Become Indispensable! If you've met some of the people that repair computers for a living, you might be shocked at their diversity of knowledge, experience, and behavior. Some are hands-down great technicians, but many seem like unprepared and ignorant kids who you wouldn't trust your toaster to, let alone something as critical to your life or business as your PC. An outstanding technician is one who with professionalism and courtesy solves all the problems a user has without introducing new stresses or worries. These tips are written to aid technicians in following a path that is bound to put them above the pack and become indispensable to their clients and business. Every one of these tips can be taken as a matter of habit and will certainly boost your confidence as a technician and the money you bring into your business. 1) Never panic. Don't respond emotionally if you do not understand a problem. Never scratch your head and act worried. If you don't know what something is, it's okay -- you can figure it out. Part of being a technician is being excited about discovering and solving new problems. If you fear or stress over repairs, you're simply in the wrong line of work. 2) Be professional. First and foremost, show up on time. If you're going to be 5 minutes late to your appointment, call the client and let them know. I once received a $20 tip because I called to let a client know I was running 3 to 5 minutes late. Before I arrived I debated whether or not to call, but the client stated specifically this was why he tipped me. Being professional means dressing nicely, taking a shower, spitting out your gum, and not using foul language. Think of it like you're going to a job interview because every service call is essentially just that. If you want the client's business now and in the future, you should be as professional as possible at all times. 3) Remember their name and give them yours. Introduce yourself with a strong handshake and say, "Hi, I'm Dan, nice to meet you." (with your name of course and preferred greeting). Most clients will respond with, "I'm [insert name here], nice to meet you, too." Being social does not come naturally to most computer geeks, myself included, but it's something you should constantly work to improve. Consider it a privilege that you're meeting so many new people monthly and that this is just one of the cool aspects of your job. Remembering the names of every person you meet may seem difficult, so make it a habit and work on it daily. Write them down if you have to – they are that important! When a client gives you, some stranger, the name of their kids, friends, or anyone else, they think you're important enough to meet these people and know their names. Also these people are important enough to your client to introduce them to you – and many may become clients later simply because you've been introduced. Remembering every name is a surefire way to top-of-the-line service that nobody in town can rival. 4) Don't be afraid to call in for backup. If you can't diagnose a problem, search the Internet. If that doesn't work, phone a friend. Ultimately, people really only want to see their problem fixed by whatever means necessary. While they may be impressed by your recall ability of every computer problem ever encountered, they will be infinitely more impressed when you fix the issue correctly. 5) Have your tools ready before you arrive. A good technician can squeeze by with only a few tools. I carried a notebook bag with a decent notebook, a flash drive in my pocket with some basic tools, a couple diagnostic CDs for running hard drive and memory tests, some paper, pens, blank CDs, and so-on. If you've been a technician for even a few days, you should know basically what you need and don't need. Bring memory everywhere you go. You'll be shocked how many people don't have enough RAM which makes for a quick add-on sale and high customer satisfaction. Bring all the tools you require into the house. You should really only need to go back to your car for specific hardware replacements or upgrades. 6) Ask plenty of questions. Don't be the diagnostic wizard and try to figure out everything yourself. A few quick replies from your client can solve a lot of headaches. Here are a few generic questions to ask: When did the problem start? Was anything changed since the problem began? What are the symptoms or error messages you're seeing? How do you get around the problem? Have you had any other problems in the past you would like to fix? Would you like to know how anything else on your computer can be upgraded or improved? Do you want your computer to do anything it currently cannot do? 7) Write down all problems and check them off as you fix them. When paired with your geek mind, paper and a pen are about the most useful tools in your arsenal. Write down all the answers to the questions you've asked (see #6) and begin connecting the dots. Write possible explanations for each problem. As you begin the repair, write detailed steps you plan to take to complete the repair (backup pictures, install hard drive, install operating system, reinstall drivers, install Quickbooks, etc.). Cross out the steps as you complete them. Verify that everything works with the client before you leave and show him what you did (See #10). This is much easier with written notes. 8) Formatting is never an option. Well, almost never. Formatting to fix even a moderate software problem is a very irresponsible move. People might say they have no critical data (or only photos, for example), but they probably installed plenty of codecs, web plugins, and other things that they use daily and take for granted. They may have customized the fonts, the desktop settings, the shortcuts, theme, and more. Formatting when facing crisis is the sign of a rookie technician. Try your best to fix the problem correctly, researching if necessary, and only format if you're certain there's no other way or the repair would take several more hours without formatting (which is usually not the case). If you must format, make a huge list of everything the client uses daily to be sure that no issues are presented later when it's too late to recover. 9) Answer any questions they have and let them watch you work if they want to. Sometimes clients would ask me tons of questions while I work. I'm an excellent multi-tasker as most computer enthusiasts are, so I don't mind. It's fun for a non-techy person to watch a real technician dig into their PC and troubleshoot it. If you're doing a good job you should be proud to show them. Avoiding a client's questions is a sure way to lose repeat business and satisfaction. 10) Leave detailed job notes and a receipt. Using your notes, reconstruct what you did for every step of the repair. Outline specifically what was replaced and why, to avoid issues later. Write a section in your notes for recommended actions a user could take to avoid the problem later. If you recommended additional hardware or services, mention why, the benefits, where to buy it, approximate cost, and so-on. Add your e-mail address or phone number so the client can contact you personally. This way the client feels he is not stranded if the problem comes back. A 1-800-support or warranty number is not nearly as useful as a genuine personal contact. Save or print two copies: one for you and one for your client. Keep a copy so you can reference this visit later and remember exactly what you did and did not do. You will inevitably have to come back out to some clients' houses – these notes will act as blueprints for the first repair so you can know what you're in for ahead of time. 11) Know the major issues and don't skip them. While you can do most research on the web for specific issues, never rule out the most common issues for computer problems without doing a full diagnostic of all hardware and software. Spyware, bad memory, bad hard drives, corrupted drivers, and power surges will probably account for the majority of your service calls. Always test memory and hard drives. It does not take very long with a DFT (Drive Fitness Test) quick test and a MemTest scan using Ultimate Boot CD. Also, with home networking, you'll replace a lot of routers, so always keep plenty in your vehicle. There are of course millions of other ways to become a better technician and our future articles should expand this list. If you have items to contribute to our list, please comment here.