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Bad customer service begets bad service

So one of my clients call Friday, "Doug, our network is down!" So I drop everything and rush over there as quickly as possible to spend the afternoon tracing through knotted cables resembling a plate of spaghetti and a cluster of switches and routers with extra routers thrown in as leftovers from the previous technician’s troubleshooting attempts. See, everyone always wants to pull in the lowest dollar solution first because any upstart techie is going to say, "sure, I can do that." which has this rippling effect of rising costs and client doubts. When the lowest dollar solution fails, they call in the next higher yet lowest dollar solution who now has to not only solve the original problem but fix any problems created by the previous low dollar solution. The result is that the higher lower dollar solution has to bill more than if they were the first on the job. If that person fails and another person has to be called in, the costs only escalate.

I still have moments when I will tell a client "I’m not the right person for the job." My father-in-law cringed recently as he overheard a phone call in which I did just that. That said, I also subscribe to the philosophy of "never turn away a sale." The two statements are in obvious conflict. The way to keep the sale and do the right thing for the client is to say "I’m not the right developer but let me run project through someone I trust." That is not always plausible but gives you a billable while knowing that your client will be taken care correctly since you will be managing the work.

After resolving Friday’s network issues, the client sent their company’s financial computer with me to get a new version of Peachtree installed. After spending the better part of the weekend removing spyware, malware, and viruses, I proceeded with the upgrade only to find it consistently failing. My first round with Peachtree technical support sent me retracing my steps through possible solutions already researched via Blingo. Slowly I began to think I had a bad compact disc.

I have visited one of the plants that mass produces cds. A cd is created much the same way an LP record is produced. A mold is created. Little plastic pellets are melted into gooey platter. And the data is pressed into the plastic. Yes. I said, "the data is pressed into the plastic." That sounds weird and inconsistent with the cd burners you have in your home computer. A cd writer uses a chemical process. Mass produced cds use a physical process which includes creating pits and lands that reflect the light from the laser differently. When the cd reader detects a change from pit to land or land to pit it tells the computer that a 1 was read. If there is no change, say pit to pit or land to land, it tells the computer a 0 was read. Your cd burner at home removes some the dye in the cd and causes light to reflect or not reflect thus emulating a pit or land. This chemical is prone age which is why a "burned" cd has a shelf life.

You’ll note the reflective metal (aluminum or gold) of the CD is on the top, under a thin layer of acrylic which is just under the label. The bottom of the cd has 1.2mm of polycarbonate plastic. This is why I cringe when I see someone lay a CD down upside down to "protect it from scratches." The laser focuses beyond the surface of the bottom of the CD and minor scratches on the bottom have no effect while a minor scratch on the top can destroy the reflective surface. Scratches on the bottom can be buffed out while scratches on the top cannot be repaired.

The odds of getting bad pressed CD are pretty slim. The Peachtree installation disc was just that. Because the odds are so slim, technical support is alway hesistant to send replacement CDs. It took some doing but they finally gave in. There was only 1 file I could not copy from the CD. They would not give in and put that file online for download. That I consider bad customer service. My client understands what has happened but it does not negate the fact that I told them they would have their machine before business opened Monday morning and I still have it on Wednesday.

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