There’s a blog that I subscribed to called Life Reboot. It chronicles the “thoughts and experiences of Shaun Boyd”, a young man who decided to quit his job in IT and restart his life in pursuit of his dream to become a writer. He’s had mixed success and is now looking for a job again, but his posts are insightful and well written and one of his posts from 2006 really stuck a chord with me.
The article is called “10 Reasons It Doesn’t Pay to be the Computer Guy”. It still seems to be one of his most popular posts, giving a pessimists view of being the “computer guy” and apparently striking a chord with many techs out there. Give it a look, and then continue reading this blog to see my rebuttal to his post.
Now, I’m not saying Shaun doesn’t present valid arguments, but I think that with a little change of perspective, they can all be turned into positives. As a response, after making a few tweaks to Shaun’s list, I present to you 10 reasons why I think it’s not so bad to be the computer guy:
Reason #10 – Most Of Your Accomplishments Will Be Appreciated
Every time I fix a computer problem for someone, especially if it was preventing them from meeting an urgent deadline or completing an important task, they can’t thank me enough for the help. Of course people only call the computer guy when something is broken…that’s the point. People only call the doctor when they’re sick, people only call the plumber when they’re toilet is clogged…that’s why these professions exist, to fix stuff people can’t fix on their own. If computers didn’t break or were easy to fix, we’d be out of a job.
The reality is that in any service job, you will encounter the disgruntled customer, or the person that blames you for every problem that occurs on their system. But for every one of those there are many more who truly appreciate the job you do for them, as long as you do it well.
Reason #9 – Every Conversation Is An Opportunity To Sell Your Services
When I’m having a casual conversation with friends or relatives and they bring up a computer-related headache, I pounce on the opportunity to lend my expertise or, even better, promote my business!
It’s also worth it to note that the best customer to have is usually the one who repeats the same mistakes over and over again and can’t seem to grasp the concepts on which you’re instructing him…these are the folks who keep us computer guys employed!
Reason #8 – You’re An Expert Of Bleeding-Edge Technology Products, Aren’t You?
While it’s obvious that the computer guy can’t be at the forefront of all the latest tech trends, it is important to keep up with as much as you can. But it’s a great excuse to go to Best Buy and play with the latest gadgets, or dig into the weeks tech blog. If you’re going to be a computer guy, you should definitely be a gear-head and get excited when you hear about the latest touch-screen gadget or Bluetooth doohickey.
When people come to you to ask for advice in purchasing an item…this is an opportunity to flex your geek-muscles and spit out what you know. You have to be careful though, you need to make sure you phrase your answer in a way that absolves you from ultimate responsibility. Stay away from recommending brand names, and instead, give them advice on how to shop smartly. Tell them what to look for and how to find it, but make it be their decision when it comes time to choose a specific item.
Reason #7 – You Can Set Your Value
Because of the constantly declining price of new computers, the computer guy needs to get more creative and broad-reaching with the services he offers. Sometimes you can’t get away with charging too much for straight-up computer repair, but the value comes with the training and advice you give as an integral part of your visit. It’s all about the customer experience…and if you can make it more worthwhile for the customer to hire you (by giving them maintenance tips, free software, advice, and training) then buying new seems like a less desirable choice. If the customer insists on buying a new computer instead of repairing the old one….offer to help him shop for the best deal and then offer to provide quarterly maintenance check-ups and training on the latest version of Windows, all for a fee of course. Since there is no Kelly Blue Book value on piece of mind, you are free to play around with pricing and see what works best to maximize profits and entice customers.
Reason #6 – The Notion That “You’re Never Allowed A Moment’s Peace” Is Not Set In Stone
This is where setting customer expectations is so important. People think that because you are the computer guy, you are at their beck and call 24/7. They think this because this is what they’ve been able to get away with in the past. Unless you’re working for the Pentagon or a business that truly operates 24/7, your customer can manage an evening without computer support. If you don’t want to work on weekends or at midnight, then you make it clear what your working hours are in your service agreement BEFORE you are hired. If they don’t like that, then they can hire the next schlub who gets 2 hours of sleep a night and drools on their motherboard because he fell asleep while replacing the hard drive. You may loose a few customers, but you’ll gain your life back. It’s up to you.
Reason #5 – People May Ask You To Perform Miracles
Again, you need to set your customer’s expectations here. If you have a website, make sure that you clearly state the kind of services you can perform. BUT, don’t tell them flat-out “no”. You can tell them that unfortunately you’re not able to perform the exact service they’re looking for, but that you can offer another solution that may help them or training that may prevent a similar situation from happening in the future.
Reason #4 – You’re Not “All-Knowing”, So Be Prepared To Educate You Customers About Alternative Options
Some people don’t understand that there are smaller divisions within the computer industry, and that the computer guy cannot be an expert in all areas. So, if a customer asks you to do something that is outside of your scope…be prepared with a list of local providers that you know of who can help the customer with that particular issue. This is where networking with other computer guys who specialize in different areas is important. The customer will be pleased that you were able to point them in the right direction which will make them more likely to come to you when they have a problem that DOES fall within your specialty.
Reason #3 – You Define Your Responsibility
The computer guy is expected to solve problems. Therefore it is important that you set the boundaries of that expectation.
Solving problems can range from replacing batteries in a wireless keyboard to investigating why the entire building loses power at the same time every morning. Resolutions can necessitate weaving a 50-foot cable through a drop ceiling, or wriggling under a house on your belly to add an electrical outlet, which may not be your cup of tea.
It boils down to this: Don’t try to be a hero, and don’t market yourself as one. Set your customers expectations of what you can do for them and be prepared to refer them to someone who can help them with problems outside of your scope.
Reason #2 – Being The Computer Guy Is A Great Way To Meet People
People only talk to the computer guy when they need him to fix something. If you approach them as “just the computer guy” that’s all they’ll see you as. But if you approach your customers as a partner, you can get much more out of it. This holds especially true with small businesses. You can provide them a service and in return you have a contact in whatever industry that small business happens to be in.
In my current job, I’ve made so many friends being on the help desk than I would have otherwise. Helping people fix computers gets you out of your chair and into the office of nearly everyone in the company. If you’re friendly and show a TRUE interest in the person, not just their computer, you’ll have a much better opportunity to make new friends.
It’s true, people will pester you with their computer questions on off hours, but it’s up to you to steer the conversation in another direction. Once people realize that there’s more to you than just mice and keyboards they’ll be more willing to talk to you about other things next time you stop by.
Reason #1 – You ARE The Computer Guy
If you are truly passionate about helping people fix their computer problems, you must fully embrace being the “computer guy”. That’s who you are, and it doesn’t have to be a bad thing. If you approach you customers with a positive attitude and go about your business in a professional manner, it will be a great opportunity for you to make money, make contacts, make friends, and make a career. Of course, if you’re not passionate or not willing to put in the work necessary to make it a rewarding experience, then you may have to look elsewhere. But, as I find with all things in life, as long as you have a passion for the work, you will find a way to make it work for you.
Throughout the original article it seems as though Shaun was willing to let other people dictate what his role as “The Computer Guy” should be. I say that as the computer guy YOU need to define yourself to others. Otherwise, you’ll continue to perpetuate the misconception that the computer guy is a pessimistic, sarcastic, anti-social scrooge who feels burdened by the constant ignorance of his customers.
As I start my business, I will strive to blur the line between customer service and tech support. Computer techs need to focus on bedside manner as much as any other profession.
Now that you’ve read both perspectives on the issue, do you think YOU could be happy being the computer guy?