What Small Business Owners Want—and Don't Want—In Tech Support

A new focus group study commissioned by online tech support company Support.com reveals both the desires and concerns of small office and home-based business owners when it comes to maintaining and repairing their technology.

The research, conducted in July 2010 in Philadelphia and Cincinnati, involved men and women who own a small business and work primarily outside the home as well as those who own small businesses and work primarily from home. The respondents were specifically probed on their technology needs, how they implement technology for their companies, and how they typically overcome technology issues.

What They Want

When asked what they would want from a professional tech support provider, the respondents offered the following:

• A service that's focused first and foremost on their business needs as opposed to their "personal" or "family" needs. Most of these business owners separate their personal computer from their home computer and treat them very differently.
• Fast and affordable access to their IT support 24/7, 365 days a year.
• Routine computer maintenance to help their computers stay optimized.
• The ability to call frequently should they have a problem.
• Expert recommendations on software and hardware purchases as well as business consulting.

What They Don't Want

When surveyed about what's holding them back from utilizing professional IT services, the respondents shared the following concerns:

One Size Does Not Fit All: Every small or home business has its own unique tech support issues. The respondents indicated that they want a company that understands this and can tailor their services to best meet their needs.
Information Overload: Focused on running their businesses, small business owners don't have the time or the inclination to wade through vast amounts of information in order to choose the products and services that are right for them.
Need for Speed: Most companies they were aware of were neither fast nor affordable. Additionally, waiting for a friend or taking the computer to the store for service was problematic.
Sensitivity of Business Data: Privacy is an issue and respondents admit that dropping off and leaving their computers at a third-party location causes anxiety.

Putting Their Technology at Risk

A majority of the focus group participants admitted that their concerns about professional IT help have led them to fix technology issues themselves or to rely on friends or family members for help. As a result, their computers may not be getting the proper routine maintenance they need, such as defragmenting disks or removing unused programs that slow computer speed and performance and can reduce productivity.

When presented with the option of having their computer fixed securely and remotely by a third party who understands their needs and can fix their problems promptly, the respondents were in favor, with one business owner saying "it is exactly the type of service I've been looking for."

Expanding on their wish list, the respondents said they would prefer an online remote technology provider that can save them time without the loss of productivity that results from having to disconnect their computers and bringing them elsewhere for service.

"The results of the focus groups indicated that owners of small and home-based businesses have very specific needs that they feel aren't being addressed by existing tech support options,” said Anthony Rodio, executive vice president and chief operating officer of Support.com.

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