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Virgin enters tech support market

by Scott Bicheno on 16 December 2009, 14:27

Tags: Virgin (NASDAQ:VMED)

Quick Link: HEXUS.net/qave5

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Shiny thing not working

Virgin Group has announced the launch of its first new UK consumer business in three years in the form of Virgin Digital Help - a tech support service that aims to help mainstream consumers "make digital stuff work".

The new company will be competing directly with DSGi's Tech Guys and the US Geek Squad. Reuters reports that the company has been created in partnership with Sutherland Global Services - a business process outsourcing company.

This seems to be very much a mass-market play by Virgin; dumbing-down its marketing and service to cater for even the most technologically challenged. The announcement says Virgin did loads of research prior to starting the company and "the results were shocking, to say the least."

In essence, what supposedly shocked the researchers was the fact that some people get annoyed when technology doesn't work. Nice work if you can get it. In response to these ground-breaking revelations, Virgin is offering a ‘free' downloadable toolkit called the Desktop Digital Helper.

We downloaded this app (see below) and had a bit of a play. The interface is clean and simple and encourages you to run a number of scans designed to optimise the performance of your PC. Once these are done, you need to upgrade for £2.99 per month to fix all the identified issues in one go. You can also find out what each individual ‘fix' is and pretty much all of them require you to pay, bar certain relatively easy tasks you can do for yourself for free, like clearing temporary Internet files.

There are a few other free things, like an FAQ section, and you can ring up the tech support team for free. However, actually getting some material help from them costs money - we were quoted £29.99 for a remote-access ‘spring clean'.

While we find all the ‘free' enticements a little bit misleading, this looks like a decent effort to bring tech support to the masses. Whether end-users will find the prices appealing, and the remote service as satisfactory as ringing up their local techie remains to be seen.



HEXUS Forums :: 7 Comments

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Can't say that I'm expecting this to dent my business - far from it.

My suspicion (and I hope I'm wrong - for consumers' sakes) is that this will be just another source of horror stories.

Back around 2000, I received a press release from a big company (not this company, I hasten to add) that had started offering consumers a similar sort of service and claimed to have on tap a whole series of “experts” you could ring for help on a chargeable basis.

Hoping for the best but expecting the worst, I called up pretending to be a consumer with a problem and spoke to an appropriate expert who, sadly, turned out to be nothing of the sort. The whole business would have been laughable had it not been so sad.

And, on the subject of sad, I recently set up a client's new Dell Win7 (64-bit) desktop PC that I'd helped him buy - only to find that the Hauppauge PCIe hybrid TV tuner stopped working after a few days.

Spent a merry time on the phone speaking to Dell know-nothing first-level support - but was left pulling my hair out (having been cut off twice on previous calls, while hanging on) after being told that the solution to the problem was to do a reinstall of Windows 7!

I asked the guy why he suggested this and he said he'd talked someone through doing this just the other day and it had cured the problem. When I asked him if he thought it was an appropriate suggestion and a permanent cure or temporary, he effectively admitted he didn't know.

My big concern there, of course, is that a re-install would have possibly doubled the amount I needed to charge my client who was already set to pay me a goodly sum of money for setting up and optimising the PC, copying over data from his old PC (inc email databases, not just pics, docs n music) and installing half a dozen key apps (inc MS Office), as well as hardware such as a printer and a scanner.

In the end, I spoke to (okay, shouted at) someone in sales about this daft advice and demanded my client get a refund on the TV tuner card.

Having done that, I pulled the card out and grabbed the drivers off the Dell's HDD.

I'll be testing it one of my own Win 7 Home Premium 64-bit testbeds.

My very strong suspicion is that I will find that the hardware is faulty - and at that point, I'll be speaking to Dell again.


(Oh, and no, I wasn't wearing any kind of HEXUS hat during my dealings with Dell)
Oh lord alrighty, based on their tech support for their OWN internet services I wouldn't trust them to teach me how to fold paper!
I am also quite sceptical with Virgin's motives especially as there could be a chance that they could be cross selling their own products whilst offering this gadget help…
Don't BT also do this? Who uses them?

They can't support their own network god help you if you think they can support yours.
Thing is, this isn't going to catch out hexites (or anyone else who can use google), but those poor people who have only just ventured into the IT world and have no one else to tell them any better.

'Course I could be wrong, the service may be exemplary, doubt it though.