If you have been subscribed to the Technibble mailing list for a month or so, you might have noticed that we have a survey for our members. In this survey we leave an area for you to ask a question about the computer business. In this article, I will be answering some of those questions.
“What is the best approach is when a clients computer is too old to repair or upgrade?”
There does come a time when a clients computer is either not economical to repair or upgrade and sometimes it is not even possible. I find the best way to tell the client about this is to tell them in a way that most people care about – value for money. When I say this with my own clients, I would say something like:
“I have diagnosed the issue with your computer and it appears that the issue is with the computers motherboard which is one of the main parts of the computer. I can replace this old part for $XXX but for a little bit more, I can provide you with a new, much faster and much more reliable computer.
It is just not economical to repair this older one when you can have a new one for the same money”.
Its upfront, gets the point across and your clients will appreciate you looking out for them.
“How should I deal with clients that are not very aware of new technologies?”
I have found that my clients attitude towards computers are similar to most people with cars, they get in, turn the key and off they go. The car is just a utility to get from point A to point B and they don’t understand or care about how it works. Computers are the same to most of them. They dont care about the latest news in the computer world and the only time they do care is when their stops working (just like cars). I dont think having to “deal with clients” not knowing about new technologies is a negative thing. It is an excellent opportunity to recommend technologies that they may not be aware about.
For example, I might have noticed that my client had an external backup drive sitting on top of their computer so I ask them whether they take it them at night. If they dont I would ask them what they would do if the place caught fire or was broken into and the backup drive was destroyed or stolen (a little bit of fear based marketing). I would then use this as an opportunity tell them about offsite cloud based backup which has only gone mainstream in recent years with brands like Carbonite and Mozy.
I think the trick is to keep it relevant to their needs and interests. I wouldn’t just start yapping about how fantastic the newest CPU/Video cards are. Most people just dont care because the computer is just a utility like their car.
“How to maximize my limited marketing/advertising budget?”
The best ways to maximize a limited marketing budget is to start with either the cheap or free options available to you. If you have a website, the best thing you can do is to read up on some SEO articles/websites and make changes to your site to improve your search engine rankings. Natural search is always the cheapest way to advertise online.
I have heard from other Computer Technicians that Craigslist can bring in some phone calls and Google Adwords can be good since it is mostly pay-per-click.
Social Networking is also option and I am not just talking about sites like Facebook, Twitter or Linked In. I am talking about real life social networking such as joining clubs, making sure everyone you know knows that you do computer repair and handing out business cards.
Also, after you have done work for a client, hand them 3 or so cards and say “Here is my card in case you need me again or if you know anyone else that could use my services”. By saying “if you know anyone else” it actually makes them think about whether they do know anyone else that can use your services. If you do great work it is assumed by default that they will tell their friends about you but it is not always the case. You need to make them actively think about which friends could use your services and this helps push that along.
“How should I deal with “friends” who use you for diagnoses or second opinions, which are always right on, but ultimately go to someone with more experience to do the same work?”
You would need to find out why they go with someone else with more experience to do the work. Are they just not confident with your skills? are they going with someone cheaper to do the actual work? Are they even fixing it themselves once you have accurately diagnosed the issue?
I would also limit the amount of free work you do for friends. I am sure you have a small handful of people that you would do anything for (immediate family for example) but for anyone else, you need to let them know that you are not an unlimited source of free tech knowledge. The key to doing computer repair work for non-immediate family and friends is to always charge something. It doesnt even have to be money, it could be a beer at the local pub or a meal somewhere. When friends ask you to fix their computer, say something like “Sure, no problems, just buy me a beer next time we are at the pub and we’ll call it even”.
Even though the beer is incredibly cheap compared to the value of the computer work that you are doing, it establishes in their mind that you are not an unlimited source of free tech knowledge and that if they want something fixed, it better be worth at least a beer at the pub. This also helps prevent the “quick computer question” that they ask you all the time. Again, that quick computer question better be important enough because they know that they will owe toy a beer.
You do not want to stop being the second opinion though; being the second opinion can bring a lot of work to you.
What are some good ways to get clients off the phone in the store?
Every now and then you will get the client who just cant take a hint. The best thing you can do with these types of people is to take control of the conversation. Don’t let them rant. Ask questions and as soon as they give you your answer, ask your next one so you are the one in control of the conversation. Once you have all the information you need, wrap it up by saying something like “Alright, great. I will see you at 123 Station St on Monday the 11th. See you then.”.
If you haven’t been able to booked in work and you just cannot get them off the phone, you could just say that someone just walked into the shop and you need to go. If you work from a home office, say that you have another call coming through or something to that effect.
How should I document and prove that the repair has actually been done correctly in order to avoid “comebacks” where the customer argues it should be fixed for free, yet the problem (although it looks like the original problem to a non-technical user) is a different problem?
I think this comes down to user education. If you were called to fix an error message when a client did a certain task on the computer, repeat that task in front of the client to show them that it has been fixed. You also need to manage your clients expectations with jobs such as virus removal. Once you remove the original virus they were infected with, you seen to say something like:
“I have installed an antivirus product to help protect you from future viruses. They arent 100% and you need to be careful about what you download and the sites you visit. For example, a trusted friend can send you an infected email attachment because they themselves are infected. You also need to avoid questionable sites, clicking on questionable banner ads etc..”
This puts the responsibility to keep the computer clean back in the client’s hands. When you educate your clients about the ways to get infected, know will when they have been bad and are unlikely to put the blame on you.
I also emphasize the word “help” because we dont want them to think that installing an antivirus product makes them completely immune to viruses.
How do you deal with clients that want to watch everything you do?
This is a tough one and everyone has different strategies. Personally, it doesn’t bother me that they are watching my every move, although I dont want them to learn what I am actually doing. I am fairly quick on the computer and use a lot of shortcut keys so I am usually moving too fast for them to figure out what I am doing.
Some technicians will stop working altogether and talk to the client hoping that they will get the idea that their presence distracts them and prevents them from working which in turn increases the overall bill .
Other technicians will flat out tell the client to go away in the nicest sense. You need to work out what you are most comfortable with.
How can I make money given that super markets and other multinationals are destroying hardware margin?
It is not as easy it once was to sell new computers now that the big box stores sell computers at such low prices. However, there is still plenty of money to be earned in that area.
I personally wont compete against the big box stores in price. In fact, there is a large retail store near my place which is available to any member of the public that is cheaper than my proper “business only” computer parts supplier. The way I make money with hardware is either by installing parts onsite, selling a superior machine or make money with the setup costs.
When I sell a computer part onsite such as a stick of RAM, I could easily have a 50-100% markup on it and the clients are happy to pay it because of the convenience. I am here, I have the stick of RAM with me and I can install it right now. In my 9 or so years of being a Computer Technician I have rarely had a client say no to an onsite hardware recommendation like that.
In some cases, the client will ask me whether a machine at a big box store is good quality or whether it is a good deal. I will ask what type of work they expect to do on the computer and tell them the truth. If it is bad hardware with a bad price then I tell them that I could build something better. If it is a good hardware at a great price then I tell them to go ahead and tell them to buy the big box computer. I dont make any money by recommending the big box machine but I do make them aware that they might need to their emails/files/settings transferred to the new computer and I offer my services. In most cases they take me up on it.
There is still money in computer hardware now that the big boxes are in the game, its just in a slightly different form.
How can I snatch clients from the big companies?
You wont need to. If the big box stores do good work and look after their client, good for them. If they do poor work and their clients get burned, then those clients will come to you.