Is there anything more frustrating than having your PC or other vital piece of technology go on the fritz? How about having to schlep your fallen PC down to the shop or having to wait hours or days for a technician to show up to repair it? Not only is it frustrating, the downtime can do real financial damage to your business.
Enter OfficeMax, a major office products and services retailer, and HiWired, a company that provides remotely delivered services and support for PCs and peripherals. Together, the two companies are offering a new remote-access technology support service called Ctrlcenter. The service, offered by OfficeMax and powered by HiWired, is designed to let customers contact technicians (based in the United States, according to HiWired) over a secure broadband connection to resolve problems with their computers and computer peripherals.
HiWired and OfficeMax have been working together on this project since 2006, when they first started a small pilot program. Singu Srinivas, HiWired's co-founder and president, said they were looking for a nationwide market. "We wanted to make our remote technology available to the masses. OfficeMax has more than 900 stores and caters to small business and small office clientele. It's a perfect match," Srinivas said.
Jennifer Rook, an OfficeMax spokesperson, said that the company chose to partner with HiWired because it offers more than just technical expertise. "We were looking for the best-of-breed. Not just the best in remote access technology, but also in customer care. HiWired offers an excellent remote product, in-depth knowledge and outstanding customer service," she said. "The company complements our core values."
To Remotely Go
Remote access for tech support isn't new – but this is the first time it's been offered to customers by a nationwide retailer. Srinivas noted that HiWired's remote support offers two advantages near and dear to small business owners, especially those who lack IT resources: It saves time and money.
"Why should small business owners take time off to lug a PC to the local repair shop or wait three days for a technician to arrive? We can solve 90 percent of tech problems remotely," said Srinivas. He also claimed that the remote service costs up to 60 percent less than the average charged by competing providers.
He added that Ctrlcenter is open and available 24/7. "We never close, so if you have a problem at 2 p.m. or 2 a.m., it doesn’t matter. We're there for you."
What You Get and How it Works
Initially, OfficeMax will offer seven different tech support services that fall into three main areas: Setup, Get Help and Ongoing Support. Pricing for the remote services ranges from $50 to $500. You can purchase the products in any of more than 900 OfficeMax locations (packaged in a box with a CD and brochure) or through the Ctrlcenter Web site.
According to Srinivas, when you purchase the product at an OfficeMax location, you then go home and insert the CD into your PC, which then takes you to a dedicated Web page.
You activate the service using a code that's printed on your OfficeMax receipt. That downloads a small software program that assesses your computer's age, operating system, memory, processor speed and the number of applications you have installed. You can then initiate a support session with a HiWired technician either by calling on the phone or by clicking a button on the program's dashboard.
The Ctrlcenter offers the following services:
- Wireless Network setup: $79.99
- New PC setup: $99.99
- Peripheral setup (a catch-all for any peripheral: printer, scanner, camera, PDA, etc): $49.99
- Software Install: $79.99
- PC Restoration (the most popular seller. Includes a PC tune-up): $99.99
- PC Guardian (includes a one-time PC restoration plus anti-virus, anti-spyware and anti-pop-up software installation plus 1 GB of remote data backup): $149 for 12 months. If your PC is reinfected within the 12 months, you receive a 25 percent discount on a help desk session. LI>Premium Technology Help Desk (unlimited help desk support for one PC. Designed for SMBs without IT support): $500 per year
Both OfficeMax and HiWired are offering a free PC Checkup, which they said typically sells for $49.99. You can purchase this online or in CD format an OfficeMax location.