Service and maintenance are an important value-added opportunity for the electrical contractor. Not only does it keep the EC in front of the customer, but it builds loyalty and establishes the contractor as the one expert who can assist the client and the facility in staying up to speed on technologies and can keep systems running smoothly.

You must, according to the Life Safety Code, NFPA 72-2002, Chapter 10, follow specific mandated requirements regarding testing and maintenance of the fire alarm system. While not mandated, contracting service and maintenance is a wise move, one which will propel your company in a positive direction.

Because technology has advanced steadily and will continue to do so, it is quite difficult for the end-user or customer to maintain the system. Keeping up with new software, code requirements, hardware upgrades and more is best handled by electrical contracting experts.

Proper maintenance goes beyond fixing systems, repairing problems and reacting to malfunctions in the field. Maintenance calls are about regular visits to customers to check the integrity of the system and its supervisory capabilities as well as reporting and recognizing potential problems. Maintenance contracts are a great way to add regular revenue streams to a company’s bottom line, while boosting its reputation as an expert and problem-solver.

ELECTRICAL CONTRACTOR’s research study, Contractors’ Roles in Scheduled Preventative Electrical Maintenance, conducted by Renaissance Research & Consulting, New York, said that approximately six in 10 contractors who currently perform maintenance and more than three in 10 who do not now work in maintenance expect their firm’s revenues from this area to increase over the next three to five years.

Once you decide to process and schedule maintenance, you will find a host of software programs that can manage areas not only specific to electrical contracting, but specialties like integrated building systems, lighting, security and more.

According to Tim Bigoness, vice president of marketing for D-Tools Inc. Concord, Calif., scheduling service every six months is sufficient for most systems; an initial 90-day system check and then semi-annually or annually is also appropriate. But the result may be even more important than the process, which has become straightforward, thanks to software innovation.

“As many electrical contractors are starting to include low-voltage systems as part of their service offerings, maintenance agreements and service contracts are becoming more and more prevalent and a way for these contractors to start building in a more predictable revenue stream,” Bigoness said. “Having a system to accurately track and remind them of maintenance calls is a great way for them to set and schedule maintenance when finishing up a customer install. This will also allow them to focus on new business and completing existing projects.”

Software packages integrate with accounting packages to enable contractors to progress within a single work flow, which ensures the products they specify can have maintenance and service agreements automatically attached.

“The tracking and invoicing can be handled directly from their existing accounting system. This enables them to work long-term with their customers and add new products when appropriate, up sell them on additions for their systems and assist with manufacturer warranties,” Bigoness said.

Automatically scheduling service and maintenance is invaluable in a competitive marketplace, according to Traci Williams, public relations manager, Sage Timberline Office, Beaverton, Ore.

“With Sage Timberline Office’s service management software, contractors can streamline dispatch, automate billing, fine-tune inventory, and improve communication with customers, suppliers, subcontractors and technicians,” she said. “It’s a complete service system, also integrated with accounting software, to put you in control of field purchasing, service agreements and warranties as well as preventative maintenance.”

Create a positive, long-term relationship with customers through regular service and maintenance. Benefits include repeat business, and positive referrals all in an environment you control.

O’MARA is the president of DLO Communications in Park Ridge, Ill., specializing in low-voltage. She can be reached at 847.384.1916 or domara@earthlink.net.