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LL

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Location : KCMO
Registration date : 2007-12-29

PostSubject: Request for input   Tue Oct 12, 2010 8:09 pm

Referring to my repair biz, here.

Computerly speaking, the past six months have been really bad: An iMac that literally crackled and started burning, followed by my #2---a Panasonic Toughbook---getting trojaned and the registry stomped. The fix for that was reloading the OS, but the accompanying CDs wouldn't read because of data corruption (it was the first time I ever used them for anything). I couldn't convince Panasonic that I was the legit owner without a receipt, so no new CDs. Then a really old Gateway was scrounged, and a few weeks later its HD crashed. So now I'm on #4.

In the middle of all this, the Gmail spam filter algorithms were changed without notice and many legit emails were lost. But I didn't know it for a long time. Many customers phoned after a few days, but I'll never know how many just said, "Be that way, then!" and took their business elsewhere. (Having a published email address means that after several years it grows until you get hundreds of crapmails a day, and though I started out checking the spam file line by line, once it seemed to be infallible I started deleting the pile sight unseen. Whoops. Damn you, Sergey!)

Anyway, since I live and work alone and demand is high, the time spent trying untangle the unending messes was pushing me backwards. Plus driving my frustration and anxiety meter into the red.

Today, though, an eminently logical gentleman from Brooklyn suggested I simply become a telephone-only business. Telephone reliability approaches 100%, customers get an immediate response, and I get to spend a lot more time working on pipes instead of dicking with computer stuff. Needless to say, I felt very stupid.

I can see no downside. I have a number of large whiteboards already mounted, and wouldn't have to change my tracking procedures much. Less info would have to be dealt with, actually.

BUT --- I'm reluctant to make such a fundamental change without tossing the idea around first. I don't want to get blindsided by some problem that I'm overlooking, then have to dig out of THAT hole.

So. Tellmewhatyouthink. Even if in your mind it's a nit-picky thing, or a low-probability concern. All input is encouraged.

Thanks, guys. Very Happy

EDIT --- Clarification: By telephone only, I don't mean dump the site, just replace the email address there now with a short sentence asking people to call. NO other change.


Last edited by LL on Tue Oct 12, 2010 9:20 pm; edited 1 time in total
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mark
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PostSubject: Re: Request for input   Tue Oct 12, 2010 8:34 pm

I'm glad you explained your predicament,,,after a couple messages I gave up,,,or maybe you're pissed at me,,,,personally I feel your better off communicating on the phone, nothing lost or deleted, you can cover all aspects of a project in detail with one concise discussion rather than 20 e-mails back and forth. The only problem I see is if your demand is high, you may be spending quite a bit of shop time answering the phone.

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Bub

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Registration date : 2007-12-15

PostSubject: Re: Request for input   Tue Oct 12, 2010 8:36 pm

Some questions:
1. How do new pipe smokers learn about your business?
2. Is it just word of mouth?
3. Would you go to pipe shows?
4. Would you advertise?
5. Would you need a toll free number?
6. Would more time be spent answering the phone?
7 Is there a way to simplify your computer problems?
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Doc Manhattan

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Age : 39
Location : Land of Steady Habits
Registration date : 2008-05-26

PostSubject: Re: Request for input   Tue Oct 12, 2010 8:47 pm

One possible compromise: do not use the computer for any unsolicited business-related communication. Keep the Web site--that's just an advertisment--but otherwise, all business can begin on the phone, and end with a delivered parcel.

For better or for worse, email is the best medium for a few scenarios: very specific instructions, attached digital photographs, etc. But most of what you do should be fine over the phone lines, and if an email is still called for, you can say in a phone conversation, "Okay, so expect an email from me/I'll expect an email from you in the next __ days." Then you'll know to keep an eye on overzealous spam filters.
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Puff Daddy
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Age : 53
Location : South of heaven
Registration date : 2007-12-09

PostSubject: Re: Request for input   Tue Oct 12, 2010 8:48 pm

Leave a simple $10 godaddy webpage up so people will be able to find you when they google you or google pipe repair. Keep it simple. Put up a few photos of your work with a phone number and mailing addy and explain that you do not operate an e commerce site so there is no email contact and invite customers to call. I wouldn't worry about a toll free number, most people have cell phones that don't charge for long distance. Continue to converse and periodically show off some work on the forums with whatever computer you do end up using for your personal stuff. You'll probably garner more interest this way than a fancy website anyhow.

What Doc said about the email by invite makes a lot of sense. You can create a gmail addy for invited customers only when needed for special work.

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LL

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Location : KCMO
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PostSubject: Re: Request for input   Tue Oct 12, 2010 9:18 pm

Clarification: By telephone only, I didn't mean dump the site, just replace the email address there now with a short sentence asking people to call. NO other change.
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LL

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PostSubject: Re: Request for input   Tue Oct 12, 2010 9:23 pm

mark wrote:
I'm glad you explained your predicament,,,after a couple messages I gave up,,,or maybe you're pissed at me,,,,

Exactly the sort of thing I knew had happened. My sincerest apologies.
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puros_bran
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Location : Brandenburg, Ky
Registration date : 2007-12-10

PostSubject: Re: Request for input   Tue Oct 12, 2010 9:38 pm

You are going to lose some portion of your business being phone only. I don't know how much and I don't know how much you can stand to lose.. But it will happen..

Sone folk don't like to use a phone for whatever reason..hard of hearing!..Stubborn from being spoiled by online shopping..etc



On the other hand, the idea of a 10 minute call replacing an hours worth (combined) email clarifications would seem to be more efficient.

Depending on the finances and scale of the situation it may make sense to hire a part timer to come in for a few hrs each day to handle administration freeing you to just stay at the bench all day.
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Wet Dottle

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Location : Littleton, CO
Registration date : 2008-02-27

PostSubject: Re: Request for input   Tue Oct 12, 2010 9:45 pm

LL, if you're looking for opinions, mine is that you should get yourself a good and reliable email provider. I'm sure there are many, but I've done well with Fastmail. From my point of view, email is more important than phone in many respects. But that's just me...
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puros_bran
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Location : Brandenburg, Ky
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PostSubject: Re: Request for input   Tue Oct 12, 2010 9:46 pm

Humor my newly found Google Fanboism for a minute...
Another option may be an Android phone/tablet. There's an app that sends your gmail straight to your sd card, handy for an extra backup to the cloud. If you had a failure you could pop your sd into another machine and bada bing..no lost mail.

Istuff and the new Winmo 7 may have similar capability.. Haven't explored it.
Unless RIM recently set up a deal, the only way to do it on blackberry is to sync to a server putting you back to square one..
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bluedigital

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Age : 47
Location : Cape Town, South Africa
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PostSubject: Re: Request for input   Wed Oct 13, 2010 12:09 am

I would suggest advocating your phone number as a primary point of contact on your website with an email address as a secondary option.
A small disclaimer that if an email goes unanswered for a length of time to contact you directly via phone.

International clients would prefer email and the local guys can just pick up the phone. This way you would have covered all your bases, save for carrier pigeon Razz
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Mikem
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Location : Glendale, Arizona
Registration date : 2007-12-14

PostSubject: Re: Request for input   Thu Oct 14, 2010 8:11 pm

My biggest question would be will you be exchanging the time on messing with the computer(s) or end up having to put down a project you are working on to answer calls. At least with the computer you can do it on your own time schedule. Would you end up losing business from people because they want to talk to a live body and not an answering machine? I know I would rather talk to someone live instead of leaving a message. Just my thoughts.
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PostSubject: Re: Request for input   Thu Oct 14, 2010 9:50 pm

Since probably 90% of the pipe world logs in to either BoB or Smokers Forums (or both), why not have them PM you ? Messages get through, are archived (presumably) until the job's finished (message[s] deletable), & no spam to filter at all.

What a Face

PS : I'm among the relieved here.
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beebiz

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Age : 57
Location : McKenzie, Tennessee
Registration date : 2010-09-12

PostSubject: Re: Request for input   Thu Oct 14, 2010 11:33 pm

I 110% strongly agree with and recommend Bluedigital's suggestions above. I am one of those guys who doesn't mind using email... unless I have multiple questions and some of them are based on the answers I get to the others. Such was the case the other day when I tried calling you. But, after multiple calls four days in a row and getting only your answering machine, I decided to attack my problem myself. I'm sorry, but I loathe speaking to a machine! But, had it been something that I felt painfully necessary to contact you about, I would have left a message on the machine before I would have resorted to email.

I hope this helps you out!

Robert
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LL

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PostSubject: Re: Request for input   Fri Oct 15, 2010 1:23 am

beebiz wrote:
Such was the case the other day when I tried calling you. But, after multiple calls four days in a row and getting only your answering machine ... I'm sorry, but I loathe speaking to a machine!

Just to leave a name and number? Sounds like that policy would create more difficulties than it would ever solve for you.

(I wondered who kept hanging up.)

Anyway, maybe setting the robo-pickup to six rings would help... I usually can't instantly drop what I'm doing, but have to set things down gently, and then shut off any tools, take off my headpiece, turn off any music that might be playing, etc., so find myself picking up a few seconds into people leaving a message.

Originally I thought setting it up past four might cause people to hang up before realizing there was an answering machine connected.






Last edited by LL on Fri Oct 15, 2010 1:52 am; edited 2 times in total
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LL

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PostSubject: Re: Request for input   Fri Oct 15, 2010 1:43 am

Yak wrote:
Since probably 90% of the pipe world logs in to either BoB or Smokers Forums...

That's what I would have guessed, too. But the fact is 80% (or more) of pipe smokers use the Net as a 21st century Yellow Pages, and couldn't care less about forums. A sizable percentage never access the Net at all (that one tends to be a generation thing).

Another surprise: Only a handful of the truly prodigious collectors---guys whose collections are worth a million or more---are even generally known to the PipeWorld. The rest just stay in the shadows.

Anyway, a forum-only connection wouldn't cut it.


Last edited by LL on Fri Oct 15, 2010 1:53 am; edited 1 time in total
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LL

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PostSubject: Re: Request for input   Fri Oct 15, 2010 1:46 am

bluedigital wrote:

A small disclaimer that if an email goes unanswered for a length of time to contact you directly via phone.

I never thought that would be necessary, but I was wrong. (It seemed obvious.)

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beebiz

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PostSubject: Re: Request for input   Fri Oct 15, 2010 1:55 am

LL wrote:
beebiz wrote:
Such was the case the other day when I tried calling you. But, after multiple calls four days in a row and getting only your answering machine ... I'm sorry, but I loathe speaking to a machine!

Just to leave a name and number? Sounds like that policy would create more difficulties than it would ever solve for you.

(I wondered who kept hanging up.)

Would setting the robo-pickup to six rings help? I often can't instantly drop what I'm doing, but have to set things down gently, take off my headpiece, turn off any music that might be playing, etc.




I wasn't complaining. I was simply stating fact in response to your having said, "All input is encouraged." And, the comment about the answering machine was tendered in attempt to show how much less I desired to use the email (But, had it been something that I felt painfully necessary to contact you about, I would have left a message on the machine before I would have resorted to email.).

My not leaving a name and number was actually more out of consideration for you than for me. Not knowing how you were set up for long distance calls, I didn't want you to be out the expense of a long distance phone call that might end up not earning you some income. It's called consideration for others. And, it was exactly what I was showing you... consideration.

And, no... my position on answering machines does not cause me more difficulties than it solves. I just simply won't make use of a machine unless the subject about which I am calling is a high priority to me or I have no other option.

If my calling and hanging up after I reached the answering machine was cause for your being interrupted, I extend my apologies. And, if phone calls create that much of a disturbance for you, it might be a good idea to use email as a primary means of contact.

Robert
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LL

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PostSubject: Re: Request for input   Fri Oct 15, 2010 2:01 am

Mikem wrote:
My biggest question would be will you be exchanging the time on messing with the computer(s) or end up having to put down a project you are working on to answer calls. At least with the computer you can do it on your own time schedule. Would you end up losing business from people because they want to talk to a live body and not an answering machine? I know I would rather talk to someone live instead of leaving a message. Just my thoughts.

Frequent interruptions are welcome, I've discovered. The eye strain, muscle strain, and concentration required to work in a "watchmaker's posture" is surprising. Almost impossible to do for more than two hours straight. I typically do 60-90 minutes on / 30-60 minutes off the entire time I'm awake to avoid headaches, repetitive stress injuries, and so forth. (Which also explains how I seem to be on BoB for entire afternoons, some days.)
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LL

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PostSubject: Re: Request for input   Fri Oct 15, 2010 2:07 am

beebiz wrote:

My not leaving a name and number was actually more out of consideration for you than for me. Not knowing how you were set up for long distance calls, I didn't want you to be out the expense of a long distance phone call that might end up not earning you some income. It's called consideration for others. And, it was exactly what I was showing you... consideration.

I appreciate the thought. Very Happy No worries though, I have all-you-can-eat long distance. $25 a month extra, I think, and pays for itself many times over.

Quote :

If my calling and hanging up after I reached the answering machine was cause for your being interrupted, I extend my apologies. And, if phone calls create that much of a disturbance for you, it might be a good idea to use email as a primary means of contact.


No apology necessary. In fact, calls usually make for needed breaks. See my previous post.
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LL

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PostSubject: Re: Request for input   Fri Oct 15, 2010 2:27 am

mark wrote:
...personally I feel your better off communicating on the phone, nothing lost or deleted, you can cover all aspects of a project in detail with one concise discussion rather than 20 e-mails back and forth.

You are right there, certainly with some guys, anyway. The record so far is 29 emails for one project (box of pipes). Rolling Eyes

Everything could have been easily covered with one call and one follow-up, I think. Say 30 minutes for the first, and 15 for the second. The 29 emails probably took 6-8 hrs.

I've also discovered that the human connection in and of itself makes things easier for many customers. Many feel an appreciable level of anxiety when their "children" leave their sight, and relax when they've met the guy who is going to be caring for them.
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LL

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PostSubject: Re: Request for input   Fri Oct 15, 2010 2:31 am

Doc Manhattan wrote:
One possible compromise: do not use the computer for any unsolicited business-related communication. Keep the Web site--that's just an advertisment--but otherwise, all business can begin on the phone, and end with a delivered parcel.

For better or for worse, email is the best medium for a few scenarios: very specific instructions, attached digital photographs, etc. But most of what you do should be fine over the phone lines, and if an email is still called for, you can say in a phone conversation, "Okay, so expect an email from me/I'll expect an email from you in the next __ days." Then you'll know to keep an eye on overzealous spam filters.

This comes closest to my current thinking. The best of both worlds.

Two small additions might be a new phone that has an additional outboard handset, kept right on my bench, and rigging the lights to flash (or maybe a loud buzzer) for when the vacuum system is running.
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LL

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PostSubject: Re: Request for input   Fri Oct 15, 2010 3:06 am

Oh yeah --- P.S. to Beebiz/Robert: Shoot me your # via PM and I'll ring you tomorrow if you still want to talk. Or alternatively, if you try me again and get my machine, just say "This is Robert -- 867-5309" no need for a message---and I'll call back asap.
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beebiz

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PostSubject: Re: Request for input   Fri Oct 15, 2010 3:39 am

LL wrote:
Oh yeah --- P.S. to Beebiz/Robert: Shoot me your # via PM and I'll ring you tomorrow if you still want to talk. Or alternatively, if you try me again and get my machine, just say "This is Robert -- 867-5309" no need for a message---and I'll call back asap.
That's a very kind offer! With my sleep schedule continually so screwed up, it's hard to tell if I am going to be up around 8:00 AM or just going to bed! Rolling Eyes So, it would probably be more productive for me to call you. And, I will do that some time tomorrow (which is actually now today, Friday).

What time do you normally try to "close up shop" for the day? That's another of my pet peeves. I try my best to respect a person's time away from their work. Ergo, unless it is some kind of a life or death emergency, I don't like to bother someone with business questions during their "down time." Wink

Robert
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LL

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PostSubject: Re: Request for input   Fri Oct 15, 2010 4:58 am

beebiz wrote:

What time do you normally try to "close up shop" for the day? That's another of my pet peeves. I try my best to respect a person's time away from their work. Ergo, unless it is some kind of a life or death emergency, I don't like to bother someone with business questions during their "down time."

Lately I've been staying up late and getting up late. 3-4 am to 11:00 am or so. Work time never ends, I do an on/off thing the entire time I'm awake that adds up to 8-10 hrs/day in the shop. So, any time after noon MST and before midnight or so is fine. (actually, a couple hours later than that, but I doubt that's an option on your EST end.
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