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Balancing Techs with Text: Paperwork - A Service Manager's Nightmare

17 Feb, 2002 By: Ronelle Ingram imageSource

Balancing Techs with Text: Paperwork - A Service Manager's Nightmare

no charge, no service report, no history cards, no business records. I see it
all too often. While teaching a recent service seminar, I posed a series of
questions to the attending service managers.

How many of you require written service orders for each service call?

2. How many not allow “N/C” to be written on non-billable (M.A., CPC,
rental, national account) service orders?

3. How many require a complete written documentation of all charges (service,
travel, parts, supplies and sales tax) that would have been billed, if the
customer were not on a pre-paid service program?

4. How many have someone in your office inspect every completed service order
for completeness, including a customer signature and all appropriate
non-billable charges?

5. How many use history cards?

6. How many require a copy of the history card to be turned in with the signed
service order?

7. How many require a first and last copy to be included with the signed service
order and copy of the history card?

8. When dealing with digitally connected equipment, how many require the
appropriate summary print out be attached to the service order?

each question, fewer hands were raised, signifying yes. Some service managers
became defensive. Others looked at me with amazement. The company owners that
were attending did not have a clue what I was discussing. There were a couple
very smug looking service managers. They were able to say yes to all the
questions. They had attended several of my service management seminars in the
past and implemented the management skills they had been taught. 

will address each of the numbered issues separately:

No charge means “worthless.” Before long, both the customer and the tech
believe the service and parts provided under a prepaid service program have no
worth. Techs are free. Service has no value. When the time comes for the tech to
actually charge a billable customer, he is appalled by the outrageous prices he
is supposed to charge. Many techs wonder why they are only paid $15 per hour,
while charging $150 per hour. Techs who spend 80% to 90% of their time writing
N/C, feel very uncomfortable when the random billable service call is required.
Techs have been known to apologize for the high prices they are forced to
charge. Others continue in their “No Charge” habits and “give-away”
billable hours or discount part charges.

service customers tend to call more often because everything is no charge. When
the monthly, quarterly or yearly service agreement renewal shows up, they are
upset at the high price of their no charge (worthless, free) service.

Many service departments do not require a written service order on prepaid, No
Charge customers. This is especially true with smaller service departments, or
service departments headed by a former tech that has been prompted to service
manager. Techs hate paper work. The promoted service manager can finally become
free of all the hassle of paperwork. When bookkeeping errors allow a billable
customer to be treated as a no charge prepaid service customer, there is no
paper trail of customer acceptance to pay for any charges.

A safeguard to assure the dealer has the ability to charge for any service call
is a written documentation of a complete written and signed service order. This
documents all retail charges that must be paid if a prepaid service agreement is
not in effect. Two separate columns can be included in the service order.
Service Charges and Billable Charges can differentiate the retail value of the
service delivered from the actual cost that is being charged. A line of
explanation, above the customer’s signature explains, “I agree to pay all
service charges if our account is not current, or this equipment is not covered
under a fully paid servicing agreement.”

Have you ever tried to follow-up on an unpaid service call only to find there is
no customer authorization for the work done? No one signed approval of the
charges. The customer emphatically states no one ever authorized the $1000
billing. “We only wanted the equipment cleaned.” No signature, no money.
Even worse would be the absence of any written service order. How could you even
prove a tech serviced the equipment.

The mere mention of service history cards can bring looks of horror from some
sales reps; they feel it is an open book that the competition will use. Date of
install, modifications needed, easily assessable usage history, written
documentation of constant service problems, and the list is endless. Some
companies feel an up to date history card is tantamount to opening up all your
files to the competition. 

7. & 8. From a tech’s point of view, a well-documented history card allows
a quick and convenient record of past and future needs. No need to call the
office or struggle with a copy quality problem when the history card quickly
confirms it is time for a developer change. A history of customer errors will
signal key operator training is more important than machine adjustment. 

managing of field service reps requires a special set of checks and balances.
Too much control and the techs revolt. Too little supervision and guidance, and
you lose control of your field workers. Requiring prudent structure and
practical actions helps techs know what is expected. Those who desire to follow
the rules and optimize their personal achievement have guidelines for success.
Those techs that tend to try to take short cuts and minimize their personal
effort will have guidelines for minimally acceptable performance. In either
case, the desired work is achieved.

first and last copies (prints) turned in, with the completed service order,
requires the tech to take the time to test the equipment before work is started.
The last copy is a formal documentation that the equipment was left in proper
working condition. I require the “last copy” to be a combination of half a
copy or the test pattern and half the copy of our 5.5” X 8” history card.
This gives proof the copy actually came form the customer’s machine and the
history card was filled out properly.

printers and digital equipment need to have a print of the test page, jam counts
or appropriate print out. In each case, the tech must turn in paper work proving
the service call was completed appropriately. Management receives documentation
that can prove the fieldwork was successfully completed. This type of paper work
is invaluable when dealing with account payable clerks, office managers, and
small claim court judges. A complete, professional history of work accomplished
is a testimony to the professional approach your company represents. Great paper
work is an extension of competent work.  You may ask yourself the following
seven questions:

Will this type of complete, accurate paper work take more time? Yes

2. Will it create a more professional work ethic among your field techs? Yes

3. Will some complain and refuse to change their ways? Yes

4. Can creative managers overcome their lazy tech refusal to change? Yes

5. Will change happen overnight? No

6. Are the results worth the effort? That’s up to you.

7. Failure is always immediately easier to accomplish than success. Working hard
to accomplish a worthwhile goal is always easier and more rewarding in the long-

if every time you spent $200 with your American Express card no paper work was
generated. No records, no signature, no charge, no legal rights. Would you pay
your monthly statement?

service orders, complete documentation of all retail worth, signatures, checks
and balances, and a filing system that allows you to quickly find the
information, is a sign of good business, quickly paid invoices, a structured
field staff and responsible management. 

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