Before You Call, Collect Information

Aug. 1, 2005
One of the largest frustrations for technical support people is not having good information when trying to diagnose a problem or identify needed replacement

One of the largest frustrations for technical support people is not having good information when trying to diagnose a problem or identify needed replacement parts over the phone with a service technician or installer.

We occasionally experience this ourselves at NCI, and we often hear about this issue from technical support personnel at the distributor and manufacturer level. "If only they (the field personnel) would take a minute to collect nameplate data and take a few measurements, we could help them get the problem solved a lot faster" is a common complaint from support teams.

The experience is just as frustrating at the other end of the phone. Your technicians need help right away so they can move onto the next call, or they need to wrap up the installation as the clock is ticking — and that darn tech support guy wants them to keep going back and test something else.

So what's the solution? Give your field personnel an easy-to-complete form that walks them through the type of data they should collect before they pick up the phone. That way the conversation can be productive and satisfying for both parties — and you can get the problem solved so your field person can move on to the next service call or installation.

Collect The Right Data
Of course, the information that needs to be collected will vary with each situation, but there's a fairly common denominator that needs to be documented on most calls. This common information includes:

  • Equipment nameplate data, including sizes, model numbers and serial numbers
  • Thermostat make and model
  • Temperature drop ( ••• across the coil — in air conditioning mode, and/or across the heat exchanger in heating mode
  • Indoor temperature and relative humidity
  • Total external static pressure (TESP) of the furnace or air handler
  • Pressure drop across the filter
  • Pressure drop across the coil

Depending on the refrigerant-side problem you may need to also document:

  • Indoor wet bulb & outdoor dry bulb
  • Suction line pressure
  • Head pressure
  • Liquid line and suction line temperatures
  • Superheat
  • Subcooling

On a combustion or CO issue you'll also want to measure and document:

  • Draft in the flue(s)
  • CO readings (light-off, run, shutdown)
  • Oxygen and temperature readings
  • Plenum temperature

It would be impossible to include every troubleshooting step or process in this onepage article, since entire volumes have been written on troubleshooting and diagnostics. But by simply measuring and documenting some of these key factors, your technician can help the technical support person get to the bottom of most problems quickly and efficiently.

Here's a golden nugget: If your technicians take the time to test and document this information, half the time they'll figure out what's going on before ever picking up the phone.

If you'd like a handy form for collecting basic diagnostic information, just go to members/index.cfm and click the "Download Free Diagnostic Data Collection Form" button on the upper right hand corner of the page, or call 800/633-7058 and ask for a copy of the diagnostic data collection form.

Dominick Guarino is chairman/CEO of National Comfort Institute, a national training, certification and membership organization focused on Performance-Based Contracting, air diagnostics and balancing, carbon monoxide, mold liability prevention, IAQ and much more. He can be reached at 800/633-7058 or email [email protected]. You can also learn more by visitng the website: www.

About the Author

Dominick Guarino | Chief Executive Officer

Dominick Guarino is CEO of National Comfort Institute (NCI), (, the nation’s premier Performance-Based training,
certification, and membership organization, focused on helping contractors grow and become more profitable. His email is [email protected]. For more info on performance-based contracting, go to or call NCI at 800/633-7058.