As consumers gradually upgrade to Windows Vista, tech support firms are beginning to field an increasing number of calls from consumers looking for help with Microsofts new operating system.
“Vista-related tech support is currently a small but expanding part of our business,” said Anthony Rodio, a senior vice president at SupportSoft, which runs Support.com, a site which aims to undercut in-home and in-store tech help services. “As adoption rates continue to grow over the next year, and more consumers upgrade to the new system, we expect to see the number of Vista-related calls increase significantly,” he said.
Support.com works by fielding calls from consumers, then connecting them through the Internet where their issue is diagnosed, and hopefully resolved, at a cost of between $29 and $99.
The biggest single Vista issue Support.com has been dealing with, at 26 percent of all Vista-related support calls, is printers that have outdated drivers or other compatibility issues with Vista, said Marc Itzkowitz, director of product marketing at Support.com.
But this is also one of the quickest issues to resolve, taking an average of just 10 minutes for Support.com staff to determine the version of the currently installed driver, find and install the most up-to-date driver on the computer, and test for conflicts between the new driver and existing drivers from other peripherals, he said.
A close second, accounting for some 23 percent of all Vista-related support calls, come from those consumers needing help upgrading to Vista, including installation difficulties, file transfer issues and making sure Vista works, Itzkowitz said.
These issues take an average of between 30 and 90 minutes to resolve, depending on the number of items to be transferred and installed, and involve an upgrade assessment to ensure the computer meets Vistas requirements and which drivers may be incompatible and need to be upgraded.
Migrating from a non-Vista machine to a Vista machine involves using either Microsofts migration tool, an intermediate storage device—like a memory stick or portable hard drive—or a network connection to move over important documents and Internet Explorer bookmarks, he said.
The third biggest issue, accounting for 15 percent of all Vista support calls, is incompatible software. These calls average about 15 minutes, depending on download speeds, Itzkowitz said.
These calls involve determining the version of the currently installed software, checking for updates or newer editions of the software that supports Vista, and downloading those versions if the customer is willing to pay for that software upgrade.
Some 13 percent of the Vista support calls relate to difficulties with setting up a new network or reconfiguring an existing one. These calls usually take about 30 minutes to resolve for two computers and involve checking the workgroups for each of the computers on the network and ensuring that the customer is using the same workgroup for all computers on the network, he said.
Top 3 Vista Support
Just eight percent of all Support.coms Vista related calls have been about peripherals, sound or video cards that are not compatible with the operating system, and those calls average 10 minutes. All other issues account for 15 percent of calls.
Itzkowitz maintains that the company typically resolves most of these problems the first time, meaning the call-back rate for the same issue is less than 1 percent.
Between December 2006 and January 2007, Kelton Research, a polling firm, conducted a national e-mail survey for Support.com of 1,001 Americans with PCs and broadband Internet access regarding technical problems with their home computers and “IT” people. Half of the respondents, all of whom were over 18, were between 35 and 54 years old.
Respondents said they had experienced an average of eight computer problems with their home PCs over the past three years; each of which took about three hours to solve, and that they wasted an average 12 hours a month due to problems with that home computer.
Some 58 percent of those surveyed said they were more dependent on their home computer than they were three years ago; while 26 percent said they were somewhat more dependent. That compares with just five percent who said they were less dependent now and 11 percent who were just as dependent.
While 30 percent felt more frustrated with their home PC, 56 percent were less frustrated and 14 percent reported the same level of frustration.
The survey, which was conducted before Vista was available to consumers, also found that consumers were equally split as to whether Vista would be problem-free or not.
Some 50 percent expected it to take up more memory and run slower, 34 percent expected it to have enhanced security and privacy features that would make it harder to use, and 30 percent expected the User Interface not to be as easy-to-use as what they already had. Some 23 percent did not expect any issues at all.