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Category: Customer Service, IT Support.

At The PC Support Group we’re always looking to improve the service we provide to our customers.

To achieve this we do a number of things:

  • we ask our customers what they like about our service and we do more of that and we ask what they don’t like and we try to stop doing that
  • we constantly review a streamline our processes
  • we measure certain key indicators and then look to improve on them

Recently we looked in detail at our average fix times for customer requests. I have heard various competitors refer to fix times in terms of 1 hour, 2 hours, etc so imagine my shock to find that our average fix time is over 3 days! I nearly hit the roof.

After I’d calmed down I started delving into why this was. We were measuring the average time from when a customer informs us about an issue or requirement to the time we close the call as complete.

The first and most obvious reason for such a long average was that these included requests for work that could take weeks such as setting up an entire office from scratch but that still didn’t explain everything.

The most significant point was that we train our staff to follow what we call our Service Excellence Cycle and this includes testing and checking that a problem is really solved and then asking the customer for a ‘declaration of satisfaction’.

What was happening was that our engineers where leaving the calls open for a few days and then calling back to ensure the problem hadn’t re-occurred and was really resolved to the customer’s satisfaction. Our systems automatically prompt the engineers if the request is left open so this helps them when dealing with many issues.

After thinking about this I realised that this was fantastic customer service and that if we were to demand our average fix time to be in hours then our engineers would close calls as quickly as possible and wouldn’t perform the follow up. Why would I want that?

So our average fix time will remain in days and from our amazing customer feedback I know that’s what our customers want too.

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Category: IT Support, Software.

Perhaps a strange topic for an IT support blog… or is it?

There are many ways to become more efficient at work and I’m not going to start giving you lessons in productivity, time management or measurement. My solution is based around a simple solution that was inspired from when I used to visit London and watch the dealers at work trading currency, shares or commodities. Dual Screen!

What is Dual Screen?

Effectively it’s where you plug two monitors into a single computer so that you can view more information at the same time. The two screen actually behave like one large screen so you can open up a window and then drag it across onto one screen leaving you to open up another window on the other. If you often work with different software at the same time and find yourself getting frustrated with the wasted time of opening and closing windows then this could be the perfect solution for you.

What do you need? Here’s the techie bit… you need to purchase and fit a secondary graphics card. If this means nothing to you then just contact your local computer support company (like The PC Support Group) and they can sort it out.

How much will it cost?

You can purchase a decent graphics adaptor for £20 – £50 although beware that you can spend up to £400 (this is for the latest and greatest gaming adaptor and for normal work is not required).

What about the screen?

In my own case I have a 24” screen alongside a 19” screen giving me a great set up. I use the large screen for my main tasks and the smaller for secondary tasks such as leaving my Outlook email open.

Is my computer capable of doing this?

Windows XP or Windows Vista are both suited to the task and can work out of the box with dual screens. After that all you need is a simple graphics card (and we can always help you help you out with advice, purchase or fitting if required).

Here’s to more work in less time… leaving more time for play! Or perhaps just more work!

Angus Kerr – Computer Support Edinburgh

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Category: IT Support.

Any successful business needs good partners to compliment and support the core business.

It really doesn’t matter which line of business you’re in as there will always be certain tasks that are best left to the experts including some general business tasks such as accounting, tax, IT, HR or printing etc. In the case of The PC Support Group our specialism is, well PC Support, and therefore we like to work with specialists that complement our own business. Some examples include telecoms, cabling, webhosting & data recovery.

Whilst each and every business will work with different key partners I believe there are some common characteristics that should form an essential blueprint:

  • Trust – This is really a prerequisite before any kind of partnership can begin and in reality probably takes time
  • Reliability – If there is one thing that frustrates me it is unreliability (without being cliché, how many times have you been promised that someone will turn up and they don’t ?)
  • Flexibility – We all have rule books and we should try and stick to the plans BUT life is never that simple and customers sometimes change their mind or an unknown issues occur. A great partner will work WITH you to resolve the problem and not try deflect blame
  • Team Work – It is very easy to spot the task where two “partners” are working as two separate entities rather than a team. Coordination & Communication is key
  • Shared Values – There is no point in presenting yourself as a company who provides excellent service, value for money and quality products if you then partner with a company who does not share these values

The PC Support Group operate throughout the UK and are always keen to partner with local & national companies where they share our passion for these criteria.

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Category: IT Support.

So Bing, the “new” search engine from Microsoft is out, ahead of it’s planned date to a much surprised techie press.

Microsoft’s previous search engine incarnations have been given a hard time (rightly!) over the last few years. This was mainly due to the lack of relevance of the results compared to the king of search engines, Google. The computer giant hopes that this latest version will help it gain a bigger share of the search market – with Google currently taking 64%, Yahoo! 20% and Microsoft currently only a paltry 8.2%.

Is Bing any different?

Well they’ve certainly spent a lot of time and money in the background so something must be! From initial testing it would appear to be much improved with a nice clean interface (no doubt taking a leaf from it’s competitors book). I particularly like the video preview option after you search for video clips – the best match videos (which are not always relevant to be fair) are shown at the top and simply hovering your mouse pointer over them plays them instantly. A great feature that saves you having to click through to each site.

The actual search results with Bing are a little irratic – sometimes the relevance seems very good and on occasions better than Google but on many others it’s pretty poor.

For example, a search on Google for ‘IT Support Liverpool’ where, and I’m trying to be realistic and modest here, The PC Support Group has a major presence offering this precise service, produces a result with our web site ranked number 2 alongside some of our known and respected competitors, whereas on Bing we come a lowly 17th with companies offering such services in London coming higher up. Does this make sense? No!

Will Bing make in-roads into Google’s share of the search engine market? I have no doubt it will but ultimately the most popular search engine will be the one that produces the most relevant results for a particular search and at the moment that still appears to be Google.

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Category: IT Support, Mobile Computing.

Why is it that manufacturers and the technical media are obsessed with whether laptops will be replaced by notebooks or netbooks? I think this is yet another example of the disconnection between those that immerse themselves in technology and those that operate in the “real world”.

As someone that runs an IT support business I guess I should be equally obsessed with such trivia, but I have a constant battle to ensure that everything we do in The PC Support Group is focused on our clients needs and wants, not just on the technology… The technology is there to do a job!

And this is where my concerns lie with this obsession with these gadgets. In the real world users of this technology don’t care whether it’s a laptop, notebook or netbook. They all perform pretty much the same functions; it’s just a matter of size, weight cost and a few bells and whistles.

Whether in business or pleasure, all that users want to know is will it do the job? Obviously if they want to carry it around a lot then ideally it should be light but robust. If they want to use it a lot and retain their eyesight then a screen bigger than a postage stamp is desirable. Do they want it to cost £200 or £2000? OK. Stupid question!

So, let’s make it clear to manufacturers and technical media alike, we don’t care what you call it or how you market it, to 99.9% of people it’s a portable computer and we will choose the cheapest one that fulfils our needs and wants.

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Category: IT Support, Mobile Computing.

Nowadays Mobile Broadband has come down to a price where it is potentially appealing to more than just businesses. In fact it is possible to get a dongle (the little plastic stick that plugs into the side of your computer) for as low as £10 per month. But…

Please read the small print in your contract before you sign as for the unwary there can be a big shock. In fact I just heard the horror story of someone who has only this month just had a bill for over £230!

So what happened? He was unaware of the cap or limit placed on his surfing (in fact he was totally unaware that he had exceeded anything until the bill arrived). Now most deals do include either a 1GB or 3GB cap and for most users this will be adequate for a month but if you exceed this limit there is usually no warning and it can then get VERY expensive.

At the time of writing this it appears that O2 and 3 charge the most for exceeding download limits at 19.6p per MB and 10p per MB respectively whilst Orange & Vodafone come in at a more reasonable 1.46p per MB. The exception to these rules is T-Mobile who actually provide unlimited downloads (lets hope the others follow). Saying that if you stay within the limits set then Mobile Broadband is a great way to surf the web and manage your email whilst almost anywhere in the UK (don’t even think of using it abroad with the standard packages!).

So how can you make sure that you are not the next unfortunate casualty of this opportunistic situation from the mobile operators ?

Well, one option is to use an account from T-Mobile that doesn’t operate any charges for some tariffs. Most of the other providers do provide some software with their service to allow tracking of usage. Do your homework as deals may appear to be very closely matched and it is important to take excess charges into account, as there can be huge differences between one provider and another. Information on excess charges is not always easy to find and is not obviously visible on most advertising.

So if you don’t want to be the next person featuring in the tale of horrors do your homework before running wild with your mobile broadband connection.

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Category: IT Support.

So the stock markets are in freefall , we’ve stopped spending money, businesses are going to the wall and your home is falling in value every day – That’s what we hear on the news and in the daily tabloids…

BUT Is it really all that bad?

In December 2008, I finally left behind the banking industry following the challenges of 2008 – It was one of those typical bi-annual departmental restructures that every large company goes through. The final result put me in the position of competing against another colleague yet knowing, in my heart, that circumstances were fighting against me. The process was regimental but fair and I was offered the choice of “look for another job within” or take voluntary redundancy.

I took the redundancy option not knowing what was next –heck I had been there for 25 years and really thought I didn’t know anything but the Bank.

That weekend I sat down and scoured the newspapers, the magazines and the web – at this point I had already said I was leaving but didn’t even have a job (with a wife and two kids to feed it was a bit scary !!).

Fortunately I had more than Banking skills; having run a small IT company part time for 12 years and latterly had been Head of E-Commerce at Bank of Scotland.

After carrying out tons of research, the most favourable option was to buy into an IT support franchise and the starting grid produced four candidates. Two fell at the first hurdle when they sent me a few lines of pre-defined text about how I could pay them lots of money and have the right to use the name to sell services in a small area of the country. The other two looked viable so I set off down the formal process of application. The end result was a no-brainer and so that is where I am today.

Was it the right decision?

I have never looked back since the day I left the Bank

I now run a real business that gives me the opportunity to meet lots of interesting people

The world is not all doom and gloom

The PC Support Group have the systems, the support and most of all the people

SO TO ANYONE WHO IS FACED WITH THE PROSPECT OF REDUNDANCY; LOOK BEYOND THE NEWSPAPERS; LOOK BEYOND THE NEWS AND MOST OF ALL BE POSITIVE AND BELIEVE YOU CAN SUCCEED IN THIS EXCITING WORLD.

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Category: IT Support.

It just strikes me that at The PC Support Group we speak to businesses and home users daily who come to us with horror stories of their current or previous computer support provider. I don’t suppose that accountants, lawyers, financial advisors, designers and other professionals have anything like the same torrent of tales of woe. Why is this?

I think one of the biggest problems is that the computer support market has undervalued itself. What I mean by this is that thousands of barely qualified (or not qualified at all) people have started offering IT support services at ridiculously low prices. I recently came across someone offering computer support for £15 per hour which, when you consider they will not be paid for the time they travel, market, sell and do their administration, is not far from minimum wage!

Unsurprisingly, low prices attract custom but the service quality is invariably equally low. Low prices means that those IT support businesses can’t afford to employ skilled people, they can’t afford to invest in the best support technology, and they can’t afford to invest in training to keep up to date with technological changes. The result is that computer support businesses, and in particular “one man bands”, have created an undervalued industry with an appalling service record.

The other major problem is that the computer support industry is generally hopeless at communicating to the rest of the world. Apart from this resulting in technicians bamboozling their customers, it has also resulted in customers not understanding the value of great IT support.

For example, a high quality business backup solution which guarantees to restore all the data exactly as it was and make it available within a day might cost a few hundred pounds a month. Many small businesses will simply refuse to pay this sort of money for something that seemingly sits there doing nothing. The irony is that if they had one major problem every 3 years (which is likely) then this would more than pay for itself and could even save the business from closure.

The problem is that most IT support companies struggle to get this argument across effectively and then get the fall out when the business can’t operate – yet again they are seen to provide a poor service.

At The PC Support Group we constantly strive to make sure we offer the best service at the best value for money. We have numerous examples where potential customers choose the “cheap” provider only to find that within 12 months they are back saying “You were right, the service was awful and we’ve had all sorts of problems. When can you come and see us.”

It is time for the IT support industry to be stronger and focus on providing great service at a value for money price instead of being cheap and providing bad service. This approach is ultimately the best thing for our customers and will raise the reputation of the industry as a whole.