Being an effective and friendly computer guy (or gal) requires both broad technical knowledge and exceptional people skills. This is true whether you own your own repair business, work for the help desk of a big company, or fix your friend’s computers as a hobby. People come to you because you’ve proven that you know how to fix computer problems, but they’ll only return if they like working with you. The personal side of computer repair is often overlooked, but it is the single most important aspect of being an effective and sought-after consultant.
Having been running my business part-time for a few years now, here are some things I’ve found that have helped earn repeat business.
Explain What You’re Doing and Why You’re Doing It
Nothing alienates a customer faster than seeing a tech at their computer for a bit longer than expected and not knowing if the tech is actually fixing the problem, or simply letting the clock run to earn more money. It’s important to keep your customers abreast of what’s going on. This doesn’t mean giving them a play-by-play of every move you make, but at the very least you should update them on any major findings and what you plan on doing to troubleshoot/fix the issue. This ties into the next item…
Overshoot Your Time Estimates (or better yet don’t give any)
Not communicating well with your customer can lead to this problem. One of the easiest ways to get on your customer’s bad side quickly is to tell them you’ll take an hour to fix things and yet still be there three hours later. It’s important to set proper expectations at the beginning of the repair.
Overshooting your time estimate means allowing some wiggle room when you tell them how long service will take. Does your average printer installation take an hour? Tell them it can take up to two or three hours. Then when it takes less time, your customers will be thrilled. And if there’s an unforeseen snag (which happens often), then you’ve already accounted for that time.
If you still happen to go over the estimated time frame, make sure you’ve already told your customer about it. You’ll normally get the sense if something is going to take longer then expected. As soon as you know, make sure your customer knows.
Ideally, though, you should try not to estimate the duration of your on-site service to your customer at all. Leave it open ended, but keep them abreast of your progress as it happens. I find this usually ends up being the ideal situation for both of you. They don’t have any unrealistic expectations and you don’t have the pressure of defining those expectations.
Get To Know Your Customer
Do you know the names of your customers kids? Where do they work? When are they usually home? Do they have any interesting hobbies? These might sound like superfluous questions that have nothing to do with computer work, but they go a long way in establishing crucial rapport with your customers. When visit an existing customer on a house-call, you should be able to greet the customer and their family by name. The ability to engage in small talk with the customer while you run a scan or install is a great skill to have when working on-site. With a more personal knowledge of your customer, you’ll gain a deeper trusting relationship with them and that translates to more repeat calls and more word-of-mouth recommendations.
Be On Time!
This ties in with number two above. Never be late, and never be too early. The way to accomplish this is, again, by setting the right expectations. It’s okay to give a small one to two hour window for your arrival on-site. Try not to go stretch your window too much or you’ll be lumped in with the cable guys who quote four hour time windows! Nobody wants to be sitting around waiting for a tech for four hours! Instead, make sure to build in a buffer of an hour or two between customers, so you can account for bad traffic or a prolonged prior service. Finally, if you anticipate being late, contact your customer and let them know ASAP! There’s always going to be problems and unforeseen circumstances, your customers will most likely understand if you take the time to keep the lines of communication open.
Respect Their Space
One sure-fire way to make a lasting bad impression on your customer is to leave their home in disarray. It’s important to leave things as clean, or cleaner, than how you found them when you arrived. Note everything you moved during service and make sure to put it back. Pick up after yourself and carry some cleaning supplies with you so you can wipe off the surfaces you touched. This is a great finishing touch and will leave a huge impression on your customers.
Whether in their office or at their house, try not to forget these tips for keeping the “friendly” in Your Friendly Neighborhood Computer Guy!
And for the ultimate lesson on how NOT to act while servicing customers, here’s the always hilarious Jimmy Fallon as Nick Burns the company Computer Guy on Saturday Night Live: