-Gas qualification.
- Ask to see the company’s F-Gas certificate and proof of their public liability insurance cover. Stay away from any companies who can’t provide these documents on request.
- Ask if the company you’re considering is a member of the Building & Engineering Services Association (B&ES). The B&ES is the governing body of our industry and its members are audited annually for competence, acceptable systems of business, Health & Safety compliance etc. You’re therefore likely to have a better experience with those companies who are members.
- Ask if the company you’re considering is approved or accredited by the manufacturer of your air conditioning equipment. Whilst such accreditation is generally awarded by the company maintaining a certain level of sales with the manufacturer each year, it does indicate that they’ll have a solid relationship and are likely to be well supported in sourcing technical information and spares quickly.
- Make sure that the company you’re considering provides you with a formal maintenance contract that clearly sets out what maintenance they’ll be doing in exchange for the fee being charged. Make sure it contains a list of the equipment concerned, the number of planned visits you’ll receive per annum, their call-out charges, hours of service and response times.
- Ask how they document their visits. Planned maintenance and reactive work relies heavily on efficient record-keeping whereby the work is documented well enough for one engineer to pick-up from where another left off, and recurring problems to be identified. In today’s electronic world you can expect such information to be computerised.
- Don’t be afraid to ask for references. Companies who provide great service will have plenty of happy customers to endorse their services and will be proud to put you in touch with them. Make sure however that they can provide a reference for the type of service you need. For example, a past customer telling you how great their installations are doesn’t help you understand how response they’re likely to be to a breakdown call or how good they are at diagnosing faults.
Steve Huse – Managing Director