When you leave your local electronics store, the sales representative will put a huge smile on their face and ask you if you want to purchase an extended warranty. Many of us know that extended warranties are a huge cash cow for retailers and decline. But many of us also know the value of no hassle (ideally) support when something goes wrong -- be it with a $150 digital camera or $3,000 server.
As you buy technology -- especially critical technology -- for your business, you have to consider what support options you have in place for those times when technology fails.
Just this week, the screen on my relatively new Lenovo 3000 went bad. I called Lenovo and a customer service representative explained that, due to the support option I purchased (minimal), I would have to send the notebook back to them and wait a week or longer for it to be repaired and then sent back to me. Recently the keyboard started sticking and Lenovo sent me a box to return the notebook for repairs for this problem, as well.
Thankfully, the problem with the screen resolved itself and I know how to avoid the problem in the future -- namely, don’t apply too much pressure to the back of the fragile LCD screen. I also know now a remedy when the keyboard gets stuck: I give the "control" button a good hit and things will get back to normal.
What does this mean for you?
For critical technology that simply must be up and running, it’s important to purchase the level of support that’s right for your business. For my next notebook purchase, I’ll probably consider a higher level of service that includes an on-site technician.
I was speaking to Tom West, Dell’s director of small business, and he was explaining to me that Dell wants to be the trusted advisor to small businesses -- a vendor that small businesses can call on for advice and support. The advice is free. Dell will gladly help you find a technology solution for your business, hoping that when you are ready to buy it will be with Dell. However, for support, if you want Dell or any other vendor to show up on your door step within hours of your call, purchasing the cheapest or default support solution is not going to work.
When purchasing your technology, consider what will happen if it fails and what your needs are. Do you want a technician to come to your office and repair it? Some vendors have on-site service as an option; some have it standard.
If your company's server fails on Monday at 11:00 a.m., do you really want to spend 30 minutes on hold and four hours on the phone with tech support trying to get it repaired? It may give you peace of mind -- and increase your productivity -- to know that a technician will be there the next day to fix any problems you have.
Your local technology consultant is going play a huge factor in your decision as well. If you have a service contract wherein a consultant handles all your technology service and support needs, you may have some peace of mind already. Before making any technology purchase, talk to your consultant to get their guidance and input on the technology itself and the type of support contract you may need.
Electronic retailers such as Best Buy's Geek Squad, CompUSA and online retailer CDW are another option for your support needs. You can walk into their stores with your computer or have their service personnel come to you as part of your service agreement.
Another option, the one that many of us try first, is to try to fix the problem ourselves. The few times I’ve had to call technical support, I have often found the answer to my problem by carefully plugging my question into Google or asking someone in my online discussion group for help. Trust me, if you are having a problem someone else has already had, the problem and has an answer. Google or some other search engine is a great way to find help with many problems. Going to the website of the vendor whose product is giving you the problem is also an option.
When technology fails, make sure your business does not fail as well. Be prepared for technology failure and have a plan in place to get your computers, services, and whatever else you need for business working again.
Ramon Ray is an author, speaker, technology writer and former small business technology consultant. He publishes Smallbiztechnology.com, a website that helps small and medium-sized businesses strategically use technology as a tool to grow their businesses.