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Computer Technician's Guide to Dealing with Customers

I've been in the technology industry for many years. I've worked as a bench technician and I've been the manager of an electronics engineering department. I've designed everything from automated testers to advanced motor controllers. And I can tell you this - people are a lot more complicated to deal with than even the most advanced technology.

If you're a working computer technician, or you're planning to enter the career field, or if you're attempting to earn CompTIA A+ certification, you need to know how to deal with people. CompTIA considers the ability to deal with people, be they fellow employees or company clients, to be an important part of being a certified computer technician.

It's important for you to remember that when you interface with the customer, be it by phone or in person, it's not just you dealing with the customer. You're acting as a representative of your company. In effect you ARE the company. If you deal with the customer successfully, you might generate more business for the company. If you can't deal with customers successfully, the company could lose millions of dollars, and you could end up begging for a burger flipping job.

The most important part of being successful in dealing with customers is - showing up. As Woody Allen once said, "Eighty percent of success is showing up". I would actually say it's more like ninety-nine percent because I've seen so many times when people, although not the brightest on the planet, got good assignments and good promotions simply because they where the one that showed up.

when a service person says they'll be there between 2 p.m. and 6 p.m. what they really mean is they'll call you at 6 p.m. to reschedule.

Now, we know a service person can't always accurately predict when they'll arrive at a customers site. An earlier service call might take much longer than expected or they might run into traffic. Do everything you can to be on time, but if you can't, then contact the customer to inform them that you'll be late, or you need to reschedule. We've all been in the position where a service person calls to say they'll be late or need to reschedule, and nobody likes it.

I personally always like it when the service person tells me WHY they'll be late or need to reschedule. Saying "the service call I'm on now is taking much longer than expected" or "I've got caught in a traffic jam" always makes me more understanding because knowing the reason makes me feel like I'm not just being blown off.

Communicating with the Customer

Being successful in dealing with customers requires knowing how to communicate. Lets say you arrive at a customer's location because of a complaint about a printer malfunction. Your first step is to learn as much as you can about the problem. Below are two examples of a question you might ask.

1. "Did the printer stop working?"

2. "Do you use this printer a lot and is it usually reliable and what did you do just before it stopped working?"

Question 1 is an example of a "closed ended" question. The customer will answer "yes" and that's about all the information you get. Question 2 is an example of an "open ended" question. It can't be answered with just a "yes" or "no" answer. With question 2, you'll get a lot more information about the problem from the customer. Always try to ask open ended questions. That will get the customer talking and once you get them talking you'll be surprised at what information you'll get. In this example, the customer might answer:

"We use this printer heavily and it used to be very reliable until we started using that thinner cheaper printer paper, now it gets jammed all the time".

See how you get a lot more information than just "yes"?

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