November 26, 2004
** Listen to this column
on your computer, iPod or other audio player **
via Coral | MP3
direct from WelchWrite.com
I try to do everything I can for my clients,
hooking up the occasional DVD player or troubleshooting phone line problems,
even if it goes beyond the typical work I am there to do. That said, there
are a couple of items I will not touch, if possible. The first is dealing
with technical support assistance via phone and the other is providing,
or managing, hardware service for the client. Over the years, I have realized
that either one of these tasks is liable to drive me screaming into the
night. Even worse, when you get involved in these situations, your client
might begin to see you as part of the problem instead of part of the solution.
I have been on both sides of the technical support equation for years.
I have been the voice at the other end of the phone, trying to figure
out why your computer has suddenly started barking like a dog, or emailing
all your files to Burma! I know what it is like to do that job, but even
I find myself quickly losing patience during my infrequent calls. I am
so disappointed with the quality of technical support that I will try
nearly any other avenue of assistance before calling.
I especially dislike calling when I am at a client’s site. Sitting
on hold or waiting for a response from technical support, while sitting
with a client, and my billing clock ticking, can seem like a lifetime.
While most clients are ok with the wait, I don’t like billing my
clients for waiting.
Additionally, I am finding, increasingly often, that technical support
lines will only talk with the actual client. In an effort to save them
money, and free myself for more productive work, I always recommend that
they contact technical support themselves. I give them all the support
information they might need before they call and then extricate myself
from the situation. Normally, if I have to call support for a client,
I explain that I am a consultant and the client is here with me. Even
then, I am sometimes given a “huffy” response that they are
only able to deal with the client themselves. Of course, the reason I
am probably breaking my own rule and calling for the client is that the
issue is significantly technical enough that the clients can’t successfully
make the call themselves.
Hardware service, especially when the computer is under warrantee, is
quickly becoming a quagmire, as well. As an independent consultant, I
am unable to stock the necessary parts, or afford the significant certification
training to qualify for most “authorized service” programs.
I am also not that interested in performing the more gruesome tasks associated
with motherboard swaps and power supply replacement. Unfortunately, trying
to convince a hardware manufacturer like Dell or Apple, that a computer
has a flaw has become an exercise in futility. They will have you doing
the technical equivalent of voodoo before they will accept any responsibility.
I understand the costs involved in unnecessary warrantee service, but
I also understand that angering a customer probably costs them just as
much in lost sales.
Don’t get involved
Despite these issues, the main reason I distance myself from these situations
is the fear of becoming associated with these bad experiences. I’m
not saying it is fair, only that it happens. Even though placing the call
themselves might take the clients a bit longer to solve their problem,
my relationship with the client remains steady. Large manufacturers don’t
feel the pain when they lose one or two clients, but if I lost a single
client due to their mis-guided perception of my role, or perceived lack
of loyalty to them, it can hurt…a lot.
Personal reasons and dislikes aside, you might find it in your best interest
to avoid confusing your clients. Letting them fight their own service
and support battles might be the best way to insure that you still have
a client when the problem is solved.
Available from CafePress.com