(Photo by Ernest Sigmon.)
Paperwork. It's not necessarily fun, but it is a definite necessity. Whether it is electronically generated or it is old-fashioned pulp, one cannot conduct business without paperwork. Paperwork keeps order, binding your organization like nylon thread. It clarifies where you have been, what you have done, what materials you have used, and what you have recommended.

Today we will examine the various types of paperwork a technician might use in the field.

Service invoice - This is the official and legal document used to record activities on a service call. It contains customer contact information, model and serial numbers of equipment worked on, description of work performed, materials used, and method of payment.

Some invoices will have lists with boxes to check corresponding to duties regularly performed on maintenance calls and recommendations on additional products and services. The service invoice is an excellent place to document refrigerant handling and usage for Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) compliance. This document can help to reduce liability issues in the future. Notifying your customer in writing of potential carbon monoxide problems is one example.

The service invoice represents you and your company. After you have carefully and neatly filled out the invoice, personalize it with a thank you note. This added touch conveys a human appreciation that you have for your customers and their business.

Service recommendations - This form is used to relay additional information on products or services that may enhance your customers' comfort or lower their utility bills.

Service agreement form - This document builds companies. The most successful time to obtain a service agreement is when you are face-to-face with your customer, especially after you have restored their heat or cooling in inclement weather.

Service stickers and cards - These can be a quick reference when your customer is in need of your services. Stickers will have your company phone number and Web site. Stickers are applied to thermostats, furnaces, condensers, and almost any other major piece of HVAC equipment in your customer's home. Don't forget to tag the water heater, too. Service cards are tied to the equipment and detail services performed. They are handy as a reference for your customers and for your fellow technicians.

Service inspection forms - These forms detail what was actually completed at the time of the inspection or maintenance checkup. Most inspection sheets already list the services performed, and it's up to the technician to check off the appropriate boxes. This document is more commonly used in commercial work, whereas the service invoice fills this need in residential situations.

Installation work order - The salesperson or installation manager usually generates this document. It details the equipment and material to be used, location, and installation instructions. It is important to follow work order instructions, as they have been discussed with your customer prior to your arrival on the job. Work orders sometimes have areas dedicated for material used on the job. Some companies use a separate sheet for this procedure.

Start-up sheet - These are used when starting up new equipment. It serves as a baseline for run parameters and characteristics. It is also an excellent quality control tool. It substantiates that the equipment and system are running and performing to design specifications - which is generally what your customer was promised.

Time card - These are used to document the hours you work, as well as for payroll and productivity purposes. Some companies keep track of labor hours internally and others designate this responsibility to their technicians. Either way, it is always a good idea for you to also keep track of your own hours. Information gleaned from the time card can be used to measure your productivity. You always want this data to be clean, clear, and accurate, as it serves as a benchmark of your performance.

Business cards - Every single employee should have and carry business cards. Although not typically thought of as paperwork, business cards contain important documentation, including your company's contact information, along with your name. If a customer was impressed by service that you rendered, a business card becomes an easy method for them to tell others about your company.

Accurately completed paperwork is as essential to your company as repairing HVACR systems and customer service. Fine-tune this skill and take your place alongside doctors, lawyers, and other professional business people.

David E. Rothacker is a member of the National Comfort Institute's Advisory Board and a National Comfort Team Founding Member. For questions or comments on Tech Basics, contact Rothacker at ewizaard@hotmail.com.

Publication date: 01/26/2004