Excellent Documentation is Excellent Marketing
December 11, 2008
Most company owners would give their left arm to have a couple of hours to explain to a customer just how great their company is. Almost every action, attitude and guideline in a company can be called marketing – clean equipment, uniformed (and pleasant) employees, professional Yellow Pages ads, an easy-to-use Web site, etc.
But one area often overlooked is when a customer spends time looking at invoices and job documentation: many companies provide poor documentation to their customers, and lose a golden opportunity.
Cleanliness is the standard for everything in a good restoration business. A dirty truck, technician or piece of equipment would never be used. The same standard should be applied to job documentation. Handwriting should be neat and legible. Pictures should be clear. Meter readings should be understandable and make sense. A few simple things can be implemented to improve the cleanliness of your company’s paperwork:
- For moisture readings, provide a key to what all the readings mean. Then your customer doesn’t have to try and decipher their meaning.
- Be sure that all different paperwork is clearly labeled for its purpose.
- For paperwork with multiple pages, number pages clearly (e.g., “p. 3 of 5”).
- Supply technicians with digital cameras and spend a little training time showing them how to take good pictures.
- Moisture maps should not look hastily drawn, but should have crisp lines and meaningful representations of moisture migration, inspection points, material types, and equipment placement.
Clear notes are another part of excellent documentation. Handwritten and printed notes, e-mails and phone documentation can be included in this category. Be sure the date and time is on each note, and also indicate who wrote the note. Document names, if it was a conversation, and the topic of conversation. If the note was about an observed condition (e.g. “Upon arrival at the residence, it was noted that the dehumidifiers were not running.”), add details about what caused the problem: was a breaker tripped, was the unit malfunctioning, or was it simply turned off? This bears repeating: legible handwriting is a must for the technicians in the field. Notes are useless if they cannot be read.
Excellent documentation ties up loose ends. It answers all the pertinent questions about a project before they are asked. Every project has unusual circumstances; for these, add extra notes, documentation, pictures, etc. For example, if a water loss required extra air movers, be sure to thoroughly document why the air movers were added, making sure it is a logical (and hopefully indisputable) reason. If a procedure took twice as long to complete and there is an extra charge, explain why.
Another aspect of tying up loose ends is your understanding of that customer. You may know an insurance adjuster well enough that you can predict their “pet peeves” about a job. Excellent documentation addresses these potential problems and prevents them from taking root and growing.
Be sure to take advantage of reports that can be produced automatically from systems you already own. Remote monitoring, moisture documentation and estimating products all have functions that can take the data you have gathered and produce professional reports, tables and graphs.
Finally, all documentation needs to be double-checked before it goes out. Is there a person in your office who is very detail oriented? That person should be checking all of your documentation. Develop a check sheet ensuring that all forms, documents, notes, etc. are included in the file. As the final check, look at the documents the way a teacher would. Would you give that documentation an “A” grade? If not, you need to improve.
Everything you do in your business says something about your business. Clean, clear paperwork and excellent documentation says good things. Incomplete documentation, unclear readings, loose ends and a lack of explanation says bad things. You should consider the documentation you prepare for customers to be a part of your marketing effort. Building owners and managers value a well-done documentation packet because it gives them confidence that their structure was remediated effectively.
If your business produces poor documentation, it is hurting your profits and growth.