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Jana Adkins: Sit back and enjoy the ride of online customer service

Business Notes

Posted: September 8, 2011 1:30 a.m.
Updated: September 8, 2011 1:30 a.m.

Many people I know went on short getaway trips for Labor Day weekend. I, on the other hand, spent several hours in my pajamas, sitting in front of my laptop, while a technician repaired my computer — remotely.

Saturday began as I begin most weekends, researching, prepping or working on a business story. I filed one story via email, then another.

I put off the task I most dreaded until last; figuring out why the new version of my anti-virus and anti-spyware wouldn’t install on my computer.

In the process of installing the new version, the old version had been uninstalled, leaving my laptop vulnerable.

Calling Webroot for technical assistance — I was greeted by a customer-service representative from India. Based on past experiences with help centers in South Asia, I gritted my teeth, expecting the worst.

Instead, I had the most pleasant repair experience, albeit one that consumed my entire afternoon.

First off, the customer service and computer technicians from India that I interacted with used their real names, both first and last, which I appreciated. Geetha, Atish and Kishoe are no longer named Gail, Adam or Kevin.

Everyone was pleasant and professional.

And, better yet, after it was determined my computer needed technical help before I could install Webroot, the entire repair and install experience was done for me remotely.

All I had to do was sit by, in my pajamas, and watch my computer screen for occasional communication messages.

At this point, Geetha, the Webroot customer service representative, became Geetha, the salesperson. She would need to connect me to a third-party repair service. “Sucker” alarms immediately went off in my mind — but I rationally considered the alternatives.

First, I am not a computer wizard. I would not be able to solve the problem myself. Either way, I was going to be paying someone to help me.

Second, anyone forced to buy a computer when the only Microsoft Windows operating system available was Vista, will understand why I would rather go on a road trip with celebrity chef Anthony Bourdain and eat culinary delicacies like a still-beating cobra heart in Saigon before having to work on my PC myself.

The great thing about the service was that the repair could take place online, remotely. I didn’t have to leave the house or leave my laptop with someone for repair.

The only caveat was I must remain in front of my computer during the repair period, but I did not have to remain on the phone.

The cynic in me hated hearing a sales pitch to buy something I was not smart enough to know if I needed.

The pragmatic in me calculated how much it might cost, based on past experience, to bring my computer in somewhere for repairs and be left without the one tool I need for work.

The operations person in me was intrigued by the concept of being able to sit at home in my pajamas while someone remotely repaired my computer.

While I felt reluctant to relinquish control of my computer to a help center I knew nothing about, I relished not having to take a series of actions myself.

Foolish or not, I took the bait and purchased a one-year, 24/7 technical-support plan from a third-party service for $169.

And I was pleasantly surprised.

The only drawback was that the job that Geetha estimated would take about 50 minutes turned into a nearly four hour repair job for Atish.

I watched everything Atish did, and every place he went on my computer. In return, Atish communicated with me via instant messaging, so that I did not need to remain on the phone.

I grabbed some cheese and crackers and a soda, caught up on some reading, played catch with my dog and, as evening neared, watched the news on TV. Later, I even ate a light supper.

It was a very civil experience. No frustrating instructions and no actions to perform or verbal communications to decipher. I was about as happy as one can be who is forced to sit in front of their laptop for nearly five hours.

By the end of our marathon session, the new version of Webroot finally installed, launched and began scanning my computer for any malicious spyware or viruses.

Atish asked me to check my computer before we signed off, ensuring everything was where it should be and that everything was working properly.

I did. Everything was in its place. We messaged “goodbye” to each other.

I might have become a sucker for a service I didn’t need, and computer brains are more than welcome to advise me. I only know I couldn’t solve the problem myself.

Whatever the case, I now have technical assistance for one entire year. And I don’t have to do one thing but sit in front of my computer in my pajamas.


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