Time and the current PCA Pole 'Post Sales Support'

  Time Group - Chris 17:30 22 Aug 2003

I realise that this is unusual but I thought I?d give it a go?

At Time, if a customer does not have an extended support package, we ask them to use our premium technical support line on a pay-as-you-go basis to cover the cost of the qualified technical advice that they receive. If we were to include the price of this service in the cost of our PCs then we would not be able to offer the great value prices that we are renowned for.

To my point, I?ve just voted on the PC Advisor pole and was surprised to see that about 75% of users have voted for ?Free during the warranty period of the product?. Yet only 12% have said ?Paid for as required if it means lower purchase price?.

Does this mean that the users on the PCA forum would be prepared to pay extra on the price of their PC if they were entitled to ?free? support? If not, would you be prepared to have the current standards of support even worse than they currently are across the industry as a whole?

The reason I say this is because it would be almost impossible for a supplier to offer truly free support because PCs have very tight margins in the current UK market. UK OEMs need to be able to fund the development of their products and services through the funds generated by extended support packages and premium rate lines. Without these, under current conditions, many companies would struggle to survive in the current climate (see Tiny, Dan, Campus, Tempo, Powerhouse and the recent redundancies at HP) unless they severely reduced the standards of their support.

I?d appreciate any positive feedback that you have to offer on this issue. Please see this as a supplier trying to gain an insight into the users of this forum and the current conditions of support in the IT industry ? ?free? market research if you will.

If you have a consumer issue with Time then I?d appreciate it if you could post it on a new thread rather than this one (or you can e-mail me at [email protected]). I promise that I will address you?re issue as soon as possible ? I just want to keep this thread to the point.

Cheers ? Chris

PS ? I won?t be in work now until Tuesday so I shall look forward to your responses.

  Time Group - Chris 17:41 22 Aug 2003

my hyphens and quotation marks seem to have become ?s


  spikeychris 18:11 22 Aug 2003

Hi Chris

We have met at Simonstone a number of months ago if you remember. I'd just like to pick up on "cover the cost of the qualified technical advice that they receive" statement. This isn't a pop at Time, but first point of call help tends to be slightly less than qualified tech advise.

I remember having to ring Times helpdesk, (had to the machines where under the admin support of Time) the problem was that the CR-ROM drive had come of the track, the qualified tech told me to use a ghost image on the main drive to repair it.....we had a discussion about this and the tech was adamant this would work...we agreed to disagree and I sorted it.

Please don't think I'm having a go at Time..I'm not there are other helplines and I'm sure this is not only a Time issue.

Point >> if someone pays through the nose for support they should get the right response.



  Forum Editor 18:16 22 Aug 2003

that it makes a refreshing change to see a supplier asking consumers for their views in this way. I'll look forward to reading the responses.

Please keep them to the point though - use the email address that Chris has provided if you have a service issue you want to raise with Time. Alternatively, post your problem in a new thread - not in this one.

  parveen 18:38 22 Aug 2003

If I were a plumber and I fitted you a bathroom to whihc you added, say a heated towel rail, who would be responsible when the rail went west?

I work in support and we make PC's (your average plumber) People buy/acquire/steal all sorts of software and cram it into their PC's. An analogy for a lot of our customers is that their PC isthe cubby hole under the stairs, full of rotting junk.

Yet as soon as the software goes wrong, it s not the rail (they fitted) but it must be the PC. So we get the call and are expected to sort it out. Your average plumber would take a very healthy stance and suggest you either go sort it yourself-you put it up,- or he'll charge you for the pleasure-

As a consequence, the plumber continues to enjoy healthy profits whilst the PC manufacturer struggles with lowering margins. Businesses have for years recognised that support costs-indeed many companies exist just be providing support-but consumers have somehow come to expect that if they screw up, no matter how outrageously, the poor schmuck at the end of the phone will wipe their bottoms, talk them through cleaning up their PC and smile as the costs mount.

Good on you Chris for saying it like it is!

  rev.bem 19:10 22 Aug 2003

I think Chris has hit the nail on the head.

By not offering things such as collect and return warrantys or system restore facilities they are able to make thre PC's appear cheaper than manufacturers who include them.

However if you factor in Times charges for these extras there PC's do not appear to be the bargains they want you to think they are.

I would point out that i do not have anything against Time computers,i still run an old 500M08GB2(much modified)as a spare PC and i've never had a days trouble with it(to say it's only a microtower it's built like a brick out house and it gives you a hernia every time you pick it up)i just wish Time would be a little more up front with there pricing.

  DieSse 21:02 22 Aug 2003

I have no Personal axe to grind with Time - i operate in Spain, and have never owned a Time system - I have seen a few, good and not so good - just like everyone elses. I do build and sell and systems on a small scale - and do repairs and support to a larger degree than sales.

My issue is with the cost cutting strip everything down approach to service. Yes, good service has to be paid for, but computers are not like TVs and cars - they actually need good after sales service and support.

All that's happening in the market now, is that the suppliers who sell systems and give good support are gradually being stripped out of the supply chain by "pile-em high and sell-em cheap" tactics. It isn't necessary, does no-one any favours in the short or long run, and damages the industry.

Why are you working on such small margins? - because you are selling too cheaply - you then try to recoup the margin by selling unwelcome and unappreciated support services - which to keep the costs of the services down are often manned by less than competent staff.

It's not a receipe for a good reputation.

Why not a different approach - for instance recruit a nationwide team of independant, good, service/systems engineers - who make their own living (so you don't have to worry about their costs). Give them a cut out of each system sold into their area of responsibility - and for that they have to see to delivery and installation (a nice simple predictable cost). This should get customers off to a nice flying start, and give them someone to call on for future service.

For those who want to simply buy "a box" - you have the alternate no-frills service. With no exceptions, they pay for any service outside "return to base"

And finally - start charging realistic prices - everyone in this market could do with a bit more margin!

  DieSse 21:04 22 Aug 2003

Chris - a Pole is something to beat someone with - a poll is where you have a vote


  spikeychris 21:20 22 Aug 2003

LOL :o)

  Quiller. 22:03 22 Aug 2003

I also have no problem with Time computers. I have never owned one.

I am a system builder and upgrader. I build to customers special requirements, computers that are hard to get off the shelf. It is true that these machines are slightly more expensive than some off the shelf models, but they are built for specific purposes. Not only are current requirements taken in to account, but future expansion and upgrade of the machine is also a prime factor.

All of my customers have both my home and mobile number. They also know that they can call me at any reasonable time to talk through any problem or anxiety relating to the machine or it's performance. Whether this is a system or operator fault. Very few do as all builds are done with quality parts.

The thing is that nearly all of my business is through personal recommendations. Customers come back and ask if I can build one for there son or daughter going to uni. One for there uncle or granddad or you built one for my friend can you build me one.

It's the same with upgrades. I will not upgrade a machine unless I talk it through with the customer and see if they need that upgrade. Alright you may say that I have missed a sale but some people are misguided in what is needed to do specific tasks.

Also I, other system builders and some very talented individuals try to relax by helping others here and at other forums to sort out there computer problems. For free.

  Djohn 01:08 23 Aug 2003

Chris, it's truly refreshing to hear from someone like yourself, asking us how we would prefer to pay for service. I'm one of the majority, feeling that support should be free for the life of the warranty given. And "Given" is the operative word in this Poll.

I would much prefer a genuine twelve month on-site warranty, to three years that turns out to be worth less than the paper it's written on! This is where most major problems start. The customer thinks that the on-site warranty means, if a problem occurs, then you will send out a technician to fix it as soon as is reasonably possible.

In the real world this is often the start of a nightmare of endless calls/e-mails, and promises to return the call. Meanwhile the customer is sat at home waiting for the phone to ring, every minute seeming like an hour. If calls where returned as promised and one was kept informed of what action was being taken, then life would be much easier for all concerned.

I agree, it must be very difficult to balance things financially, but there must be a better way than what we have at the moment. PC's are not like most other consumer goods, you do not need to build obsolescence into the components, the need [Want] for faster, bigger, better specifications does that for you.

So if you can assemble and deliver a PC that will work straight out of the box, Then surly you will build up a client base that will not only recommend, but keep returning to you every few years for that new and better specified PC. Simply because of the quality and service you provided with the first one.

We also understand that many people will alter settings on the PC, but this very basic tinkering should in no way cause a complete crash of the system rendering it unusable. I also agree that once your customer starts to add extra hardware/software, then you should "not" be held responsible for this, and yes a charge levied to put the system back in working order is correct and reasonable.

It must be very frustrating for someone to phone your help-line, explaining in full detail that a component is Faulty on, or soon after delivery, only to be told that they have to send the complete system back for inspection. Surely the company can send a replacement part out to the customers who are competent to fit same, [ A bond could be held via credit card] so that if the returned part is found "not" to be faulty, the card will be debited.

For those who feel it's beyond themselves to fit, then a technician could call and fit the part. The cost of this could be built into the system, a true twelve month on-site warranty!

I often see your name in the forum, offering to sort out any problems, but really you should have no need to do this, Your staff, employed primely for this purpose should have sorted the problem in the fist instance.

My regards to you and your company, I wish you both well and success in the future. j.

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