Archive: Don’t let your (high-tech) clients fall behind

Career Opportunities podcast logoVisiting a new client this week, I was reminded of the pain clients can feel when their computers fall too far behind the state of the art. While no one wants to buy hardware and software they don’t need, neither do they want to make huge leaps when they are finally forced to upgrade. A slow progression of software and hardware updates is far more preferable to the “forced march” of an emergency upgrade.


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But it works fine!

If you ask your clients why they haven’t upgraded their computers or software, they often reply that, “it works fine for what I do.” Even in the best cases where the client can be productive there lies a bit of a trap. While the computer might fulfill their basic needs at the moment, I can assure you they are experiencing more problems than they might let on. Typically, smaller issues such as web pages that won’t load, videos and animation that can’t be played and more are already hampering their work. Perhaps they can’t read the files that friends and co-workers send them. Finally, you will be left with no recourse but to recommend they get a new computer. This is where the pain truly begins.

In my case, the client was using an older Mac and never upgraded to Mac OS X, even though the computer was capable of running the earlier versions. Further, they made only limited updates to their software over the years. Finally, though, time caught up with them. Their older web browser could not cope with the fancy web services provided by their bank. Even parts of Apple’s web sites would no longer load. They were finding it hard to do the small bits of client work they do as a sideline, as their software was too far behind. As it happened, I upgraded my own computer, which was very similar to theirs, to the latest version of Mac OS X and found that the computer could not run it acceptably. So, I now knew they needed a new computer. Suddenly our discussions of relatively simple upgrades turned to outright replacement and hundreds of dollars turned into thousands.

Pay me now, pay me later

Now, not only would they need to purchase a new computer, they would have to replace all their software, as well. Had they upgraded their software over time, they might have had versions that ran on the new operating system or been able to purchase them at a discount. Even worse, some programs were so old that no current version of the program existed or the current version would not longer read the file formats of the older version. In these cases, the client’s data had truly come to a dead end. Of course, I will use the older system to export their data and bring it forward in any way I can, but there will always be a few cases where this is impossible or nearly so.

A client, facing the costs of new hardware, new software and hours of my services can quickly become disheartened. While they hadn’t really done anything wrong, they found themselves caught in the nasty position of starting all over again with their new computer. As you might imagine this can be intimidating and frustrating and could cause some rough moments for you and your client.

Keep up

The solution for my clients doesn’t involve buying every new upgrade or every new computer system that appears on the scene. Instead I try to gently push my clients forward at a pace that is slightly slower than the speed of innovation. While I don’t expect my clients to have the latest version of an operating system, I will start to worry if they fall more than 2 versions behind. The same goes for all their software. Once you go more than 2 versions, you start to get into the danger zone where file compatibility begins to be an issue and you can miss out on upgrade discounts that can help to ease the cost of moving up. A gentle push here. A gentle nudge there. By offering good advice in small doses, you can insure that your clients won’t suffer when it comes time to upgrade.

While a stable, working computer that you paid off a while ago can be a good thing, it can also lull clients into a false sense of security. If they allow themselves to fall too far behind today, they could be facing a very nasty surprise in the future. Don’t let your clients place themselves in this position. Do everything you can to keep them moving forward, even slowly and you will be doing them a great service…and yourself as well.


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