Love Your Computer–Hate Your Computer

Writing for Marketing Profs Daily Fix, Elaine Fogel writes about her love/hate relationship with technology.  I read her comments with more than a little sympathy, especially since I’m sitting in my office, using my laptop.  I’m on the laptop because my PC is having a brain freeze. 

It started innocently enough.  I was running a report for someone when the software that connects me with the company’s main computer crashed.  Oh oh.  That’s never good.  So I tried all the usual tricks, but no luck.  The thing is that the software was working just fine Friday afternoon when I left for the weekend.  What gremlins had gotten inside the metal box while I was gone?  Could it be the same ones that brought down the Green Bay Packers?   So I went to plan "b", call the IT department.

I know.  You probably don’t have an IT department.  I should quit whining.  Really, I’m not whining.  I consider myself lucky to have an IT department and a second computer to work with.  Without the laptop, I’d be cleaning my office or some other equally unpleasant chore.  The only people suffering from my PC’s current illness are the two people waiting for reports I promised them.  Unfortunately, I don’t have the right software on the laptop to get those particular jobs done.

No, the only reason I even bring this up is because I read Elaine’s post while my PC is just sitting there taunting me and I don’t know of anyone who uses a computer that doesn’t have war stories to tell.  It makes me wonder how an entire industry, especially one that we all depend on so much, can position itself as a supplier of products that are almost sure to fail–not once, but on a fairly regular basis.  Yet we keep coming back.

Imagine yourself in the same position.  "Yes, Ms. Customer, I know you’ll be happy with your new (Insert your product here).  It’s the state-of-the-art and probably won’t fail for at least a few months, although it’s not unheard of for it to fail almost immediately.  But, not to worry.  If you spend a few hours on it you should be able to figure out how to fix it yourself.  You can always refer to the instruction manual, but I doubt if you’ll be able to understand it."

"If you’re really stuck, you can call our customer service hot line.  You’ll be connected to our Midwest service center (or maybe it’s our Middle Eastern service center).  Anyway,  someone who almost speaks English will be glad to help you.  Hopefully you can get understand each other well enough to find a solution.  Chances are you’ll be told that your problem is the fault of some other product that you’ve connected to our product.  Then you can call the other company and try to get help.  But don’t be surprised if they try to blame our product.  You just can’t trust some people.  Oh, by the way, you’ll be paying for the call."

You have to give the computer guys credit.  They’ve put together a brilliant business plan–sell undependable products, force the customer to repair them himself, build in a fail-safe method for denying responsibility ("Sir, the problem must be with your printer, not with our computer."), then charge the customer for help delivered by someone in a third world country who works for two dollars per day.)

Of course there’s an alternative model, the one I hope you use.  Sell a quality product.  Educate the customer on its use.  Then stand behind it if something goes wrong.  You may have to work a little harder, maybe make a little less profit on each sale, but being able to sleep at night is well worth it.

But before you turn in, be sure you run a backup.

2 Responses

  1. Thanks for referencing my post! I knew people would empathize with my technology woes. Too bad that so many manufactured products just don’t last the way they used to.

  2. Elaine,

    Political party, religious convictions, or nationality may divide us, but we all have one thing in common. Computers drive all of us crazy.

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