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Serviceman's Log

It happens - one minute you are happily working away on a repair and the next minute it dies on the bench. It?s one of those wretched moments all service people dread and it?s not unknown for customers to try to take advantage of the situation.

Items Covered This Month

• When it dies on the bench

• Warranty claims

• Vectrix electric bike battery repair

Most computers arriving at our workshop are ailing but not terminal. And while we do get machines that are dead on arrival, these were relatively few and far between before the quakes. Even after the quakes, most machines are still working to some extent although often not very well.

The big question when a machine dies on the bench is “why?”. If the hardware was failing anyway and it just picked this moment to completely curl up its toes, then it’s just bad luck. However, if a technician drops something onto the motherboard while the machine is running and there is a flash accompanied by a puff of expensive-looking smoke, that’s a completely different story.

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Either way, it raises the unpleasant task of calling the customer to inform them of what happened. If they were aware that things were dire before they brought the computer in then it’s usually no problem. However, it’s a different matter if the machine was in for, say, virus removal and now the customer gets a call telling them their computer has completely “died” on the bench.

Naturally, this all leads onto another big question: who pays for it? This can turn an already unpleasant situation into a rather ugly one. If it is just bad luck, then the client is expected to take the lumps. If the technician killed it, then the company has to foot the bill.

If the thing has died for no apparent reason (the bad luck gambit), it can be quite a challenge getting the client to accept that they’ll have to shell out to replace whatever has failed. Just how things go in that situation often depends on your relationship with the client. Some will shrug their shoulders and accept it as a fact of life while others will kick up a stink and want to make a mountain out of molehill. Occasionally, things can turn nasty very quickly, with all manner of threats bandied about.

Of course, if the machine was already “iffy” (we always boot the machine in front of the client during book-in), the client is usually OK. After all, they probably half-expected to be told this anyway.

The worst-case scenario when it comes to having hardware die on the bench is a client’s hard drive which has not been backed up. This is always gutting as the client often cannot understand why the drive would fail “just like that”. Of course, hard drives can suddenly fail but there are not too many explanations we can give that are easily understandable by the average punter.

It’s even worse if the serviceman has dropped the drive or has done something silly and killed it. But however a drive dies, it usually has tragic consequences as backing up seems to be the last thing computer users think about. I have had adults literally crying in our reception area when I have had to break the bad news that their data has gone forever.

Items like video of baby’s first steps, irreplaceable photos and other data can possibly be recovered by a dedicated data-recovery company but this is out of financial reach for most people. Fortunately, we have not yet killed a hard drive by being negligent (touching wood). In all cases, any data loss has occurred before the drives were brought in, which is why our help was sought in the first place. However, even the thought of losing a client’s data makes me shudder.

If one does make a mistake, it’s often very difficult to put one’s hand up and admit it. Not only does this put the fault firmly in the serviceman’s lap but it also means replacing dead hardware at our own cost. However, telling bald-faced lies about what has happened isn’t very smart or professional either and unless the serviceman is an accomplished fibber, clients tend to know when they are being conned.

Communication is the key and almost any dire situation can be resolved by talking things out. If the client is reasonable and fair, so much the better but there are always those who prefer to jump on the bandwagon to extract as much as they can.

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