View Full Version : Customers asking too many questions

03-06-2009, 07:32 PM
What's happening is my customers, and other acquaintances (people from church, wife's friends) are asking me TONS of questions, but they basically want either information on how to do something or are looking for recommendations on a product.

This is good and bad for me. It's good because they see me as knowledgeable and as the expert in the field. It's bad though because they want the information for free, many times without having had service done yet. I find that most people don't even just have a quick question, they plant themselves and fire one after the other. One customer had questions for like 20 minutes, but he only ended up buying a couple monitor cables. Another person was someone from church wondering if I could fix a hard drive so it would work again with a laptop they got for free - I told him it's much cheaper to get another drive.

How have you all handled these situations? Many times I feel quite abused/used - they just want the answer and feel they have a right to my information.

Perhaps I should re-evaluate how I answer the questions, instead of really answering them, steer them to my products/services. Never really giving an answer, but offer to solve the problem for them? For instance, if they are interested in knowing the best computer to get, instead of just saying Dell/HP/whatever, state that I can't recommend any particular brand - that I build custom PCs that are much better.
If I notice that don't have a UPS, instead of sending them to staples/walmart, say that I can purchase/install a UPS for them based on their needs.

Is that the best way to go, or do you think I'm missing the mark here?



03-06-2009, 08:16 PM
You have described the most difficult part of being a technician. There's not a lot you can do about it except when you see it about to happen interrupt and say - I can give you 2 minutes, after that I have a paying customer to see - they very quickly get the message. I've become very ruthless about it. People will just leech and leech until there's nothing left - but only if you let them. If it's during off hours or weekends I'll usually say "give me a call on Monday". I have on two occaisons, sent a bill to people for time they spent quizzing me - these were particularly bad - loads of questions, zero business. I never got paid but they never asked me anything again either. With strangers that I meet on jobs I just tell them I don't know.

03-06-2009, 08:19 PM
Time wasters and brain suckers will drive you insane. Just keep repeating your price for the service they need and say something like Bring it on in and we'll get it fixed. Don't just give out information.

03-06-2009, 09:43 PM
Thanks for the suggestions. The brainsuckers/no sale people are the most pain! The next time someone does it, I'll remember the main points and goal, no freebies - point to calling them on my terms for service to resolve the issue or give them a very brief time for answering and cut it off. Then point to a service call / consulting appointment.

Great stuff, thanks again!


03-06-2009, 10:40 PM
I used to try and be nice, but now I break people down into a few categories and respond based on that. Good customers, friends, and neighbors can call me up any time as long as they don't abuse the privilege. Regular customers and acquaintance's get about 3-5 minutes on the phone before I steer the conversation towards me doing work for them. Non-customers that ask the wrong kinds of questions (i.e. how do I do this) only get answers that result in me getting paid somehow.

I can't stand leeches. I actually had a guy call me up one time and expected me to walk him through installing a modem, and then got mad when I wouldn't do it. I had given the modem to a friend, who gave it to one of his friends, and then he gave it to another guy. Somehow that made it my responsibility to get it working. I told him to call a mechanic and ask him how to replace an alternator. It took him a few seconds to figure out what I meant. When he asked how much I'd charge to install it I quoted him double my price. Better just to get rid of someone like that because if you did work for them you'd never hear the end of it the next time they try to leech.

Having dealt with so many people over the course of so many years it became much easier to weed out the time sinks. There is no point being nice to the leeches. If you're nice they might make the mistake of thinking they can try again. They don't understand basic social rules, or simply don't care. If they did then they'd know better than to waste a strangers time expecting something for nothing.

03-06-2009, 10:51 PM
There's not a lot you can do about it except when you see it about to happen interrupt and say - I can give you 2 minutes, after that I have a paying customer to see - they very quickly get the message.

That is great advice and we would all benefit from paying attention to it.

I have, on occasion, turned the time-wasters into clients and I've almost always wished I hadn't. One in particular I would have gladly given his money ($120) back if he would just go away. On the flip-side, I have a lawyer that any time she asks me a question, she tells em to bill her. I love that woman!

The problem, as I see it, is that these people don't respect the immense amount of time that we have given up to study our fields. They respect doctors and lawyers for their knowledge but because we don't have a title or degree, our time was worth very little to them.

We also make what we do look very easy so they don't respect us because they think that they can do what we do. It has taken us a long time to learn what we know and they think that we can just give them a "data dump" then they can do it all.

In regards to the respect that we receive, we are the starving artists of the professional world. In the eyes of the rest of the world what we do is based on talent not education, therefore we don't have to work at it because computers just come naturally to us and there is no learning. Here, we all know that this is untrue but just because we know it doesn't mean that we get respect for it.

So I ask the question, how do we inform the public and change the perception of computer professionals that we might be respected and valued as professionals?

03-07-2009, 12:13 AM
You know Tim, that was very well said!

I second that, very eloquent. There's a blog post right there.

03-07-2009, 12:30 AM
I second that, very eloquent. There's a blog post right there.

Thanks... I might just do that. I wasn't trying to be eloquent, I am just frustrated by the complete lack of respect that 'puter techs get in general. Everyone thinks their brother can do it then we get called in to do cleanup and they're angry at us because we make it look simple.

03-07-2009, 01:42 AM
Its like because we carry a lot of our tools in our head we are supposed to offload them to anyone that wants them. A local fellow I know who is a builder ran into me socially and asked if I would do a "quick trip" round to fix his computer "Oh I'll flip you $20 bucks" ........ like he was doing me some sort of favour......

I laughed and asked him if he could build me a bar-b-que and I'd flip him $20 bucks.......

I guess anyone whose job entails knowledge cops the same. I was out recently and saw a guy wearing a T-Shirt that said "No I will not fix your computer for free". Cracked me up.. As soon as someone starts questioning, I say "whats it doing" then I nod and smile and just say "would you like to make an appointment to bring it in and I have can have a look at it" - As soon as they hear the word appointment they know what it means. I am still being friendly and at no time have to reject them, so far so good anyway.

03-07-2009, 02:41 AM
Happened to me once never happening again.

A Customer calls saying his computer is not turning on anymore, he asked me when can he bring it by so i told him and then he ask do u have an idea of what it could be? Im like it could be your power supply but im not sure i have to look at it. So i get a call a few days later .."hi im so and so and yeah it turned out to be the power supply i went to best buy and bought one and changed it myself..."


03-07-2009, 05:31 AM
Hi, what i have always done is when it comes to family i try to do it for free unless it takes hours then a case of beer is always good. When it comes to "close friends" it again depends on how much time it takes and a case of beer is also good for payment. As for everyone else i usually ask for their credit card details before replying to there problem and tell them that the cost of this type of support saves them the call out fee, and i say it all with a smile. Most will all of a sudden not want an answer and quickly end the conversation. The others are happy to pay, although they don't seem to be as many but it does weed out the bludgers.

Whoops......for got to introduce my self better go do it now......;)

03-07-2009, 07:53 PM
I tell them that I would really have to see the computer and setup to be able to say what the situation is. I refuse to make a diagnosis over the phone for the sheer fact that customers (or the potential cheap bastard ones) are often not giving you the full picture. I once had a customer want me to walk them though setting up a wireless network for their desktop and it turned out they didn't even have a wireless card.. how long would that have taken over the phone to figure out? I see myself as not offering computer service, they could eventually figure out how to fix their computer. I am saving them the several days or weeks of hunting for the solution, swapping parts, begging every family member and friend for free help, accidently losing their info etc.. just for a reasonable price of 59.95 an hour. What a deal!

Anyway to summarize just say "I would need to see the patient to say"

and if they say take a guess

I say I dont make guesses I am a professional, when do you want to book your appointment.

03-07-2009, 10:42 PM
I'd like to quote my grandmother who worked as a nurse for 30 years. She told me "Your an expert in something get used to people constantly asking questions about." The way I deal with someone asking question is to give gernal answears and point them the Google.

A typical conversation goes:

Customer: "My computer is running slow lately how do I fix it."

Me: "There can be alot of things that will make your pc run slow. Anything from having too many programs running in the back ground, running programs that are too new for your computer, malware or hardware progblem."

Customer: "How do I know which it is?"

Me: "I offer a PC clean up for $50."

Customer" "Um."

Me: "You can Google it and follow the advice you find on the internet, but not all of it is gonna be good and some may even harm your computer."

Customer: "Okay Thanks, bye."

03-08-2009, 07:22 PM
I really just think its best to suggest an appointment, why even tell them how to do it really? Had a lady who moved today, her computer is making the ram beep now. I could just tell her to push her ram in.. but what if she breaks it? Or thats not the problem? frankly most people dont want to deal with it.

03-08-2009, 10:54 PM
That's why you never give then a real answear. Just a comment about a comment earlier I get very offended when people try to offer me some amount often $20 to fix something. I respond by saying I charge $80 for a home visit. Most people give me the same basic response of "that's alot." I respond by saying "That's what I charge and if you can find someone to do it cheaper keep me in mind when make it worse."

03-08-2009, 11:34 PM
Happened to me once never happening again.

A Customer calls saying his computer is not turning on anymore, he asked me when can he bring it by so i told him and then he ask do u have an idea of what it could be? Im like it could be your power supply but im not sure i have to look at it. So i get a call a few days later .."hi im so and so and yeah it turned out to be the power supply i went to best buy and bought one and changed it myself..."


Posts like this make me realize we have a lack of smileys on this site. We need an emoticon of a little round smiley with brains flying out the right side of it's head from shooting itself. :rolleyes:

Customers like that suck. Sorry you had that experience. The ultimate slap in the face when you are a professional.

03-09-2009, 12:06 AM
I had a customer try to abuse our 'free diagnostics', but since it was a custom built-system, I knew not to tell him anything other than how much the repair would cost.

His custom gaming computer would grind to a halt if you tried to open My Computer or anything really. I told him we could repair it for $60 or he could pay us $30 and we would tell him. He chose $0 and just picked it up while I wasn't there; he tried pestering/begging my wife into telling him what it was, loser... :cool:

03-09-2009, 12:38 AM
Since I have a very public storefront, we got a fair amount of people that ask about certain problems, and we're pretty good at telling them that "we need to see it and it'll cost $XX for our labor." If they don't have their computer with them already, I'd guess only half come back. If they have it there, probably 90% of them has us work on it.

Along the same lines as this; I refuse to sell parts to people. To me, as a service shop, it's not worth making a couple of dollars on a power supply or hard drive to have a bunch of questions about how to install it. (or have it returned because the person didn't know how to install it.)
We made an exception the other day, because the guy didn't have a car. He bought a power supply from me, then called to tell us that it's not working. He brought the system down and had the 24 pin cable plugged in completely wrong.

03-09-2009, 12:51 AM
Perhaps you just need to be a little more vague when answering their questions..works for me..

03-09-2009, 02:53 AM
Since I used to work in a retail environment that had hundreds come in every day.. it took time and practice mastering the art of being customer service friendly without giving away one's shirt. IF they didn't have their pc with them and tried to pick my brain I would hit them with this example. "Listen sir I can't properly diagnose your issue without the pc. Its like expecting a doctor to troubleshoot a patient over the phone. That would be foolish and unprofessional. Now if you don't want to make that ride and bring the pc to us.. we will gladly come to you for this price."

I am honest now if its a printer issue that I know repair cost wise would be more then the cost of the visit upfront I admit our fee + the repair cost might be more and I recommend the manufacturers support system first. IF they can't help them then I let them know our diagnostic is 80 bucks. I feel it makes it fair for them and saves me the hassle of having an upset customer. Especially considering printers cost so little now.