I recently got a call from a customer from the southside of Brisbane.
I had passed her on to Stephen Jones (at the time, he was my contractor on that side of town). And the (very brief) feedback I got from him was that he fixed her problem within 1 hour, so I paid him his share (he collected cash, so he actually paid me “my” share).
Well, she says that her PC is displaying coloured squares and lines, and isn’t starting correctly. She also says that Steve replaced the motherboard and charged her $385 and $110 labour. And she also asked for a second DVD writer to be installed… but she got the new one, while the old one was removed (and not returned)…
This sound odd. And now that Steve isn’t working for Computer Aid anymore (mostly because he is impossible to contact), then it looks like I’m up for a long drive, and possibly the cost of some parts (since I cannot charge her for something she already paid for).
When I get there, XP starts, but after 1 minute, it locks up.
I also see that Steve replaced the mobo, CPU, RAM, and power supply… That must have been a lot of work, but I cannot tell what the original problem was (although the symptoms sounded like a faulty power supply to me).
I’m also told that Steve took the PC away twice, and needed to be constantly contacted, in order to ask for progress on the work. This is starting to sound like a “stereotypical” bad computer technician… not what I would have expected from one of “my” guys 🙁
Anyway, after a few tries, I’m sure there is a RAM fault. The RAM is a stick of 1GB DDR2… OK, At this stage, I don’t carry around any spare DDR2 RAM, as PCs that use it are still thin on the ground.
I take it with me, and at the office, I manage to get the PC to run long enough to do a RAM test (I don’t have any DDR2-capable mobos either!)
The RAM test starts detecting faulty memory straight away, and locks up after just 30 seconds.
Removing the RAM gives the usual beeping to say there is no RAM.
On the DVD writer front, I can see why Steve didn’t install the old DVD burner: the mobo only has 1 IDE plug (ie a maximum of 2 IDE devices (1 hard drive and 1 dvd burner)… He must have obtained an new IDE burner (where he probably should have got a SATA burner instead).
So it looks like I’m up for the cost of 1Gb DDR2 RAM plus a new sata DVD burner, plus another trip southside.
In the end, its not the cost that bothers me (much :-|). Its the bad reputation that I’m getting due to someone else’s unprofessionalism.
Sure, during Steves first 2 months, I rang all his customers, and all were happy with the service, and what they paid tallied with what Steve said he charged.
Every 3 – 6 months after that, we would ring a few random customers, just to make sure everything was still going to plan, but things seemed to have done downhill before we got a chance to pick it up.
I guess its just a risk I need to accept, given that calling all “contractors” customers is too time consuming… and I’d also like to give my contractors a certain amount of independence and trust.
If this pattern starts to repeat too often, I might start considering “franchising”. I hate the idea in principal, as a franchisee digs himself into a “financial” hole, and then has no choice but dig himself back out again, but I do like the idea that franchisees are using their own money to indicate how committed they are to working to my rules. I guess time will tell.