Work reports were a small revolution for us, it was when we began to transform chaos to order. They have allowed us to get more money for the same job while having a more satisfied customer.
Please allow me to return to our beginnings (when I and my business partner have each had our own trade licenses) and outline to you the past concierge.
What problems we had to deal with
My partner, Martin M., once started willing to deliver the best service + as quickly as possible. How much time he had worked for which client he kept casually – he wrote it down wherever at hand (excel, notebook, other empty papers). He did not like to record his work, and the billing was perceived no differently. Sometime after a month or two. But when he wanted to invoice, he spent a lot of time searching for all the places where he wrote his work down (but I think he never found everything). He has issued and sent customers the invoices for his work, but because his notes on paid work were not uniform, he did not attach them to the invoices.
Of course, the customers didnt like the simple invoice, which indicated “some” amount. They often asked what it is and why it is not less. The worst fact was that Martin has issued the invoice after two months or more. The customer no longer remembered that he was scavenging data from the crashed server a month ago, and he could open the store the very next day. If he had invoiced it immediately, the customer would have gladly pay him twice as much, and he would still be grateful. But after more than a month, the customer “did not feel” the hopelessness and urgency of the situation he had been in that night and wondered why the amount was so high (especially when Martin has not given any reminders).
Both sides were losing
In my opinion, it was a difficult situation, where both sides were losing. The customer felt he was obliterated. Martin was losing time (he had to solve the customers’ objections), customer satisfaction (the service was good, but he started to lose the points for billing), money (occasionally he did not find notes with the work done and did not invoice the customer) and it took a long time to get paid (because he invoiced in long intervals).
All the time I’m writing about my partner, and it might seem like I didn´t do any mistakes. This is, of course, not true, I had to solve similar problems. In a number of things, I was much worse off. I was just a little more consistent with the billing.
Work reports as a solution
Martin and I finally came up with the following solution:
- We have programmed a work recording system. Because of this, there is only one place where the work is recorded and the work records are uniform. We made the form for work recording as simple as possible. So that the work can be quickly written down, and at the same time, contain the data we need.
- We supervise each other to record the work – so it no longer happens that someone would forget to record the work that was delivered.
- We have begun to keep monthly invoicing (always at the end of the month) – which has improved our cash flow.
- We attach a work report to each invoice (sample PDF work report for inspiration) – thanks to which the customer knows exactly what he is paying for. From the very beginning, the work report was simple. It contained records of “who”, “what”, “when”, and “how long” has been dealing with. Now they also include a list of the supplied HW / SW and regular maintenance items – something that happens throughout the month and does not relate to a specific time (e.g. server monitoring).
- A little extra. We have automated the things that are repeated so that they do not take any extra time – these work reports are generated by our information system, the colleagues then double check (whether everything is okay), confirm and the system will take care of issuing the invoice, creating an e-mail and delivering it to the customer.
Real world experience
It has turned out, that thanks to the measures above, that we have successfully solved our problems and we have significantly improved relationships with our customers. In addition, other positive effects, which we didn´t expect, has appeared.
Recording the work in one place and in a single format was only the first step that has resulted into our internal information system, and that has allowed us to start crunching numbers! Now that we see: how much is the volume of work for the current month, how much was the volume in the past months, how long can each of us work, our work efficiency, customers with the highest labor demand, fluctuations, trends, etc. It has allowed us to start managing the company properly, rather than by “feelings“.
Thanks to consistent work recording, we have started to earn more money. “Papers” with notes about “for whom” and “who” has worked were no longer lost. And because recording using the system is simple and fast, we started to record even the short tasks (about 10-15 minutes). We did not record them before, because recording them took longer than the intervention itself. Now when I’m looking at is the system, the interventions within 20 minutes make about 5% of the total volume. In addition, writing down even the smallest of tasks is required for completeness of reports (see below). Additionally, if the report had only included long works, the customer could feel that everything takes us too long. 🙂
Work reports also serve as a “black box” for both us and the customer. For future searches, why “something” is set “somehow”, “who” set it and “when”. The customer knows if any of the employees do abuse the tech support and what are the costs of IT department.
Since the introduction of work reports, we didn’t need to solve any billing discrepancy with any customer. It was like waving a magic wand. One month was problematic. Then we have implemented the measures mentioned above, within two months, and soon after, the problem was gone. Paradoxically, customers pay more than ever before. Because we no longer forget to write down the work that has been delivered. But they are also much more satisfied, because they know what exactly are they paying for.
If you have managed to read till now, you probably think it’s obvious and I agree with you. Some details are a bit harder to pick up, but usually it´s just a common sense. However, I sometimes have a tendency to work harder than smarter.
How about you? Do you also use work reports in your company? How do they work? Do you have any idea for improvement. 🙂