Warranties - Start & Run a Computer Repair Service (Start & Run Business Series) (2012)

Start & Run a Computer Repair Service (Start & Run Business Series) (2012)



If you are selling computers, your customers will expect you to offer a warranty on the system. Therefore, you will need to think about what type of policy your business wants to have. Some companies cover shipping on warranty work — sending the customer a prepaid shipping label, whereas others ask the customer to pay for shipping. Some warranties are full no-fault warranties while others only cover repairs for malfunctioning parts. You need to decide what your business will or will not cover.

We choose to cover only those parts that are found to be defective, not parts that are broken due to abuse, negligence, or customer error. For example, if a customer comes in with a bad motherboard that has leaking caps, it is usually covered under the warranty. However, when a customer comes in with loose VGA connectors on the motherboard, and he or she has admitted the cables are constantly kicked, that is not covered by our warranty.

The problem is that most customers believe that almost everything should be covered by a warranty, including damage they cause. Therefore, in order to make sure you avoid customer conflicts, document your warranty in advance. List everything you cover and don’t cover and, if you want to, include explanations. If you aren’t sure what should be in a warranty in your area, have your lawyer review the document as well.

1. Warranty Seals

Warranty seals are somewhat controversial but also very helpful. A warranty seal is a sticker that goes across the computer in such a way to ensure that if the computer was opened and tampered with you can tell. They are great reminders to customers that computers have fragile parts, and that tampering with the system when you aren’t an experienced technician could result in damaging it.

A typical warranty seal is made on special stickers that are difficult to remove.

The controversy arises when a knowledgeable person wants to make a simple and standard upgrade. Has the person really broken the warranty by removing that seal and upgrading the memory?

In the past, vendors have said that they won’t repair computers that have this seal damaged or mutilated in any way. However, over the years, there has been some discussion about the legality of this policy. For instance, customers often upgrade a computer’s graphics card, memory, or hard drive. Should these standard upgrades really be considered violation of warranty? The answer is no. In general, making a standard upgrade to a computer is not considered to be a warranty violation even if it did damage the warranty seal. Yet, companies continue to use these seals. Why? Well, to be honest, it is because most people will damage their computer if they start “messing around” when they notice a problem. Therefore, these seals are important warning labels for most customers.

At our company, while we do have warranty seals, we also honor our warranty if the seal is broken but there has been no abuse. We have kept the seals to remind the average customer that playing around with the machine could break it and could void the warranty. Also, we place our name and phone number on the seal to remind the customer that the repair may be under warranty.

2. Keeping Warranty Costs Reduced

While a warranty will cost your business some money each time a repair needs to be completed and a part needs to be replaced, there are many ways to offset these costs. In some cases, you may find that a customer comes in for warranty work and that work will bring in additional sales!

2.1 Make sure that the computer is under warranty

Just because a computer was purchased from your company and it has a problem, doesn’t mean it is under warranty. However, that doesn’t mean customers won’t try to insist it is under warranty. Before you start exploring the customer’s problem, get the warranty information if he or she says it is a warranty repair. The customer should be able to provide both the receipt and the warranty information. While you can keep this type of information on record for the customer, remember, this is the customer’s responsibility, not yours. If the warranty has expired, make sure the customer understands that you can diagnose the computer, but the repair will not be covered under the expired warranty.

2.2 Software problems are almost never under warranty

One honest customer misconception is that software problems are under warranty. I had a customer insist that viruses should be covered since that’s why she bought a new computer, so that she wouldn’t get these annoying viruses! To my knowledge there is no hardware manufacturer anywhere that would warranty a machine against getting viruses. If a computer comes in “running slowly” and turns out to have viruses, the virus removal is not covered under warranty. Therefore, you can offer the customer the service, but before you begin, make sure he or she understands that this type of work is not covered by the warranty and there will be a charge for the service.

There are a few cases in which software could be covered. For instance, if you forgot to install the drivers on a new computer, this would be covered by most warranties (and good service policies). Other than that, almost everything else is not included.

2.3 Abuse should not be covered

One of the most damaging things a customer can do to his or her computer is smoke in the same room. We have seen so many computers that are full of dust and debris because the owners smoked in the same room, or left them in very dusty, hot rooms. In other cases, customers have hooked the machine directly into the wall outlet without a voltage regulator or surge protector.

In cases like these, the computer has been abused and there is no manufacturing defect. Therefore, this type of damage is typically not covered by a warranty. Make sure to show the customer the overwhelming smoke dust or the damage to multiple parts to prove your assertion. Otherwise, it could appear as if you don’t stand behind your product.

2.4 Parts can be replaced at little or no cost to you

Once you have determined that the computer is under warranty and that the problem is also under warranty, you should try to complete the repair at the lowest cost possible. This usually begins by choosing reliable vendors and well-made products to sell to your customer. Whether you choose to buy or build your computers, make sure you find quality products that come with warranties of their own.

For instance, our computers are custom built with parts we know are reliable and are created by companies that stand by their products. As a result, when a part breaks, we can return it directly to the vendor. This is typically done with a Return Merchandise Authorization (RMA). The result is that the vendor replaces the part and all we have to pay is the cost of shipping to the vendor. Since we usually do this once a month, the costs are often only a few dollars for a replacement motherboard or hard drive!

Make sure to complete RMAs at least once a month. Many manufacturers change their products a few times a year to make sure that products that are too old and are broken because of normal wear and tear are not able to be returned as new parts.

If your vendor won’t take back the part, check with the manufacturer. Oftentimes, the parts you used to build the computer will come with warranties. Many large companies will accept these parts and replace them with a new part of same or better value. For instance, if you look at the Seagate website, you can enter the serial number of a hard drive and discover if it is under warranty. If it is, you can return that product to Seagate without even finding the receipt!

With some good record keeping and by purchasing high-quality parts, you can keep the costs for replacement parts to almost nothing.

3. Look for Up Selling Opportunities

The customer may be in the store for a replacement part, but that doesn’t mean that there aren’t other opportunities for up selling. For instance, we allow our customers to purchase a three-year warranty. When a customer comes in with a three-year-old computer under warranty, there may be additional up selling opportunities. Does the customer want more RAM? If we are replacing the hard drive anyway, does he or she want to spend a few extra dollars to get a larger drive? How about the latest and greatest operating system since we have to wipe and reload anyway? Sometimes when your customers are already getting some of the work for free they may be willing to spend a few extra dollars for the better part.

4. Don’t Let the Warranty Scope Creep

So, the hard drive failed on your customer’s new computer. What are you obligated to repair? According to your warranty, all you owe the customer is a new hard drive. However, the customer is furious. All of her applications, photos, and documents were on that machine! She wants a full data recovery. What are you going to do?

In general, making sure you have a clearly outlined warranty policy is the first step in clearing up this kind of a problem. However, in general, this is your decision. You could, if you want to help the customer, try to recover what you can. However, be careful of scope creep. Once these things start, they tend to grow. For example, if you recover her data, are you also going to try to get her application keys? If you are, will you reinstall all the free apps she had installed as well? What about her antivirus? The issue is that once you allow a little bit of scope creep it’s hard to figure out where to stop, so keep your warranty work limited to the scope of your warranty.