I’d like to say that out of thousands of clients I’ve had over the years, I’ve never had such a customer – but I’d be lying. To be honest, I don’t think one can be in business – or at least a business where you have to deal closely with customers – and not strike at least one or two disgruntled clients. This story is about one of them and if you are a service person, you may recognise a similar situation in your own experience.
As is usual, my relationship with this one started out happy and stress-free. She was the wife of a friend’s friend and while I had met her before, we weren’t exactly close. She wanted a new computer and since I had been running my business for a while, she’d heard that’s what I did and asked if I could build a system for her?
After sorting out the specifications and price, she gave me the go-ahead and I set about sourcing the parts and doing the build. At 7am the next morning, I got a call asking if the machine was ready. My negative reply seemed to annoy her (at least, that’s what the tone of her voice indicated) and she immediately demanded to know when it would be ready.
My response was that I was still waiting on a couple of parts and in any case, I like to burn new systems in for a day or so, to make sure they won’t fall over. Such things can happen and it is better for a new machine to fail on my workbench than after it has been delivered to the customer.
I had explained this to her when the machine was ordered. However, some clients hear only what they want to hear and she denied that I had mentioned it. In any event, this first call should have set off warning bells but I was still fairly new to running a business and ignorance can be bliss.
A few days later, I delivered the system and everyone was all smiles again. It ripped along nicely and the software she had purchased for it installed and ran well. And so, with the cheque duly banked, I created a scheduler task to call her in two weeks, to see how things were going and to offer any other help.
Alas, I heard from her in two days; the machine wouldn’t turn on. I went through my usual phone procedure to ensure things were plugged in and powered up and they all were. It was a mystery until I went around there and discovered she was trying to push a plastic moulding which was not the power button. Instead, the real power switch was located below this, under another admittedly similar-looking but moveable piece of plastic with “Power” clearly printed on it.
When I explained this, she looked horrified for a brief moment before launching into a spiel about how she was pushing that one but it wasn’t working. I made my excuses and quickly left, somewhat annoyed but pleased there was nothing wrong with the machine.
A few days later I received yet another call, this time at 6.30am on a Saturday morning. She was unrepentant when I told her that calling at 6.30am was unreasonable; getting her computer going was far more important as far as she was concerned. This time, she claimed that the 17-inch CRT monitor I’d sold her was failing and that the hardware I had supplied was rubbish. She also said that she should have known I couldn’t deliver a better quality machine than company “X” and that she would be seeking a refund and that her husband would be coming around to “sort it out”.