Start & Run a Computer Repair Service (Start & Run Business Series) (2012)
Provide Great Customer Service
If your customers like you, they will tell all of their friends. Unfortunately, if they don’t like you, they will still tell all of their friends.
How do you keep your business growing instead of shrinking? One of the best ways to grow your business is through fantastic customer service. Having a positive attitude, a fast turnaround time, and high-quality work will convince your customers that you are a great company with which to do business. Our stores in Arizona don’t do any advertising. We don’t pay for any ads, coupons, or product placement. The reason is that once we built our business, it continued to grow through customer referrals. Most of our new customers come as recommendations from other customers. This means that we continue to get new business and grow without any financial investment! Great customer service is like that.
With a repair business, your customer service starts as soon as you get the call and will continue until the problem is resolved. Since you want your customers to call you with all their computer problems and questions, you want to build a strong relationship throughout the entire problem process. Remember, customers are usually frustrated and annoyed when they have computer problems, so it is always your job to make sure that they have a positive experience.
Customer service in the computer business begins before you ever see the customer or touch the person’s computer.
1. Tips to Provide Great Customer Service
One of the most amazing things we have observed over the years is that a technician’s attitude can either grow or sink the business. We have hired people who were great with customers, and people come in asking for them by name. Other technicians have been so bad that after they left, customers returned saying that they were glad they were finally gone. To keep your business thriving, make sure to follow the simple rules outlined in the next few sections.
1.1 Plain language works best
Use plain language so that you are understood by your customer. If the computer is having a problem connecting to the WAN, don’t use technical jargon by referring to the IEEE 802.11 standard when you could simply tell the customer his or her WiFi isn’t working.
In general, using technical jargon is a mistake many new technicians make. While they may believe this makes them look knowledgeable and experienced, it usually doesn’t. Most customers simply see the technician as condescending and obnoxious.
1.2 Answer the phone politely
Make sure to answer the phone with a smile and be upbeat and positive. Remember that when you get a call, the customer has a problem and he or she wants to know that the person he or she is talking to can fix the problem, and is not someone who will make it worse. A positive attitude is a great way to convince a customer he or she is in good hands.
1.3 Empathize with your customer
When a customer brings you an issue, be sympathetic and understanding. Should he or she have known to back up the hard drive? Sure, but that doesn’t mean that you should tell the customer this when he or she realizes he or she just lost all the family photos from the last ten years. Furthermore, even though you may be happy to have found the issue, a bad hard drive is not good news for anyone. When you relate the problem, make sure you don’t appear too “happy” to have found the problem. This could be misunderstood as a lack of empathy.
1.4 Providing solutions, not just problems
Let’s face it; everyone who brings a computer to a computer repair shop has a problem. They aren’t paying you to tell them what’s wrong. They already know that they have an issue; they are paying you for a solution.
When you call a customer to let him or her know you found the cause of his or her stress, don’t dwell on the issue. Immediately, provide what you believe the solution should be. For instance, when you call about a bad hard drive, you should mention that you can try a data recovery. If the customer has viruses, immediately start discussing how you can complete a virus removal. You can tell you are doing this well when you are driving the conversation forward. If the customer has to ask, “Well, what can you do to fix it?” You need to practice the skill of providing solutions and not just problems.
1.5 Keeping the customer in the loop
When you are working with customers, you need to be honest about what is happening with their computer. Unfortunately, most people have assumptions about computer repair. They think that as soon as they bring their computer in to a technician it will be serviced immediately. They sometimes believe repairs are easy and will be done faster than is really possible. The best way to manage these unrealistic expectations is to communicate often and honestly with your customers.
As soon as they walk in, let them know how long a diagnostic usually takes. Once you have identified the problem and the probable solution, make sure to give them a realistic (not optimistic) estimate of how long it will take to fix. If you run into any issues that are going to extend the time it takes to fix the issue, call them and let them know immediately. The more interaction you have with the customers, the more understanding they will be.
2. When Something Goes Wrong
No matter how hard you try to make sure everything goes smoothly, there are always problems that will arise. Working parts will break, vendors will be late, and work will take longer than you expected. However, how you handle these problems will make the difference between having a very happy customer and a very hostile customer.
I cannot count the number of times a customer came into the store with a computer and we have identified the failed part as a motherboard or another part. Unfortunately, what kills one component in a computer often kills others. Just because the CPU seems to be working, doesn’t mean that it is. One of the hardest conversations you can have is when you have to call the customer and let him or her know that another part of the computer is broken. This conversation will be easier if you followed the steps for doing a complete diagnostic. Unfortunately, what you did before this call matters almost as much as the call itself. For instance:
• The customer should have known that there were risks that other parts of the computer could be broken, so this customer shouldn’t be blindsided when you call.
• You should be working on the computer in a timely manner. This means that you didn’t wait days or weeks to test the computer and find additional problems. If you call within the first day or so, customers are more likely to believe the problem is part of the original issue and not something you did.
Assuming that these things have been done, when you call, let the customer know what additional tests you ran and what you found. Then, as soon as you tell the customer about the broken part, make sure to also tell him or her what can be done to repair the computer. This lets the customer know that there are still options. Give him or her a few minutes to decide but make sure to have the person agree or disagree with you doing additional repairs. Once another problem is found, it may no longer be worthwhile to fix the machine or perhaps the price will increase. Make sure the customer has a clear picture of what the new cost will be, and get a clear confirmation of whether or not he or she wants to make the recommended repairs.
3. Handling Returns
In general, there aren’t too many returns in the computer repair field. Service is obviously not returnable (how could you take back a virus removal?) and most issues with parts are handled through the manufacturer, not the store directly. As a result, there is limited customer conflict around returns. The most commonly returned items are the computers themselves. Therefore, it is important to have a solid policy in place about computer returns.
Since computers are delicate electronics, it is possible for customers to damage the equipment and then return it. Therefore, if you allow returns, you don’t want to let a return be available for too long. At our store, we only allow new computers to be returned within seven days and there is a 15 percent restocking fee. The restocking fee allows us to cover the costs of the credit card transaction fees, testing the computer before resale, and wiping and reloading the operating system. To be clear, this policy is posted in our store and written on the receipts. However, this still doesn’t stop problems from occurring.
The worst return problem we ran into was a customer who called saying that she wanted to return her computer because “it doesn’t send email attachments.” Since we often help our customers with problems like this for free, we offered to help her with her email program and show her how to add the attachment herself. She agreed and we taught her how to send attachments. The next day, she called back insisting that she needed to return the computer. When we asked her what the problem was, she became irritated and started yelling that she just wanted to return it. We asked when she purchased the machine — it was more than two months earlier. We then explained that according to our company’s return policy we could not accept the computer back after two months. Our return policy clearly stated that it had to be returned in the first seven days. At that point, she just started yelling that we had to take the computer and she expected us to go to her home and pick it up! Needless to say, we ended our relationship with this unreasonable customer. Unfortunately, no matter what you do, there will always be customers like this. However, making your policies clear in writing makes it much easier to handle these problems when they do arise.
4. Customer Lessons You Need to Learn
There are many lessons we have learned over the years, which are discussed in the following sections.
4.1 People lie!
Just because a customer reports something is working, doesn’t mean that it really is. Sometimes, he or she really doesn’t know what is broken and, other times, he or she is trying to hide a problem hoping that you will repair it because you will think you broke it!
One customer came in for a free 15-minute diagnostic. Her issue was that the system was running slowly. We worked with her for a few minutes and realized that she only had 256K of RAM. We offered her RAM and to install it for an additional fee. She chose to purchase the RAM and install it herself. The next day she returned with the computer saying she changed her mind and that she wanted us to do the RAM installation instead. Although she had just been in, we started the entire diagnostic again, beginning with turning on the computer. When we tried to turn it on, nothing happened. We checked the power supply and it was no longer working. It was then that she mentioned that she tried to install the RAM and had run into a problem. So, she removed the RAM and brought the machine back to us. If we hadn’t started that technical review all over again, she could have claimed that we broke the power supply.
Completing a full-tech inspection before you start working on the computer doesn’t just save the customer; it can save your business as well.
4.2 Customers don’t always know what they need
There are times customers walk in the door with their computer as well as their diagnosis. They may say, “My computer has viruses and I want a virus removal.” Or, “My operating system is corrupt; can you do a Windows repair?” Just because they are using repair terms doesn’t mean they have done a professional diagnosis.
Before you believe any of these customers, make sure to complete your own testing. Check in the computer and begin your entire test process. You can start checking for what they believe isn’t working, but make sure that it doesn’t influence your review. We have had customers that come in complaining about viruses because they can’t get on the Internet. After a brief inspection, we have found their wireless card was turned off on their laptop. Another customer was sure he needed an OS repair, but his computer had a failing hard drive.
To a layperson, the symptoms may all look the same, but the customer is counting on you to get it right. After all, if you do the work the customer requests and it doesn’t fix the problem, he or she will certainly blame you instead of himself or herself.
4.3 Almost all customers care about their data
One of the hardest things to learn is to speak like a layperson when you are talking with a customer. Oftentimes, the customer’s data will be put at risk, or sometimes with a wipe and reload, the data is deleted completely. Most of your customers will want to keep the data from their computer. If the customer agrees to lose his or her data too quickly, chances are he or she hasn’t understood what you are asking. For example:
Technician: “Is it okay if we wipe your hard drive?”
Customer (without pausing): “Yeah, sure, whatever it takes to get the computer running right.”
Even if the customer has signed all the right forms and given you verbal approval, odds are good he or she has not understood the meaning of what you just asked. When it comes to data deletion, make sure you are very clear about what is happening and why. A better way to ask the question would be:
Technician: “If we do this, it will delete everything on your computer. This means that you will lose all your photos, documents, and any Internet bookmarks or passwords saved on this computer as well as all your programs such as Microsoft Office, accounting software such as TurboTax, or any other games or data on your computer.”
At that point, if the customer agrees, you know that he or she understands exactly what will be happening and what will be lost if the work is completed. If the customer doesn’t want to lose his or her data or programs, you can discuss other options and alternatives. Even then, make sure the customer signs a form stating he or she understands everything will be gone.
4.4 Do-it-yourselfers can be costly
When you start getting regular customers, you may find that some of these people may be do-it-yourselfers. They may have started working on their computer and then ran into a problem that was too difficult for them to resolve. Many times people will ask to have these computers diagnosed, but these individuals can be expensive for your business. For instance, some of these people will want to talk about their computer indefinitely. They want to know what they did wrong, how to do it right, and more. While these conversations can be interesting at first, they will take your time and often, not give you any return. If you are at an on-site, they may think that you shouldn’t charge for the time you spent “talking shop” and will only want you to bill for your repair time. At your office, they may hang around, wanting to learn what they can and then make the repairs themselves.
The problem with these people is that they will distract you from work and the more you tell them, the more they expect you will help them. Since they aren’t technicians, this means that they start expecting that you will talk them through their problems for free.
One of our technicians came up with a great way of discouraging this type of behavior. When a customer brings in a computer that needs to be repaired, if he or she asks, “Can I do that myself”? We now ask, “Are you comfortable making modifications to your BIOS?” If the person is, then it is likely he or she can handle any problem he or she may encounter. If he or she is not, he or she will realize that while most of the work sounds simple, sometimes the problem is deeper than it seems.
4.5 People are willing to pay before the problem is fixed
Always discuss price before you do work. If you wait until after the computer is fixed to mention the price, you will run into situations in which you have completed the work and the customer either doesn’t have the money, doesn’t want the service, or simply thinks he or she can reduce the price.
For example, a customer brings in a computer that is running slowly and during the diagnosis (which at our store is free), we determine the machine just needs more RAM. While the computer is still open, we tell the customer that we can double the RAM for $80. We explain that the costs are $15 for the installation, $59 for the part, and $6 for the tax. Usually, the customer agrees, and we complete the part installation in front of the person and allow him or her to test the machine before he or she leaves. If the customer is happy with the speed, he or she pays the $80. If not, we can remove the RAM and there is no charge. (I have never had to remove the RAM.)
Let’s say that you complete the upgrade first and then ask the customer if he or she wants to “keep it like that” for $80. Now you have already completed the “service” portion without his or her approval, so the likely question is, “Why do I need to pay the $15-service fee when it only took you a minute?” Or, since the customer just watched you do the install, he or she may ask, “Couldn’t I have done that myself?” (Never mind that the person didn’t know the difference between the RAM stick and the hard drive before he or she walked in.) Either way, you have wasted your time and now have a customer issue. Getting approval for the work in advance prevents problems like these.
4.6 People will want custom work done for free
When we first started the business, we were eager to get any new customer we could. As a result, we often made concessions for customers that wanted things “just a little different” or didn’t quite have enough money. Inevitably, every time we went around our policies to help these customers, they were still not happy. For instance, one customer complained that the case we sold her for her new computer was too large. (Obviously she had to see the case before she bought it, but hey, why not help her out?) She made a big fuss, so we ordered a new smaller case and transferred all the components for free. This time, instead of complaining about the size, she complained that it still weighed too much. When we refused to move the system a third time, she fought us and complained about the service.
I know this may sound like a gross generalization, but it comes from years and years of experience. While it may sound like an aberration, unfortunately, the situation is all too common. For some reason, people who are very particular and want to customize their orders are also more likely to complain about how much custom work was completed — for free.