Remote repair service requires screening

Last week, I talked about a relatively new option in the field of computer repair: remote service.

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Last week, I talked about a relatively new option in the field of computer repair: remote service.

Having a technician fix your system without ever laying hands on it lets you fit a tune up or virus removal around your schedule, but giving relatively unfettered computer-system access to someone you’ve likely never has its risk. This week, let’s explore some other ways to ensure that your experience leaves both you and your computer humming.

Just as you wouldn’t choose a mechanic without doing some homework, don’t trust your computer and the private data you’ve stored on it to an unfamiliar company. Ideally, you’ll seek a personal referral from a happy customer. If you have a repair company you trust, ask if its employees can fix your next problem remotely. Consider checking online reviews from services that compile customer feedback, but keep in mind that there are limitations: Some less-savory companies have been known to post fake reviews to drive up their ratings, and some review sites charge companies to get favourable postings.

Long before problems arise, you can ask some basic questions to help you scope out a reputable individual or company: Does the technician offer a free estimate of the cost before the work begins? Does the technician require payment upfront, before the work is complete? Just as you wouldn’t pay before your mechanic works on your car, you shouldn’t pay in advance for computer service. It’s risky. If you’re considering a company that charges by the hour, be sure to cap the amount of time for which the tech can charge you.

If you’re considering a larger chain or perhaps the retailer that sold you the machine, make sure the remote service isn’t handled by a third party. The company you know and trust may not stand behind work it didn’t provide.

There are also risks to entrusting your private data to a company that may sever its relationship with the referring company, leaving you exposed to whatever it chooses to do with your email, phone number and whatever else it can access.

Make sure that you know what you’re paying for. Attorneys general in several U.S. states have targeted companies that promise to make your PC run better but that, in reality, are selling a relatively weak software package with no actual tech support.

Fans of late-night TV probably have seen their commercials.

Unfortunately, even if some of the companies get shut down, others pop up to take advantage of less-educated consumers.

Once you’re ready to connect with the technician on the phone, make sure you’re granting one-time-only computer access that will prompt you to approve any future access. You wouldn’t give a key to the plumber, who could come whenever he or she would like. Similarly, you don’t want a tech returning to your system when you aren’t supervising.

Before you go too far, make sure that you feel comfortable communicating with the technician. If you can’t understand the technician because of a language barrier or because his or her explanations are unclear, you’ll be frustrated. If you think the tech is walking you through a script instead of listening and addressing your specific problem, stop and save yourself some pain and wasted time.

Andrea Eldridge is CEO of Nerds on Call. Contact Eldridge at www.callnerds.com/andrea. com