Diagnose a Customer’s Problem BEFORE You Prescribe a Solution

It’s frustrating when companies don’t listen

Today I took one of my laptops into a computer repair shop for troubleshooting and repair. I explained to the Front Desk representative that my laptop would not save any Word documents due to a template error, PowerPoint graphics all appeared as a red “X” and that many web pages simply would not pull up. I suspected that the problem was due to an infection, but I left the diagnosis up to the experts.

Two hours after dropping off my laptop I called the company to see what was preventing my laptop from performing. I was told, and I quote, “Our Technician found no infections but he recommends a PC Tune-up to get you running faster.” I said nothing, as I was waiting for the person to get to the problem I conveyed…Word and PowerPoint not running fully. When I took my laptop in, I didn’t even mention the speed. In fact, this laptop is superfast. It has virtually nothing on the hard drive to slow it down. But the lady on the phone was finished after she suggested the PC Tune-up.

I explained that speed was not the problem at all and I reiterated the problems I was having with Word and PowerPoint. At that point I was placed on hold for 8 minutes (yep, I kept track.) When the lady returned, she said, “The Technician says the problems are related to MacAfee Virus Scan. We recommend you switching to another anti-virus software.” I replied, “I don’t have MacAfee. I have Norton.” Before she could say anymore, I said, “I’ll tell you what. I’ll just come by and pick up my laptop.”

Diagnose, Then Prescribe.

Clearly, this computer tech team is used to customers coming in for help speeding up their PCs. They operate on autopilot because that is the problem “everyone” has. This is a classic case of prescribing before diagnosing.

Prescribing before (or without) diagnosing is dangerous. Imagine if a doctor prescribed a medication without diagnosing?

Prescribing without diagnosing causes companies to lose credibility with customers. It’s frustrating. It ultimately sends your customers to the competition. Before you try PRESCRIBE a solution for a customer’s problem, seek to truly understand the customer’s problem. Ask questions. Try to replicate the problem. Really listen to your customer. Only after listening to your customer can you truly diagnose, BEFORE you prescribe a solution.


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Myra is a favorite training partner to Fortune 500 companies with her customized, engaging, behavior-changing (and fun) customer service workshops, working with McDonald’s, Coca-Cola, Frito-Lay, Michelin, Vera Bradley and other brands.

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