SAN FRANCISCO (08/14/2000) - A small or midsize business that lacks the technical resources to support far-flung employees or those who work odd hours may find another helping hand on the Web.
An Internet-based technical-support service targeted at small businesses is making its debut this week from All.com Inc..
For a subscription price of US$19.95 monthly per desktop, All.com provides round-the-clock support for general problems with desktop PC hardware, peripherals, and common software applications. While that pricing and level of support can also be found through traditional call centers, All.com touts its guaranteed 5-minute response time and online access as advantages.
To get support, a customer logs on to the All.com Web site and requests help. A TechAdvisor, an All.com support technician, will respond within 5 minutes, says Scott Abel, All.com chief operating officer. With the customer's permission, All.com's electronic-support software remotely gathers and transmits diagnostic data about the computer to the technician.
All.com's TechAdvisors have an average of eight years of help-desk experience and have completed certification training equivalent to Dell's technical training, according to Abel. All.com formed a strategic partnership with Dell, which helped develop the TechAdvisor certification training and mentoring program.
TechAdvisors can help customers by repairing simple or complex problems, performing system tune-ups, or just answering routine questions. To ensure security and privacy, All.com uses technologies from Motive Communications that let customers control access to their desktops and require verification before any data leaves the machine. Furthermore, everything is encrypted before it is transmitted.
All.com is a spinoff of Motive Communications, which provides electronic-support software for the enterprise. Abel, an All.com founder, was a Motive cofounder and vice president.
Small Business, Big Customer
Approximately 28 percent of small businesses online are already seeking support on the Internet, according to market research firm Cyber Dialogue.
One particular advantage of online support is that customers don't have to wait on hold for what seems like an eternity. The Internet even has an edge over on-site support, with no need for customers to initiate a call and risk being put on hold, and no need for them to wait for a service technician to arrive.
And charges for on-site services typically run $50 to $100 an hour. The flip side of Internet support, however, is determining how much can be repaired without having a technician present to pop the computer's hood and delve inside.
All.com targets its services at companies with up to 300 desktops, which by some measures is not that small. For such businesses, All.com hopes to virtually eliminate the need for on-site troubleshooting.
"The small-business computing community has been historically underserved in the world of technical support," notes Ana Volpi, a senior analyst with IDC.
She believes All.com meets the needs of small businesses with its online diagnostic and resolution software. "The service is more affordable than traditional service contracts and is available whenever it's needed," she adds.
According to an IDC study, 95 percent of U.S. companies are small businesses, making up about half the U.S. workforce.
Before launching its subscription service, All.com ran a pilot program that assisted more than 30,000 computer users; the company claims the program earned a 96 percent rating of "Excellent." The company does not service Macintosh systems at this time.