Have your data – no, I insist! How proper intake procedures keep those years on your life.

Posted Monday, September 3, 2012

One of the most important things about running a repair shop of any kind is the input system. How you handle devices that come in can directly effect your stress level later in the process. The longer a device sits in your shop, the more important an accurate intake system is, because the longer a device sits in your shop, the less accurate your memory of it will be. Whether it had a hard drive in it, came in dented, had issues with the spacebar will all be evident and fresh in memory 1 day after the diagnosis. However, many of your clients may leave the laptop with you for a month and ignore your phone calls, only to come back in to pick it up and accuse you of breaking X Y and Z. The longer you have a device here, the less likely you will recall exactly what was wrong with it and exactly how it came in, which opens you up to he-said-she-said nonsense. Some real life examples.

Many moons ago, we received a laptop with a very interesting dent in it. It looked like a jagged little egyptian pyramid man. I remembered it clearly since this was a challenging machine. I never had to read the ticket to identify it, I picked it out of our bin system by this artistic little dent in it. We never reported this to the customer, which is standard. At the time we did not offer any services other than recovery from physical damages – liquid and drops. It was typical  that nearly every machine that came in were dinged, bent, or dented up in some fashion. After all, they had to drop it to break the screen or destroy the frame, and those drops leave dents and dings. Calling every mail-in customer to ask if they were aware of some dent or scratch on their machine would result in a lot of wasted time, and a lot of people going “duh – of course, it was dented when I dropped and broke it. Why do you think I’m sending it to you?” kind of responses. This particular gentleman cursed us up and down claiming we caused this. At the time, our intake system did not exist. We relied on our memories, which was pretty tight running a 1-2 technician shop. As you grow, and factor in a receptionist and other technicians, it doesn’t work like that. When he called, she had no idea if this were a legitimate claim, that we had destroyed the body of the laptop. I unboxed this laptop, and admittedly, had it not been a nightmare to repair, I would not have remembered that it had that dent coming out of its packaging. Luckily, since the laptop was a nightmare from the beginning, it was at the forefront of my memory, so I was able to say with confidence it were dinged from the moment I had removed it from the customer’s awful mail in packaging. This customer was particularly neurotic, calling three times a day asking us for details on how to repair logic boards which we do not give to anyone other than a shop intern, if we were to hire one someday. Sure, let me show you how to perform magic for free. No thanks.

We’ve come a long way from these days. he-said-she-said incidents will still occur. Clients base their emotions on perception, not truth. If they leave us a beat up laptop, and think they left us a mint condition laptop, our knowledge of what they left us doesn’t do us any good. Although it does help us sleep better knowing we didn’t mutilate their casing.

There are cases in which proper intake procedures will avoid heart attacks.  We follow them 99% of the time. One customer came in with a dead laptop. Dead board. Unfixable board. She had asked if we could install her hard drive when the laptop worked again. My receptionist was no longer updating the notes – she had left since it was past 8:00 PM, which is our closing time. I’m an altruistic and charitable guy – if someone has a serious problem, I’ll stay a half hour or an hour after closing to resolve it and alleviate their concerns instead of closing the door on them. As a result of the multitasking to finish up the customers who were there while discussing & diagnosing her problem, no one was updating the notes on her laptop to note that she had taken her hard drive with her. After repairing the laptop, she comes back, and turns it on – stunned to see that it boots to a question mark folder. Where’s my data? I look at the laptop to notice no drive inside. This is interesting because we do not need to remove the drive to help with her problem. Even if a customer’s drive is dead, we boot off our own USB sticks with custom installs to test a laptop. I ask her what drive her original was, and look around, and don’t find it. I don’t expect to, but before I potentially make an ass of myself, it makes sense to look around! Arrogance gets you nowhere in life. I tell her we do not have her drive. Unfortunately for me, this laptop has been here for a while, so I have no recollection of the original intake experience until she jogs it, by saying I had promised to install her drive when the laptop was fixed for free. This set off a red flag in my head. Installing a drive takes 20 seconds. I’d have either given it back to her to bring in at a later date, or installed it immediately in 20 seconds where it would stay. At this point, I enter a 45 minute debate, staying as polite as I can, as she becomes increasingly irritated, over the apparent theft of her hard drive. Two days later, she is back at the store with her hard drive in hand, and is apologizing all over herself. The accusations of theft and screwing her over were made with 3 other people here, one of which debating whether to have a service contract for the 2000 laptops being given to a local school courtesy of a $500,000 technology grant. Luckily I’m a charming guy. Although, the seeds of doubt are planted – these customers were not there to see her walk back in with the hard drive I had given her a month earlier. This could’ve all been avoided had proper intake procedure been followed.

Many new customers may notice their tickets state their drive is with them, no liability for their data, and that we give you the drive before you leave the laptop here in many cases. There is good reason for this change in policy. We also have a dedicated receptionist whose responsibilities include nothing but checking in your machine in great detail.