I Should Pit Myself, Or, I Have The IT Blues.

But this isn’t worthy of a pitting, not really. Just something I have to vent a little.

I work a full time job in Customer Service, but I also moonlight as an On-Call IT guy for residential and small business customers. Last night I had a scheduled job for a family who cannot connect using their Verizon DSL, and their computer has been locking up. This apparently happened suddenly, a couple days ago.

So, I show up early. It was your typical Middle Class family with four kids ranging in ages from 6 to 16 years old. I go over to their computer, and guess what? Spyware and Adware everywhere. This was the typical situation where this family knew just enough to cause a lot of damage to their computer, but didn’t know enough to fix it. It was atrocious. So I knew what to do.

But, the kids are climbing all over me, the parents are firing questions at me. Everyone was interrupting everyone else before any questions could be answered. Using hindsight, this is where I should have taken control of the situation and told everyone to sit down, shut up, and in a couple hours I will have their computer working like the day they took it out of the box, with connection to their Verizon DSL.

But, no, I did not do that. I was like a Bobble Head bouncing back and forth between questions. My frustration level was growing. I used a free utility that I favor to get rid of the Spyware and Adware. I uninstalled the rest of the bad stuff.

Again, using hindsight, that is when I should have reinstalled their operating system, and then the Verizon DSL software, again. That would have fixed the problem. It would have taken atleast an hour, but it would have fixed the problem.

The husband says, “Hey, while I have you here, I have this other computer over here. The McAfee isn’t working anymore, and some Porn sites keep popping up.” So, now I’m bouncing between the two computers.

I look at the clock…What?! I have been here three hours already and haven’t accomplished anything beneficial for this family yet? Panic starts to set in.

Then I chose an Easy Out. Blame Verizon. I called Verizon, scheduled the family an appointment to have the Verizon people come and check all of the hookups from the street to the computer, and reinstall the software for them. I don’t think that this would cost them anything extra. I hope this won’t cost them anything extra.

So here’s the bottom line. I am a very capable IT Guy. The problems that I see are pretty routine and repetitive, just like this one. I have a solid set of solutions that fix 99% of these problems. I am one of the few people like myself that actually travels to the customers’ houses to fix the problem on-site. I also charge a flat rate as opposed to my competition who charge by the hour. In other words, I charge less than my competition.

But I felt very much on the defensive. I got panicked and frustrated.

But I feel guilty. I didn’t accomplish anything of that much value. They were not on the Internet when I left, and now they have to wait two days for the Verizon people to show up.

In short, the job last night was very unsatisfying for both parties. IT work is something I take pride in doing, and doing well. I have a pretty good reputation in most circles. There were customers that I kept going back to time after time, without being paid, in order to fix a simple modem problem. But I cannot bring myself to go back there. I cannot even bring myself to call them and help them out over the phone. My only solace is that Verizon will get out there sometime to further fix the problem that I only began to fix. I took my check and left.

Goddamn it, sometimes I am no better than a stupid Contractor. I am sure that I will never get a call from them in the future, that is, unless they call to complain.

I do the same thing myself, but I charge by the hour and I’m not cheap. Once in a while I’ll get stumped and have to walk away due to time issues, since I usually don’t start home support until after supper so I only have 3 hours before people kick me out. When this happens, I don’t charge or I’ll charge partial if I made some tangible (to the client) progress on another issue. I’ll then start the clock fresh on the revisit and usually have the problem fixed in no time because I’ve had time to think about the issue.

IMHO, swallow your feelings and call them. Tell them that you had an idea and would like to try it out, then fix their issues for free. I don’t know about you, but all of my clients are “word of mouth” and an unhappy client is the last thing you need.

Hey CF, don’t sweat it, and let me offer you a couple of tips:

Just so you know I’m qualified, I’ve been moonlighting for 15 years doing exactly this kind of thing. You’re the one being hired, but that doesn’t mean you can’t set limits.

  1. Tell your clients you expect the area to be clean, ready, and most importantly, people free so that you can work. If they balk, I point out that I am charging an hourly rate and that thier co-operations will help keep the costs down.

  2. When setting the appointment, ask how many computers they have, and how many of those have problems. If they pop a question about a different computer, be a hardass and tell them you can’t answer it, you’ve got other appointments scheduled, but would be happy to address it another time. Sounds like a dick move? No more so than having you running around like a fool. It will also amaze you how often your clients will beleive that since they’re paying you to fix one computer, you should fix the second for free. You’ll be saving yourself from the lame haggling attempts that will come later.

  3. Be assertive. If the kids keep bugging you, ask the parents to get them out. If they don’t get them out, pack your stuff and leave. Is the hourly rate worth the hours of aggravation later? Only if you do this to make the mortgage. Otherwise, no.

  4. Educate them on Adware and spy-ware, and teach them to use the tools themselves. Sure, you’re going to lose a few quick and easy service calls, but in the end, you’ll make far more in referrals.

  5. Explain, explain, explain, especially to the dumb ones. People who have heard an explanation of the work, how it was done, etc. rarely wind up complaining.

AC and welby,

You are right. You guys are right. You are absolutely correct. I should have put my foot down, got the job done, and felt good about a job well done. The customer would have been much more satisfied as well.

But, you know what? I’m going to let this one slide, for several reasons. Being a small business person, I have to maximize my profits. I have a full week of customers ahead of me.

The second reason I’m going to let this slide is because Verizon will be there by tomorrow anyways. After that, they won’t have any problems.

And, doing a quick mental poll of myself, the customers that I have gone the extra mile for were very unannoying and quite generous. This family was neither.

But. And this is a BIG BUT. The only way I can walk away from these situations is if I can write down lessons that I have learned. So here goes:

  1. One job at a time. No bouncing back and forth.
  2. Interruptions will not do. Focus on one person at a time.
  3. Don’t doubt myself. I’m a very good IT guy, goddamnit! I know what I’m doing. No backtracking. Take the first instinct and follow it through.
  4. Be very specific on the rates, and what that applies to.

I did teach them a lot about Spyware and Adware, how to avoid it, and how to remove it. So that was a bonus. Really, if you consider what I was paid, I almost feel like they atleast got their money’s worth out of me.