The universal truth of tech support: Frustration

A new study finds that consumers aren't getting the support they need from their computer manufacturers

A recent study from the CMO Council's Customer Experience Board in partnership with iYogi puts metrics behind what we surmised at the Gripe Line some time ago: Computer users are fed up with the pain and suffering of poor technical support.

The study surveyed consumers, most of whom consider themselves tech savvy. Nearly all (94 percent) describe themselves as dependent on their computers, with 62 percent noting their level of dependency as "high." Not surprisingly, nearly two-thirds of these respondents expressed a significant level of frustration with technology, citing slow startup, system slowdowns, and connection problems as their biggest hassles.

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But the most telling statistic of interest to Gripe Line readers is this: Two-thirds of the survey’s respondents said they rely mostly on their own knowledge for technical support. Morever, among those who have called on technical support, 41 percent said they were "not highly satisfied" with the experience. Add to this the fact that less than 30 percent of those surveyed pay up to $100 a year for computer support, and that 42 percent of those folks are not satisfied with what they get at that price, and you start to see a troubling, if familiar, picture for computer support.

It seems to me that a full year of reliable technical support would be well worth $100. Unhelpful support, though? Not so much. This study serves as a confirmation that technical support -- across the board -- is missing the mark. Consumers don't have a high level of confidence that they can pick up the phone and get their problem solved. Most people aren't willing to pay for that level of dissatisfaction, and those who do cover the fees don't want to cough up $100 for what they are getting.

That's pretty sad.

I spoke to Derek Kober, senior vice president at the CMO Council, and Larry Gordon, president of global channels at iYogi, late last week about their study. They agreed.

"Computer makers aren't giving the users the after-market experience they want or expect," Kober said.

According to Gordon, it hasn't always been this bad: "It used to be that I would buy a computer and it came with pretty good service."

Of course, in the era he's referring to, that computer cost a lot more than a PC does now -- and it did a lot less. "When computers got more powerful and much less expensive, service got unbundled from the product," said Gordon. "Now people are simply not getting the service."

For iYogi, a company that provides fee-based phone support for PCs, printers, cameras, and software programs, this failure by the manufacturers is an opportunity. iYogi uses phone support combined with remote access tools to walk consumers through problems or to take over and fix problems remotely. The service costs anywhere for $20 for a single call to $140 a year for comprehensive support for a PC and connected devices.

iYogi's Gordon has been following the discussion here at Gripe Line on outsourced, offshore technical support and wanted to weigh in on the discussion. iYogi uses offshore support, Gordon notes, but he doesn't think the fact that some of a company's technicians are offshore is to blame when this model disappoints.

"The key is to have the right amount of people in the U.S. and more people in India," Gordon says. "But in the typical tech support call, the caller starts at a Level One technician. And if that technician can't fix the problem, the call goes to Level Two support. We think it works better if the call starts with that expensive, Level Two person. That way, he can do triage and send the caller to exactly the level of support he needs."

If you are calling in with the sort of problem that can be handled by someone politely reading a script, the triage support person will send you to Level One. But if you've already run Level One support yourself and need someone with deeper knowledge and a command of technical English, the triage support person will -- presumably -- send you to that employee.

Got gripes? Send them to christina_tynan-wood@infoworld.com.

This story, "The universal truth of tech support: Frustration," was originally published at InfoWorld.com. Read more of Christina Tynan-Wood's Gripe Line blog at InfoWorld.com.

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