Unanswered questions about the Nerd Herd

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I’ve noticed two things lately; first that everybody is going nerdy with their iPads, Xooms, and laptops. Second; today’s nerd customer service needs are under served.

Now that we’re working from home or launching side businesses (because no one is sure they’ll have a job from week to week,) the need for free wi-fi and a place away from home to do work has brought out a new nerd work force. More and more I see people wandering aimlessly through stores and restaurants with their eyes glued to their wireless tablets, watching to see where the store’s router is located so they can get a stronger signal.

Once the nerd customer finds a good, strong signal, the next hunt is for a power outlet so they can work without draining their battery. Every good nerd knows that batteries should be used mainly for running the device in the background between heavy computing times, but when actually “doing stuff” there really should be a power supply connected or at most, a power-cord-length away.

Are nerds good customers?

I know nerds can be a little off-putting as customers because we’re usually a thousand lines into code when waitresses ask us if we want any food. It takes a minute to remember where we are and switch into ‘social mode,’ which means we create a rather odd kind of customer experience. On behalf of all nerds, I apologize.

But most nerds have money, and (pardon the sweeping generalization here) we tend to drib and drab our earnings away one caffeinated beverage at a time.

We also really love food. Anything that can bring us out of our programming mode is appreciated, so really awesome stinky cheeses, super spicy food, or sweets that make our teeth curl are the order of the day, any day.

Serving your nerds

Here are some quick tips that will ensure happy nerd customers, the old school ones like me, and the new breed of business people and students that can’t seem to put down their devices:

Put up a sign up on the wall that tells us where your router is, or signs showing how many signal bars to expect in different spots in the store. This will indicate where the nerds gather so an unsuspecting Mommy group doesn’t get impatient huffs from us as we look for another place to pull in a strong signal.

In the areas with the strongest signal, install power outlets everywhere, or run a couple of extension cords for those tables or working areas that aren’t near outlets.

Set up a prix fixe for nerds who are planning to stay for a while. Nerds forget that they are hungry, but we are. If a plate of raw veggies showed up after a half hour’, I’d be thrilled. Cheese and crackers in another 20 minutes? Awesome.

Don’t put the routers by windows. The draft across our hands and wrists in the winter really hurts. And the sunshine makes our screens hard to read. We like warm, dim places to work.

We are friendly but not often very chatty. That’s because we are doing a lot of things at once. We consider your establishment to be our office when we’re there, so forgive us if we are a little distracted and business-like in our conversation.

Please test your wireless every morning — its as important as cleaning the bathroom. If the wireless is out, put a sign on the front door so we don’t spend time trying to connect to a dead router. We won’t come back.

The nerd trend

We’re coming, guys. Not one or two at a time anymore, I’m talking about droves of us. Nerd herds. As more of us are allowed and encouraged to work from home, and as our entertainment becomes portable, we’re out and about, wandering the streets just looking for a hotspot and a good place to stop. Will it be at your place? I hope so.

Marci De Vries is president of MDV Interactive, a web consulting firm in Baltimore. Reach her at marci@mdvinteractive.com.