Answer Desk's premium services, ranging in price from $49 to $99, buy you anywhere from one hour to two hours of "one-on-one" time with a tech. The rep will help you optimize your PC's performance, root out and eliminate viruses, or get more out of your Windows products. If you and the tech can't figure out a particular problem via chat or over the phone, Answer Desk staff can access your computer remotely.
These services are, in part, an answer to Apple's One to One service, which makes various technical support and learning tools available to customers online and in Apple stores for $99 a year.
Not only does this home and auto electronics depot offer its customers free lifetime technical support, but it sells relatively inexpensive tech-support packages to people who have purchased stereos, TVs, or MP3 players elsewhere.
Crutchfield does not sell or offer support desktop PCs, laptops, or operating systems. But according to Shawn Lyons, tech support manager for the company, its technicians are prepared to help customers with just about any other electronic device, including car stereos, home entertainment systems, wireless networks, and iPods. "If I can find a manual for it online somewhere, then odds are we can help you," Lyons says.
Like Microsoft's Answer Desk, Crutchfield support is available 24/7. Unlike that service's help, however, Crutchfield's is available only by phone.
The company's two support packages--90-day ($30) and lifetime ($100)--are sold on a per-product basis. So, assistance you buy for your TV isn't transferrable to a router on the fritz. If you're skeptical about whether Crutchfield can help you with a given problem, you might still want to give them a try at the $30 level. According to Lyons, if a tech is unable to provide adequate support, you'll receive a full refund.
Lyons says that all of the company's techs go through an eight-week, hands-on training course. And Crutchfield encourages its techs to develop specialties. That way, if a customer calls with a question that one tech can't answer, someone else on duty probably can.
Don't count on these guys to help you mod any of your electronics, though. Crutchfield's techs are there to help with setup, configuration, and troubleshooting only.
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