As a tech consultant, I want to be aware of all tech resources available. Not just hardware and software, but services as well. I try to offer the best advice, even if it means less income for me.
Someone called me recently needing help with their home computer. They explained that they have a tech support plan with Best Buy, but they needed help with something that wasn’t covered by their plan, or that the tech support person couldn’t fix.
I’m aware of such support plans. For some people they seem like a good deal. I’ve thought about recommending such plans as a supplement to the services I offer.
It would provide a support alternative for times when I’m on vacation or otherwise not available. For time consuming issues, it could save customers money. I often will give a discount for unusually long projects or services provided to those on a limited income. So, an informal collaboration with Best Buy could actually save me and my customers some time and money. I consider this a hybrid tech support solution.
Annual Tech Support Plans
Best Buy offers a Total Tech Support annual plan for about $200 that covers many of the tech support needs people may have in a year. [Learn More]
Additional in-home services are billed at about $50 per service. So, if you have someone come to your home to setup a printer, remove a virus from your computer, and help setup your home WiFi, that would cost $150 for the visit. That takes your yearly cost to $350 or more.
Some services aren’t covered. For those instances, it would be necessary to pay an additional $100 per hour to Best Buy, or a local tech consultant like myself. Depending on your needs, this could add another $500 or more to your annual tech costs. Now we’re up to almost $1,000 per year for tech support.
Tech Support Insurance Plan
Best Buy is hoping that you’ll sign-up for their $200 per year subscription, and rarely, if ever, use it. For every ten people who pay the annual fee, perhaps one or two make use of the service. So, that $2,000 from ten subscribers helps cover the cost of one or two, with some profit left over. There will also be people who pay the $200 per year, but then need services not covered by the plan. If in a year they only have a printer setup at home, that will essentially cost them $250 for a printer setup.
This is how Best Buy is able to provide what seems like an impossible offer of seemingly unlimited support for $200 per year.
Remember — Service contracts are like casinos. The house always wins. Some people will get a good value. Some people will not get a good value. Overall, the group of people who buying these support contracts will collectively be losing value. They will collectively pay more into the plan than they are collectively receiving from the plan.
Drawbacks of Annual Service Plans
Here are some of the possible drawbacks to relying on an annual service plan.
- Availability. Getting a support technician to your home may take a few days if you’re working with a larger company. For in-person support, hours may be limited.
- Consistency. When working with larger companies, one can never be sure about the quality from one random employee to the next. Sometimes you’ll get great service. Other times, not so much.
- Efficiency. While employees are generally trained to do their work with competency, some are more efficient and effective than others. Even if you’re paying a flat fee, you still would like a problem resolved quickly to minimize your downtime.
- Experience. A large company will typically send out someone less experienced to most service calls. The person will probably be able to perform basic functions, but they won’t have the experience of someone who has spent their entire career in the industry.
- Local. When you support big box stores, a considerable amount of money leaves your local community and goes to the corporate headquarters.
- Unknown. Some people are not comfortable about giving a stranger access to their computer, either in person or remotely.
- Use. If you don’t make use of your service plan, you’ve paid money and not received anything in return. If you do use your plan, and have services not covered under the plan, you’ll be paying the base rate plus additional costs.
Benefits of Hiring a Local Tech Consultant
Here are some of the benefits to hiring a local tech consultant:
- Availability. An independent consultant can be fairly nimble at prioritizing support needs. If you need something done quickly, they can usually fit you into their schedule.
- Consistent. If you’re regularly working with the same person, you can be relatively assured that they will provide consistency in their work. Once you find someone who is skilled and good to work with, you can enjoy ongoing consistent quality.
- Cost. Someone who has experience and works efficiently can accomplish a lot in a short time. They can handle a list of questions without charging a flat rate for each question. If they setup your equipment properly, and offer some training on proper use, you should be able to save money over time.
- Efficient. A local tech support person, who over time becomes familiar with your equipment and needs, will be able to provide you with more efficient support.
- Experienced. If you want someone with more experience you can usually find that locally among available tech support providers.
- Local. More of your money stays in your local community.
- Personal. Getting to know someone over time can have advantages.
- Known. Most consultants will have a business presence on Google where you can see reviews from customers. If the consultant is referred by a friend, they are probably satisfied with their service. Someone who has a business in your community will likely be known by others in your community.
- Use. With an hourly consultant you only get charged for the service you receive. If a service call takes only 10 minutes, you’ll play only for 10 minutes and not the $50 minimum.
While I make a case above for the benefits of hiring a local consultant, some people may benefit from signing up for the $200 annual plan from Best Buy.
- Look through the list of drawbacks and benefits above. Consider if these points are of importance to you. If not, then a support plan may be a good fit for you.
- If you are someone who has frequent and time consuming tech support issues arise that would be covered under the support plan, then you could save money.
- You could also consider working with a trusted local consultant combined with a support plan.