If you are like most people, your personal computer is used for everything from bill paying to booking vacations to storing photos. And, like most people you've probably run into software or hardware problems. When purchasing a computer its a good idea to know what you can expect when it comes to technical support.
Some technical support that used to be free, now comes at a price and if you're not expecting it, the fees and costs may surprise you. Fortunately, most computer manufacturers and marketers provide technical support by telephone,fax or e-mail for consumers who experience problems. Having an expert a phone call away can be a real benefit, as long as you are aware of the costs that can be incurred for this kind of support.
The best time to find out about technical support charges and ease of access is before you buy your computer. Calling the company in advance for its support policy is a good investment. If you have trouble getting through, or the service is poor, figure that into your purchasing decision. Companies vary a lot in what they offer, and technical support as well as equipment warranty should be considered. The price of the computer should not be the sole factor, considering the potential cost of support calls.
If you have a hardware defect, most companies will take your call for free, and some still have toll-free lines. If something needs repair, help is also likely to be free. But once you get into how-to or software-related snags, the meter may start running. Sometimes software advice is free for a limited time. After that you may be charged for the advice. If you are calling long distance, and you are placed on hold for minutes or sometimes an hour or more, the charges can really start to add up. Some companies have a dual policy. If you place a long distance call during office hours, the help is free. After office hours, you may be required to call an 800-number, but you will be charged for the help. Not all 800-numbers are free.
When buying software, look for support information inside the package. It's a good idea to ask the salesperson in the store or at the other end of the phone any software questions you might have about software technical support. Keep in mind that many companies require you to register your product before they will assist you.
If you have to pay for technical support, one way to keep the cost down is to keep the call short. Also consider the following, before placing the call for assistance:
- Have your product registration and computer specifications ready;
- Be precise when describing the problem;
- If the computer is giving you an error message, be sure to write down the exact wording of the message;
- Place your call when the waiting time is likely to be shortest, like after business hours, but be prepared for a wait;
- Try to first solve the problem yourself. Double-check the installation instructions, the "Help" icon on the screen, or the trouble-shooting section of the user manual before placing a call.