Maintenance and Operations

Choosing a Third-Party Maintenance Provider You Can Trust

Editor’s note: This article covers ways to vet third-party maintenance service providers. For tips on finding in-house maintenance workers, click here.

For any facilities manager, finding a qualified maintenance partner is one of the most important decisions you’ll make. Your building systems, equipment, and overall operations depend on services that keep your facility running safely, efficiently, and optimally every day.

Yet with so much at stake, many facilities managers rush the selection process or make choices based primarily on cost over quality. While you can put your own in-house team in place for the majority of your work, there are still times when you need to outsource maintenance tasks to a third party.

The temptation may be to take the easy option rather than the optimal one, but facility maintenance is not an area where shortcuts pay off. Here are some tips to help you find a maintenance service provider you can trust.

Get Recommendations from the Experts

With your inside knowledge of the industry, tap into that expertise by checking with associations you belong to or reputable regional directories to find maintenance providers they endorse. 

For example, if you need fire protection work done, check with the Fire Marshal’s office or Fire Equipment Manufacturers’ Association in your area for their directory of approved installers and maintenance providers. They will only recommend companies that meet strict standards for fire safety. Likewise, for general facility maintenance or HVAC work, check with organizations such as the International Facility Management Association.

Ask for References from Trusted Clients

Your peers can be invaluable resources. Don’t hesitate to ask other trusted facilities managers, who share your role, for references and recommendations of maintenance companies they have worked with. Their real-world experiences can provide valuable insight into a provider’s quality of service.

When asking for references, look for facilities managers with needs similar to your own. For example, if you operate an office complex, get references from other office or building managers. If you oversee a manufacturing facility, ask those with experience in that sector. The more closely aligned their facility type, the more relevant their recommendation will be.

Verify Licensing, Certification, and Insurance Coverage

Maintenance work involves many regulations around safety, training, and liability, so don’t take chances with providers who cannot meet basic requirements. Verify that any company under consideration has the proper licenses, certifications, and insurance coverage for the services they offer.

Require any potential providers to submit proof of valid and up-to-date licenses, before bidding on your job. For complex mechanical, electrical, plumbing, or HVAC work, look for relevant trade certifications as well. Upfront confirmation of qualifications will save headaches down the line.

Insurance coverage is also critical. Ask for current certificates of general liability insurance, workers’ compensation, and if applicable, professional liability or errors and omissions insurance. Ensure coverage meets your own liability requirements in case of any issues.

Compare Multiple Options

Finding dependable maintenance services is not a decision to rush. Take time to thoughtfully compare different providers under consideration to find the best fit for your needs. Meet with several top companies in person so you can get a sense of their professionalism, expertise, and company culture.

Consider these two points when picking a maintenance provider:

  • Evaluate price as one factor, but also consider skill, customization, responsiveness, and communication. The cheapest option often costs more in rework, headaches, or inefficiency. Look for the best overall value and fit.
  • Trust your instincts—if something feels off, keep looking. Your facility’s needs must come first.

While price is certainly a factor when comparing options, don’t base your decision primarily on cost. Low cost often means lower quality of service. Look for the best combination of expertise, customization, availability, and value—not just the lowest price.

Evaluate Their Ability to Serve You

Ask about their average response and resolution times for emergency calls. While they cannot give exact figures, estimates based on past experience are helpful. Their procedures for responding to high-priority, after-hours, or emergency calls should be efficient, with on-call technicians available 24/7. Make sure they have emergency response times suitable to your operations.

Consider how well they responded to your initial requests for meetings, information, and follow-ups during the vetting process. Their responsiveness to you now, before being awarded a contract, signals the level of service you can expect as a client.

Review Contracts with a Fine-Toothed Comb

Clearly written, detailed contracts are essential to a successful partnership. Review maintenance contracts carefully to verify all your requirements are properly addressed before entering into a long-term relationship.

Ensure the agreement reflects your needs adequately by comparing with your facility’s systems and components, square footage, tenant specifications, and any known regulatory requirements. The contract should account for the complexity and custom needs of your operations so you get service that matches your particular circumstances.

Consider a Trial Period for Your Top Choice

Once you’ve selected a trusted maintenance provider through a diligent vetting process, evaluate them in action before committing long-term. If possible, negotiate an initial trial period of 3 to 6 months to ensure their service lives up to expectations, before signing a multi-year contract. A trial run gives you the opportunity to confirm your choice or make a change if needed.

Optimizing Maintenance Success for the Long Run

Your facility’s operations are too important to entrust without care, so by diligently vetting maintenance providers, you gain partners in its long-term success. The time invested upfront in finding trusted experts who meet your standards pays dividends through optimizing performance and value. When facility management is done right, your place of business, and your business itself, will thrive for years to come.

Chester Avey has over a decade of experience in business growth management and cybersecurity. He enjoys sharing his knowledge with other like-minded professionals through his writing. You can connect with Chester by following him on Twitter @ChesterAvey

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