Sweet Support Soothes Small Business

By Lauren Simonds | Posted August 02, 2007

One of the consistent truths about big-business technology is that, eventually, it becomes both affordable and manageable enough so that small businesses can take advantage of it. Every time you turn around it seems there's a technology that's newly available or newly improved for small businesses. And today it's tech support's turn.

Support.com, a service from SupportSoft Inc., is designed to provide remote tech support to consumers and small businesses. There's nothing new about remote technical support – companies such as PlumChoice, HiWired and others have been providing that type of service for years. What differentiates Support.com, according Eleanor Lacey, the company's vice president of corporate development, is the patented, proprietary software it uses to diagnose and repair your PC problems.

"SupportSoft has been developing tech support software for big Internet service providers and Fortune 100 companies for nearly ten years, and we own seven patents" said Lacey. "Those companies use our automated software technology to provide their employees and customers with remote tech support."

It's this 10-year history that Lacey said gives Support.com a better understanding of what people go through when their technology fails them. "Empathy is a word we care about a lot around here," she said. "Too often tech support reps act like they don't care. There's no sense of urgency. That's what we're trying to combat."

Typically people will call Support.com with a list of symptoms, but no idea of what's wrong with their computer. The tech rep, the company calls them Solutions Engineers, runs an initial automated diagnostic scan, which Lacey said takes anywhere from 30 to 90 seconds. The scan examines 80 different settings, from the mundane (empty trash bin) to the complex (registry settings).

"Running a scan like this manually would take about 18 hours," said Lacey. "Our proprietary software provides customers with faster, more accurate results. No one else today can do that. And this kind of technology simply wasn't available to small businesses in the past."

Services range from system tune-ups, virus removal, setting up a wireless network and more. Pricing starts at $29 and tops out at $99. Lacey said this pricing structure is yet another way Support.com differentiates itself from the competition.

"Our Solution Engineers will give you a price to fix the problem, and that's the price, even if it turns out to be more involved," she said. The only possible exception is if they find a virus in addition to the initial diagnosis. "That would probably cost more," Lacey said. However, if your problem isn't solved or if you're unhappy, Support.com promises to refund your money.

Personal Experience
Nancy Sartanowicz, a higher education and health care consultant, is the president of Workplace Strategies, LLC, a business she runs out of her home in Medford, Mass. About three months ago she put in a call to Support.com.

"At this point, I don't even remember what the initial tech problem was," she said. "What I do remember is I had run out of options on the Microsoft help site, and I was still stuck. The tech at Support.com was prompt, friendly and not at all robotic."

Sartanowicz said she appreciated the tech's reassuring-yet-professional manner as he proceeded to solve the problem. "He never rushed me and he never made me feel stupid about my computer. I also like how he explained each step in the process and asked my permission before he made any changes."

Overall, Sartanowicz said her Support.com experience was very good and that she would use the service again should the need arise. "I was with a potential client recently, who once had her own business but gave it up due to lack of good technical support. I was happy to tell her that things have really changed."

Lacey sees that kind of endorsement as the result of Support.com's concerted effort. "We want to turn technical support on its head and make it something people don't have to dread. They'll feel good if the problem's solved and they're treated well."

Lauren Simonds is the managing editor of SmallBusinessComputing.com

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