Computer Repair Business
Copyright 2010 by Morris Rosenthal
All Rights Reserved
Selling Service (Topics Covered)
Earning a Good Reputation (Book Excerpt)
Warning: These pages are not intended as professional advice. They are presented "as is", reader beware!
Simple. Answer the phone, tell them when you'll have it ready or when you'll come over, and BE ON TIME. Trust me, in the end, being on time and making an effort means more to most customers than anything else. They understand that your time is your money, and that you don't want to be sitting at their computer re-installing Windows, so the fact that you came shows that you value them. I've hired and fired technicians over the years and the rarest quality to find is not technical competence, it's responsible behavior. Don't avoid your customers if things aren't going well, and don't give them optimistic projections of when you expect the parts to arrive or the job to be done. Always be realistic and straight with your customers, and if you're any good at your job, you'll succeed in making them happy. Making money, as we have noted, is another issue altogether, but it is a good time to point out that business customers aren't nearly as price sensitive as you might think. They don't want to be ripped off, but the important factor to them is that their computer procurement and operations shouldn't intrude on their ability to do business. They aren't in the computer business, they just want it to work. Dell has made a fortune selling the perception that they provide this kind of support, and they sell hardware at margins well exceeding the 20 points we talk about as a store-front minimum.
Just to draw the line a little clearer, let's take a moment to examine how you can earn a bad reputation and end up with legal problems. The number one way to really get your customers angry in any service business is to hide from them. This includes not answering the phone, not returning calls, not responding to e-mails, or making lame efforts to put in a showing at their establishment when you know they aren't going to be there.
If for some reason you get involved in a service problem you can't handle, tell the customer and help them find somebody else. Don't drag it out in the hopes that the situation will somehow resolve itself, because the eventual resolution can only be bad for you. In all the years I've worked in service, both hardware and software, the phrase I've used the most is "I don't know, but...", which may be followed up with, "...but let's try this," or "...but I think I know where to find out," or "...but I'll take it back to the shop and work on it all night." The important thing is that the customer will appreciate your honesty and the special attention you are giving their problem, plus you'll have lowered their expectation for a miraculous solution. The truth is, by admitting you don't have the answer and then working the problem out quickly, you'll only enhance your reputation as a troubleshooter in the eyes of your customers. On the other hand, if you show up for a service call and find the whole problem is that the brightness on the monitor was turned down, or an icon was deleted from the desktop, don't try to make a big show of it to justify billing an hour. Whether you bill them or not depends on how tough you are (I'll admit to being a real softy on the one minute service call), but never fake that you're doing them some great service when you're not.
One of the worst practices you can get involved with in the service business is charging a new customer to go around their office poking into every machine and collecting data on the theory that this information is necessary to support them. When I worked as the technical editor for a PC hardware book in which an author kept pushing this practice, I wouldn't sign off on it. There is never any excuse to go around opening up healthy PCs and pulling out boards to write down the serial numbers and whatever settings you can identify. The only thing you can accomplish is to waste the customer's time and money, and very possibly to mess up a computer in the process. There's no advantage in knowing what's inside a working PC that you didn't sell the customer. If it fails, you'll have plenty of time to see what's inside when you go out to identify the problem. Unfortunately, the practice of creating these control sheets for PCs is ingrained with some old school techs who don't even realize that they are perpetrating a rip-off. Just don't do it.
After a year of having successive drafts of the whole book online, I'm following the advice of readers who asked whether I was running a business or a money losing hobby:-) I left the first three chapters posted, as they were the most popular in any case, and single topic excerpts from the others.
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