AE Blog - Documenting Telephone Calls
Documenting telephone calls begins with good note taking during the conversation. Many firms have a pre-printed form for documenting telephone conversations – keep a supply of the forms close by. If you initiate the call, complete all the applicable information (date, time, person, subject, etc.) before you pick up the phone. If the other party calls, just note the time and fill in the rest later. Take notes while you are talking, using a short hand technique that can be filled in after the call. I used the initial of the caller followed by a brief statement of what was said. One of my clients used a headset and I could hear him typing notes while we were talking.
Earlier in my career, a Federal client required that we submit hard-copy written documentation of all phone calls. Happily, now we have e-mail that can accomplish very much the same thing. Direction received by telephone from a client can be conveniently documented by sending it in an e-mail to the design team members with a copy to the client, requesting verification of the direction received. Seeing the written summary of what you understood the direction to be will alert the client to any possible misunderstanding. If the direction requires a contract amendment, you can include that you are preparing the amendment.
The method of archiving telephone conversation documentation will vary from one firm to another, depending on the firm’s protocol for document control. However, it is not likely that keeping the documentation in more than one place or format will be criticized, especially if there is a claim or controversy. Retaining your hand written notes taken during the conversation can add credence to your formal documentation.
Some of my colleagues will tell you that I tend to be a “documentation freak”, which is about right. But, I can tell you from some unhappy experience, no matter how good my documentation was when the claim came, I wished that I had more and that it was better!