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How to Choose a Repair Service

When your computer isn't working, one of the first thoughts most people have is that it's time to get some service on it, probably from a local computer repair place. But with so many options, how do you make up your mind?

Do you choose a local "Mom & Pop" computer shop downtown or do you visit a well known, national chain PC repair service like Geek Squad/Best Buy?

Always, Always, Always Get a Specific Referral

The very best chance you have of choosing a great local computer repair service is if you're referred to one. If several people had a fantastic experience with one particular repair service, the chance of you receiving similar service is likely very good.
Personal referrals are great but it's unlikely that you would get enough by chance encounter to feel confident about the value of a particular service.
I highly recommend searching online for a local computer repair service. Many have reviews on various services that should make your decision making easier.

Big Ads Don't Necessarily Mean Best

A flier is not a referral, a web advertisement is not a referral, a full page ad in the Sunday newspaper is not a referral. Over time, you learn to think of these advertisements as knowledge you have about the value of the specific company but the fact remains that you only know what they've told you. A company can advertise all they want but the message will always be biased.
Don't get me wrong - the message might be completely honest and a particular computer repair services might very well be the best in town - but you can't know that from an ad, big or small.

Don't Reward Failure

It seems more than logical to anyone reading this, I'm sure, but don't get service anywhere that you've ever had a poor experience at. There are always other options.
There is no reason to give your business to a computer repair service that proved themselves unworthy of it once already.

Do a Little Reconnaissance

Yes.. I mean spy. Spy your heart out. Few, computer repair services rely completely on their service business. Almost all of them also have at least a small retail area at their place of business and of course the national chain services are usually attached to large retail outlets.
Visit their store, browse a bit, but pay close attention to other customers who are dropping off or picking up their PCs. Do they seem satisfied? Make sure you observe as many customers as you can. Try to be as scientific as you can about your little survey.
Observe the computer repair technicians do they seem knowledgeable, professional, and helpful ? They should. Go elsewhere if not.

Question Assumptions

Did you think that your only option for computer repair was the big retailer in the shopping center? Do you avoid national chain repair services simply because they're big? Do you assume that the "Mom & Pop" shop is more expensive than Geek Squad? Or vice versa?
Don't rely on the assumptions you have about a particular company or type of company to make a decision. Do a bit of research, ask around, and make some phone calls.
In my opinion, the computer repair service with the very best value deserves your business and the business of the people you know, no matter the size of the building or the size of the advertising budget.

Questions to Ask!

Before you drop your computer off at a local computer repair service, or call them for in-home or in-business service, there are several very important questions you should ask.
See some of these important questions below, along with the answers you should expect to hear. If you don't get reasonable answers to these questions, it's time to look for another local computer repair service.

"How much do you charge per hour?"

Asking the cost of a service seems like a question you'd be unlikely to forget but I am always amazed by stories of customers in absolute shock at the hourly rate for a particular computer repair service after the fact.
Don't wait until it's time to pay the bill to find out how much per hour you you'll be paying.

Expected Answer: "We charge [$55 to $75]USD per hour."
Rates vary, and so do charging schemes (some computer repair services are billed per service), but $55 to $75USD per hour is average. Too much higher than that and you're likely getting ripped off. Too much lower and you're probably in for sub-par service or a scheme where you're billed for a higher-than-average number of hours. Ask if they do a flat rate for your problem! Many seasoned technician's will place a solid and firm price on what you need repaired, based on there experience! If there is no flat rate for your particular problem, at least follow the guide lines below.

"Ask to tell you how many billable hours this might take to fix?"

No one wants to find out that it took 9 hours at $60/hour to fix a particular computer problem when a brand new budget PC might be had for half the final bill. Having at least some idea about how much the grand total will be is important.

Expected Answer: "I can't be totally sure, of course, but these types of problems usually take about [x] hours to fix."

Having yet to take a look under the hood, no computer repair service can tell you with absolute certainty how many billable hours something might take. Usually a good repair shop will at least open the cover, if your problem exists under the hood. If the shop is very busy, offer to come back when they are able to open your cover! This a is a sure sign of a seasoned technician, as a picture is to a thousand words, the technician , will be able to tell you plenty, based on the time they have spent under hood of many computers.

A really good shop, will say, yes I know that model, this is what usually ends up being the problem. Should this be the case, then , ask them to back that up with evidence, usually they will know where and how to find lemon models from past research and will likely take you to the Internet and should you a recall, of sorts.

Are you denied even a best-guess estimate on billable hours from a PC repair service? Don't do business with them. You can't be expected to enter into an agreement to have your computer fixed with no idea whatsoever of the likely total cost.

"Do you have a minimum charge?"

Not all computer problems take several hours to repair. A computer repair service might only spend 10 to 15 minutes solving a particular problem. If your problem happens to be one of these "quick fixes" you should be aware of how you'll be charged for it.

Expected Answer: "Yes, our minimum bench charge is one billable hour."
Most computer repair services will charge you 1 hour of labor for any time up to one hour spent working on your PC. This is sometimes called a minimum bench charge and is completely customary.

Sometimes computer shops will do free diagnostics, and then provide you with a firm cost, under the condition that you have the computer fixed at there shop. This would be a best business practice because you get to find out what and how your computer will cost to repair, and you are left usually with options of repair, refurbished, or replacement.

If you're lucky, your favorite local computer repair service will have a minimum bench charge of only 1/2 of their billable hour, however I don't see this very often anymore.

"Should I expect any charges other than the hourly rate?"

Many services we pay for in life are rife with hidden fees. That $29 USD oil change seems to cost about $50 when it's all said and done.

Expected Answer: "No."
It is not common practice for a computer repair service to charge extra fees for their standard services.
Obviously, if you require replacement hardware or a new piece of software, you should expect to pay for it but you should not expect any sort of hidden fees or surcharges.

"Will you save my files?"

Your computer itself is really just a collection of mostly replaceable parts. It's the term papers, photos your dog, and the first-steps video of your little girl that are really important.

Expected Answer: "Yes. If they're there, we'll save them for you."
Very serious issues with your hard drive, the device that stores your files, may mean that your files are forever lost, but this doesn't happen very often and of course would be out of the control of the repair service. If the answer is no, ask them if they can be recovered and get a cost for this service, should you need it. A seasoned technician will either call you and tell you once the computer is on the bench weather you need a new hard drive or not, and will tell you a cost of repair or replacement.

"When might I be able to pick up my computer?"

Aside from all the questions about how much this is all going to cost, it's important to ask when you might be able to pick up your computer. If you're getting in-home or in-business service, a related question would be "When might you be able to come out to my home/business?".

Expected Answer: "You should be able to pick up your PC in 24 to 48 hours."
The "right" answer to this question is really up to your personal schedule and expectations. I say 24 to 48 hours because that's the average answer. If you're quoted "an hour from now" that doesn't mean that the computer repair service isn't a good one. That sounds like a great answer to me! Alternatively, if you're quoted "a week from now" and that's a satisfactory answer to you, then great. Of course if you are at a seasoned technician's shop and they seem to have the correct answers waiting a few days, if it is a difficult problem isn't bad either, beside you are going to get perfect service with minimal cost.

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F1 Systems

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Jeff Kapitanski

Fond du Lac, WI 54935

(920) 517-3772

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