Looking for opinions on customer service delimma
January 7, 2015 4:10 PM   Subscribe

I'm having a disagreement with a recent dissatisfied customer of my IT business and am looking for impartial outside perspective.

Greetings all,

Here is the situation. I have an IT service company that has a storefront. Think big-box tech/geek support but very good quality :)

A year ago, we began reaching out to our client base to inform them that Windows XP support was going by the wayside. We created online videos (one of which can be seen here). We blasted this video and other e-mails to our client base, changed the sign by the road, and generally got good feedback. Tons of people had no idea.

A little before April 8th, we had a woman come in the shop with her Windows XP machine. We had done work for her in the past...just four jobs in the past 5 years, and she is not on any sort of service agreement. No backup, no antivirus supported by us, etc. She checked the computer in because it was slow. The tech did notate in the ticket that it was running Windows XP, but it was not addressed with the client. She elected to have us do our $99 full tuneup.

When she picked up the computer, she saw the sign about Windows XP out by the road. She came in and asked our receptionist if she had Windows XP. She was told she did. She then asked my receptionist why we hadn't told her. She was informed that we had been notifying everyone every way we knew how...road signs, social media, blastmails, press releases, etc. She left with the computer.

The woman is now approaching me months later and wants half her money back. She says "we are her IT company" and should have known she was running Windows XP. I checked our Constant Contact account and discovered that this woman opened the e-mail with the video listed above a month before she checked in her computer. She said she didn't pay attention to the video as she didn't understand it and she relies on us for those things.

What would you do in my shoes? Who do you believe is in the right?
posted by titans13 to Computers & Internet (48 answers total) 4 users marked this as a favorite
Money back after all this time is not an option. To keep the customer, offer her a discount on her next repair or service need.
posted by myselfasme at 4:13 PM on January 7, 2015 [1 favorite]

Wait, so you charged her $99 and provided no service? Or you provided some service, but not what she was expecting? Or she's upset that you won't provide more service in the future? I think maybe I just don't understand the facts of the situation.
posted by decathecting at 4:15 PM on January 7, 2015 [16 favorites]

Did the caption and text in the email with the video say "XP is going away! Learn what you need to know by watching this video"?
posted by mmiddle at 4:15 PM on January 7, 2015

Sorry I'm not clear on her complaint, or why you are considering this? From your description, it seems like your company doesn't service computers running XP, but they did anyway for her and so she got what she paid for. Is she mad because her computer is still slow and you can't do anything more about it?
posted by lesli212 at 4:18 PM on January 7, 2015

It's not clear from your post whether or not you did, in fact, do the tuneup despite the fact that you'd discontinued the XP support. If you did, I don't see that she has a leg to stand on. She's asking you to discount past service because the service will not be rendered again in the future. That's crazy.
posted by bricoleur at 4:18 PM on January 7, 2015 [1 favorite]

What would you do in my shoes?

Fire her. She isn't making your company any money, and she isn't much of a customer to keep.

Who do you believe is in the right?

A customer that expects money back years after service is rendered is not a customer that is "right". Instead, they are a parasite.
posted by saeculorum at 4:26 PM on January 7, 2015 [4 favorites]

She is wrong but your tech should have spoken up at that time about the issue.

As far as what to do, how much is her and her friends' future business worth to you? She sounds like the sort of nightmare customer I intentionally price myself out of working for but if you're in a small market where bad word of mouth can cost you big time, you sometimes suck it up and go with "the customer is always right". And maybe add a PITA fee to going forward.
posted by Candleman at 4:33 PM on January 7, 2015

In this kind of customer service situation your best option is the path of least resistance. I'd go ahead and give her half the money back. The back story isn't really that important--overall it's better to concentrate on giving good service then arguing with customers.

But that aside I would be pretty annoyed if I gave you a computer with XP on it and you fixed it and didn't mention to me the current support status of XP and tell me that I should upgrade. It should be standard procedure for whenever you work on an XP machine.
posted by lester at 4:38 PM on January 7, 2015 [8 favorites]

Your tech should have told her. Why blast XP news everywhere and have techs who can't ID a potential XP customer? That's a problem.

You can offer her a one-time credit in the amount of $50 for use on future tune-ups, but no cash back/merchandise credit. But, if you didn't, I don't think anyone would think it's unreasonable.
posted by quince at 4:43 PM on January 7, 2015 [14 favorites]

Did you make her computer faster? I'm also confused by the events you describe.
posted by amtho at 4:44 PM on January 7, 2015 [1 favorite]

If she was charged $99 and no one serviced her computer then give her the money back.

If she was charged $99 and got partial service because she didn't know she had XP (and you didn't service that part somehow?) give her part of her money back.

If she was charged $99 and got full service but then you won't service her computer again, I guess them's the breaks for her and you lose her as a customer.

In short, if you had a tech who accepted a computer (and payment) without somehow ascertaining that the computer had an OS that you don't service, you should have followed up with the woman as soon as you figured it out and given her ALL her money and her computer back. Mistakes happen but part of what you have to deal with in the IT business is users who don't actually know which rules apply to them. If you took the money from someone who didn't even know what operating system she had, she did not know that your "every way you knew how" media campaign applied to her. It's not okay to take her money anyhow.

I mean honestly she's unlikely to go on a social media blitz against you if she doesn't even know what her OS is, but the kind thing is to give her the money back if you didn't do any, or very little, work. Can you please clarify what actually happened?
posted by jessamyn at 5:00 PM on January 7, 2015 [4 favorites]

To clarify for people, Microsoft discontinued support for XP, not the poster. Their shop could continue to support and fix XP but were not able to deal with some issues due to lack of Microsoft patches.
posted by Candleman at 5:05 PM on January 7, 2015 [4 favorites]

I'm guessing she has talked to a more technical friend or nephew, and got a WTF reaction when she said she got a tuneup on an XP system. Plus you video DOES say that you are her IT department.

If I were in your shoes, I'd turn it into a sales opportunity. If you refund half the money (which is one of the more reasonable requests I've heard of this kind of client asking for, not like she wanted the entire amount) then she still has a vulnerable computer. Offer her your best "friends and family" discount on a new computer, and a year of your basic plan even if she buys a computer from someone else. Maybe throw in an hour of training on Win 7 (perfect job for the tech who kinda messed up the original service...) and some extra tchotchkes like mousepads, screenwipes, etc.
posted by Sophont at 5:13 PM on January 7, 2015 [2 favorites]

She said she didn't pay attention to the video as she didn't understand it and she relies on us for those things.

Well, yeah, why should she have to understand that if you guys are taking care of things? I agree with her. Apparently you did not notify customers "every way you know how" if that did not include talking to them at the point of service and telling them in plain English what needed to be done. It makes me feel like you have too-high expectations about how much work people can and should put in to maintaining their computers in addition to what they pay you for. I think your business screwed up and she should get her $50 back.
posted by bleep at 6:14 PM on January 7, 2015 [4 favorites]

Thanks for all responses thus far. A clarification...we did in fact provide the tuneup service. The technician's notes from the ticket:

"The hard drive and memory passed diagnostics, and the computer is not infected, but had some adware on it. I proceeded with the pre-approved tune-up, cleaned up the registry and temp files, cleaned up adware, defragged the hard drive, and disabled unneeded startup programs. I did not see any errors that the client mentioned on check-in. I called the client and left a VM status update, letting her know that the computer is ready to go, unless she had any more specific information on when the error messages occurred and what programs she was running when they happened."

The technician did not advise her of the XP issue. He assumed with all the outreach we were doing that she would know. It was a dropped ball at intake and on the technician's part.

On the other hand, we have service plans that all clients may take advantage of. We provide backup, security, and patch management. When we started our XP campaign, we pulled a report of every managed computer we have and proactively emailed and called the ones running XP at least two months before the April 8 cutoff. With other customers, we did all we could reasonably do to notify them.

Another aside I failed to mention...since she was running XP, she really needed another computer. We offered her $100 off the price of any new computer we could build for her or she would purchase from us. She didn't want that...she asked for $50 back.

Thanks! Looking forward to more responses.
posted by titans13 at 6:25 PM on January 7, 2015

If I were her, I would be pretty upset that I chit chatted with someone and then paid for service, and at no point was I informed that at least part of my problem was an antiquated OS.

She's assuming (rightfully so) that someone would have mentioned this to her. She's paying for someone to mention this to her.

You owe her half her money back. I entirely agree.
posted by jbenben at 6:31 PM on January 7, 2015 [9 favorites]

If you performed the service requested (which it sounds like you did) then you absolutely shouldn't give her anything back. Not informing her at the time of her visit of the Windows XP issue is completely separate and in any case it sounds like you went above and beyond to do that for your customers.

It sounds to me sort of like she doesn't really understand something though. Maybe she thinks you charged her more because it was XP? I would try to explain very clearly that XP support is being discontinued, but that did not affect the service you provided on her PC. My suspicion is that she thinks (wrongly) that she's been taken advantage of somehow because she's not that comfortable with computers.
posted by downtohisturtles at 6:37 PM on January 7, 2015 [2 favorites]

It was a dropped ball at intake and on the technician's part.

On the other hand, we have service plans that all clients may take advantage of.

One doesn't follow the other. I shouldn't need to pay for a service plan to get the complete level of service you expect with any type of maintenance. You admit your employees dropped the ball; you should make it right.
posted by bleep at 6:40 PM on January 7, 2015 [6 favorites]

I want to add that if I were her, armed with the correct info about XP, I would have saved the $99 and it put it towards a new computer.

She's being really nice asking for $50. I would have disputed the charge with my credit card company. I would have gotten a competitor to write a letter affirming that yes, I should have been informed a slow computer was likely a result of old equipment or old software/OS that is no longer supported.

Honestly, I would have won the chargeback on the first or second round.

$50 and her continued good will is a bargain! Apologize and move forward happy you are doing the right thing :))

It is actually really great that you asked this question here. Hope this was helpful.
posted by jbenben at 6:40 PM on January 7, 2015 [4 favorites]

I agree with posters above that you should have told her that she was running XP and that this was an antiquated OS which she should consider dropping it in favor of something newer and faster (or if that's not possible with her existing hardware, you could have advised her to purchase a new computer). This is part of what she's paying you for! I think you are overestimating the effectiveness of your email campaigns and so forth. Over the years, I've subscribed to dozens of random email newsletters from all the various retail establishments I've patronized, programs I've downloaded, services I've used etc. etc. I usually just automatically sort them into folders (which then get deleted after some period of time) and only look at them occasionally if at all. The time to give her this info was when she dropped off her laptop, or at the very least, when she picked it up.
posted by peacheater at 6:55 PM on January 7, 2015 [1 favorite]

Your employee blew it.

Give her ½ of her money back and as a gesture of good faith give her a credit for future work for the other half.

She came to you for help and you didn't give her good advice, just took her money. That doesn't seem right to me.

The custimer is always right-especially when they are dependant on you for expert knowledge.
posted by prk60091 at 6:56 PM on January 7, 2015

Hi Bleep...I do appreciate your comments. I appreciate all the feedback I have gotten.

I do ask you to consider that having our service plans in place involves us installing a software package that allows us to monitor and maintain the computer. We are alerted if there is an infection. We are alerted if a hard drive is starting to fail or is getting full. We run checks and file cleanups, etc every day. There are honestly hundreds of failure points we can watch. It's like having OnStar on your PC.

Part of my predicament with this is that we can deploy this for anyone, and by virtue of that, it is impossible for us to provide the same level of service and maintenance that we do for clients that don't. $50 is not going to break the bank. I'm looking for unbiased, outside perspective, and I appreciate you providing it!
posted by titans13 at 6:58 PM on January 7, 2015

If I were her I wouldn't ask for $50 back, but I also wouldn't give you my business anymore because your company was obviously incompetent (or even scammy) by allowing me to spend $99 to tune up an OS that was about to become obsolete.

If I were you I'd pay her $50 because that amount of money is nothing for a business of my size, and there is nothing more valuable than a good reputation and a satisfied customer.

(Note: I'm not saying you're scammy. I'm saying that if I were her in this situation I might think that you were scammy.)
posted by alms at 7:11 PM on January 7, 2015 [3 favorites]

Nothing in your update negates the fact that she should have been informed at some point:

"We can check for viruses and defrag your system, but ultimately, it is old and the OS is unsupported. Your money might be better spent on an upgrade."

You're professionals. She was looking for your expert opinion. Well, your tech's expert opinion. Those words I wrote (or similar) should have been the first words out your tech's mouth after he said "How may I help you," and switched on her computer.

"You say it's slow? Well it's running XP and blah blah blah about XP."

All I can tell you are the simple collection of words containing pertinent to her computer information she thought she was paid for and did not receive.
posted by jbenben at 7:29 PM on January 7, 2015 [3 favorites]

it was a dropped ball at intake and on the technician's part.

Were the intake people and technicians prepped and trained on new procedures for how to handle customers who walk in with XP on their systems? If so, then yes I'd agree that the tech dropped the ball. However, I get the sense that the tech was simply winging it and that no-one had yet considered this scenario. In which case the fault lies with mgmt, not the tech.

Re the overall situation: I don't know what kinds of margins y'all are running at, but given what I've read, I think I'd just give the woman back her $99 and be done with it - basically gambling that you'll get at least that much in good word-of-mouth by going beyond customer expectations. I wouldn't usually recommend this, but frankly a) it looks like there was a screwup on your end, and b) it's not obvious that your tech actually did anything to "fix" her slow computer. He ran standard tests and stuff, but i don't see anything to indicate that the tune-up helped her machine to run faster. Did the tech ran before and after benchmarks to show that the tune-up made a difference? I mean, from her perspective, she dropped off the machine, you guys sprinkled Holy Water on it in a back room, called her and told her y'all were done, she paid you $99 and picked up her machine - and it doesn't seem like she got anything tangible for her money.
posted by doctor tough love at 7:45 PM on January 7, 2015 [2 favorites]

When I said "complete level of service you would expect" what I meant was, if you picked your car up from the mechanic you'd expect them to tell you about any issues they discovered. You expect your pharmacist to tell you what you need to know about your prescription. It's a basic expectation.
posted by bleep at 7:51 PM on January 7, 2015 [3 favorites]

You say you had been notifying everyone about XP every way you knew how, but when an actual customer came through your door with an actual computer, you didn't notify her? I think you need to give her the $50 back and maybe a credit towards future service.

The fact that she didn't have your service plan is completely irrelevant. You had her computer and saw that she was running XP. You admit someone dropped the ball.
posted by daikon at 7:53 PM on January 7, 2015 [1 favorite]

I really don't see how she was wronged here—she got the $99 tune-up she paid for and apparently used the machine for several months without incident.

Given that she's has to actually pay someone to determine if her computer is infected, remove adware, cleanup temp files and the registry, defrag, etc., and that she missed/didn't understand all the notices about XP, I'm guessing that she's not a power user. That XP machine may be all she needs for the time being.
posted by she's not there at 7:57 PM on January 7, 2015 [6 favorites]

If you are not struggling to make a living and the $50 (1/2 of the fee) is not robbing food off your plate - refund her the money and recommend her to a great competitor of yours if you can not stomach seeing her again. If she runs around telling everyone that you suck and that your service is bad this will cost you more in the long term. If we were talking $500 - not so sure. but for 50 bucks - nah, I would just make her happy.
posted by nostrada at 9:07 PM on January 7, 2015

Part of my predicament with this is that we can deploy this for anyone, and by virtue of that, it is impossible for us to provide the same level of service and maintenance that we do for clients that don't.

Are you saying that a number of your clients don't really require the tune-up? In that case, I think you could gain trust by providing customers with the service that they actually need (which as others have said, they may not be able to articulate). Which would mean tweaking your customer service so that your staff can actually figure out what your customers really need and then fulfilling that need (like e.g. a new computer, in this case), instead of one they don't have.
posted by cotton dress sock at 10:12 PM on January 7, 2015 [1 favorite]

"...Which would mean tweaking your customer service so that your staff can actually figure out what your customers really need and then fulfilling that need (like e.g. a new computer, in this case)..."

As a small business owner myself - This! This! This!

Think of that $50 as a business improvement consultation fee. This woman did you a HUGE favor by coming to you with this.

Not only am I a small business owner, but I've been a Mac user since 1994, and have in past two years developed a rage-like anger towards their current piss poor level of customer service. The front line in store and on the phone is just terrible in exactly this way. They used to be so knowledgeable, helpful, and cool. That's why I gladly paid higher prices for their equipment in the past.

Disclosure: I called Apple an hour before your AskMe appeared, got shitty service from the first line, greater understanding from the actual tech I spoke with. I'm not a Luddite, and the front line guy was speaking to me from a script and hardly heard a word I said. Their OS has changed dramatically in the past five years, I get it, but it is so WEIRD to deal with service reps who are unaware of the product history they are dealing with.

It's like your tech decided XP obsolete, why mention it? Doesn't she know!?

Nope. It's his job to tell her. Full stop.
posted by jbenben at 10:59 PM on January 7, 2015 [3 favorites]

She paid for a $99 service and got a $99 service. If the service was half completed, then I think she should get her $50 back, leaving her having paid for the half of the service she received.

Quite what that has to do with XP no longer being supported by Microsoft, I don't know. Unless she's expecting something that's not outlined in the service agreement, maybe. Why has it taken her so long to suddenly realise that this is a problem? I think she's trying it on. She knew before leaving the shop in April that XP was no longer supported, yet she still waited months to do something about it.

I would give her the money back just to get her out of the shop and then make it clear that you weren't going to deal with her again. Whatever profit you make on giving her half of her money back (ie, none) will not cover the hassle of dealing with this type of person. If you want a reason, well, you don't support XP any more.
posted by Solomon at 1:33 AM on January 8, 2015

I agree with Jbenben. If I bought my product to a company to be serviced and they serviced Foo but didnt tell me that Foo was obsolete and that I needed Bar, I'd feel ripped off. I should be told what's required for Bar, not spend money on Foo.
posted by Ness at 3:04 AM on January 8, 2015 [1 favorite]

Normally, I would say that you DON'T owe this person any money back (if the $99 accurately reflects the services actually rendered), given your sustained and serious info campaign. But having watched your video, and as a certified Luddite with a few random fragments of more in-depth knowledge about computers, I'd say that your best way forward is to pay her back and either ask for her help or somehow procure some Luddite users to help you with phrasing your messages for your run-of-the-mill computer user with no specialised knowledge. Here is why and how:

I was able to understand what you are saying because a couple of years back I ran into a similar problem as your customer. I took the computer in to be serviced, and was told what the technician should have told you customer. What I heard was "bla, bla, dangerous, bla, bla clean up bla bla bla". Before I made a decision as to what to do, I actually wrote down his words, went home and googled them. I worked really hard to figure out what a bloody OS was and what it involves etc. Didn't get a very clear understanding (to this day I don't get exactly what the concrete activity of an OS is), but sort of managed to understand what the guy at the workshop was telling me he would do. Still had a lot of questions since he kept employing jargon, but I couldn't keep running back home to google stuff and waste half days on understanding enough for a decision, so I took the (for me) risky route and told him to go ahead. Everything ended well, and I was happy and now know marginally more than I knew before. Still, watching your video I decided to check what OS I have, and it took me some clicking around to find that info (I keep forgetting how I can access the computer properties window, even though I've done it several times over the past 2 years).

This story was to illustrate just how basic the knowledge of a lot of users is (I am far from singular). Your video, and possibly your other communication to your customers, will go over many people's heads. In that sense, it is almost spam. People who work with computers professionally seem to have no appreciation of just how wide that cognitive gulf is (btw, this, I believe, is true of most professions - once you hit pro level you keep no memory of how it was when you knew nothing). So I think any customer-facing computer business which doesn't just work for other professionals or seriously informed non-pros should work hard on adapting their terminology and generally their communication to the understanding of their customers.

What I would do:

1. Give this customer ALL of her money back. I don't think you have to tell someone the same message ten million times before they can be expected to get it, so normally I would say that you were under no obligation to yet again let her know about Windows XP, but your message never actually reached her, quite possibly and at least in part because of how it was phrased. So this was a communication issue on your part.

2. Ask her if she would mind letting you know what, in your communication strategy, was an issue. Does she just never read the emails from service providers? Did the non-IT wording of your email not signal that this was really important for her personally (maybe you opened the email in a way that sounded more like a sale pitch)? Did the actual explanation leave her confused? etc.

3. Figure out what the general level of knowledge is in your customer base. You'd be surprised at just how basic it can be, especially when it comes to terminology. I know people who do not know what a "desktop" is! If you say to them "Click on the icon on your desktop", they will not know what you are talking about. People whose computer knowledge is at this level DO exist. I'd do a survey of your client base (maybe with a raffle for respondents or something to motivate participation) to assess what the various levels of knowledge are, so you can adjust your communication strategy accordingly. Maybe even something as simple as a multiple choice "test" on terminology and general understanding (ex. When your IT service provider talks about a desktop, she/ he means: a. the top of your desk, b. the working area of your computer screen, c. a computer that sits on your desk; What is an OS/ operating system? etc.). Or just use whoever you find who does not understand computers very well to gather the same knowledge. Use it in your future communications. If you have a website, you could also put together a glossary of terms explained in a way that non-IT people can understand, so that your customers are better armed to talk to you and get your messages.

4. Figure out a way of consulting with Luddites or semi-Luddites each time you have a communication campaign: do they understand the terminology you use? Do they understand what you are saying to them overall? Do they actually get why you are saying things to them in the first place (change your OS, do this, do that)? Or just create a post as part-time Luddite - have your own in-house consultant for communications with non-techie customers! In my experience, it would make you one of the few companies who truly bothers to help all their customers!
posted by miorita at 3:04 AM on January 8, 2015 [5 favorites]

Hey there, I have a friend/client who has done PC service and construction, and I've done it a little myeself (ages ago, in a corporate setting with highly-trained technical _sales_people), and I know that you don't necessarily have the time or money to invest in completely re-vamping your communications with customers. I think that people here are relating here with a lot of their general dissatisfaction with the way computer service is done. The knowledge gap that miorita describes is one *huge* issue that is truly difficult to tackle -- if you could do it, you'd be streets ahead, but it's genuinely an ages-old problem with no easy solutions.

Given what you've described, I'm not sure why the lady feels she should get her $$ back, unless you could apply it to an OS upgrade rather than a new computer. If she spend $99 on fixing old software when she could have had newer software installed, that might make anyone upset. On the other hand, her hardware might not support Windows 7 or whatever you'd install, rendering the point moot.

However, this isn't a solution:
I do ask you to consider that having our service plans in place involves us installing a software package that allows us to monitor and maintain the computer. We are alerted if there is an infection. We are alerted if a hard drive is starting to fail or is getting full. We run checks and file cleanups, etc every day. There are honestly hundreds of failure points we can watch. It's like having OnStar on your PC.
There are a lot of very prudent people who would not want this kind of service plan, even if it were free. Even with it installed, I'm not sure how it would have addressed this communication problem. It seems like an unrelated issue, except that you may regard your service plan customers as somehow trying harder to meet you halfway.

I'm guessing it helps provide a revenue stream for your business, which, given the state of PC-as-commodity economics, is sorely needed (hence the scarcity of businesses like yours, despite the value you provide). Of course you want to have a bit more control over all these machines out in the world where your users are installing who-knows-what on their machines, knowingly and unknowingly. However, if my computer is already running slowly and I know my system is old and crowded, and/or I don't intend to leave my computer on all the time, this isn't going to appeal to me. That's not even considering whether an uninformed user will wonder how easy it would be for an outside hacker, or a disgruntled employee, to decide to survey all your maintained machines for bank and/or other password information....
posted by amtho at 4:00 AM on January 8, 2015 [1 favorite]

It's a bit of a gray area, but my sympathies are with your customer. You admit that your employees dropped the ball. Giver her $50 back. It's not going to break the bank, and it's consistent with good customer service (i.e., the benefit of the doubt should go to the customer, not the business). And make sure you train all your employees appropriately, so that this type of thing doesn't happen in the future.
posted by akk2014 at 4:58 AM on January 8, 2015

Give her the pickle! Listen, if it won't hurt your business to do so Do It. And not because the customer is right, but because the customer is your biggest advertisement. Here's what I would do:

Give her the $50, and a $100 credit towards a computer with an up-to-date OS at your shop. Tell her that you value her business, and you are profusely sorry that you failed to talk with her before the service was performed about whether it would be appropriate given that there's only so much that can be done for her out of date system.

She was out a computer for a couple days while the service was performed, and wasted money that could have been spent on a new system. If you step up and give her just stop her in her tracks excellent service, she's going to tell people about how you went above and beyond for her and they should bring their computers to you. Word of mouth and a strong recommendation is absolutely the single best way to build a business.

Any time there is a service quality gap, which this was, you're going to have to work twice as hard to bring things back up to par.
posted by stoneweaver at 7:33 AM on January 8, 2015 [3 favorites]

Note: Nothing in my answer is about whether the customer is "right." It's purely service recovery. If she's been a loyal yearly customer, that's the sort of person that can really create positive or negative word of mouth.
posted by stoneweaver at 7:40 AM on January 8, 2015

It sounds to me like you did the tune up and improved the running speed of her computer, correct?

If she came back to you because the speed did not improve, that is, because she felt like she didn't get the repair she was looking for, refund her money and talk to her again about your service package because, frankly, she needs that level of service.

If she came back just because it's sticking in her craw that you didn't mention that she's running XP, explain to her that you did your best to notify customers, but the level of notice and taking-care-of that she was expecting is available with your service package.

If she remains irate, and can't get her head around it, give her twenty dollars cash, apologize that there was a big disconnect between you, and hand her the business card for a similar business to yours. Tell her that you hope the other business will meet her needs.
posted by vitabellosi at 8:16 AM on January 8, 2015 [1 favorite]

I vote for giving her a full refund. Honestly, the services you provide rely on people being computer-clueness enough to have to outsource these tasks or, even more shockingly, allow your employees to remotely access their computer and files whenever they want.

You should assume, based on the fact that someone is even purchasing your services that they know nothing beyond turning the computer on. Assuming they could even click a link in an email or understand what "Windows XP" is or what "no longer supporting" means is a complete failure on your part to understand your customer base (or, if you do understand their knowledge gap but still do not provide the necessary hand-holding, it starts to look like you're purposely trying to scam them).

I'm a tax attorney; on the side, I do some tax prep for friends/family with somewhat-complicated tax situations. I understand that taxes are a black box to many people. If someone asks me to do their taxes when they could easily use TaxAct or another software for 10% of the price, I TELL THEM THAT. I tell people that they don't need to pay for my services, when that advice is warranted. The point where you should have refunded her money was when the tech couldn't produce the error messages and determined there was no problem with her PC.

It seems bizarre to me to expect this customer to know enough about computers to understand the XP phase-out but not enough to perform their own "tune up" functions. And the only other option is for her to give your employees unfettered remote access to her computer? And she's supposed to pay for that? And you're surprised that people may not want to do that? Wow.
posted by melissasaurus at 8:16 AM on January 8, 2015 [5 favorites]

I'm going to imagine your customer was a close friend or family. If she came to me (because don't they always) with an old, slow computer, I'd try to understand her needs—present and future—and outline her options from tuneup to a new computer. Then I'd recommend what I think is the best option for her.

I want to get into my car and drive—I haven't had time to learn more. So I found a mechanic heartily recommended by others who know cars. I rely upon his knowledge and experience to guide me and keep me up to date.

The vast majority of computer users just want something that works. Push down on a toaster and it toasts, type in a website and it goes.

She trusted you to keep her interests in mind. So, what your company did it isn't illegal. But I wouldn't visit again.
posted by JackBurden at 8:52 AM on January 8, 2015

I think she's in the wrong, but she'll be able to badmouth you pretty loudly, and that alone is worth giving her the half that she paid to shut her up. But make sure your techs know what to do in the future so this doesn't come up again. She operates the computer, it's incumbent on HER to know the basics. I use XP - i STILL get messages about it not getting support. I don't even have cable and yet I saw news and info about it all over the media. She had to be pretty willfully ignorant, and there's nothing you can do to fix that - but you do want to make her at least happy enough to shut down her word of mouth.
posted by lemniskate at 10:00 AM on January 8, 2015 [1 favorite]

She came in and asked our receptionist if she had Windows XP.

Windows XP announces itself as such in large frendly letters every single time it starts up. Any customer clueless enough to miss that is always going to cost you more than they make you.

Sucks to be them, but you're running an IT service business, not a home for the confused. No refund. Foist her (and her friends and family, most likely) on somebody motivated more by kindness than a desire to remain solvent enough to pay rent and employees.
posted by flabdablet at 10:31 AM on January 8, 2015 [2 favorites]

If I take my car in for a specific repair, the mechanic will still point out other issues he notices while doing the work. Also, if the work I ask to have performed may not make sense given the age and condition of the car, he'll let me know. Likewise, a plumber or electrician will tell me if they notice a big problem while working in my house even if they were only hired to unclog a drain or move an outlet (it's actually in both of our interests, I'm more informed and the tradesperson may get the additional work.) I think that's the level of service this customer was expecting from your company.

Some people above are pointing out that your firm did do the service for which it was hired, and that's true based on your technician's notes. There is nothing dishonest or unsavory about what happened, but you didn't provide the level of service that many customers expect when dealing with specialists or professionals. Given that, I think it does make sense to issue a partial refund. I don't think you are necessarily ethically obligated to do so, but I think it would be good customer service to do so.
posted by Area Man at 12:27 PM on January 8, 2015 [4 favorites]

I agree with the sentiment that if this customer is coming to you for a machine "tune up," she is not likely to know her operating system or have interest or patience in watching a three-minute talking head video about the history and decommissioning of Windows XP. And that doesn't make her an bad customer. In fact, she seems to be exactly the kind of customer you are trying to reach with a generic and vague "tune up" service. And that doesn't make you a bad company!

However, I do think you/your employees may need additional customer service training on how to interact with this type of customer. It could be a boon for your business to become known as friendly and non-challenging to people who do not know, nor wish to know, anything about how their computers work.

But back to this "tune up" product: have you recently changed the description of services offered? Because based on these claims on your site:
  • "We’ll repair your PC and look for key updates that can increase your system performance"
  • "All In-Shop Computer Service Includes:. . . Free system performance and upgrade evaluation. Operating system and security updates."
  • " we’ll check and update any important operating system files. We’ll also check your system security and anti-virus to make sure you’re protected from web threats when you’re online."
I think this customer could have legitimately expected the OS to be upgraded--or at least verbally notified of her options. Now, you know, and I know, that moving from XP to 8.1 isn't like downloading a security patch, but this customer doesn't know that and, in my opinion, is paying you so she doesn't have to try to know that. It would be fair and good business to charge an additional fee for an upgrade after a brief explanation of the unusual circumstance (and if the customer agreed), but I don't think it's fair (or good business practice) to have taken her money for the "tune up" service and not directly addressed the issue of running XP.

And yes, significant time has elapsed since the initial service, but again--the customer doesn't know computers. She's probably been slowly putting this together and then somewhat hesitant about bringing it up to you. And if your tech HAD informed her about the issue and she'd declined to upgrade, well, that's on her. But I think the tech's dropped ball mitigates her delay in coming back, and I think you should give her either a full refund, credit the value of the toward a new service (like updating her computer to 8.1, if possible) or machine (if you sell them).
posted by tyrantkitty at 12:38 PM on January 8, 2015 [3 favorites]

What is the lifetime value of your customers? How many times do they, on average, come back? What % of your business is referrals from other customers? How many times has this one come in? Where is she in your customer lifecycle? How much longer (given current trajectory of the total addressesable market of your customer base) do you expect her to be a customer?

Based on these answers you should already know what she's worth to you to retain. Is that less that $50? If so, cough it up. If not, don't.
posted by Potomac Avenue at 6:20 PM on January 8, 2015 [1 favorite]

So originally, I was leaning towards being on your side. But the more you explained what was going on, the more I'm on her side.

I consider myself to be an advanced beginner computer user. I know how to install software and write basic HTML and work with the basic functions of Windows, and I can follow instructions pretty well. I can even do basic command line stuff. So I'm probably more advanced than the sort of people who would allow "their IT company" to remote into their computers and log their usage because they can't run their own antivirus software. But I was totally baffled by most of this question.

I found your video totally unwatchable. Like, it was painful to watch, and it made my teeth itch, and I ended up having to shut it off because it was so, so boring and incomprehensible. If this is what your "outreach" was like, then I'd assume that 90% of your customer base did not actually get the message. And if this is what all your customer service is like, then I hate to say it, but you are not doing a very good job of communicating with your customers in a way they'll be able to understand. I had no idea what it meant when you said that Windows XP support was going away. I had no idea what the word "support" meant in that context, or whether it was about the services your company offers versus the services Microsoft offers. And again, I bet I'm several steps above where most of your customers are in terms of computer savvy.

I think you not only need to refund all of this woman's money so that she can put it towards a new computer if she wants one, but I also think you need to seriously rethink your business strategy. No one who doesn't already like computers is going to watch that video, or anything like it. And no one who doesn't already understand computers is going to know what on earth you're talking about. It may be that you can make money with this business model, and if you can, more power to you. But if your goal is to provide an actual service to your customers or to teach them something, I suspect that you are nowhere near achieving that goal.

(Seriously, whoever at your company approved that video should be fired. It was that bad.)
posted by decathecting at 12:02 PM on January 13, 2015 [2 favorites]

Yesterday I found out that Microsoft will still be supporting the embedded version of XP until 2019, and that adding one registry value to XP SP3 will let it pick up all the security updates released for that version. I tested this on an XP SP3 VM that was up to date as of April 2014; it picked up 28 new updates and still appears to be running just fine.
posted by flabdablet at 10:38 AM on January 30, 2015

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