It is becoming more clear that the old idea of installing high efficiency equipment and simply sealing up duct work does not deliver the energy efficiency we’ve been promising our customers. Effective contractors test and diagnose the live performance of the system and prescribe surgical repairs. These custom repairs enable the system to deliver the efficiency the equipment promises. Let’s take a look at what should be included in a good diagnostic report and repair recommendation.
We frequently receive copies of reports that our members send to their customers. While each report is customized to the situation it addresses, there are common features that most reports should include.
Identify the Issues
Usually, a customer has a general issue of some sort when they first contact you about improving the performance of their system. It may be comfort problems, or high utility bills, or perhaps one of your service techs recommended that they take a look at new equipment.
It’s best to address the customer’s concerns first in the report. Begin the report by describing the original concern the customer called you about, then propose the solution.
Keep it Simple, No Really Simple
The most frequent problem with diagnostic reports is that contractors write their recommendations in a format that assumes their customers have a complete understanding of the problem and the solution already. Well, they basically don’t have a clue. So, write as though they don’t. Funny enough, I use the same simple language in a diagnostic report addressed to a mechanical engineer or mechanical contractor as I use addressing a homeowner.
I still pretend I’m writing these reports in a manner that my 12-year-old daughter Molly can easily understand. She is married with a Bachelor of Science degree now, but I still use the reference of 12-year-old Molly reading the report and it works. Do not try to impress the customer with big words and technical terms.
A Report Pattern Customers Appreciate
Step One - Describe the testing that was completed. Don’t get too technical; just explain enough so the customer understands that you completed specific testing to effectively diagnose their problem.
Step Two - Describe what you found and perhaps compare your findings to what it should be. This makes the problem easier for the customer to understand when they can compare what they have, to what should be. Use manufacturer’s data or industry standards as your reference
Step Three - Describe the solution or recommendation that will solve the problem you found. Keep the description generic enough so the customer doesn’t shop your proposal to a low-bid contractor that doesn’t have a clue of what is needed. Provide a cost to correct the problem. Be mindful to include a cost for your solution in the price. Don’t just charge for time and material.
Possible Step Four -If it is a problem you cannot remedy, or you have to remove the second story of the house to get access to the mechanical system, refer the customer to one or more parties that will further diagnose or solve the problem.
This may include an industrial hygienist, a full service general building contractor, an insulation contractor, or even a pest control guy. This will remove any liability from you but will provide a direction that, if your customer follows, will take care of the problem. You are now removed from the issue and are cleared of liability if you handle it correctly.
Almost Always Provide Options
Often a customer’s financial means will direct you to offer a patch instead of a solution. We do this because we’re nice guys and we understand the reality of our customer’s financial condition. However, because we are the professional, when this reality confronts us, we must include an option in the proposal that will totally extinguish the problem, or the liability may remain with us. It may cost $40,000, but unless we list that option, we may remain liable for not solving the problem. Offer the more expensive solution and have the customer reject that recommendation in writing or by an initial, and you’ll be protected.
Rob “Doc” Falke serves the industry as president of National Comfort Institute a training company with technical and business level membership organizations. If you're an HVAC contractor or technician interested in a procedure used to renovate duct systems, contact Doc at [email protected] or call him at 800-633-7058. Go to NCI’s website at nationalcomfortinstitute.com for free information, articles and downloads.