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Time To Take Command

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As a technician, one of the most important things you can do for your clients is to educate them. Unfortunately, at times there is a void in the education process because too many technicians are running service or maintenance calls differently. These inconsistencies can give way to other objections that technicians face. However, there is a protocol that should be followed to help build greater consistency among your team.  

I am referring to a critical chain of custody information protocol.  In this chain of custody protocol, there are specific items that must be addressed when servicing a customer’s equipment. While there may be many items to flag during a service call or maintenance visit, it should be your protocol of triage. This triage protocol is documenting any code infractions, any risk for property damage, and personal injury and performance shortfalls.  

Let’s start with a premise of understanding, not just consumer expectations but our liabilityAs HVAC professionals, if we fail to install, service, or educate our customers, we have absorbed all the responsibility for water damage, mold, product failures, personal injury, etc.  

Ask if you can pass this litmus test. If you can’t, the attorneys will figure it out.  

Code compliance: Your responsibility is to know, understand, comply, meet, and exceed all national and local codes. For example, you discover at a customer’s house; there is no safety float or moisture detector device on the system above the living plane. On your invoice, you should document there is a code shortfall and cite the code word for word and make the customer aware of the deficiency. If, for some reason, the customer denies you to installing the safety device, clearly document it on your invoice and have the customer sign it.  

Product guidelines: Your responsibility is to know, understand, and comply with all manufacturer product guidelines and always validate exceptions in writing. If you are installing an ultraviolet product and you cut the plug off the end to splice it into the furnace or air handler’s power supply, you’ve violated the product guidelines if that type of installation method is not acceptable by the manufacturer. By cutting the cord, for example, you’ve voided the UL listing and now set you and your company up for liability if something goes wrong. Technicians and installers should always read the manufacturer’s literature before proceeding with the installation of parts and equipment.  

Improved performance: As part of your professional recommendations, recommendations should be made that will extend the system’s useful product life and reduce the frequency and severity of breakdowns. Options that can help extend the system’s useful product life and frequency and severity of failures are a whole house surge protection, indoor air quality products, duct cleaning, coil washing, and proper maintenance. A maintenance inspection seeks to identify deficiencies that degrade or impair the HVAC system, including its components. Items to improve the performance of the system should be documented on the client’s invoice, and the technician should educate the customer on these recommendations. Obtaining credible third-party information from the manufacturer and ACCA, for example, can help you help your customer to make an educated buying decision. 

By executing this protocol, you can now move from a parts changer to a technician. It is time to adopt a new strategy; in fact, restoring operation is a near fail, the new plan: leave the system better than you found it! Be sure before you start any work to tell your customer that you will be doing a complete system evaluation. Get permission from the client to bring your discoveries to them by saying, “I am going to be doing a complete system evaluation, if I discover anything that needs corrective action, is it okay if I share it with you?” By telling them you are going to do a complete system evaluation, you’ve taken command of the call. A comprehensive system evaluation and safety inspection are not optional; it must be performed on every service call.  

At times we come across absentee owners, customers with selective memory, technicians with poor penmanship, or poor wording. It is essential to document the triage action items consistently and clearly. Your recommendations must communicate and highlight issues of absolute importance. Remember, if you didn’t write it, it didn’t happen. 

Matt Akins
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Posted In: ACCA Now, Technical Tips

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