Rescuing customers from their own foolishness can be a great way to gain long-term customers.
But not every customer crisis requires a full-blown data recovery effort, retrieval of off-site data and directions to the hot site.
Some are minor crises which, if they happen to enough customers and you can capitalize on them correctly, can provide a nice bump to your business.
Many customers are searching for support that involves service even in the absence of a hardware or software sale. Often, they've been lured by lower-priced offerings on the Internet, solution providers say.
"Online buying is part of the problem," said Chris Novak, a Chicago-based regional supervisor for Nerds on Site. "As the client gets into more complicated environments, sometimes just calling the product vendor's help line isn't enough."
Often, though, saving a few dollars in hardware means a much more expensive problem down the line. "Nine times out of ten, a customer that gets into trouble wanted to save a buck and thinks they can install the equipment themselves," said Brad Tulle, technician at Network Rescue, a solution provider based in Boca Raton, Fla. "The most common mistake is trying to get the deal."
Other times, product vendors don't fulfill the support promises made by sales people.
"These days we find product vendors, who are constantly pushed by quarter-end numbers, have a sales force out there trying to drill product into the customer," said Rob Eggebrecht, senior partner at BEW Global, an information asset protection and security consulting firm in Castle Rock, Colo. "A lot of times, we'll find that once the sale is made and the equipment is dropped off, customers will find that they need more installation and training than was included."
Sometimes, though, customers come through the door with a true technology emergency.
Network Rescue, for example, had an architectural firm recently who called in to fix a problem the customer had identified as a failing drive in a disk array. In reality, the operating system was corrupt.
"It was a big mess," Tulle said. "We had to find alternative solutions to keep them up and running, and allow them to access their drawings."
In the end, Network Rescue recovered the data from the server, restored it to a hard drive, installed that drive into a new machine and then made it a shared system that everyone could access until the network was back online, he said.