There are days when I wish I had some super power that allowed me to sense when someone was about to make a nasty high-tech mistake. Then I could swoop in, act as translator and ombudsman and save countless hours and dollars on my client’s behalf. Instead, though, I am forced to field the early morning phone calls where a client explains how some software upgrade or network change has reduced their computer systems to nothing more than a pile of worthless wires and switches, worth more for its copper content than anything else.
Can you tell I have had a spate of these occurrences lately? I recently absorbed a number of clients from a friend and fellow consultant, and many of my first calls have been spent repairing some error or omission – most that were only peripherally the client’s fault. While I have been unable to develop some sort of high-tech “Spidey Sense,” I can, at least, solve these new client’s problems and make every effort to insure it never happens again.
Hold the phone
A few days ago I got a call from one of these new clients, explaining how their DSL had stopped functioning. I didn’t really expect any large problems, as it is usually just a loose cable or a router that needs resetting. When I arrived, though, I started to hear about an “upgrade” that had been offered by their DSL provider. The client had accepted it over the phone and all was thought to be well. Of course, on the day the change was supposed to take place, the entire system stopped working.
As I write, the problem has still not been resolved, but all information points to a botched transfer or install of the new service. Hours spent talking to Tier 1 and Tier 2 support showed me that even they were confused over what was occurring. Never a good sign. What is even worse, I believe the client was sold something they never really needed in the first place. Since they are a professional office, it appears that a salesperson called with the offer to upgrade to a faster version of DSL. In reality, this small office is fine with a standard DSL line, but your average user, through no fault of their own, often thinks that bigger, or in this case, faster, is always better.
This was the first mistake in this process. Had I worked with the client previously I would have instructed them to always contact me before making a big change like this so we could talk over any possible implications. I highly recommend you do the same with your clients. Give them enough advice and training so they can tell when they are outside of their areas of expertise. Reinforce with your clients that they can call you whenever they have questions as it is always better (and cheaper for them) to ask questions BEFORE pressing the button than after. Again, I really wish I had those super powers. In this case, there was nothing I could do to avoid the mistake being made on the front end.
Just say no!
While the client may have made an uninformed decision that initiated the problem, I place the most blame on the sales person who made the cold call and convinced them to upgrade. I wasn’t privy to the call, but I can imagine the type of tactics used. A small minority of salespeople will do anything to make a sale, even selling something that the client doesn’t need. Their uncaring actions have ended up costing my client hundreds of dollars.
Of course, the worst mistake of this entire situation was failing to deliver what they had sold the client. Had the switch taken place smoothly, neither the client nor I would have been any wiser. Sure, he would have been paying more money every month for something he really wasn’t using, but he would have had a working network. Now, through no fault of his own, he is suffering this customer service nightmare and I can do very little to help. I am acting as a translator and a middleman to try and resolve the issue, but the problem in this case isn’t so much technical as bureaucratic.
It is very frustrating to have been unable to prevent this problem, or to help solve it quickly. In most cases, though, I can only help those who seek my assistance. The best you can do is to prepare your clients so they don’t suffer similar issues. Perhaps you know of somewhere I can visit to develop my high-tech super hero skills. After this week I need them even more than usual.