So how did hings turn out with my first official customer as a business owner?
If you’ll recall in my initial post on the subject, a customer was referred to me a bit before I was fully prepared to start taking on customers. I decided to take the client, mostly for experience, but also to get a bit more money into my business account. The lady wasn’t too specific about the problem (are they ever?), but I thought it sounded like a corrupt HD. Turns out that it was.
My girlfriend ended up picking up the computer from the customer at her workplace and in turn I picked it up from her. I lugged the bulky 4 year-old HP to my car and drove it home. I still don’t have a proper work area at home. I live in a small apartment and don’t plan on taking much work home with me. I have a feeling it will be a while before I have a real “work bench”. Instead, I unplugged my secondary computer (I have two workstations in my bedroom room) and plugged in the HP.
The computer displayed a message during POST saying there was a critical S.M.A.R.T. error detected on the Primary Master Disk Drive and to back-up all data immediately. I wont get too technical here, but the end result was that the hard drive was damaged to the point that it was not immediately recoverable. In other words, the hard drive was fried.
I was kinda bummed initially. My first service call turned out to be one that I couldn’t immediately fix. I called the customer and told her the news. Her hard drive was corrupt to the point that she would need to get it replaced. I gave her three options:
- I could attempt to transfer and salvage any files from the broken HD onto a new HD, though I couldn’t guarantee that any data was salvageable. I would charge her for the new HD, and the hours spent doing the work.
- I could purchase and install a new HD for her computer without transferring data. It would cost less hours, but she would loose any important data if she had any.
- She could buy a new computer.
She agreed to #3, which was also what I recommended. After 4 years and a failed HD, it’s about time to consider getting a new box.
So, my first job turned out to be a dud. I didn’t fix anything, instead telling the customer that her machine was DOA.
Can’t win ’em all right?
But this isn’t by any means a failure. A big part of this business will probably involve telling people that they’re better off buying a new computer. Sometimes people just need a professional opinion to realize it’s time to let go.
What I will do, for cases like this, is to make sure the customer has the best service possible, so that this wont be the last time she asks for my help. I want her experience with me to be so pleasant and memorable that she wont have any choice but to think of me when she inevitably has problems with her next computer.
This was also an excellent learning opportunity. What are some lessons I’ve taken from this?
It’s going to be more difficult than I thought to find time to actually take on clients. I wasn’t able to pick up the computer myself because I had to work late on that day. I also wasn’t even able to take a look at the computer until the following day because I was so busy with other things. I’m going to really need to get better at managing my time and take care not to over-promise on time lines. I’ll be sure to take on new clients at a low and progressive pace. I don’t want to over burden myself.
I need to firm up my prices and stick to them. I think I slipped up a little on offering such a low price to this customer. From now on, unless the customer is a direct friend or relative, I will charge full price. Thanks to my readers for really drilling this into my head!
Communication is key. When all is said and done, it’s how you talk to the costumer that will keep them coming back. In this case, I think I did well. I was a little hesitant to call her and let her know that her hard drive was most likely gone. Luckily, after I explained what happened, the steps I took to diagnose it, and gave her some options, she seemed ok with everything,. She ended up thanking me more than once for helping her out.
All in all, I feel good after my first “official” service call. I have a long way to go before I’ll be ready to toss the day job and pay my bills with Jiffy-PC, but I’m confident I’m on the right track to making this a success.