Dedicated technical support teams capable of taking care of everything from a crashed hard drive to a lost Microsoft Word document keep large organizations running. With the average annual salary of an experienced help desk technician ranging as high as $50,000 few smaller businesses typically can afford that luxury.
Many small businesses rely on local IT service providers that charge an hourly rate. They pay only when they need help and often assistance can be rendered by phone, using remote desktop software. However, those options often are still too costly for businesses trying to grow on a budget. For those businesses, the sharing economy provides a new option.
The sharing economy and desktop support.
Services like Uber and Instacart have revolutionized their respective industries, giving customers convenience at somewhat affordable prices. The services are set up so that everyday people provide the services to other people, rather than the work being a business-to-consumer relationship. It’s a great way for local people to find work doing what they enjoy at prices that are usually a good deal for customers.
But how does this apply to technical support? Crowdsourced technical support has already been available in online forums for years. In fact, many technical problems can be resolved through a basic Google search, which will lead to information someone has previously posted about the problem. Many of those searches lead to Fixya, which is a community of consumers helping consumers with their technical problems.
Onsite shared support.
As valuable as online help can be, though, some problems need hands-on help. An out-of-warranty malfunctioning printer, for instance, may require a person with hardware expertise to troubleshoot. Best Buy’s Geek Squad has been able to reach out to those smaller businesses that need occasional tech support, but their rates can be costly. In addition, Best Buy doesn’t promise immediate turnaround on computer problems, although its business services promise 24/7 assistance online. Additionally, some customers have found the expertise of the technicians to be unreliable, with technicians having varying levels of experience.
A California company called Geekatoo has taken aim at Best Buy’s customer base. The company provides services at prices starting at $29 in cities around the country. Each local "geek" is verified and can provide services like computer troubleshooting and repair, TV mounting and home theater setup and troubleshooting. The service is designed to mimic services like TaskRabbit, with costs depending on the brand of the product being repaired, the degree of damage, and the cost of any parts necessary to make repairs.
Utilizing the college crowd.
Another California company is joining the sharing economy space, as well. HelloTech recognized the large number of tech-savvy college students who are looking for a way to make extra money. The company charges $79 an hour to send vetted college students to a user’s home or business to make repairs. One thing giving HelloTech an edge is its speed of service. Unlike Geek Squad, HelloTech promises 24-hour turnaround, with the eventual goal of being on site the same day a call for help is made.
Unlike Geekatoo, HelloTech doesn’t plan to rely solely on customer support calls. The company plans to set up a series of websites that offer product reviews and helpful how-to articles. In addition, the company will allow its representatives to sell products to the customers they help throughout the day. If a technician sees a customer would benefit from a Nest Learning Thermostat, for instance, that technician could recommend it and HelloTech would make money from the sale.
The sharing economy gives consumers an alternative way to utilize low-cost services while also helping out those who need to make money. Sharing economy services have found a way to connect small business owners and consumers with talented IT workers at a fraction of the cost they’d pay a local IT service provider or a large retailer for the same service. This allows them to put money into buying better equipment and building their businesses rather than paying a high hourly fee to have a computer technician stop by.