Technician Job Notes Done Right

By Brian Rhodes, Published on Aug 27, 2014

One of the most common complaints of senior integrators is poor job notes.

Service technicians, especially junior ones, routinely screw this up, compounding problems and increasing costs. 

Not only are these notes important for future reference, they also can be critical to customer relations as well.  In this note, we examine the 6 details every technicians's job notes should contain, and explain why collecting these details can separate your company from trunkslammers.  

Why Job Notes Are Important

At a basic level, integrators and installers are service providers. The service management core of self-performed installation work is good methods of accounting and managing installation and maintenance activity. There are at least three values to gain by collecting job notes:

  • Record of Performance: A formal account of the work that was performed firmly documents when / where / how service took place.
  • Billing Defense: Should an invoice be questioned, good notes provide the justification and names of the individuals approving the work.
  • Checking Efficiency /Estimate Accuracy: Internally, job notes reveal how accurate troubleshooting assessments or initial cost estimates proved to be. Having this feedback helps project estimators and service underwriters more accurately assess future work.

6 Details Every Job Note Should Contain

The information exchange between a technician and the home office does not need to be lengthy, but should contain a few key details that prove useful long after the technician leaves the job. Every job notes conversation or email should include:

  • Billable Details: Starting by reporting the time work started and work ended on a day, but also 'nonproductive' but billable details like travel time/ mileage and even per diem expenses should be recorded.
  • Customer's Point of Contact: The specific name and time whomever received or escorted the security company's technician on site.
  • Scope of Performance: What work was actually performed? While 'adjusted cameras' may be brief, it is not useful. However, specific details on which cameras were adjusted and a quick overview of which adjustment was performed is useful.
  • Parts / Materials Used: Accounting for all devices applied to a job on the day they were used ensures contractual items like warranty periods have a good start date, and inventories of even 'consumables' like short lengths of cable, sealant, and fasteners can be accounted in billing. 
  • Did Work Match Estimates? Why not?: The most valuable information that can be shared often details what the problem was actually discovered to be, versus what was initially reported. The work needed to fix the issues often varies greatly from the initial diagnosis, and sharing this feedback can be a critical benefit for enhancing assessment skills, uncovering other problems, and building effective communication among internal groups.
  • Is job complete?: Finally, confirming whether or not the job is finished seems obvious, but should be overtly mentioned. If so, then confirming if the customer 'signed-off' permits closeout and invoicing to begin. If not, then planning the job return, what parts are needed to complete the effort, and what additional labor hours are required are logically introduced.

If initial job estimates are exceeded or return trips are needed, then prompt and concise feedback can alert salesman or prioritize getting approvals in a quick manner.

Frequency

Job notes should be collected every day. While the impulse may be to duck or avoid the task every single day, data accuracy is important while recollection is fresh. Trying to remember significant details a week afterward or on a Friday afternoon will invariably result in rushed, incomplete, or marginally useful job notes.

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The man-hour burden for updating notes should be around fifteen minutes for every eight hours worked, or just over one man-hour per week. Given an average cost of $50 per hour for a technician, this adds up to a cost of about $200 per month collecting details from a tech.

Why is it worth it?

Convincing technicians of the value to spend time on good paperwork is tough, because many see it as a nuisance. When taking the time to discuss (mundane?) details about the job they have done seems a chore, stressing the business value of the information they are sharing is key. That value includes:

  • Billing Accuracy: If a customer disputes charges or questions what they are actually paying, detailed job notes can quickly clear up confusion and doubt.
  • Lessons Learned: If a job or system is plagued by bad equipment choices, shoddy install, and other unforeseen difficulties, job notes are the most efficient method of circulating details to those who benefit from hearing about it.  Anecdotes and 'war stories' are often dismissed as informal chatter, but job notes often carry weight when sharpening business intelligence. 
  • Customer Demands: While smaller customers may never ask to see internal notes, large organizations and end-users may require them as a pretense for doing business. Especially for large commercial customers, periodic reviews on vendor performance may require summaries of every service call in the period to update internal metrics.

Should an issue with subcontractors or equipment manufacturers come up, job notes are the first resources polled to establish the problem extent. The significance of individual details may not be apparent at the time, but taken in larger context may prove to have tremendous business value.

Commercial Service Management Platforms

Increasingly, larger organizations are moving to 3rd-party subcontractor management systems, whose sole purpose is effective management of subcontractors like security integrators. The core purpose of these platforms is to establish good updates with service vendors hired to perform work. Common platforms include:

Many corporate end-users find working with these platforms becoming an integral aspect of performance and vendor management. If an integrator has not already long established the practice and process of collecting job notes, they may find themselves on the 'do not use' list of potential vendors for the next project.

Anecdotal Pain

As an integrator, troubleshooting is difficult. It is very common that when a service request call comes in, the first place a troubleshooter looks is the previous job notes. Nothing is more frustrating that reviewing these note only to find vagueness about check-in times and work performed.

For example, a job note stating "Fixed Camera 3" is not useful for troubleshooting the next time a call on Camera 3 is received. However, a note explaining "Camera #3 was reported offline. I pinged the camera's IP of 192.169.1.1, and it returned the ping. I then power cycled the PoE Injector and everything came back online as normal" is a much better note and may even give troubleshooting a good headstart for further work.

In this way, spending time to make better notes can actually save money down the road.

What about you? Do you have any anecdotes where good or bad job note made a big difference?

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