September 25, 2007

The customer's wrong...

I have worked in the computer service and retail sectors in general sine I have been legally able to work. And since then there are many things that I have learned, but the one thing that I am reminded of daily is that THE CUSTOMER IS NOT ALWAYS RIGHT!

Customers seem to have this sense of entitlement, like the world owes them something. I tell this to my boss all the time. He is quiet possibly one of the worst customers I can imagine having (if he was one of my customers). He thinks the world should bend over for our company, defeat the laws of physics of necessary. Whatever it takes to get him what he wants. I can't stand it.

Recently we have been in fights with a company who provides a critical service to our company. They designed and host the software we use to manage our clients, help manage our payroll, bill the agencies we do work for, etc. It's basically the heart of our company. For this we pay an enormous sum. (just over a million dollars in the last 5 years) He thinks because of this, the company should be bending over and meet every one of our demands with a smile and do it quick.
Now under normal circumstances, yea they should be happy to take more of our money to make changes, but what he doesnt realize is that at some point, its just not worth the trouble anymore. We make demands of this company to the point where their primary program (one of the 3 people who started the company) is working full time on our stuff, in addition to having 2-3 other programmers trying to work out the smaller issues we have and fixes/changes we need. Yet he thinks he is a good customer. WRONG!

A good customer in the eyes of a service provider is one who pays their monthly fee, uses the product and sits quietly. Not one who demands you makes changes to your product on the fly on a weekly basis. Yes, change is necessary, but if you say "change function x" then in a week say "ok we changed are mind change it back" then in 2 days say "why did you change function x!!!!" do this 10 - 15 a month and have function x be a large function in the software, it becomes an issue. I feel bad for this company, and I've told my boss on every occasion that he is lucky they are nicer than I am, because I would dump us as a customer.

I couldn't do anything but smile after the last few meetings he has had with them. in the first one of the owners straight up told my boss "we don't need your business anymore" (we essentially funded their start up, but now we are one of their smaller clients) and in the most recent, my boss decided it would be fun to invite over the second owner and their lead programmer and surprise them with a meeting with our 2 deputy CEOs as well as our Privacy officer (arguably 3 of the top 4 people in the agency) but then it back fired because they came out swinging and telling these people just what a big problem they are. and then told them, unless they signed a new contract with different stipulations (we are out of contract right now, which is a huge liability for us but the 'management' some how thinks we don't need them or their contract) they would no longer do any new work for us with the exception of "emergency" and bug fixes. It was great. Of course I had to hide my absolute glee during the meeting because I am working for the company that just got pounded on, but I can be happy for the service provider. It's about time a bad customer got put in their place.

I also work in the retail sector. And just today, a customer calls all bent out of shape because they bought office 2007, they tried to install it an it doesn't work. She wants a refund. Hell no. We don't refund/exchange opened software. she starts whining that no one told her it wouldn't work. We asked who her sales person was, she said she didn't have one, she just went to the register. Said sorry but if she didn't ask someone then it was her fault. In addition the requirements are printed on the side of the box. She throws a fit. Granted Id be pissed to if I just laid out $400 for a product I cant use, but still its her fault. This person is a trouble customer all around, she does this frequently, and in the past our managers have bent for her (their mistake) this time they said screw it. they refunded her money, told her keep the product and not come back to the store again. she CALLS back, just to complain about the store, and says she will never shop there again. The manager says "yes ma'am, I know you wont be, because if you try we will have you escorted out by the police"

As a customer you are entitled to a few things.

  1. To get the service/product you paid for. You by a computer, you get what is advertised. You are not entitled to anything more from the store. You need help setting it up, that is an extra service that you can either pay us for or call the maker of the computer for help.
  2. To be treated the same way you are treating the sales person. You come out acting like a bitch, demanding a bunch of stuff. Then expect to be treated like a bitch.
  3. To not be lied to. Even if you are a bitch, you should not be lied to. Now you might get more of the truth if you are nice, but it is never OK for a sales person to lie to you.
You are not entitled to friendly service. It sucks, but its true. Good customer service it what companies should do to keep their customers happy, and to make them look better against their competitors. But it is not an entitlement. You may think the store is only there because you are so generous to buy from them, thats wrong. Grocery stores are around because we are too lazy to go hunting and we decide our time is better spent else ware. Computer stores are around because most people are too stupid to build a computer (not that its hard, its just people are that stupid) the store being there is a CONVENIENCE to YOU. and the store is there to make money, not friends.

You are not entitled to get a bunch of free services (like tech support) Do not call me and say "I just spent $400 for a top of the line computer!!! and you wont help me burn a CD?!?" first off fuck you. You spent $400 on the cheapest computer you could find, then you declined to purchase the service that would have gotten us to help you with these things. Nothing in life is free, deal with it. Now you don't get the help.

In addition, unless the amount you just spent is significant, and you have a history of spending a significant amount, do not start your conversation with "I just spent xxx". No 500 is not a significant amount in our industry. Money talks, so unless you are that business account that comes in once a month and drops 4-5k on toner alone, I wont be jumping through hoops for you if you are being an ass. Be nice, and sure, Ill help you the best I can if you spend $10 or $10,000.

So I'm sorry for all the customer who for some reason think "the customer is always right". I want to slap the person who made that bullshit up. The fact is the customer is almost never right. But depending on the way they are acting, we might let them think they are right and help them out. Or if they know they are wrong we will let them slide, because hey, mistakes happen.

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September 16, 2007

The Problem with Big Box Tech Shops

Post inspired by this article

As many of you know, in addition to being a tech for a non-profit, I also work for one of the "big box" stores (in a non-tech/non-sales role). I hear customers complain about our tech service, I read reports about how customers get scammed by other tech shops, etc. My feelings on this are very mixed because I work on both sides of the spectrum.

From being a tech, I know customers tend to lie, not miscommunicate, not misrepresent, just out right lie... They also usually don't know what is broken, they use terminology they don't fully understand and because of this they say things like "my hard drive is bad" when they really mean "my computer wont boot up" They think "Hard drive" = "computer" so that in it self is a problem.

From working in the big box store, I know the techs they hire, for the most part, are sub-par. Don't get me wrong, I have met some -good- techs. Many of them are working there as a second job (we live in an area with a very high cost of living, and tech pay is much lower than the national average) , but the majority of them are under trained, and some are just plain dumb.

The stores like to hire sales people then teach them to be techs, because they think learning to fix a computer (most issues that customers have) is easier than teaching to be a good sales person. Only, they forget to teach the tech part, and doing good diagnostics is hard to teach.

In addition to having poor techs, the people talking with the customer, taking down notes of what the customer says the problem is, checking in the computer, etc. ARE NOT TECHS. They typically are the ones who want to be techs, but don't have the skill yet. So there is the tendancy to get bad info from the customers, which make the tech who is diagnosing the problem have an even harder time (and many times misdiagnose) which makes the tech who is doing the repair, fix the wrong thing, then the guy doing quality control check to see if the wrong thing is fixed.

It is really a prime example of "garbage in garbage out".

For example:

  1. Customer comes in and says "my wireless card is broken so I can't connect to my wireless router"
  2. Person checking in the computer writes down "wireless NIC is bad, can't connect to wireless network" or in some cases, takes what he hears and makes his own diagnoses (remember many of these people think they are techs, but don't really know much and don't realize it. or they think they know whats wrong, because they may not know of other things that could cause the same problem.)
  3. Tech as a first step reinstalls the NIC (probably doesn't even test to see if it working before reinstalling because this would be his next step anyway)
  4. Once reinstalled, he updates drivers etc. Then tries to connect to a wireless network and it works.
  5. Quality control person verifies that it can connect to a wireless network. Then calls the computers owner and has them come pick it up.
  6. Customer goes home and still can't get online, then calls back upset because we "didn't fix their computer"
This is a very common problem. The issue isn't that we didn't fix their computer, its that it probably wasn't properly diagnosed to begin with. The techs did what they were told, the wireless was broken and now it works. What really needed to happen was for the person taking the computer in to figure out -WHY- it couldn't connect to the wireless. Maybe the customer just didn't know how to connect to a wireless network.(this would be my first guess) Another problem could be the wireless router (this is probably what the store would blame next, and recommend buying a new router) So because they didn't diagnose the problem to begin with, it never got resolved.

Why this is an important issue:

First, because they are wasting customers time and money. This is a big problem, customers are why the store is there. No customers = no money. Pissed off customers are loud customers, so having one trash your tech shop is a great way to not get more customers.

Second, its bad for business. Even if the customer is wrong, the store needs to fix the problem. They warranty their work, so until the customer is satisfied, they are spending time and money fixing the issue. In the case of in home repairs/set-ups for the store I work, they warranty the work for 30 days. That means if it stops working in 30 days or less we send a tech back to fix it. We also out-source most of our in-home stuff. The techs we hire get paid ~$50 per "job". We charge the customer ~$150.00 per job. So if the tech gets it right, we make ~$100 per job. However, many times we have to send a tech out more than once, and each time we pay out that $50 again. I've seen techs get deployed to the same house up to 5 times, thats a loss 100 bucks for the sale, plus what ever time it took to talk to the customer on the phone, plus the bad word of mouth to other customers.

The same goes if customers bring in their computer over and over saying we never fixed it. If the store is paying a tech $15.00/hr (which is about average in a big box store shop) and they charge 150 for a repair, thats a huge profit. Most repairs take less than an hour of a techs hands on time (i.e. a windows install may take 45 minutes but only 2 minutes of it is a tech touching the keyboard. Same with virus scans, updates etc) but if a tech is actively diagnosing and researching a problem it is burning real time. if he has to look at the same computer 4 times, and it takes longer each time (which it will because its harder to diagnose a problem you think is fixed) your profit is shrinking a huge amount.

What to do about it:

As a customer you have a few options, and a lot of power. Your options are as follow:

  1. Stop going to big box stores. Find a local tech or a small tech shop (although these are also known for scamming and sub-par work) and use them. They are typically cheaper, are far less sales oriented, and have better quality control.
  2. Keep going to a big box store, but complain until the job is done right. Be polite when doing it thought. Screaming at a tech will not fix the problem. in fact, it is likely to get him to say anything to shut you up, then put your computer in the bottom of his "to-do" pile because you just pissed him off. Be as nice as you can (and the tech should return that gesture and be as helpful as possible) and work together to resolve the issue (like should have happened to begin with)
  3. Educate yourself. This is the most important if you want to protect yourself. You don't need to be a computer expert to resolve most computer issues. But you do need some knowledge. Learn the basic components of your computer, this way if you take it to a shop and they say "the RAM is bad...it will cost you 300 bucks to replace" you know they are full of crap because you know RAM isn't that expensive. Learn some basic trouble shooting steps and be patient enough to call your manufacturers tech support. They will help you diagnose some problems (although they are wrong often as well) Learn the basics of your operating system is. And learn how to use Google. If nothing else, copy the error down when it pops up, then go to Google and type it in and hit search. Most likely a few results will come back and you will have an idea of what the problem might be.
  4. Dont be affraid to get a second opinion. It may cost you some in the beggining, but could save you a bundle in the end.
  5. Please please please dont let "your friend who knows a lot about computer" toy around with it, unless he really is a tech. Too many times, that friend knows just a little more than you, and ends up messing things up even more.
  6. Fell free to walk away. if you don't like they way a tech, or anyone, is treating you, then walk. They don't deserve your business.
  7. Don't give in to their sales techniques. Remember, that tech you are talking to in a big store like BestBuy or CompUSA has a sales quota. And the more they sell the more they get paid. (they don't get a comission but do get a "spiff" on certain services they sell) Treat these guys like car sales men.

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September 1, 2007

Things You Shouldn't Do on a Call

Name Drop:

I’ve worked in both Sales and Support roles for several years, and one of the things that has always bothered me the most is when people try to drop names. Some times they are really subtle about it and others they just blurt out “well, I’m best friends with*random person he thinks is important* so you better help me”. In either case, its highly annoying and shouldn’t be done. Here is why is why I don’t care that you drop a name.

1. If you really were GOOD friends with our CEO/VP/etc you would be calling them directly, not the general line to the company. Also, in every instance where a good friend of our CEO did need help, the CEO would call me first, or come over and tell me that their friend would be coming in or calling and to help him out, especially if it something outside the typical scope of support because they know we won’t help the guy otherwise and they don’t want to look like assholes when their friend doesn’t get help.
2. You would know their name. I can’t count the times where I have heard someone say “well, I’m good friends with your manager John Doe” and they end up getting the last name wrong.
3. In my sales positions, the names that were dropped we typically either way up at the exec level out of our corporate office (in which case see number 1) or some random manager who means nothing to me. Either way, I now think you are an asshole and will do the bare minimum that I need to to fulfill my responsibility (and I mean bare minimum).

Threaten Lawsuits:

1. Don’t do this ever. All it will do is give me a reason to end our call. Why? Because every major company I have worked for has a policy in place that says if a person threatens a lawsuit, have them contact the legal department and do not assist them any further because anything you say can now be brought into litigation.
2. You sound like an asshole when you say “I’m going to sue you for not helping me”

Threaten Me:

1. To me, this is the funniest thing a person can do on the phone. I giggle when I hear “I’m going to come down there and kick you ass” I will laugh at you when you threaten me, so if you don’t like being laughed at, don’t do it.
2. If I’m feeling like a real asshole, Ill laugh at you then send the recording of the tape to the local PD and have you visited for terroristic threatening. And the chances are, if you are that pissed at me, it means you have probably done business with us and for some reason are unsatisfied, which means I have your name, phone number, address etc.
3. If you do come down to my place of business and demand to speak to me, don’t look so intimidated when I walk my 6′3″ 290lb frame out to greet you. Not all tech’s are scrawny, nerdy looking kids wearing a tie and messed up glasses like portrayed on TV. Its amazing how quickly people calm down when we meet face to face. It’s easy to scream and curse at a person over the phone, doing it in person, to someone twice your size, is a lot harder.

You should also remember that the person on the phone probably isn’t the one you are mad at. And in reality, doesn’t know who you are or why you are calling in most cases. So don’t be a dick. In addition to that, they probably don’t have the ability to change protocol or the influence on the company to make things happen just for you. This is why names dropping with me doesn’t work. I’m basically a no one and chances are you can’t effect me or my job. You can threaten to have your best friend fire me and chances are they 1) wont because I make them money. or 2) can’t because they probably aren’t my boss.

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