The Learning Curve

New tricks for an old dog.

Welcoming stupid questions

A few decades ago when a former spouse and I were in the computer retail business, we sold clone PCs that we assembled in a back room.  We did what Dell did, except we didn’t get rich doing it.  What we sold was attractive because it was inexpensive, but our no-name product didn’t always inspire a lot of confidence.  I took quite a few customer service calls that went like this:

Customer: “I bought this computer from you yesterday and it doesn’t work.  It will not turn on.  We set it up just like you told us”

Me: “We test every system very thoroughly before it leaved the store.  We burn it in for 48 hours minimum, to be sure everything is working.”

Customer: “We set it up just like you told us, and it doesn’t work.”

Me: “Would you like me to come over to your house and take a look at it?”

Customer: “Yes.”

Me: “OK, fine.  But before I do that, there are a few simple things I need to check before I come over.”

Customer: “Sure.”

Me: “The first thing is to check the power cord.  You know that it is not permanently connected to your computer.  One end plugs into the wall, and the other end plugs into the back of your system box.  And don’t forget, there are TWO power cords.  One to the TV-looking thing, your display monitor, and a SECOND power cord to your system box.”

Customer: “I’m sure I plugged it it.”

Me. “I don’t doubt that you did.  But you see, sometimes you have to push really hard when installing the SECOND power cord to the system unit, to make a good electrical connection.  I’d like you to disconnect that SECOND power cord from the back of your system box and re-insert it very firmly, please.  I’ll hold while you do this.  Thank you.”

Customer: “Well, OK.  I guess I can do that. Hold on for a minute.”

(crickets chirping)

Customer: “Son of a gun!  That’s it.  The power cord was loose.  Thanks for your time.”

Me: “You’re quite welcome.  Enjoy your computer.  If you have any questions, give us a call.”

I have no doubt that this customer had never seen an electrical power cord that didn’t have one end already permanently connected to an appliance.  Nor did he have any experience with a multi-component system that used two separate power cords.

The first time I got one of these calls, it scared the hell out of me.  Then we toook extra pains to be sure the customer understood what to expect when they picked up a new system.  When we were really busy, doing that was time well spent.  When business was slow, however, I sometimes skipped the detailed explanation and waited for the telephone call that began, “This piece of crap doesn’t work.”

Me: “I’ll be happy to drop everything I’m doing, jump into my car, and come over to your place right now.  But, let’s check this one little thing first . . . . ”

I enjoyed those calls.  I knew the answer and I never had to drop everything and jump into my car.

Written by Tom Fox

05/09/2008 at 9:36 am

Posted in Marketing

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