Reports are an essential part of our work. The professional standards I mentioned last week give good guidance on what that report should look like, at a minimum. Manufacturers like Fluke have done a superb job of developing report writing software that not only makes life simple but also produces great looking reports.
The report, a great a product as it may be, is usually not our end product. It is just one of the steps along the way to having our work actually make a difference. The steps to success are not magic. They include (1) establishing good communications with the customer, (2) conducting a thorough and professional inspection with the most appropriate imaging equipment, (3) documenting our work and, finally and most importantly, (4) following up with the customer.
While our role in having work actually accomplished may be limited, I’ve often found going over the report with the customer provides a great opportunity to “close” with them and secure a promise of action on their part. On a practical level, customers often have questions, either technical questions or questions about the interpretation of our findings. Without answers, the whole process can get stalled and end up in a pile on their desk.
I remember a great thermographer at an auto plant who printed all of his reports with a highlighter-yellow border on them. When he walked around the plant, he could quickly spot his reports and immediately follow-up with his customers. His intention was not just to create a fancy report but to have that report motivate the customer to do the work to correct the problem. His simple system allowed him to get much better results than many others in his company.
I had a great example of the value of a follow-up with an insulation contractor. For whatever reason he could not make sense of the images in my report. He kept drilling in the wrong places and not finding what I said would (or would not!) be there. By the time I stopped by the job site, he was so frustrated and so sure I was wrong, he’d “blown me off.” When I showed him how to read the images—both understanding the color palette and being able to locate the problem areas—all was well and the job was completed successfully. I also made a friend and ally of him for future work.
The last contact we have with the customer should not be just sending out the report (or the invoice). We are successful only when our work makes a difference. Why? The savings in the long run, quite literally, pay our salaries! If the work is not done, we’ll end up out of a job. The best way to measure our performance is to see how often our work motivates the customer to get the job done. So pick up the phone or stop by their office and see how things are going. In the end, if you are doing your job well, they may also, as I discovered, give you more work or even a referral. Not bad for a day’s work!
John Snell—The Snell Group, a Fluke Thermal Imaging Blog content partner