Real Life Tales of Third Party Tech Support
By Natalie Hope McDonald
To them, "geek" isn't a bad word. Quite the opposite since the entire momentum of the Tidewater, Va.-based Geeks On Call relies on the colloquial way in which tech support is applied to residents and small businesses in need of IT help. The street-wise vision, which encompasses computer repair, network solutions, training and upgrades, even moves beyond the service realm and into third-party franchising opportunities, something Geeks On Call uses to evangelize its business model. Says Geeks On Call President Walter Ewell, the company manages more than 125 franchises nationwide.
The objective to provide on-site computer solutions side steps warranty companies and even manufacturer support that Ewell admits doesn't always cover all bases, especially when it comes to the most common customer complaints, like viruses and troubleshooting. For the most part, Ewell says that because hardware is so reliable, the sticking point for most usability issues has to do with solutions, which is how the company describes itself: a solutions provider, as opposed to, says Ewell, "a guy who runs around with a screw driver in his hand."
Geeks On Call was founded in the spring of 1999 after a seemingly innocuous conversation between techies. "It's one of those simple kind of stories," Ewell recounts. "A young man who worked for Gateway and their call center in Newport News, Virginia, that has since been closed down, met our original two founders in one of those kind of meetings after hours where he's picking up his girlfriend from work."
According to Ewell, small talk lent itself to shop talk. The young man's biggest complaint at the time was, says Ewell, he felt like he was spending all of his time talking to people whom he really couldn't help because the technical problems they were having had nothing to do with the manufacturer's warranties. With warranty failure at a bare two percent, a small fraction of customers were actually walking away from the hotline satisfied. "The customer may have a Bill Gates kind of problem where the operating system may have crashed; it really doesn't relate to warranty," says Ewell.