Why the Lenovo Retro Thinkpad 25 is a piece of junk.

Why we loved the Thinkpad.

The Thinkpad was a special machine, as I’ve explained three years ago when discussing my disappointment with modern Thinkpads.

Thinkpad interfaces allowed me to avoid moving my hand away from the keyboard to move the cursor. The anti-glare screen added to my viewing comfort. The keyboard layout felt like “home” – just like a desktop keyboard, no adjusting to laptop form factor required. The ports, the thinklight, the ability to swap drives without removing a bottom case. It was a special machine.

As laptop design evolved into more trendy, less productive designs across all brands, the Thinkpad stood out more and more as the last device of choice remaining for the practical tinkerer & engineer. The function over form kind of person that just wanted to get to work without feeling limited by laptop form factor bought this machine. The designers, the engineers, the service technicians; and it was a treat.

What happened to the Thinkpad?

Lenovo Thinkpad T61

The T61 Thinkpad with its classic keyboard layout, 4:3 aspect ratio, thinklight, and small trackpad is considered by many to be the last “true” Thinkpad

The T61 is a Thinkpad many refer to as the grandfather of all modern Thinkpads. Everything after being a compromise in some way.

The T520 went to a 16:9 display, and slightly changed the keyboard.

The Thinkpad T530 is where it became apparent the Thinkpad wasn’t simply a victim of a lack of 4:3 LCDs being mass produced, but rather under serious attack from marketing executives & “user experience” drones hell bent on killing what made the Thinkpad great. These individuals, dedicated to copying what everyone else sold in the hopes of mass appeal, saw fit to destroy the Thinkpad keyboard – the very thing that made the Thinkpad retain its value & cult following.  The keys were no longer located where they would have been located on a standard desktop keyboard anymore. and the trackpad became larger.

The Thinkpad T540 added insult to injury by removing the dedicated trackpoint buttons, and trackpad buttons. Lenovo went full RIMM, making a device with a click button interface, and it sucked. This copied none of the accuracy or feel of what made the Apple trackpad great, while reinforcing every negative stereotype about PC trackpads. aIt was incredibly easy to hit the right click when you thought you were hitting the middle button. It was very easy to hit the middle button and close a browser tab when you meant to right click it. It required bending your thumb for any sense of accuracy. it was garbage.

Palm rejection on Windows has become better, but for Linux users it has often been a bane. You can spend hours configuring it and it still works terribly. Thus adding this larger trackpad made life yet worse for Linux users. Even if you could get around the trackpadFurther, the new trackpad on the XX40 series required endless hacks if you used Linux just to get the buttons to work properly!

A numpad was added to 15″ models as well. The numpad requires we move the trackpad & keyboard to the left, so we now have an off center keyboard that is not standard. We have a trackpoint with no dedicated buttons that allows for easy mistakes in button clicks. We have a trackpad with almost non-existent palm rejection in Linux, and a 16:9 screen.

The Thinkpad is, for all we loved it for, no longer a Thinkpad. It’s dead.

Thinkpad T530

The T530 removed the old keyboard layout entirely in favor of a new, confusing design. The lack of island keys is not as apparent as the confusing location of the delete/page up/page down/home/end keys.

Thinkpad T540, the end

The T540 was the straw that broke the camel’s back. No dedicated trackpoint buttons, a numpad. a terrible large trackpad.

Talk of the “retro.”

Discussion about the retro began about two and a half years ago after anger over the T440/T540 blew over. Lenovo has had two and a half years to go over this decision, polling consumers on what they’d like and milling over how to make it happen.

Personally, I saw talk of the Retro as defeat in and of itself. Putting a proper keyboard back on all the old model lines meant that anyone could pick & choose the machine for them – ultrabook or workstation, 1366×768 or 4k, matte or touchscreen, and still get a proper interface. This would be an admission of defeat to the marketing departments that likely demanded we get this new keyboard, but it would be better overall.

Creating a single retro model meant it had to be all things to all people, and is a show of ego from marketing itself. It isn’t that our design is bad. It’s those weirdos. Those basement dwelling redditors that demand that silly looking keyboard. “Come up with something for them so they shut up!” I can imagine a marketer saying. This is guaranteed to fail.

Retro release.

Fast forward to 2017. Two and a half years after the first mention of the retro, three and a half years after the butchery of the T440 & T540. Do we get a screen with a different aspect ratio? Do we get a thinklight? Are there choices? Are the specs something to die for?

Before we dig into specs….

But Louis. IT’S NOT A WORKSTATION! STOP COMPARING IT TO WORKSTATIONS!!!

Yes, it is not a workstation. That is the point; there is no customizability here. I can’t pay extra to get a beefier processor. I can’t pay extra to get a better screen. So there is nothing else to compare my current P50 to in the retro “lineup.”

If you use an X1 Carbon, there is no Retro ultrabook to compare it to.

If you use a P50, there is no Retro workstation to compare it to.

I am demonstrating how bad this entire retro premise is. Rather than bring good design back to the fully fledged, customizable Thinkpad line, where there was a machine for everyone, we have one model. One model for everyone who wants a good interface.

That is a severe weakness. I was hoping for good design to come back to the entire Thinkpad line, rather than getting a T470, with an older style keyboard and a price premium.

The display disappoints by ANY standard.

People who want the retro want a 4:3, 3:2, or 5:4 screen. They might even settle for a 16:10. The Retro gives us 16:9.

People who want a modern screen want something high resolution. Maybe even 3k. The Retro gives us 1080p.

If the surface can get 3:2, why can’t we?

The Retro gives us the worst of the old, with the worst of the new. The T25 has “old” resolution with “new” aspect ratios. Whether you’re into modern or classic, there’s something to hate with this machine.

Do you get an option for higher resolution for more $$? Of course not. It’s standard for laptop manufacturers to charge an additional $350-$400 for a higher resolution screen when the panel only costs them an additional $50, and that’s fine. At least they offer the option. Lenovo isn’t even going to bother offering a higher resolution screen if you were willing to pay, which is inexcusable. It is difficult to impossible to find a 4:3 screen, but it is not difficult to offer a higher resolution 14″ screen for a premium with a dropdown menu for those of us who use our laptop for viewing schematics and boardviews where 1080p is really a hinderance.

Many will say it is unreasonable to expect a different aspect ratio, as well as difficult to get a manufacturer to produce this. Just look at what Apple did with the A1425 in 2012 .Unlike almost every other pro level laptop, the screen was separate from the backlight. The resolution was 2560×1600 on a machine that was offered five years ago. Apple got LG & Samsung to mass produce non-standard LCDs for the A1425 which started at $1299. Yet Lenovo can’t get anyone to produce an LCD slightly outside what has been the cookie cutter mold for five years, on a machine costing $1899? Apple not only provided a better screen, but Apple’s 2012 A1425 model had an aspect ratio closer to “classic” Thinkpads than the actual Retro Thinkpad. I may crap on Apple a lot, but credit where credit is due.

Apple had an idea for a machine that would sell well. They pitched what they needed to LG & Samsung, and they created it for Apple. Lenovo could have done the same, but didn’t. “What if it doesn’t sell well? What if it isn’t worth it?” All valid questions, that reek of a lack of confidence in this model as well as the ability to market it. That type of thinking leads to what we get here: a half baked effort that makes no effort to even pretend it’s retro. 1080p. 16:9. 2017.

We have grieved the loss of the practical display. When we await the release of a T480, P72, no one is disappointed at the 16:9 display because we do not expect anything outside of 16:9. This is why I think it would make more sense to just put the retro keyboard on every other Thinkpad, rather than release a “retro” model. We would have 3k & 4k options available. We would not experience the disappointment of having “retro” dangled in front of us, only to end up being a 16:9 display. By advertising a retro model, you are teasing people by dangling the idea of a T61-ish screen in front of them and by releasing it with a 16:9 1080p touchscreen you are kicking them in the balls.

Weak, outdated graphics.

Why use the 1050 GPU which is faster and more powerful with same energy usage when we can use this retro to dump out last year’s inventory?

Thinkpad users aren’t looking at cinebench scores. We care about interface, screen aspect ratio, ports. The practical. If we’re going to miss out on some of the practical, and if we’re going to have a price premium, can we at least get some specs from this year? This card is available in laptops less than half the price.

Processor limitations: only dual core.

You get one choice, a dual core, at $1899. Its cpubenchmark score is a 5221, 1403 points lower than a Thinkpad W520 from 2011!

Thinkpad Retro T25 CPU

Last I recall there was a company that only offered you dual core options at this price.. yes, Apple. I realize the retro isnot a workstation. As such, people have said it is unfair to compare it to a workstation. I would agree if there were other workstations in the retro family, but there are not. It would be unfair to compare its processor to a workstation class machine IF THERE WERE A RETRO WORKSTATION. I am merely judging Lenovo by my shopping standards from 2011, back when you could choose between an ultrabook, a midrange, or a workstation with a good keyboard. Six years later and the choices are actually worse.

If you had a W520 you were looking to replace, you will be disappointed. Your six year old laptop was more powerful than this, and you might have paid less for it.

Thank you Lenovo for copying the negatives of Apple’s pricing & lack of configurability, without copying any of the innovation.

Battery life.

Lenovo’s never been known for amazing battery life. Early reports show it lasts under 7 hours even with the U processor on the default 3 cell battery it ships with. With battery life you could expect from $1899 laptops from six years ago, at least it lives up to the retro name in one way.

Pricing: starts at $1899.

$1899 is a lot for what is being offered here. There is not a lot of value.

Some will say this is being cheap. The price would not be an issue at $2300, or even $3000 if some degree of customizability were offered. The price would not be an issue if Lenovo pulled a rabbit out of their hat and got LG, Samsung, AUO, Chi Mei, or Sharp to produce a more square display. The price would not be an issue if Lenovo allowed us to configure a higher resolution display, a different processor, or maybe even had bothered to put the indicator LEDs that used to exist back where they were.

The reality is that this price premium is for nothing but a keyboard and a little colored logo engraving. This price premium exists without adding value. We get yesterday’s specs with today’s trends, all in a machine touting itself as worth its price for being “retro.”

No.

Ports

When I say this isn’t worth the price as a “retro” machine, the ports say all that is necessary. This is not a “special” machine, but rather a T470 with an old keyboard and a different logo slapped on.

How many people have tried to use a modern laptop in a conference room or educational setting where the projector only offered VGA? You forgot your dongle at the hotel. Crap.

THIS is where the Thinkpad user’s smile stems from. Being able to pick that up and plug it right into their laptop. This is something that would be doable, cheaply, easily, if they weren’t copying & pasting the T470 motherboard directly into the retro machine.

But they did just that. You get no mini-displayport, only USB-C. You get less USB ports than the P50. You get no VGA port, which is the only port “retro” people were asking to have back.

Granted, one can argue you should be replacing your mini-displayport adapters/cables with USB-C adapters/cables. Yet this is not necessary on last year’s P50, the stronger machine that is $500 less.

Why skip out on the retro port, on a retro machine, that is still in widespread use, unless you just don’t care?

Conclusion: this is not “retro” – this is junk.

Not enough has changed to warrant having its own model.

Lenovo doesn’t want to alienate customers with an “old” design, and as much as I like 4:3 screens, I understand how many modern customers might balk at the idea of having bars as they watch netflix in fullscreen on a lunchbreak. I understand the idea behind making the retro its own model if it was vastly different from what the average consumer would accept. If they put a 4:3 screen, removed the trackpad, added indicator LEDs, a thicker chassis to fit a VGA port, then fine; the machine would have earned having its own model. It would be too far off from what is “mainstream” to be implemented into the standard T, X, and P series lineup.

However, this is nothing more than a T470 with a different keyboard. Here, we get the downside of an “exclusive” model(lack of customization) with all the downsides of the mass produced models(16:9, no VGA, no indicator LEDs).

This is the worst of both worlds, and outside taking some old keyboards out of inventory and shoving them into a T470 casing, they didn’t budge at all.

The screen is straight up 16:9, with the resolution I would expect from 2011. It is missing ports that you can get in a used, two year old T series(which, btw, you can buy with a better processor for less $$). So long as Lenovo sees people who desire a proper Thinkpad as a fringe group to be shut up by a token model that was half assed, they will never return to what made so many so loyal to the line.

To quote Philippe Hébert

You said something very important in this video, and it's true. Lenovo marketing dept. ad no idea what they were doing and to who they were marketing this to.

First: They launch it on Facebook ?? Really!? People who buy thinkpad are IT staff, engineer, motion designer, corporate executive, enterprise laptop bought for employees, etc..

Who is on Facebook? Teenagers, and people who don't have a clue about technology. It's the average person who buys a computer with the first thing in mind: price. These people don't buy ThinkPad, because you already pay more than an "IdeaPad" for the laptop. A ThinkPad is a business computer. It's easy to service, it's customizable at purchase to suit your needs, it has an anti-glare screen.

Then you have the T25, which has no vPro support nor Intel Trusted Execution Technology, because it only comes with an i7-7500U CPU, instead of a i7-7600U. Lenovo states that the T25 wasn't aiming the business market with this product, and that they wanted to keep the cost to the lowest, as a 7600U is more expensive.

Well, why are you selling the laptop with Windows 10 PROFESSIONAL if you're aiming to non business people? Why are you selling it with a TPM chip, fingerprint reader and a 3D HELO camera, those are all security features that no home user uses.

Beside that, a i5-7300U cost the same as a i7-7500U, but it as vPro.... The only differrences between a i5 and an i7 this gen, is the few speed MHz bump on the i7, and, the i7 has the Intel InTru 3D Technology. But what is the point of having the Intel InTru 3D Technology, if you ship the laptop with a discrete GPU?? The discrete GPU already offer such feature.

It's kind of an identity crisis this laptop has.

Then you have a touchscreen. Really? The multitouch screen is "anti-glare". But it is still glarier than a regular non-touch screen. Plus, there is an higher resolution screen than 1080p offered in the T470, and they don't even offer it in the T25.

That multitouch screen is dimmer than the 1080p non-touch too. If you compare the option of the T470, there's a 50$ USD extra for the multitouch screen over the non-touch screen. If they cared about keeping the price down for the customer, they wouldn't have forced the multitouch screen in their product, they would have put the non-touch screen instead.

Also when you think about it, they mostly put that multitouch screen in there, to clear their inventory. Because, let's be frank, who is buying a ThinkPad with a touchscreen? This was their way of eeping cost down, by not having to buy more 1080p non-touch screens from LG or Samsung or AUO, and simply using what they had sitting on shelves in their inventory.

20$ USD for a fingerprint reader (see T470 option)
50$ USD for a multitouch screen (see T470 option)
30$ USD for the IR camera (see T570 option)

That's already 100$ you're charging your customer for shit they might not even need. But since you don't offer customization, they are forced to pay for it.

Now, since we all know that it's business customer who buys ThinkPad, we know that Windows 10 Pro makes sense, but it doesn't when the marketing dept. tells you that it was aiming business customers with the T25. So if that's the case, there's another 40$ USD (see T470 option) you can remove if you offer Windows 10 Home instead.

The 940MX is 80$ USD (see T470p option). The 940MX is an old GPU, that consumes the same power as the newer MX150 GPU that is twice the power. Why didn't they put an MX150 instead? Again, probably to clear out their inventory. They didn't care about the price the customer will be paying, all they were caring about, was the price it would cost them to manufacture this model.

Lenovo tried to make a ThinkPad with a bunch of marketing staff that ThinkBad. The end result is that their fans ThinkMad.

Our store’s location

No appointment is necessary – come by during our open hours and we are happy to help you!

The Rossmann Group – Manhattan186 1st Avenue

New York, NY 10009

(347) 552-2258

Monday-Friday – 12 PM to 8 PM

Saturday-Sunday 12 PM to 4 PM

 

rossmann group storefront

ASUS can suck it

I’m going to start copying and pasting generic shit to every customer who emails me just like ASUS.

 

RicardoHello Louis Rossmann, thank you for contacting ASUS support. Please give me a few moments to review your information. I will be with you shortly.

How may I assist you today?

Louis Rossmann I have an RMA # USG7411290 for a Nexus 7 tablet, it arrived at the service center last Monday

When will it be finished?

RicardoI will be more than happy, to do a check on this for you; one moment please.

Thank you for your patience. Your tablet is currently in repairs as of 2014/01/15 and they are working on it.

The average turnaround time for service is 5-7 business days in house.

This does not include shipping and other exceptions. Also, please note that this does not apply if physical damage is found or the unit is out of warranty.

The exceptions include but are not limited to; a part shortage on the unit, out of warranty related issues, or delays due to a natural disaster.

This does not include weekends, only Monday to Friday.

Louis Rossmann You just copied and pasted that from somewhere

It has been seven days now, so can you answer my question?

It’s been a week and I haven’t received one phone call or email acknowledging that ASUS has received it.

RicardoLouis that is the only update i am seeing in our system at this time. It is in repairs as of that date and you are still in the TAT time frame.

I do apologize for any inconvenience caused at this time and delay.

iMac repair – we do that.

The most often  asked questions as someone walks in here are usually

a) “Are you only mac?”

b) “Do you just do laptops?”

The answer to both is a resounding NO!

iMacs may not be portable, but they are made without the average user in mind – just like most Apple products, and we do indeed service them.

They seal in dust ensuring they will run hot in no time, and place the hard drive behind a clusterf(*% of crap making it difficult for the end user to service. You’re not alone if you have an iMac problem, but want nothing to do with servicing them.

We do service these on a regular basis, and we’re woring on getting the website caught up with the services.

I can’t fault a reader who says I sound very ethical.

Or her daughter. Some people you meet remind me why I love this business.

We stock parts. Well, most of the time.

I find it ironic that I am writing this post on a day that some douche who told a tech “fuck you” wanted to “speak to the manager” after a staff member said we were out of iPhone 4S batteries. The tech said that we would get them in tomorrow, which the douche customer replied to with “fuck you.” Maybe he expected that I manufacture the cells & wrap them in a black plastic and stamp an Apple logo on it while serving it to him on a platter. Anyway: BACK TO THE POINT. 🙂

For the most part, I believe in parts stocking. Before advertising, staff, or a workspace, the first place I invested my money was parts. On average, at any given level I’ve been at with my business, I’ve been ahead of the curve stocking all sorts of odds and ends I needed to provide my customers with instant turnaround, and if you’re starting your own repair business, you should too. Stock parts. Stocking parts means instant turnaround. Stocking parts means less lying when you fuck something up and need to fix it on the sly to avoid an angry customer. Stock parts and the superiority of your service to others will speak for itself and make up for what you took from your marketing budget to purchase stock for your business.

It worked for us.

 

Authorize.net is a pain in the ass.

Press 1 to repeat this automated, useless advice

Press 2 to return to the main menu

Press 3 to switch to a merchant services provider that answers the phone and helps you with your issues in a timely manner.

Press 4 to deal with an account login ID page that says you have misspelled your own name

Press 5 to deal with live chat that cannot help you without your login ID

820-2850 motherboard – the next Apple recall.

820-2850 motherboards are dropping dead at a faster rate everyday. The biggest problem facing this board is improper fan control. Regardless of how hot the CPU or GPU become, the fans run at a lethargic 1000 rpm or lower for up to ten minutes at a time, boiling the board.

If you have a 2010 15.4” A1286 Macbook Pro, it probably has an 820-2850 motherboard inside of it. If it does, this is bad news for you,as it will likely continue to fail again and again. A good solution is to replace it with the compatible 820-2915 motherboard, and associated battery.  You can put a new 820-2915 board inside, and buy the compatible battery for it, and you’re set. The difference in the boards is only in the battery connector. 820-2915 boards have a battery connector on top, as opposed to on the side. See the picture below.

There are several Apple products that have been recalled for silly issues. Some should have been recalled, but never were. In 2007-2008, we had the A1226 & A1260 machine with dying G84-602-A2 graphics chips, and screen frames that cracked like paperclips at the bottom. The A1286 2008/2009 Unibody Macbook Pro had a back covers composed of two pieces of glued together aluminum that fall apart as the heavy display assembly moves back and forth. This 2010 should be next.

Like us? Hate us? Leave a review.

Manhattan review pages:

Yelp! page for our Manhattan workshop.

Google+ page for our Manhattan workshop.

Brooklyn review pages:

Google+ page for our Brooklyn workshop.

Yelp! page for our Brooklyn workshop.

We believe in minimal paid advertising, and rely on word of mouth to keep prices down. If you had a good experience and want to tell the world, or hate us more than anyone you’ve met, here’s your chance to be heard!

Yelp! requires registration: Google Places simply requires a gmail account.

Outsourcing laptop & cellphone repair: the benefits & tradeoffs.

Outsourcing can be a useful tool, or a business’s downfall. The success of outsourcing depends on its implementation. I’d like to discuss some of the pros and cons of outsourcing.

Outsourcing helps provide consistency in work quality.

Outsourcing can help a franchising business by providing consistency in experience.  It is difficult to start a business in a niche industry and keep your customers happy. A mixture of establishing unique policies and specific expertise allows this to happen. Even after  you’ve gone through the trouble of cherrypicking the right people, it’s going to take a lot of training to get them up to speed so they provide a high level of service. This is difficult to do with one location – as you franchise and build out 2, 5, 10, 100 locations – it becomes infinitely more difficult. As any business owner knows, finding good help is incredibly difficult. Even when a business does find good help, turnover rates can still damage their reputation while they are understaffed.

Outsourcing can provide this consistency. If each office in the franchise has service performed by a single contractor, you eliminate the hassle of training employees at each location to provide this level of service. Only one office, the outsourcee, will have to provide the level of service you desire, for every office in the franchise.

When you outsource service, all you must do in house is customer service. You may choose to outsource this as well, merely serving as a drop off & pick up depot that performs the final billing to the customer. A common scenario is outsourcing tech work, while keeping customer service in house. This has become increasingly common as work on modern laptops becomes more involved and difficult. You can have 50 stores and they will all provide the same level of service because they are utilizing one centralized service provider.

Outsourcing allows you to tackle high end challenges without training expense.

Let’s find an example. Five years ago, when the light went out on a screen, it required replacing a board the size of your middle finger. A high school dropout with minimal experience can be taught how to do this in under 20 minutes. Now, when the light goes out, there are 0402 and 24 pin QFN packages that must be replaced using advanced soldering skill. A repair I could teach my grandmother how to do has now become a repair the average experienced technician does not want to take on! This is still just as prevalent a problem in laptop repair as it was five years ago. People will still walk in wanting it done. What do we do?

You could hire a technician and teach him the advanced soldering skills. This may be time consuming and unfruitful, as he or she will eventually have to try their luck on a customer’s device, which they may or may not break – costing you money and headache. Even if the technician does learn the process, you cannot rely on their longevity. They may take that skill and go elsewhere, forcing you to repeat the painful process. The only true way to guarantee that someone knows what they are doing, is to have them DO it. Regardless of whether they are working on your devices or a customer’s, a newbie will eventually break something. The headache and bill associated will rest on you. Imagine repeating this process times 100 stores  – and you’ll see why people like outsourcing.

As can be seen below, the left is something a 2 year old could unplug and plug back in. On the right – not so much!

Outsourcing jobs to a company more efficient at handling that specific job can save you money.

Let’s say you are not specialized in a field. With experience, you are able to become more efficient. As this efficiency improves, your prices can go down as less mistakes are made, as work is performed quicker, as parts are obtained cheaper, as shortcuts make themselves known. Let’s say a repair job requires a $15 part, and 3 hours of a technician’s time. The first part is soldered improperly and rendered useless. The technician makes $18/hr – so three hours of his time is worth $54. Let’s say it doesn’t work at the end for some unforseen reason. You put $84 in, and do not have a solution. If an outsourced service provider can do this job in an hour for $40, be honest with yourself and realize you are better off outsourcing this job until you can reach their level of efficiency.

Outsourcing allows you to take on jobs beyond your capacity.

Retail businesses often hire seasonal employees, for the holidays. They know where their spikes are, and they hire temporary staff to handle these spikes. This is simple for a KMART or a JcPenney. Putting clothes on shelves is different than replacing screens on the new Macbook Air, or replacing small soldered components. You can get rid of the seasonal employee at these stores as soon as Christmas is over. However, technicians take time to train. By the time you have someone up to muster, your spike may be over. Also, unlike seasonal retail outlets, repair facilities do not know when their spikes will arrive! A simple solution is to have a hybrid of outsourcing, where work you cannot do within your specified timeframe is outsourced, while jobs you have the time to handle get done in houjse. You will make less profit off of the repair. This is much better than no profit when the customer comes in to take their machine back because it’s been 4 days and you haven’t fixed it yet.

Outsourcing can turn customer service and internal communication into a game of telephone.

We work in a tricky business. Let’s take a plausible scenario.

A customer brings in a laptop with a busted screen. The customer service rep sends it to the outsourced repair center, who informs them the back cover holding the screen is coming unglued, requiring replacement as well. The repair center calls back to inform the outsourcer of the bad news, and the outsourcer then relays the information to the customer. The customer, irritated that the price change, asks if there are alternatives. “Can it be glued back together?” The customer service rep is not equipt to handle advanced followup questions without calling the service center back. He can say no, and the customer will ask why, but he won’t have a real answer to give. He can say yes, which the repair center will say they cannot do. Or, he can say “I don’t know” – the god’s honest truth. However, at this point, the confidence is lost because he doesn’t sound like he knows what he is doing.

You only get one or two chances to do this before they don’t trust you at all. Let’s say later on the wi-fi card appears to have gone bad. You call, they ask how this could happen, how you didn’t notice it at first, is it not connecting at all or just bad signal, and you either have to call up the service center again to get an answer or just flat out lie. And these don’t work.

How about another one!

A motherboard is liquid damaged, but still works. A customer brings it in and says it’s been spill damaged, and may have a bad board. The outsourcer may not be a technician; he’s just a customer service guy with minimal laptop repair know how. He hits the power button, it doesn’t turn on. He figures the customer is correct, the logic board is bad, so he sends it off. What the outsourcer doesn’t know, is that the computer worked – it WORKED! It was dropped off because the customer just wanted to make sure it wasn’t damaged further. It wasn’t turning on because of a dead battery, and the customer service person didn’t check it on a charger. Not being a technician, he simply went ahead with the customer’s diagnosis.

In this case, the board is given to the outsourced repair center. They don’t even it look at it for a while because they give a longer turnaround time. The customer comes into the store two days later, because he simply expected it to be a quick cleaning, wondering why it isn’t done. He asks for it back since he knew it worked – it simply had a dead battery. The customer didn’t tell the store rep he knew the battery was dead at the time. The customer service rep cannot give the laptop back because the board is at another location. Busted!

Further, outsourcing takes away the ability for instant turnaround, giving local competitors a chance to shoot ahead. The ability to tell someone “we’ll do it in a day” for something difficult, or “well finish it in a half hour” for something simple, in our experience, is a competitive game changer that is only possible with the most stringent outsourcing.

In conclusion!

Outsourcing can be a great tool if managed properly. Outsourcing everything is not always the answer. Outsourcing nothing is not necessarily the answer. Our company takes pride in taking on jobs that would typically be outsourced. However, at the same time, we are not going to beat our heads against the wall and spend more money to do the same job that someone else can do faster, cheaper, and better.

We feel outsourcing is most successful if you keep open lines of communication with the outsourced service provider. Meaning, ask questions – lots of them. Get details, as many as you can, on any problem that comes up – so you are ready to communicate them to a customer, and handle the questions you are going to be asked. Minimize the amount of a job that must be outsourced, so that you remain more in control of the job. For example, you can’t accuse the outsourcee of scratching a phone if you send them the motherboard by itself. Inspect the work done on a regular basis so you can see if there are quality issues that may come back and bite you in the ass later.