Lesson 2: Customer Service

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Whether you're in business for yourself or part of a large organization, there is more to becoming a computer professional than just fixing computers. Lesson 1 focused on how to stay on top of your profession. This lesson focuses on perhaps the most important element of the professional configuration—the customer. Remember that whether you are a consultant, a contractor, or on the staff of a large organization, you are working on an individual's computer and that individual is your customer. Your customers are your business.

After this lesson, you will be able to:

  • Identify the level of support needed to resolve a problem.
  • Put techniques for offering good customer service to use.
Estimated lesson time: 15 minutes

Getting Organized—Keeping Records

Repairing computers can be a time-consuming job. When a computer goes down or has some kind of glitch, the owner or operator is inevitably in the middle of a major project and rarely has time or patience to address the problem. Therefore, being an efficient and effective service provider is as important as being able to resolve hardware or software problems. It is as important to work smart as it is to work hard. Being organized and keeping good records is the key to becoming efficient, effective, and successful.

How much time does it take you to check IRQs every time you install a new card on the same computer? Do you spend too much time rebuilding CONFIG.SYS and AUTOEXEC.BAT files when an end user accidentally erases them? Spending a few minutes reviewing and updating your records each time you install a new system or perform maintenance and can save you hours in the long run.

Keep a simple set of documents that contains essential information for each computer you work on. Create a database, spreadsheet, or word processor file to make updating easy. Be sure to back up the data and keep a hard copy on file for quick reference. The following table provides some suggestions about the information you might want to keep.

Suggestion Usage
Name each computer. Which name you choose does not matter, but make it unique and descriptive. Establish naming conventions to make remembering them easier. Use names in addition to serial numbers.
Document all technical information. Include the operating system name and version, CONFIG.SYS, AUTOEXEC.BAT, IRQs, I/O base address, DMA channels, device driver names, processor type and speed, size of cache, RAM, BIOS, monitor, video card, modems, and sound cards.
Save startup data to floppy disks (unique data). Include the startup disk (based on the current version of the operating system, AUTOEXEC.BAT, and CONFIG.SYS), device driver disks, and recovery disks—as required by antivirus program or system.
Keep an incident log. In your log of events for each computer include such things as the user, application installations (date and version), upgrades (hardware), and problems (cause of failure and actions taken for resolution).

Levels of Support

In an organization or corporate environment with a large number of computers and peripheral devices, it is often wise to separate support functions into several levels or categories. Depending on the size of the organization and the degree of knowledge of the end users, some technical support can be delegated or handled over the phone. By properly delegating responsibility for technical support, you can avoid being tied up with trivial problems, saving time for you and your end users.

Level 1: Designated, On-Site User

It is usually possible to designate someone within each department, or section, to handle simple technical-support questions. Find someone with a basic familiarity with computers and designate that individual as the key contact. They can handle many of the trivial problems that often plague inexperienced users (for instance, the computer/mouse/keyboard/printer is not plugged in) and can also handle basic maintenance (such as performing backups). By delegating these tasks locally, you can ensure that technical support will be available when more serious problems arise. You will also have a knowledgeable source onsite to be your eyes and ears.

How you apply this level of support will depend on your situation. If, for example, you are an independent consultant or working at a service desk for a computer supplier, you most likely will be dealing with the owner/user and this won't apply.

Level 2: Telephone Support

Handle as many problems as possible over the phone. Phone support offers the quickest solution to many common problems. In addition, by getting as much information about the problem as possible over the phone, you can be sure to have the right tools at hand and an appropriate plan if and when you arrive on the scene.

Level 3: On-Site Service

For those jobs that cannot be handled over the phone, you will need to decide whether to service the machine on-site or to bring it back to your own workspace. Consider these questions when making this decision:

  • Will your repairs interfere with your end user's work?
  • Will the end user's location interfere with your work?
  • Is the computer in a high-traffic area?
  • Is there a lot of activity in the area?
  • Will the end user want to help? (Also consider whether or not this would be a benefit.)
  • Do you have enough space to do the work?

If the work will take more than a few minutes, you might do better to take the machine back to your own workspace.

Spare Parts

Possessing a large supply of spare parts can definitely shorten the time to complete a repair; however, having too many spare parts can be a problem as well. Maintaining a large inventory is expensive, especially if you have 100 items that just became obsolete. You will need to keep spare parts in stock and you will need to manage them. Consider the following tips when determining how to manage your spare parts inventory:

  • Know the frequency of failures and, therefore, the number of the replacements you are likely to need for your organizational situation.
  • Know how long it takes to get replacements and order appropriately.
  • Know your suppliers and how quickly they can provide parts when you need them. This way you need keep only what you need on your shelf.
  • Buy spare components in bulk whenever possible, especially inexpensive components such as floppy disk drives, cables, mouse devices, ink-jet cartridges, and so forth.
  • Standardize your parts to keep your inventory small (see the next section).


Standardizing equipment is very desirable in large organizations. It reduces the number of spare parts required and simplifies installations. But although desirable, it is not always possible. Many organizations purchase equipment, such as computers, solely on the basis of the best price available at the time of purchase. Therefore, whichever manufacturer happens to be offering a special deal at that time is likely to be the one to get the contract. The result is that the organization eventually assembles a wide assortment of computer equipment, making standardization difficult.

In cases such as this, you can standardize what you have control over, and group the rest as well as you can. If you have several identical systems, by using an identical configuration, with standard CONFIG.SYS, AUTOEXEC.BAT, and IRQ assignments, you can simplify the troubleshooting process. Even if you have many computers with little in common, adopting certain standards can be worthwhile. For example, establish common IRQs for standard equipment such as modems, sound cards, network cards, and mouse and SCSI devices.

Customer Service

The bottom line in computer repair is customer service. Whether you work for a large organization or as an independent consultant, the end user is your customer. This section discusses general guidelines for setting up and managing customer service.

Support Calls

There are generally two methods for handling initial support calls to a technical service department. The first method, and perhaps the most common, is the help desk. Each call is routed through a central location or phone. At this point, the call is evaluated, classified according to the nature and urgency of the problem, and then routed to the appropriate member of the support team for action.

In the second method, any member of the support team can respond to a call and attempt to solve the problem. If that fails to resolve the issue, the problem is handed on to a more knowledgeable team member for action.

It is at this stage that you have the opportunity to put your customer service skills in action. The person who calls you will be sensitive not only to how you resolve the technical problem, but to how you treat that individual personally. Chances are, if someone needs to call you, the day is already going badly. Your demeanor and expertise can improve it or make it worse. This is especially important if you are in business for yourself; it can mean the difference between building your business with repeat calls and referrals—or bankruptcy.

When you receive a call requesting you to provide technical support, going through the following four simple steps should lead to a successful conclusion of the encounter:

  • The Greeting: During this stage, which should be as brief as possible, your purpose is to establish the identity of the caller and the nature of the problem. In some cases, it can also lead to initiating a work order or tracking code to follow and record the event. Following good telephone etiquette is critical, especially if it is your business and your caller is a potential customer who is shopping around for a computer-repair professional. This is likely to be your potential customer's first impression of your company.
  • The Description: During the second stage, your task is to obtain a description of the problem. It is important to avoid any miscommunication. Try to pick up audible clues (note significant points, caller's level of expertise, and sense of urgency) and guide the conversation (keep it focused). However, appreciate that you, not the caller, are the expert. Don't become frustrated (or sound frustrated) by the caller's lack of understanding of the problem. After all, if the exact problem were known already, chances are you would not be needed to fix it.
  • The Interview: Use this stage to ask questions. (See "Troubleshooting" in the previous lesson.) Keep your questions short, logical, and as simple as possible. This is not the time to try to impress a customer with your expertise. Keep your questions at a level that will not confuse or intimidate the caller.
  • The Closure: By the fourth stage, the end of the conversation, you should be able to assess and evaluate the information. You will be able to provide the client with a plan of action, including what the next step will be, who will be handling the problem, and when they should expect action.

Take the time to create a form and/or a database for tracking calls. This will provide a source of information for future use. Basing the form on keywords chosen to describe the problem briefly, will allow easy creation of reports.

Reports and Logs

If you work independently, you should also keep a client profile log that includes a few paragraphs describing each of your clients and their business. Include notations of any relevant facts about clients that you can use in future conversations with them. Also, take note of any client plans for future expansion or equipment upgrades that might need your help. It is best to get in a habit of writing this down as soon as possible after your service call, when the important details and observations are still fresh in your mind.

Referrals are the lifeline of any small business. If you feel that your client is satisfied with your work, do not hesitate to ask for referrals and ask if you can use the client's name as a reference. Keep a written record of referrals you receive and contact the referred individual with a phone call or letter as quickly as possible. Also, leave a few business cards with your clients and encourage them to give the cards to anyone who might need your services. Call your clients within a few days after you have serviced their equipment, and confirm that their problems have been resolved. They will appreciate it. Even technicians who work in a corporate setting can find this procedure helpful as well.

Difficult Clients and Coworkers

You will inevitably encounter difficult clients or coworkers. Keep in mind that it is your job to identify, and to try to resolve these problems too, not just those that are mechanically based. Here are a few suggestions for handling difficult clients and coworkers:

  • If the user needs training, ensure that information about appropriate courses is available. If the individual is one of your coworkers, speak to the user's manager and identify training needs. If it is a client, gently point out the benefits of obtaining specific training or offer some of your time and expertise for tutoring.
  • If the client has difficulty remembering instructions, put them in writing. Give the client a memo or sheet with written instructions—and save the instructions for future use.
  • Dealing with technophiles (those who think they are experts) can be a challenge. The best approach is to listen carefully and make them part of the solution, not part of the problem. Remember, they came to you for help. In a corporate or large organizational setting, start an advanced users group and make them responsible for developing solutions, or at least for being part of the solution.
  • Require users who are coworkers and constantly complain about trivial problems to put them in writing. Include their notes as part of your records. If the complainants are your clients, charge them for your time.

Escalating Problems

Because new devices and software are introduced every day, it is not uncommon to encounter problems that are outside the scope of the support group or your current level of experience. In such cases, addressing the problem requires gaining the assistance of the hardware or software supplier. Whether you turn to a more-experienced team member or an original equipment manufacturer (OEM), be sure to track the progress of the problem and who retains responsibility.

Of course, if you are an independent service person, you will be responsible for doing the research to find a solution to the problem. Keep a record of your resources (phone numbers, individuals' and company names, Internet URLs, documentation sources) for future reference.

If the problem is resolved by making previously undocumented changes (such as a patch or upgrade by the OEM), be sure to pass along the information to other team members. Also, be sure to keep good documentation of the solution because you may need it for future reference.


After a service call is concluded (successful or not), there is one more action to take: document the closure. Make this report as detailed as possible. Include what was done to resolve the problem—or what steps were taken to try to resolve the problem—and the results of your efforts. If the problem was not resolved, explain to the user why it could not be fixed and provide some alternatives. This might include advising the user to return the computer to the dealer from which it was purchased, if it is a relatively new unit. If you are unable to resolve the problem, do not be afraid to pass it on to someone with more experience or who specializes in that type of problem.

Lesson Summary

The following points summarize the main elements of this lesson:

  • The customer is most important.
  • Keep good records.
  • Technical support can be provided at three levels: through a designated on-site user, telephone support, or on-site service. Categorizing jobs by these levels will make your work more efficient.

Microsoft Corporation - A+ Certification Training Kit
Microsoft Corporation - A+ Certification Training Kit
Year: 2000
Pages: 127

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