Twenty years of the IT industry misrepresenting the need for support by promoting jargon such as plug-and-play to optimise sales means consumers now expect computers to run like simple machines, according to Ken Wortley, managing director of services company Quick Knowledge.
"Vendors are wondering why they can't make money in the retail space," Wortley said last week. "It's because they have been trying to live up to a promise that maintaining a computer is a lot easier than it actually is. As an industry, we have never faced up to the need for service and support, and as a result the consumer expects the computer to work without a hitch."
Quick Knowledge has been providing computer training and support to home and small and medium business users since 1994 and provides onsite service around the country. The company has partnered with big-name PC vendors such as IBM, Acer, Toshiba and Compaq and also provides service to some of the biggest retailers around the country, including Harvey Norman, Dick Smith and the Coles Myer group.
The Quick Knowledge service helps reduce returns and saves on after-sales support costs -- one of the biggest headaches for vendors and retailers alike. Quick Knowledge provides the feet on the street, which in turn gives the company the opportunity to assess the needs of the customer. More often than not, that translates into additional training or support.
The majority of Quick Knowledge's business is based around bundled computer support, but it also provides retail support products and is about to roll out a new range of products that are complementary to its bundled OEM business. These will be sold on a consignment basis.
The new strategy aims to address the slow sell-through of service to the end user, a situation aggravated by the user-friendly marketing pitch of many PC vendors, which has left consumers with an inflated expectation of the service needs of their computer.
"Consumers have this idealistic view that they can simply plug in a computer, switch it on and it will work. In reality, it is not that simple -- there is a real need for onsite support," Wortley said. "You don't expect the same from a car, so why should you from a PC?
"There is a lack of understanding of computers in the home market, but there is no clear-cut methodology for getting service out there."
It is a situation highlighted by a recent study by the Australian Consumers' Association, which found computers ranked lower for performance and reliability than any other appliance. Service was cited as the main reason consumers would switch to another brand.
Dick Smith Electronics, which also recently signed Mytek as a retail service provider, has extended its use of Quick Knowledge's onsite setup and training product to its Tandy Stores.
Quick Knowledge is also about to introduce new service offerings to cover the PDA and broadband Internet market, as well as a range of desktop application training products, which were developed in conjunction with Monash Learning Fast.