Crafting a Thorough Service Report

Columns - IPM Insights

September 14, 2022

“If you don’t write it down, it didn’t happen.” We’ve all heard that phrase regarding service reports and documentation, but what does it really mean?

Documentation often can seem like an afterthought, especially since we’re in the business of managing pests, not writing reports. However, writing a service report is just as crucial as your pest control work.

Each service report is a chance to give yourself credit for all your hard work at that client’s site and re-sell the value of your services. It also serves as a snapshot of what occurred at that facility since your last visit and can help you identify trends or changes to the program that may need to occur.

Your service report also is designed to give your client a legal record of the services performed at their facility. If something happens on your client’s property (e.g., an adverse health reaction, property damage or a food recall), what’s written in your service report could be used in court.

Because documentation is so important, here are several steps you should take while preparing for and writing a service report.

TAKE NOTE. First, always have a notepad or cue card with you. A place to take notes will guarantee that nothing is forgotten in your report. Notes can include a tally of rodenticide bait replaced, timings of applications, levels of activity in bait stations and traps, or anything else you will need to include in your report.

Next, think about what you’re going to write. This is your time to plan how to include everything documented in your notes within your service report.

When writing your report, be sure to record, in detail, what you did and what you saw. This includes the regular service elements you performed, all pest activity you found and what actions you took to remedy pest issues. At this point, you also will record any pesticide applications you made and any other related state-required items.

When recording service elements performed, be sure to give yourself credit for all the equipment you checked and cleaned, even if there wasn’t pest activity. This includes glueboards, insect light traps and, of course, traps and bait stations. You also should record the specific location of any activity you found (e.g., trap number or location description).

If you discovered conditions or behaviors leading or contributing to pest issues, record them in your report with as much detail as possible. This will cover you if your client does not address the issues and will serve as a to-do list for them to follow before your next service.

Finally, review what you wrote and make changes, if needed, to your completed report. Many digital record-keeping systems have predictive text or autocorrect and may not have recorded your thoughts accurately. Use a spell checker, but be aware that it will not catch incorrect homonyms (their/they’re/there, your/you’re, to/too/two, etc.) or words that are misused but spelled correctly.

EXTRA ITEMS. A few extra items may be worth documenting if you’re performing service within a food plant.

Clearly documenting all pest sightings and how you responded to the issue within a specific area of your report will help clients quickly identify any issues within their facility. Allowing clients to record pest sightings between services also can help you stay on top of issues within the facility.

Documenting specific pest activity (rodent, cockroach, flying insect, etc.) over time for each piece of equipment will help identify pest hot spots or areas of increased activity. This may lead to more intensive inspections by you or behavioral/sanitation suggestions for your client.

Including designated threshold levels within these trends will further clarify activity levels. Thresholds and recommended actions for pest activity are a mechanism to ensure that when pest activity increases, responsive actions are carefully considered and carried out consistently.

Determining thresholds within your service standards for each site, acting upon them when they are crossed and documenting your actions will demonstrate you have a plan in place should pest activity occur and help you respond appropriately to changing pest activity.

Many food processing facilities require a map of all permanent equipment that is updated annually. Additionally, they may require supplemental equipment to be mapped when placed. Regularly reviewing and updating your map will guarantee that you do not miss servicing equipment. There’s nothing worse than a client or auditor discovering a misplaced, unserviced piece of equipment during an audit.

FINAL THOUGHTS. Many things go into a complete service report, but that doesn’t mean the process should be intimidating. By making notes throughout your service, thinking about what you want to write, revising when needed and re-reading it before submission, you can be sure that your report is thorough, complete and credible, along with fulfilling all state requirements.

Caroline Kohnert, A.C.E., is technical director at Plunkett’s Pest Control, Fridley, Minn. She is an ESA Public Health Entomologist certificate holder. She has a master’s degree in adult education from the University of Minnesota and a bachelor’s degree in wildlife ecology from the University of Wisconsin.