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Customer communication problems

Hi, This a topic that I thought might be interesting as I have just
had my first communication problem with a customer that was caused
by a crashed computer. ( we have all probably had this happen at one
point !)

I was sent an attachment to look at and give a quote on… after
having transfered the art to our cnc computer, For some reason within
a matter of days , the computer which had the email on it with the
contact info crashed… The following day, the computer with the
artwork crashed… stopping us from being able to determine if the
design would cut correctly on a cnc machine… Well, with 6 computers
networked, We can still get online and we can still communicate with
the outside world, but each computer has it’s own email program and
a specific email address … When we lost these 2 computers for over
a week and a half, we could not contact anyone that where on the
email programs on these computers… we do have a backup system which
we used to reprogram the 2 computers … both had hardrive failures
and the harddrives had to be replaced with new ones… and as you
know, if you have a million gadgets hooked up to these , it will take
some time to get them back online before you can put in the backed
up info… Unfortunately, One customer that we could not contact due
to this problem became very upset with us as we had not gotten the
quotation to them as we had told them we would… and we could not
call them as they were a new Potential customer and their
phonenumber was on the computer that crashed

After having sent 2 emails explaning the situation, we still have
not heard from them and I guess we may have lost a potential

I guess my point with this is that people should realize that in
many cases, it would be best to call and find out if there might be a
problem due to technology that is not always as reliable as it
should be.No matter how many computers you have or how many backup
system are set up… something can happen and it may not be

How many other people have had similar situations happen to
them?Lost emails… crashes etc. Daniel Grandi

 How many other people have had similar situations happen to
them?Lost emails... crashes etc. Daniel Grandi 

Chuckle. What seems to happen to me is more a factor of crashed brain
cells managing to screw up the computer, without my realizing it.
Twice now (I think, might be counting wrong) I’ve managed to goof up
my email filters so that “watch” filters correctly sort mail into the
right folders for new incoming email, except they don’t get flagged as
new messages, but sit there looking like older, already read
messages, which I then fail to notice. It’s just a good thing that
I’ve not yet accidentally set them to be “kill” filters, deleting the
messages. At least this way, once I realize there’s a problem, I
have some hopes of finding which messages I’ve not noticed…
fortunately, the customer most involved in this has been amazingly
patient (hi Carl…). I did loose one this way last summer, or at
least lost the contact long enough that they weren’t interested any
more when I finally got back to them…

All of which illustrates two things. One is why I work for someone
else. The way I’m organized, I’d fail pretty quick were I trying to
actually run my own full time business (sigh).

And the other is the observations that the old adage, “to err is
human, but to really screw up, you need a computer”, isn’t totally
correct. You need both the computer, and the human to mess it up


 How many other people have had similar situations happen to
them?Lost emails... crashes etc. Daniel Grandi 

Daniel, everyone who owns a computer has either had, or will have a
crash resulting in the loss of data. Prior to going into the
jewelry business, I was in the service business for computers of all
sizes for thirty years. Computers fail, either from a component
going bad or a software problem (including viruses). The Key here
is a religious back up of your data. Every day or more often.

With 6 computers networked together, It might be wise to get a
seventh and set it up as a RAID server. IE it would be your data
warehouse and every byte of data that is written to it is paralleled
to a second drive. If one fails, the other is still there with all
data intact. This will prevent the loss of data because of a
hardware failure, but it won’t protect you if a virus gets loose in
your systems. Here, a good virus program is necessary. Neither of
these protections will do you very much good if your problem is due
to someone with a lot of confidence and little knowledge who tries
to “tune” your machine. To guard against this, you need a good
network administration process, where only selected people can do
real damage.

The backup is really key. I had this pointed out to me just a
couple weeks ago when a virus got loose in my network and it took me
about 80 hours to recover all the data. None was lost, but the
nature of the virus forced me to format hard drives so I had to
manually retrieve the data from them before formatting. When I went
to my backup CD’s, I was astounded to see that they were over a year
old, and of little use at that point. SO, do as I say, not as I

While I was going through my ordeal, a friend who has a small
business doing CAD drawings of commercial building HVAC systems had
a hard drive fail, loosing over 80 hours of drawing work as well as
address, emails, Etc. He sent the drive off for data recovery and
found that it was going to cost several thousand dollars to get
"some of the important data" off the failed drive. Even if you can
find a magic solution to a failed drive, it is going to be very

As to how your customers will react, it depends. If a long time
customer is affected, they might understand that this is not
something that you were in full control of and not at all expected.
In your situation with a potential new customer, it could be seen as
"the dog ate my homework" type of excuse for not delivering.

Don Rogers

The way that I always prevent technology from doing this to me, is
the use of a handwritten log sheet. I certainly keep all of my files
on computer and try to back them up regularly, but I keep this one
sheet in handwritten form. When a new customer is received their
name, address, phone number, and e-mail address are HANDWRITTEN into
a notebook (Index cards also work well for alphabetizing). This
is also entered into a database computer file. If the
computer crashes, you have the handwritten document. If the
handwritten document gets lost (fire, etc.) you have the computer
document. If you lose both documents at the same time, a lost
customer will be the least of your worries, ;-).

Daniel J. Statman, Statman Designs

Daniel, I feel your pain. We learned some lessons along the road
about customer relations via computer. First, all inquiries ge t
transfered to a contact sheet which gets printed out, so we always
ahve a hard copy with phone numbers, email addresses , fax, etc., for
the customer. we try to make immediate contact by phone, as voice is
better than printed word, as you w ell know. I use a program by
PowerQuest called Drive Image 2002 (latest version name) which makes
a “mirror” of the entire hard dri ve, inclusding all those
connections you’re talking about. Updated monthly or whenever we add
a new peripheral or softwa re. Full backups of all hard drives are
done weekly, to disk via CD burner. All contact info and customer
info is moved weekly to a computer that has NO INTERNET CONNECTION!!
That same machine has our running finacials and complete customer
databases. Guaranteed virus free and we can’t be attacked. Not all
machines require Internet connections, and we opt for complete safety
of NO connection on machines with VITAL info. Safe from ha ckers and
safe from loss. A dead hard drive will take less than one hour to
replace, configure and get running with all programs, peripherals and
r estored data.


Hi Daniel, I totally understand what happened to you! I work for a
cad/cam reseller, and I’m lucky enough to have a mini CNC at my
disposal…I mean, for demo purposes. Ha! Anyway, one of our
customers had their machine conk out on them and needed us to cut
one of their jobs for them. They sent me the WORST file I’d ever
seen, with about ten “garbage” tool paths attached. They were
incommunicado for a couple of days, I ended up making completely new
toolpaths because of it. I only hope the finished piece is to
their standard…It’s amazing how when you’re responsible for
cutting other people’s toolpaths how much can go wrong!!!