In many repair situations, your people do a lot that the customer never knows about. The customer doesn't know how thorough you are. The
assumption is that you do the bare minimum. If you do more, then take credit for it and tell the customer.

The problem with service is that you're counting on technical service personnel to communicate. It's not their strong suit. Even when they do
go over things well, they do it fast. The customer forgets half of what was said 10 minutes later.

Even worse is one legged or one armed service. One legged or one armed service occurs when one part of a husband and wife team is absent.
Everything's okay until the absent half sees the bill and looks at the write up, which is typically something cryptic, such as "Made repairs."
Then it hits the fan. Whomever was present at the time the cost was presented is unable to explain it well. Under the heat of the partner's
glare, what little was remembered from the technician's explanation is forgotten.

The situation can be repeated even when it's a single homeowner, if the homeowner talks with a friend or relative. This is most likely to occur
when the homeowner is elderly and gets the spousal treatment from one of the offspring that's convinced you're trying to take advantage of their elderly parent.

What happens next is bad, no matter what. At best, the customer gets mad and calls you for an explanation. It costs you time and emotional energy, but you're able to assuage the customer. Worse, you never hear from the again. Worse still, the customer will tell everyone they know what a crook you are. Worse than that, the customer stops payment on a check or disputes a credit card charge. Worse yet, they file a complaint with the state attorney general or contractor license board.

How can you stop it? One partial solution is to prepare a diagnostic report on every call or estimate. You're adding paperwork, which is a bad
thing. But, you're building value, which is good. Design your paperwork so that you minimize the effort required to complete the paperwork and maximize the value generated. Use lots of checklists to make it easy to fill out. Take advantage of any opportunity to record operating
parameters, such as temperature rise, amp draw, static pressure, and so on. Prepare a two part form so that your field service personnel can give the homeowners an original and attach the copy to their paperwork.

The diagnostic report adds value because it demonstrates that thoroughness. It also helps ensure thoroughness. Because of the report,
technicians are less likely to cut corners.

Will a diagnostic report end complaints? Of course not. However, it will cut off some complaints. It will make you look more professional in the
eyes of the customers that have no complaints. It will differentiate you from your competitors, increasing the odds that your customers will call
you back.

Matt Michel is president of the Service Roundtable (www.ServiceRoundtable.com), an organization dedicated to helping contractors prosper. Matt is also the publisher of Comanche Marketing, a free marketing e-zine. Subscriptions are available at www.ComancheMarketing.com. You can contact him directly at matt.michel@serviceroundtable.com. Or send your comments to Contracting Business at letters@contractingbusiness.com.