SMBs

Can you rely on the tech support your OEM provides?

LAPTOP Magazine has rated computer manufacturers based on the support resources they offer after the sale. How does the maker of your machines measure up?

LAPTOP Magazine has rated computer manufacturers based on the support resources they offer after the sale. How does the maker of your machines measure up?

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Last month, LAPTOP Magazine published their annual analysis of how the major computer manufacturers support their products. It's an interesting read, though with only two calls to each company's phone help line, the results of the tests aren't exactly statistically significant. Reading through LAPTOP's rundown, though, got me thinking about what support resources have been included with the machines that I've supported and how I've used them — or didn't, as was more likely the case.

I've never been in the habit of calling a company's phone support with "How do I...?" questions. That's a behavior more common to end users, so I guess that makes it a decent test for LAPTOP to use to determine the likelihood that the average person would be satisfied with his or her support call. Being an experienced tech support pro myself, I can't stand the idea of being walked through the flowchart printed in a call agent's binder. I've always preferred to use online resources to try and find my own answers before calling the manufacturer.

As good as online troubleshooting resources are, though, they can only get you so far. If you have an actual part failure, there may not be any choice but to call the manufacturer for a replacement. When I was working at my previous job, I'd always call the OEM's support line with a bulleted list in hand of all the troubleshooting steps I taken to date. I'd rattle them off as soon as the phone agent picked up, hoping that I would leave him shell-shocked by my competence and with no other choice but to send out the field service rep or ship me the user-installable part that I wanted.

In my experience, that's what really makes the big difference in the quality of support an organization will receive from the OEM that made its computers, not whether you've paid for Gold or Platinum support but whether you are an authorized service center for the company's hardware. At the last place I worked, our computer manufacturer had not certified us to do our own repairs, so we always had to go through the gatekeepers at customer support to get our machines serviced. Where I'm working now, we're thoroughly certified to work on the machines we use, so we can order repair parts directly from the manufacturer. It's not necessary to traverse flowcharts over the phone, either.

If you feel like the support your OEM provides leaves something to be desired, I suggest you look into getting your service center formally authorized to service the machines you use. Doing so might make sense only if you plan to do a lot of hardware repairs in-house, but being "part of the family" will probably give you a better variety of support when you need it.

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