A Lose/Lose Proposition

Posted 12.29.09

Let's say you're a thriving tech company with several local outlets.

You sell a new computer to a former customer who tells you she returned to you because she was so happy with the computer you built to her specs five years ago. She now wants a faster processor, upgraded versions of everything else, and plans to network the two, using the old one as a backup.

She pays in full on delivery, returns a few months later to buy a special switch because she's had difficulty networking the two computers.

Count one satisfied customer who will undoubtedly refer others to you. You know she's a writer, which means you will certainly benefit if she mentions your company as one of her suppliers.

Then she returns because all the USB ports on the new computer have failed. She asks you to check the motherboard. You tell her that can't be the problem.

Fast forward two months.

Her warranty is just about up, and she returns the computer to you, insisting that you check the motherboard. You keep the computer for eight weeks, as you send the motherboard back to the manufacturer twice because it is still faulty.

Finally, with what you tell her is a new motherboard in place, you suggest a reinstall of Windows. She purchases a second hard disk, worried that the original one might also be corrupted. But the computer is still showing the old motherboard and the new hard disk doesn't show up.

You don't respond until she finally files a complaint with the Better Business Bureau.

So the computer goes back to you again. This time you give her an upgraded motherboard, but your Technical Manager messes up the Windows reinstall. The customer is fed up, and writes to you asking for some compensation for everything she's been through.

You tell the BBB you already gave her the upgraded motherboard and reinstalled Windows without charge, and she has nothing to complain about.

When she protests, providing screenshots showing the botched reinstall of Windows, you have your lawyer send her a letter threatening to sue if she writes about the experience.

Is this not a classic lose/lose situation?

Well-versed in libel law, she's posted an article on her website, called How Not to Buy a Computer, where she outlines everything that occurred, in detail, without mentioning your company name. But she's already told everyone your name over the entire past year, when describing problems she was having to her friends and colleagues, asking their advice, and updating them as they asked if the computer was finally okay.

So she's out a few hundred dollars and a lot of time.

But you've lost not only a customer, but your reputation.

Bobbi's experience is documented in detail on her website. Go to: www.SimonTeakettle.com/computer.htm

Copyright © 2009 Barbara Florio Graham/Log Cabin Chronicles/12.09