According to the latest Consumer Reports Tech support Survey (subscription required), independent technical support is better than the offers by manufacturers.
While manufacturers’ free support on average were able to resolve only 53% of issues, the same organizations increased their hits to 59%, when paid. Notable exceptions where Apple (80%) and Lenovo (80%), the former IBM Consumer PCs. However the support services affiliated with major retail chains did solve 84% of issues and other independent tech support organizations solved 93% of tickets. Independent and paid services were also more responsive to pick up the phone and had more knowledgeable staff.
Lets speculate, this could be a phenomenon of “I get what I’m paying for” and users of paid services are more satisfied than if it is for free. On the other hand this could be a real observation that independent tech support is better and more qualified.
I guess there are multiple effects in play. First, an independent shop can’t point the finger to some culprit outside of their jurisdiction. It is so common that the hardware manufacturer blames the OS and the OS blames the application and the application blames the driver from the hardware manufacturer. If you are independent you need to focus on solutions and not on blame.
Also, if you are paid by incident, you need to pick up the phone before the customer walks away, resulting in faster response times. In addition, if the client needs to pay for every incident, he will only bring up the really important issues, cutting down on perceived issues that a customer might have. Some folks have the attitude, “lets ask, it doesn’t cost me any extra” and in reality they ask the impossible. It would be interesting to filter out from the survey the group of people that has used both, manufacturers and independent tech support. These answers would be the best to decide who is better. For the moment I’ll give independent the benefit of the doubt and the survey results. I guess if you need to compete for each incident, you got to deliver some value.