Giving Away too Much Information and Dealing with Time Wasters

The phone rings and on the other end is a potential customer willing to purchase a computer from you. They tell you that they want to do some music downloading, DVD burning and some video editing. You are eager to impress and tell them that they would need a DVD burner, a powerful video card and lots of RAM and HDD space for the video editing. You give them a ballpark range of how much such a computer will cost and they say thankyou and tell you that they will get back to you.

You never hear from them again. Why? Because after they picked your brain for the information they needed they went to the Dell website and brought the same computer there for cheaper. You gave too away much information over the phone.

If you are known as the “computer guru” then these types of people will call you frequently. Commonly known as “time wasters”, they will call you; use up your time and never have any intention of purchasing and goods or services from you. If you know what to look for they are easy to spot. You should be keeping an eye out for:
“Should I do this?” questions ““ They intend on doing it themselves, but want confirmation that they wont do anything wrong.

Reluctance to organise a time with you ““ They don’t want to organise a time with you because they don’t intend on seeing you. If you ask “would you like to organise a time this week for us to take a look at it?” and they ignore it and keep asking “should I do this?” type questions, they are definitely a time waster.

These people are a problem but there are ways to counter them and turn them into paying customers. In the conversation with them, try and work in some of the following:

Warn them of the dangers that can happen if the job is not done properly, but don’t tell them how to do it ““ If they say that the inside of their computer needs to be cleaned and they try to pick your brain in how to do it. Tell them that you will be using a powerful compressor; however, you need to brace certain parts in the computer to prevent it being damaged by the compressor while being cleaned. It may only be you sticking a pencil in the fans to stop them spinning up to crazy speeds to protect their brushes, but they don’t know that and see that they better get a professional to do it.

Tell them you have dealt with their problem before and know how to fix it ““ Stop right there and ask to organise a time for a callout, don’t give them any more information. If they ask how you are going to fix their problem (such as removing a virus); tell them that you have special programs to detect and remove them and you are not just going to run a virus scan because they aren’t 100% effective.

You entered this game to run a successful computer business, not a charity. The information you know is sellable, don’t give it away for free. You can let up on these rules if the person who is calling you is known to be a good client and their problem is simple and fixable over the phone. For anyone else, they should be paying for your time.

Bryce Whitty

About the Author

Bryce Whitty
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Bryce is an Australian computer technician and the founder of Technibble. He started his computer repair business when he was 17 years old and is still running it 9 years later. He is an avid traveller and spends at least a month of the year in another country.

Comments (4)

  • It sure is easy to give away the farm. It’s a fine line to walk between wanting to be helpful and talking yourself out of work. I’m still trying to find the right balance after several years.

  • Portercomp says:

    I generally give a new caller about 5 minutes to figure out what their problem might be by ME asking the questions…I find I can lead the conversation by asking questions better than answering them, then lead them into a time to setup a call. If they are reluctant to set up a time, I tell them we will be more than happy to help them when they are ready to setup a service call. Rarely does this not work.

  • Ben Willis says:

    My boss often gets calls like that and basically does the work for them over the phone. I have seen this on my own as well, and when I see they are trying for a handout I often say that I cannot really help them out anymore over the phone. This has maybe a 50/50 response, but at least it stops wasting my time if they don’t wanna pay.

    I try to be a good ethical tech, but at times this slight deception is needed. Being that nice will not get you paid, and you work to make money to live and play.

  • Dave NY says:

    Man I made that mistake the 1st few weeks . I quickly learned from my mistake. I find that people in my town or at least the ones coming in a very cheap and try to get things for free, had a guy that thought because he was talking to me the 1st time he brought his computer in that i would fix his computer for free the next time and even wen i was just charging him for my time and work he was pissed. People always trying to get something for nothing