In life, everything, every experience, every interaction, every fumble can be a learning experience. Nowhere is this more true than when you’re running a computer repair business.
Computer repair business owners not only have to keep up with the ever-changing nature of technology, but we also have to keep our businesses running smoothly. This gives us ample opportunity to learn some things the hard way.
I’ve gotten myself into the habit of writing down these little “lessons” as they happen, and keeping them where I can always refer back to them.
Here’s a few of the things, in no particular order, that I’ve had to learn the hard way over the years.
1. Get them in the door, even if it’s only for a diagnostic!
We all get those phone calls from time to time that ask what we consider to be “simple”, and sometimes “absurd” questions. However, if the question were so “simple”, the prospective customer wouldn’t have needed to call us. This initial phone call is a perfect opportunity to get the prospective customer in the door.
I tell the caller something like “I find that whenever you have a large problem, the simplest way to solve it is to break it up into small manageable pieces. The first small piece would be to run all the diagnostics on the computer and pinpoint exactly what’s wrong. Once we do that, we can move on to the next piece.” This not only soothes the callers frazzled nerves, but begins the process of converting a caller into a customer.
2. No “quick looks”, ALWAYS DIAGNOSE!
Sometimes a caller, or even someone who just walks through your door, will ask you if you can “just take a quick look” at their computer. Unfortunately a “quick look” can often miss a larger problem.
Here’s an example: A potential customer walks through your door with an obvious malware infection. You take a “quick look” and confirm that their system in indeed infected. You tell the client what it will cost for you to remove the virus, and they agree to have you do the work.
The infection was easily removed, the customer picks up their machine and pays you. Nice and easy, right?
A day or two later the customer calls complaining that the system is slow. You don’t want an angry customer on your hands, so you offer to look at their computer for them. Upon running a proper diagnostic, you find that the hard drive is failing, which is causing the customer’s current headache. Now you’re in the awkward position of having to ask the customer to spend more money to fix an issue that you should have caught a week ago.
All this trouble could have been avoided if you would have simply run a proper diagnostic on the computer in the first place.
3. Diagnose EVERYTHING
As a matter of fact, I would go as far as to say that you should run a diagnostic on every computer that comes through your door. Every computer. Without exception.
This way you can avoid potentially embarrassing and frustrating situations down the road.
Always remember: “Prescription without diagnosis is malpractice.”
4. Don’t let customers push you around, you know your job better than they do
Every now and again you’ll get a customer that comes to you who is absolutely certain that they know what the problem is, and how it should be addressed. That’s all good and well, but you should never let the client tell you how to do your job. Run that diagnostic, confirm the issue, and then move forward.
It’s all too simple to just address the “fix” that the client suggested, but as shown in our earlier example, failing to properly diagnose the issue can cause you to unintentionally overlook other problems.
5. EVERYBODY signs the agreement
I’m not going to go over the importance of having some kind of service agreement for your client to sign prior to service. If you don’t already have one, the Technibble Computer Business Kit is a good place to find one that should suit your needs.
However, the best, most locked-down service agreement in the world will do you absolutely no good if you forget to have your clients, every client, sign it. Get yourself in the habit of getting that signature before the client walks out the door.
It’s definitely better to have it and not need it than it is to need it and not have it.
6. No Free Antivirus
After doing a malware removal for a client, you’ll definitely want to be sure that their system is protected from future infections. Unfortunately, some customers have a hard time with the idea of paying for an antivirus. They think that it’s just something that they can get for free. We all know that the old “free AV” gimmick is just that, a gimmick. Yet so many technicians bow to the client’s will and just install that old free antivirus anyway.
When faced with a customer who is adamant that their old free antivirus is good enough, I point out that if their free antivirus were any good, they wouldn’t have had to come and see me. I then go on to tell them that with antivirus software, just like anything else, you get exactly what you pay for. This seems to quell most resistance.
Remember: you are the computer repair professional, not them.
7. Always charge for ALL hardware repair and replacement
It’s easy to overlook the small things. For example, when replacing a hard drive for a customer, we’ll charge for the drive and for the installation of the operating system, but a lot of us forget to charge for replacing the drive.
Some argue that it only took them 15 minutes, so why charge? That’s still 15 minutes of labor that you performed. Skip that charge 4 times, and you’ve lost a whole billable hour. How many hours are you willing to work each year without being paid? If you’re like me, the answer is zero.
8. Always supply the hardware
Speaking of hardware… It’s not unheard of for a potential customer to ask you to install some piece of hardware that they have purchased on their own into their computer. The problem with these sorts of jobs is that the hardware is an unknown variable. You don’t know where they got it, what condition it’s in, or how it’s been handled. What if you install the hardware that they provide and it turns out that there’s something wrong with the hardware? It could become a point of contention between you and the client. For that reason, I don’t like to do these sorts of jobs, especially not without carefully ensuring that the client understands the risks.
I’d much rather be the one that provides the hardware to my customers, that way I can be certain of quality.
If the customer says “But I can order it myself for less”, I always reply with “You could order something online, but I can’t guarantee that it’s exactly the same. What I can guarantee is that I will stand behind the product that I sell you.”
9. Take detailed notes on each job
Last, but certainly not least, you definitely want to make sure that you take detailed notes on each job that you do. Be sure to not only document the model of computer you’re working on, but also the serial number. Things like what condition the device is in, or whether or not you notice anything out of the ordinary can also prove useful.
I once had a client, a college student, call me in a panic a few months after I repaired her computer asking if I, by any chance, had the serial number to her laptop. The laptop had been stolen out of her car, and she needed the serial number for the police report. Unfortunately, she hadn’t saved any of the documentation that came with her computer. Luckily I included the serial number on her invoice. She was able to give the number to the police, who within days located the laptop when the thief attempted to sell it at a pawn shop. When she was able to recover her laptop she was very pleased to find that all her data was still there, and nothing was lost. Good thing I had that serial number.
10. Start your own list
I would suggest that you make your own list of lessons that you learn along the way, and keep it somewhere you can refer back to it every once in a while. It’s amazing how much we can learn over time from these little lessons.
Hopefully reading these will help you to avoid making some all-too-common mistakes, and enable you to grow, not only as a computer repair professional, but as a business owner as well.
Let us know in the comments what lessons you’ve learned that have helped your computer repair business.