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What Customers REALLY Want

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Everything You've Ever Assumed Is Wrong

The average IT professional has a misunderstanding of what customers really want. They mistakenly think that when a computer breaks, contracts a virus, or has other issues, the customer wants that issue “fixed.”

But they couldn't be more wrong about what the customer REALLY wants....

If it were true that they just wanted a "fix", you could very easily fix any number of issues for customers with any number of solutions, and the customer would be ecstatic with all of them. But, we have all had the excruciating experience of going above and beyond the call of duty to provide the best solution possible, only to have the customer complaining about what we’ve done.

Here's why customers complain about a perfectly fine solution to their problems...

The Cost Trap

Virus problems are the classic situation. A customer brings you a computer, which is riddled with viruses. You remove the virus; but, while removing a virus, that destroys Internet Explorer. You speak with the customer and let them know that now not only do you have to do a virus removal, but a Windows repair as well. They ask you if there’s any alternative. You explain that the damage from the virus is pretty much limited to Internet Explorer, which is broken. However, if you install Firefox, they will be able to browse the web.

The customer thinks about it and says, “Okay. Let’s do that, and that way I can save the money from having to repair Windows.”

You Broke the Internet

Not 5 minutes after repairing their computer and turning it on, they complain that the “little blue E” no longer works. You remind them of your conversation where you instructed them that they would need to use Firefox in order to access the Internet, or else they would have to do a Windows repair to fix Internet Explorer.

The customer has no idea what this means. Despite having given you the approval, they now begin to argue with you that you have not actually completed your job. They tell you that they gave you the computer to fix, and that you have only fixed it halfway. You have removed the virus, but “…you broke the Internet.”

Frustrated, you try and reason with them. But to no avail. The customer’s simply not interested. They want their “little blue E” back and working. And they don’t want to pay you any additional money to do it!

Now you’re starting to see red. Not only from your sheer frustration, but also from the fact that you’re going to lose money on this case. Additionally, your customer’s coming away very dissatisfied.

This situation can easily be avoided when you understand that customers do not actually want a solution.

Customers REALLY Want Indemnification

Indemnification is a term that comes from the insurance industry. In the insurance industry, indemnification means to make compensation for a loss. The more popular definition revolves around “to make whole again.”

When an insurance company speaks of “to make whole again,” they mean to put it back exactly as they were before some event. For example, indemnification to you after a car accident will include repairing the car, repainting it, and fixing any interior damage. In short, they are going to “make your car whole again.” They’re going to put it back the way it was. They’re not going to give any upgrades. They’re not going to substitute anything for it. They’re going to put it back as best as they possibly can to the condition that it was in before the accident.

Indemnification is all about putting Humpty Dumpty back together again. If Humpty Dumpty had had good insurance, he would’ve not only been put back together again, but he would have looked exactly as he did before he took the fall. No matter how good his insurance was, however, no insurance company is going to pay to have Humpty Dumpty put back together again and then give him upgrades. The insurance company is not going to cover making him taller, hair plugs, laser surgery, or any other procedures. They’re only going to put him back together again.

Customers simply want indemnification. When you work on their computers, they want you to put it back the way it was. They don’t want any upgrades unless they specifically ask for them. They don’t want to use the Firefox browser instead of Internet Explorer. They want to be able to click on the icons they have always clicked on. They don’t want any extra clicks, they don’t want any programs added or removed, and they certainly don’t want to have to relearn where everything is.

They only want the computer put back the exact way it was before it broke.

But That's Almost the Cost of a New Computer!

In some cases, however, putting the computer back exactly the way it was may be a very expensive proposition. In those cases, you have an ethical responsibility as an IT professional to inform the customer that the computer is near “totaled.”

The “totaled” term is also borrowed from insurance. To return to our car-accident analogy, if the car accident renders the car in such a condition where the repair cost would exceed the cost of a new car, the insurance company will opt for the new car. Your insurance contract states that they must buy you a car that is equivalent to the one you had prior to the accident if they deem your car “totaled.”

Your customer, however, may be even more sensitive than the insurance company. Whereas the insurance company will only replace your car if the repair costs exceed the cost of the new car, your customer may feel that the computer is “totaled” if the repair cost exceeds 50% of the cost of a new computer.

In cases where you are dealing with older equipment or relatively generic computers, and the repair cost is estimated to be around 50% or greater than the cost of a new computer, you will be well served to advise the customer that it may not be worth it to repair this computer.

Undoubtedly, the customer will ask you why. Simply explain to them that the repair costs are going to meet or exceed 50% of the cost of the new computer. And, since the computer is so old, they might be better served to purchase a new computer and then pay you to transfer all of the data and programs to the new machine.

This places the responsibility of the decision square on the customer’s shoulders and alleviates you from any responsibility. The customer can choose to pay an exorbitant amount of money to fix the old computer, or to pay you to transfer all of their data and programs onto a new computer. Either way, you will be compensated for a job that has been clearly defined.

This article is excerpted from Hacking Your I.T. Business: The Fool-Proof Guide to Making Your I.T. Business Successful in the New Economy. Copyright 2011, High Powered Help, Inc. All Rights Reserved. Used with Permission.
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Author:DrDamnit
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Expert Comment

by:fruitloopy
This makes perfect sense to me, especially the "Indemnification" part. Too many times have I given back what I consider to be a vastly improved machine only to be told off because its too different from the old one and they dont know how to use it.
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by:satsumo
I find this problem is normally solved through communication and control.  Instead of giving the user back the machine with IE not functioning take the matter out of their hands.  Install Firefox, remove the IE icon, sit with them while they use the internet. Sure you can tell them exactly what you did and why but they don't really care.

What the customers wants is not IE or Firefox.  They want Facebook, e-mail, Youtube.  As long as they understand they can get those things they are happy.  If they are particularly insistent upon the little blue 'e' you could replace the Firefox icon with the IE one.  They won't know the difference.
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by:Frosty555
This is the classic customer-technician communication issue that I've run into lots - both witnessing or hearing stories from my customers, or experiencing it first hand.

The problem is that technicians have to realize that the customer does not know as much about computers as they do. In this case the customer didn't understand the difference between "Internet Explorer" and "Firefox", they don't understand the general notion of a "web browser". You tried to explain to them technical details that were beyond their comprehension. As a result they didn't understand or comprehend the implications of the fix that you were suggesting.

Sure, to techies like us it seems baffling that a customer wouldn't understand such an elementary concept, but really it is no different than recommending any other "partial" solution without fully explaining the drawbacks to the customer.

It's tempting to do this as a cost saving mechanism for the customer but I've discovered that doing highly technical, cludgy workarounds to save the customer a few bucks is ultimately not worth it.

Recommend the correct solution, even if it is a bit more expensive. Don't be the guy that slaps solutions together for cheap. Everybody will be happier that way.
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LVL 31

Expert Comment

by:Frosty555
I'm not sure if "indemnification" is the right word - but customers definitely want "things to work just like they did before". Any change needs to be carefully explained and understood.

The worst thing is when the customer suddenly, unwillingly and unwittingly experience change in their computing environment.
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