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When making a purchase, do you think ahead to the kind of support you'll get after?

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This is Leo Notenboom for askleo.net.

As I mentioned last week, I recently purchased a new desktop machine. My new machine had an issue, and the experience got me thinking about support and customer service, and how it so rarely enters into our purchasing decisions.

Typically when we purchase a new computer or software we spend a lot of time looking at things like features, functionality, price, longevity, performance and of course cost.

But we rarely look at what will happen when something goes wrong.

Now it's tempting to think that if you've purchased the right package or purchased from the right vendor, nothing will go wrong and support won't even be needed.

Trust me, it doesn't work that way. Something will go wrong. Perhaps not with every purchase, and perhaps not even something significant, but even with the best vendors mistakes can and will be made, issues will arise.

I'm still evaluating this new vendor's response to my issues. I will say that they're off to a somewhat rocky start having failed to respond to some of my emailed inquires, but once the issue became clear, the response was fairly quick.

Unfortunately many companies really cut corners when it comes to after sales support. It can be expensive and doesn't add directly to the bottom line. And to be perhaps a little blunt, if it's anything like the flow of support questions I get here at Ask Leo, the majority of issues that many customer service folks face are likely to be issues that people can frequently solve themselves with just a little bit more effort.

Unfortunately cutting those corners is a clear case of throwing the baby out with the bath water. Good customer support actually adds to the bottom line long term by fostering repeat and loyal customers. And, there are many legitimate issues that good customer support can and should be available to help with. Even a good approach for the simple and common questions will only foster more good will and loyalty.

Other than experimenting as I am with my own purchases, I don't have a magic way to figure out who's customer support is good and who's is not. It's all about reputation, and as such I would spend time browsing the web and particularly customer support forums. Particularly in those forums see how many questions are actually being answered and if any are being answered by company representatives.

Beware too that as companies go through various budget and other cycles, customer support is one of those items that often gets cut to "save money". Make sure that whatever information you find is current.

Let me also turn it around: how do you identify good customer service before you make a major purchase?

I'd love to hear what you think. Visit askleo.net and enter 12352 in the go to article number box to access the show notes, the transcript and to leave me a comment. While you're there, browse the hundreds of technical questions and answers on the site.

Till next time, I'm Leo Notenboom, for askleo.net.

Article C3348 - April 12, 2008 « »

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Leo Leo A. Notenboom has been playing with computers since he was required to take a programming class in 1976. An 18 year career as a programmer at Microsoft soon followed. After "retiring" in 2001, Leo started Ask Leo! in 2003 as a place for answers to common computer and technical questions. More about Leo.

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3 Comments
Ray
April 12, 2008 10:46 PM

For sometime now before I purchased anything of any value or that will be used a lot and will have a high annoyance factor if it doesn't work as expected, like you I read as much customer feedback as I can at sites like Amazon.com, ResellerRatings.com, NewEgg, HowardForums (for mobile phones), etc. If customer support stinks, there are plenty of unhappy customers wanting to tell you about their experiences.

More often the decision for me is, if I know up front that good customer support will not be available from the manufacturer or service provider, will satisfactory support be available from other sources?

S.E. Riazi
April 15, 2008 12:28 AM

You are totally right “It's all about support”. I purchased a dell desktop computer and originally I had 90 days warranty, but I paid for one year extra in case if something happen and guess what, motherboard died after 100 days.I called the customer service and they came and replaced it for free. They were very nice and quick about helping me.

mark schneider
April 19, 2008 9:13 PM

I'm lucky (sort of) the only machines that ever died on me were 2 ibooks and 1 powerbook. All just after their warranty expired so as far as tech support goes Apple was VERY NICE but did charge for the logic boards and hard drive. But they were very nice about it and that's ... nice.
I've never had a Dell, HP or any other machine die until the point of absurdity. My Acer running 95 still boots right up!
I also have had very good results from Microsoft the latest when Vista SP1 caused the first blue screen with Vista I ever had, the advice was very good and fixed the problem. I found it to be timely and accurate, both are necessary attributes of good tech support.

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