My First Disgruntled Customer!

By almcneil
Jul 3, 2007
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  1. Rick

    Rick TechSpot Staff Posts: 6,304   +52 Staff Member

    All you can do is be honest as possible, present the options as fully as you can and have the customer choose one. I'm going to ramble a bit after reading just the first few replies...

    I base my entire computer repair operation on candid honesty and doing 'the right thing' even if it costs me; however, some people are really difficult to work with. Even when you think you're doing the right thing by doing something extra or a favor, you find out you are actually doing the wrong thing for yourself and even sometimes for the customer. The 'Customer first' philosophy is great in an ideal world, but putting others on a higher platform creates many unforeseen issues. Always try to keep it real and keep your customers on an equal footing... Treat yourself and your customers equally well and you'll do fine (for the most part).

    With no charge, I often do things like drive 30 miles on the Los Angeles freeways to deliver systems to sweet old ladies or offer to fix issues that aren't under warranty etc... But sometimes it bites you right in the **** because people abuse you and they often times don't know any better.

    It seems very unlikely ALL of those issues were related to your work. This sound like an example of a customer taking advantage of you (almost certainly unknowingly). Customers forget exactly what it is that you were supposed to fix and don't understand computers well enough to reason out reasonable and unreasonable consequences.

    Sadly, that is the very reason I've created an elaborate "Terms of Service and Warranty" agreement printed in triplicate using tiny font which is to be signed before any work is performed. :( I hate it, but there's been a couple of times where I've had to put my foot down do the right thing for myself.

    </SOAPBOX>
  2. Rick

    Rick TechSpot Staff Posts: 6,304   +52 Staff Member

    It depends on your area. Costs can vary greatly according to your areas specific needs, wants and competition. In my situation, I have to compete with a zillion computer companies in Los Angeles.

    I charge $45/hr OR a flat-rate for common projects, which ever is the least expensive for my customers. My prices tend to look VERY similar to Tmagic650's ($150 for things like laptop soldering, $20 on-site fee, $45 diagnostic - non refundable). Most on-site desktop jobs end up being between $87.50-$155 and quick, on-site things like setting up wireless encryption, typical upgrades or software installs fall into the $45 cateogry, typically.

    My prices are on the low-side, which affords me substantial business but 'cheap' customers. ;) If you did work in exclusively in Beverly Hills, for example (which I also do, actually), then you could easily charge $120/hr and cater to a more 'elite' crowd. But then you have to deal with people who expect a lot and are quick to resort to litigation, so pick your target audience carefully.
  3. almcneil

    almcneil TechSpot Guru Topic Starter Posts: 1,554

    Sounds like you've been burned a few times.

    Here's my limited experience between my 8 months as a tech agent at Dell and 3 months running my own biz. By far the majority of home customers are honest and reasonable. Now I admit there is a wide margin of "reasonable" but, even if there is a dispute you often find a compromise. Case in point is my recent disgruntled customer. I did, in the end, find a compromise and got him to agree to finally draw the line on the current service call. Most home customers don't want a big hassle either. Also, you do need to re-evaluate your own expectations of what to the customer is entitled to. But, in my 8 months at Dell, I found I only encountered 1 or 2 truly "unreasonable" customers per MONTH!! I thought I'd get 2 per shift! But avergaing 15 calls per shift, 5 days a week but only getting 1 or 2 "unreasonable" customers per month, that's 0.46% of customers that I couldn't satisfy somehow. So far in my 3 months doing my own in-home biz, I have yet to encounter someone truly reasonable. In fact, everyone has been wonderful, even this recent disgruntled customer once I found a conpromise. Hey, he feed me beer and wine!!

    It's all in how you setup your service, what your expectations are and how to ahndle disagreements. I admit, at some point I'm going to have a truly unreasonable, difficult customer. Worst case, just refund them their money and drop them from my list.
  4. almcneil

    almcneil TechSpot Guru Topic Starter Posts: 1,554

    I'd re-think your pricing policies. Based on my experience, albeit limited and in a different locale, homeowners by and large don't price compare on service. They do on computer purchases but not on service. Let me give some examples.

    My Dell call centre experience is the best example. When I started there, the price for fixing a single problem had just gone from US$29 to US$39. Now that's a flat charge, no matter how long it took. It then went to $49 a month later. Then it went to $59 the next. When it hit $69, I thought that was the max anyone would realisticly pay for telephone support. Then it went to $79!! Dell them opened another call centre in India to handle spyware calls we were getting flooded with. Then it went to $89!!! Dell then opened a small call centre in Virginia to handle still excessive call volume. Then the price hit $99!!!!! I was dumbfounded!! Well, people were paying it!! So, the two points out of this is, home users want "pay as you go" and "flat rate".

    Next is my biz and I notice that no one haggles me over price. My "Door Crasher" is CAN$99, flat rate. On repeat, it's CAN$129 daytime, CAN$169 evening. Again, no one haggles me or complains about it. They just pay it. Now, my prices come with guarantees. I must fix the problem or succeed in doing the task or they don't have to pay. I've had one so far like that but it was because they required a new DVD drive and I don't carry an inventory of parts. But I worked an arrangement that they will pay me to setup their new comp (decided to just buy a new comp.) Back on topic, even when I go door-to-door canvassing for business, I've had 4 persons either haggle me or complain about my prices. That's out of 1,500 persons I've spoken too!! When it comes to the repair service biz, people don't price compare.

    My third example is a collegue who owned an independent comp store. He was moaning about how hard it was to compete with the big box stores and he was scrapping to get by. I noticed his minimum repair service charge was CAN$25. I suggested to him to up that to $50 but he was afraid customers would go to the big box stores who listed CAN$25 as their minimum. Finally, after nagging him for a month, he did it. Just after a few weeks he smiled and said, "It's working!!" I then nagged him about his list of installation service charges. In particular, he charged CAN$10 for installing memory. I told him make everything at least $25!! He did and confessed it worked. The reason is that when it comes to service charges, people don't price compare. It's too petty and not worth the time and effort. So long as it's not ridiculous ($200 to install a $99 RAM chip!), people won't haggle or complain.

    So, the lessons I've learned about the comp service biz:

    • everything flat rate
    • pay as you go (no service plans)
    • don't worry about price comparing, charge what you feel it's really worth

    You'd be surprised how easily home users will pay! I had one customer that I saved their installation. It took 4 visits, 12 hours and even took their PC to my place while they went on vacation to work on it. I pointed out the serious hassle I saved them by geting around the reformat/re-install (they couldn't find all their program CDs). I politely *ASKED* if they would pay an additional in-home charge for my efforts. NOT A PROBLEM!! They gladly did it!!
  5. Tmagic650

    Tmagic650 TS Ambassador Posts: 20,689   +153

    I was born with Cerebral Palsy. I can get around pretty easily and I am married to a wonderful woman. With 37 years of Electronics/computer experience, I found it easy to start a home based computer repair service. I started strictly by word of mouth. My first customers were among the disabled and elderly sector of people. Hence all the eMachines work.

    I once repaired a computer for free. The lady had terminal cancer. She used the computer to communicate with her family and friends. She died 3 months later.

    I set up home networks. Both wired and wireless. I can usually supply the hardware and get the customers to do the physical setup.

    I have 2 laptops here right now. One has been repaired and I have been waiting over 30 days for the customer to pick it up. She owes $100. She said she will pick it up tomorrow. The other laptop has been diagnosed and the repair has been aproved for $375. I'm going to replace the motherboard in a Gateway notebook. She doesn't have the money right now, so I have to wait, for a month or two. The notebook is totally dead...
  6. ITGuy702

    ITGuy702 TechSpot Member Posts: 86

    So do you guys ever find yourselves 'secret shopping' your competitors to see where their rates are compared to yours? Or is it just as you see fit and who cares what the others are charging?

    I can actually see all 3 (almcneil's, Tmagic650's, & Rick's) points of view. But it sounds like no matter what, you have to be pretty flexible (I guess to a point) when taking these service calls?
  7. almcneil

    almcneil TechSpot Guru Topic Starter Posts: 1,554

    Yes and no. I have looked at what competitors charge. It's more about the structure and policy than the exact price. For instance, Geek Squad charges a flat rate depending on the type of problem. Nerds on Site (formerly Nerds on Wheels) have a minimum charge and the agent haggles with the customer before hand what additional charges there will be depending on what problems need to be fixed. Some charge by the hour regardless of the problem. I'm the only one, at least local to where I do business, that has a guaranteed work policy. I don't charge if I can't fix it or get it working. It varies widely.

    I don't see mine as flexible, rather haggle-free, hassle-free. The customer know what the exact service charge will be but has the protection in place if I can't get it fixed or working. Also, no matter how long I take, the service charge remains the same. I really like it.
  8. ITGuy702

    ITGuy702 TechSpot Member Posts: 86

    Sorry, I have been away from TechSpot for a few days.

    It's interesting to hear the different ways to run this one type of service (in-home computer repair service). And looking at the customer side of things....Haggle-Free is good. I wish other things were that way.
  9. RedVision_350

    RedVision_350 Newcomer, in training

    Exactly. Tell the little pissant to quit using P2P programs and undermining the work constantly being redone. People can be so stupid.
  10. almcneil

    almcneil TechSpot Guru Topic Starter Posts: 1,554

    That's the maddening part of being the professional dealing with a customer. Getting them to do the *RIGHT* thing is like screaming at brick wall!!

    I recall a conversation with my doctor once. I had already gained 11 lbs when I hit middle age then gained another 11 lbs when he put me on a medication. It officially put me overweight for the first time in my life. He asked me to lose the overweight pounds. I arrived back in his office 6 weeks later and proclaimed that I lost 15 lbs, putting me well below what he asked. He smiled and then asked me to guess how many of his patients actually do what he advises them. I guessed 30%. He replied, "Actually, less than 10%!" He then went to explain it doesn't matter what the issue is, weight, smoking, drinking, illicit drugs, ... the patients never do what has says. At least, until something terrible happens *THEN* they finally do it. He gave the example of the alcoholic. "It isn't until he loses his job, his wife, his house, his car, ... and he destitute, *THEN* he gives up the bottle!"
  11. TimeParadoX

    TimeParadoX Newcomer, in training Posts: 2,438

    :haha: yeah, Most people usually don't listen untill something bad happens, if people listened in the 1st place nothing would ever go wrong :)
     
  12. Ididmyc600

    Ididmyc600 TechSpot Chancellor Posts: 2,251


    Hic Hic im shupposed to giz up drinkingg when this happens ??
  13. almcneil

    almcneil TechSpot Guru Topic Starter Posts: 1,554

    If people listened to their doctors, we wouldn't have so many doctors!

    If people listened to the experts, we wouldn't have so many deaths, bankruptcies, divorces, firings, ... It's called HUMAN NATURE! We won't do something unless it's enjoyable or we've experienced the downside of what happens when we don't!
  14. captaincranky

    captaincranky TechSpot Addict Posts: 10,409   +835

    Whadda dem guys know.....?

    Social Darwinism! Dontcha just love it? In my neighborhood they thin the herd with 9mm pistols. What kills the listen to the experts theory is that the pistoleros are all experts at something. Just ask them, whoops too late.


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