What do you do when a customer realizes that they have done something really stupid? How do you handle the embarrassment of someone who feels about two inches tall?
A call came in last week stating that the customer's machine was totally dead.
Past experience has shown me that such a statement can mean anything from a pile of smouldering, twisted metal to a machine that runs perfectly well but has a slight squeak in the cooling fan. I called ahead and asked about the problem.
"Is there a power light showing on the front?"
"No! I told you, it's completely dead, not a light, not a noise!"
"OK," I told him, "I'll be there in about thirty minutes."
"Make it fifteen; I've got a deadline to meet."
I pulled up outside and collected my toolbox from the back of the car. The receptionist showed me through to where the machine was housed. I pressed the power switch and, sure enough, nothing happened.
Being an experienced professional I looked at the back of the machine and followed the power cord to the socket, or tried to. The cord came to an abrupt end about eighteen inches from the machine where it had been neatly severed. The rest of the cable was still hanging from the socket. I unplugged the remains and put them aside to show the customer.
I went out to the car to look for a replacement cable. When I got back, the customer was waiting for me, the two pieces of cable in his hand.
"What's this?" he barked.
"That's your power cable."
"Ah," he said. "That would explain why it isn't working."
I plugged in a new cable and switched the machine on. Everything was working properly, so I turned to leave. As I made to leave, another person came into the room.
He looked annoyed and shoved the table that held the machine back into the wall.
"I can't stand things looking untidy!" he complained.
All three of us noticed that the machine had stopped working. A quick inspection showed me that the metal edge of the table had severed the cord as it slammed against the wall, only this time he had managed to cut it in two places. Thankfully, I had another cable in the car.
It proved to reinforce what I have always thought: the more serious the problem seems, the simpler the solution is likely to be.