In addition to performing scheduled maintenance work, maintenance teams also have to handle incoming maintenance requests from other departments, tenants, or customers. Juggling these requests alongside day to day responsibilities is a challenge for organizations without an efficient service request management process. If maintenance teams are already behind on preventive maintenance tasks such as replacing a furnace filter, a call at 2:00 a.m. from a tenant experiencing a burst pipe in their bathroom is that much more stressful.
In this blog post, we’re going to discuss maintenance request management best practices to apply throughout the lifecycle of a service request.
What is a Maintenance Request?
First, what is a maintenance request (sometimes called service request)? A maintenance request is a request for maintenance work sent to the maintenance department by other departments, tenants, or customers.
Why Maintenance Request Management is Important
Trying to keep track of your service requests without software can prove to be challenging. Even in 2021, it’s fairly common for maintenance departments to use phone calls, hand written notes, emails, or text messages to communicate about service requests. Managing maintenance requests and work orders on paper is especially labor intensive. It can even create more problems than it solves. This type of management is often disorganized, incomplete, and lacks thorough communication. It often takes more than one of these methods to keep track of the entire request process. Maintenance technicians and managers have to look in multiple places for information.
Managing maintenance requests requires a system for determining the priority of requests so that requested work can be ranked alongside other maintenance work. It’s also important to ensure maintenance managers are using labor and materials in the most optimized way.
A way of capturing all information required for the maintenance team to do their work is needed to ensure issues are dealt with in a timely manner. Having a formal system that is regularly updated and stores all maintenance information in one place is essential for keeping track of request information. Maintenance request management is much easier and more complete when computerized maintenance management software (CMMS) is used in the process. We’ll go more in depth about this later.
Prioritizing Maintenance Requests
The first step in managing maintenance requests is to determine how to prioritize them alongside other types of maintenance jobs—preventive, predictive, corrective, and others. Of course, not every service request is going to be prioritized the same way. Where each request falls in between the scheduled maintenance tasks largely depends on the urgency and importance of the request.
Incoming requests need to be sorted by urgency, or order of importance. The highest priority, emergency requests will be obvious (gas leak, plumbing issue, or a major machine breaking down), but those are relatively rare. The medium priority service requests, which make up the majority of requests that come in, are trickier to prioritize. Low priority tasks are fairly easy to assess. These are the tasks maintenance personnel know can wait (chipped paint or a burned out light bulb for example).
How maintenance determines which medium priority tasks to do when depends on the needs of the organization and its stakeholders. Once all current requests have been sorted by urgency, they should be completed in the order in which they came in.
Preventive Maintenance vs. Maintenance Requests
Unless a maintenance request is high priority, it will not take precedence over preventive maintenance tasks. If the maintenance department is keeping up with preventive maintenance, there should not be many emergency maintenance requests that come in. The better assets are maintained, the less unexpected emergencies occur. Of course, they cannot be eliminated completely.
Routine tasks are most often done before low priority maintenance requests. On the other hand, high priority maintenance requests will be done before any type of routine maintenance task, not just preventive tasks. Usually, there is a scheduler who will handle the more difficult prioritization decisions. If they are unsure, the scheduler can ask their supervisor what they would like to see the maintenance team do first. After prioritization and approval, the requests become work orders.
Maintenance Request Management Process Best Practices
The maintenance (or service) request management process is fairly straightforward, although there can be obstacles and important decisions to be made along the way. The process can be improved over time by applying related best practices with every step.
Request is Submitted
The first step in the maintenance request process is that a requester finds a maintenance issue they want to resolve; then they submit the request. The submission can be made through one of multiple channels, including email, phone call, a static online form, on paper, or through a request system. However, it is best to have a preferred method for submitting requests, and that is though service request system software.
Best Practice: Make Request Submission Easy
When applying maintenance request best practices, it’s also important to give those authorized to submit requests an easy way to do so. Without maintenance request software, that might include a standalone online form, PDF, or even paper form to fill out. However, software with a maintenance request system is the best way to provide an easy method for requesters. No matter the format, simplify the information the requester needs to include as much as possible. Focus on helping the requester identify the asset requiring maintenance, describe the problem and needed maintenance, and note the urgency of the request. From this information, the maintenance team can worry about how to prioritize the work.
Request is Received by the Maintenance Department
After the request is submitted, it is received by the maintenance department. The person who receives the request should confirm receipt of the request to the requester. This may be done automatically or manually depending on the software or other method of maintenance request management used.
Best Practice: Automate Notifications upon Request Receipt
At this step, it is valuable to use software that automatically sends the maintenance department notifications when a request is received. This is a setting that most maintenance management software has, and the notifications can be sent via text, email, or push notification.
Request is Reviewed and Prioritized
Upon receiving the maintenance request, someone in the maintenance department reviews it and determines the request’s priority: emergency, high, medium, or low. Then the request becomes part of the maintenance queue.
Best Practice: Sort by More than just Priority
While sorting requests by priority is important for efficient maintenance, service requests can also be sorted by type of requester. This could be a tenant, employee from another department, machine operator, or a maintenance service customer. The type of requesters an organization will have depends on the industry. Requests can also be sorted by type of establishment, if applicable (school, public works, or an industrial complex). Doing so helps to further drill down the order in which the maintenance team should work on tasks and determine which technicians should be assigned to each job.
Request becomes Work Order
As long as the request doesn’t get rejected for incomplete information or duplication, the request becomes a work order. This is done after authorization has been given to perform the work requested. Every maintenance department should create their own rules for what information is required for a request to become a work order. With the use of software, requests can be subject to manual approval or be automatically turned into work orders.
Best Practice: Delegate Tasks Efficiently
As with other types of maintenance work, maintenance requests should be delegated efficiently. This means assigning the technician whose skills and schedule align with the needs of each job. It also involves having an efficient way to send these work orders and any updates out to the appropriate people. This can be done through work order management software, which is often a feature of a CMMS system.
Work Requested is Completed
Once the requested work is assigned, the maintenance task is completed. Depending on the urgency assigned to the maintenance work, the work may be completed the same day, the next day, or not for a week or longer.
Read more about work orders: What is Work Order Management?
Best Practice: Standardize
Another maintenance request best practice to implement is to standardize maintenance tasks when possible. There are some requests that are predictable. For example, employees in other departments may request that maintenance clean an office and set up a new filing cabinet before a new employee starts work.
Requester is Notified of Completion Status
After the work requested is complete, the requester is notified of the completed status. In some cases, the requester may receive other status updates, especially if there is a delay or problem in trying to complete the maintenance task.
Best Practice: Communicate Well with Requesters
It probably seems obvious to inform the requester of when the work they requested has been completed. It’s also important to provide visibility to requesters throughout the process. Let them know when the request has been received, when the request is approved, and an estimated timeframe of completion if the job cannot be worked on immediately. Maintaining good communication with those who request maintenance work will build trust between the maintenance department and other stakeholders.
Another aspect of communicating well with requesters is managing their expectations. Let them know the effort and resources it will take to complete the job. They don’t need every detail, but they should receive enough information to know the maintenance team cares about their needs.
Additional Maintenance Request Management Best Practices
Now that the complete lifecycle of maintenance request management and best practices for each step have been outlined, let’s discuss a few additional ones to apply. These can occur at any step in the service request process, but are mostly general guidelines that will improve management of requests in the long run.
Keep Records of Completed Tasks
As with maintenance work that is not derived from requests, records of completed tasks should be kept. This allows the maintenance team to deploy similar strategies to what worked in the past for reoccurring maintenance requests. Maintenance requests and the work orders associated with them are documented in the historical database so that technicians can refer to them again. These records also provide asset history to review in case a similar maintenance issue arises again.
Having maintenance records stored together in one place, such as in CMMS software, will also allow maintenance managers to see who worked on similar tasks before. If possible, they can assign the same technician to future jobs that are similar.
Reports can be used to see which assets had the most requests for maintenance, along with who completed the most requests and how many requests were completed on time.
Look for Patterns
Keeping records of completed maintenance tasks also makes it possible to look for patterns in maintenance requests. If the same or similar maintenance concerns are occurring multiple times, that might signal a few maintenance issues. It could indicate that a particular asset needs to be replaced. Preventive maintenance may have been lacking due to not having enough resources, inventory issues, or an outdated notification system. These are just a few examples, but looking for patterns in requests will help to improve maintenance overall.
Create Service Level Agreements Where Applicable
This maintenance request best practice will apply mostly to property management maintenance teams that work with landlords and tenants. Property managers often need to create service level agreements. These are contracts that state the limitations of what property maintenance will take care of and what is the responsibility of the tenant. For example, property maintenance will fix a broken appliance, but a tenant may be responsible for removing a stain caused by a substance they spilled on the carpet. These agreements can help reduce the number of service requests that must be rejected because tenants will know if a job is the landlord’s or property management’s responsibility, or their own.
Managing Maintenance Requests with CMMS Software
As we’ve alluded to earlier in this blog post, managing maintenance requests is considerably easier when using software, such as a CMMS system. Service requests is just one area of maintenance management that CMMS software helps with.
Maintenance Request Portal
CMMS software often has a separate maintenance request portal. It consists of an easy to use online form which requesters who are given access to can fill out. The maintenance team is automatically notified of the request. Then the request is approved (or rejected), prioritized, and a work order is created.
Work Order Organization
Managing maintenance requests with CMMS software comes down to being able to categorize and prioritize requests and their subsequent work orders into emergency, corrective, preventive, and other types of maintenance. This is made possible through the work order management capabilities. Maintenance managers are able to schedule service requests amongst other maintenance work as they see fit.
Asset Service History
Asset service history also helps to manage service requests by storing information about past maintenance work. Maintenance technicians can then identify patterns in reoccurring requests from customers. Service history information can also be an informal troubleshooting guide to expedite request response time. CMMS software stores all the maintenance information in one centralized location.
Make Maintenance Request Management Simple with FTMaintenance
FTMaintenance is a CMMS system with robust, user-friendly features, including a maintenance request system. No matter what industry your organization is in, our straightforward maintenance request form submission can accommodate the needs of any type of requester. Ready to learn more? Schedule a demo of FTMaintenance today or contact us for more information.