Samsung Tech Support: 2015 Rating
Samsung has been hard at work fine-tuning its tech-support services — for smartphones, TVs and home appliances — but when it comes to its laptops, the company comes up short. In last year's Tech Support Showdown, Samsung earned an 91.25 score for its impressive combination of Web and social networking services, as well as its friendly, knowledgeable representatives. This year's score is just 83, but that's still good enough to land them the bronze medal.
There have been a few changes since the last Showdown. The SPOT (Smart Personal Online Training) video-chat service, which connected consumers with a Samsung rep, has been discontinued. The company has also introduced Samsung Plus, a tiered service that doles out additional perks and support options for eligible members.
While some things change, others stay the same. Samsung Product Support Network (SPSN), the company's treasure trove of how-to videos, is still operational. Consumers can also access Smart Simulator, a separate website where Samsung owners can learn about their devices with a virtual substitute. People in search of assistance can still call to speak to a human being or interact with one of Samsung Support's many social media accounts, including Twitter, Facebook and Google Plus.
For this year's Showdown, we used a Samsung Ativ Book 9 and a Samsung Galaxy S6 and inquired about SideSync 4.0, Samsung's updated content-sharing app. More general questions included how to change the scroll direction of the touchpad and how to set up Hey Cortana.
Web and Social Support
To ensure speedy service, Samsung suggests signing up for an account and registering your products on the Samsung.com.
The process seemed simple enough, I hit the Register A Product icon, filled out all the required information and hit the Submit button. However, there was a fly in the ointment when I discovered that the products I just registered (Samsung Ativ Book 9, Galaxy S6 and GS6 Edge) were sitting on my profile with big complete registration buttons over them. That meant I had to go back and re-enter all that information twice.
Once everything was truly registered, I started exploring what Samsung had to offer in terms of support. Skills Workshop is one of the newer additions to Samsung's support suite. The service sets up in-person workshops for consumers who want to get acquainted with the finer points of their devices. There are plenty of workshops available for the Galaxy line of products, but none for their computers. Even the Chromebooks were left high and dry.
So Skill Workshop was a bust, but surely I'd find a little assistance on Samsung's excellent Smart Simulator site. The site was one of my favorites last year, because of impressive tutorials delivered by way of a virtual device you practiced on before trying it out on the real thing. But as I started searching for my Ativ Book 9, I saw that when it came to laptops the site only had simulations for tablets or Chromebooks. Samsung says that a Smart Simulator for the Ativ Book line is rolling out later this year.
I did manage to find some how-to videos on the Samsung Product Support Network, including guides on using Samsung's SideSync 3.0 and Link 2.0 software. I found more content on SPSN YouTube Channel and the Laptop portion of the Samsung.com Support, including videos for restoring the system and advanced security features. However, the majority of the content focused on Windows 8 machines, not Windows 10.
The most useful information I found came from Samsung Support's Laptop section. The Answers section featured picture tutorials and current information, such as downloading SideSync 4.0 or setting up Hey Cortana. There was even a quick chart explaining the difference between Windows 10 Home and Windows 10 Pro.
Live Chat was the only other bright spot in my search for Web support. I asked representative Subba Reddy for assistance in setting up SideSync 4.0 over a wireless network. After getting clarification on what I was attempting, we solved the issue. However, I was referred to the Smart Simulator service for further tips. (D'oh!) The chat took 6 minutes and 44 seconds to complete.
Even though Samsung told us its social media accounts have a response time of less than 10 minutes, I quickly discovered this wasn't the case. The fail started with the Samsung Support Facebook page.
I sent a private message at 1:34 p.m. ET asking how to enable Cortana on my notebook. At 1:35, I saw that someone had read my question, and then began the waiting game. I waited expectantly for 5 minutes — then 10 — then 15. At the 20-minute mark, I had work to do and life to live, so I started going about the rest of my day. I finally got a sign of life 3 hours later, with Justin, the rep on duty, inquiring about my operating system.
It took another hour before I got an answer. In the space of that time, I also reached out to the Samsung SPSN Facebook page. Both of which seemed to be under Justin's control as I was directed back to the Samsung Support page, where he had just posted the link with instructions for setting up Hey Cortana.
I wish I could say the Twitter experience was any better. However, I was left hoping and wishing and thinking and praying for whoever was controlling Samsung Support's Twitter would have a better response time than the Facebook person. I soon discovered that Justin was also running the Twitter account — after waiting an hour for some acknowledgment. But then Sabrina took the helm, resolving my dilemma within 10 minutes.
For registered consumers like myself, the company has created Samsung Plus — a three-tiered program (Gold, Silver and Platinum) designed to dole out help when you need it, plus some extra benefits. It's kind of like a frequent-flyer program for your tech. Silver members receive video-chat help, 7 days a week from 9 a.m. to 10 p.m. CT, personal video chat tutorials and access to workshops and hands-on demos.
Gold members have access to 24/7 video-chat assistance, dedicated service representatives, discounts on fees incurred from device repairs and chances for sneak peeks at new products. The crème de la crème of Samsung Plus, the Platinum members, are eligible for personal concierge service, participation in limited, invite-only trials for new devices and a free express device-replacement service.
Interested in climbing up the Plus ladder? Then you better be registering a ton of Samsung Products. The points system is predicated on consumers registering their products and participating in other Samsung-branded activities such as purchasing protection plans and opting into to email communication. All of these actions will net you a certain amount of points that will aid you in achieving the Platinum status. Too bad neither the Chromebooks nor the Ativ line is included in this exchange.
Good luck in keeping track of your points. Samsung has an impressive chart detailing how many points certain products are over a 2-year period. However, it doesn't show you how much you've accumulated anywhere on your profile. So when I was promoted to Gold Status, I could only assume I'd achieved either the minimum Lifetime Points (15,000) or the Minimum Calendar Year Points (8,000).
One area where Samsung's tech support still shines is its phone support. The company has consistently provided courteous, knowledgeable assistance. However, year after year, I've been able to stump even their most competent reps with one question: "How do I use SideSync wirelessly?"
So I was pleasantly surprised when Nathan, the first rep I encountered, not only answered the question, but did so in an impressive time. My call with the rep began on Tuesday at 2:43 ET p.m. After explaining my problem to Nathan, he walked me through installing the latest version of the SideSync software on my PC. He was about to transfer me to the mobile department, when he inquired if I had my phone and my laptop on the same network. In 11 minutes and 14 seconds, Nathan (from a call center in the Philippines) ended Samsung's 3-year streak of not understanding how to explain its own software.
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During my second call (Wednesday, 12:45 ET p.m.), I was connected to Mike, whom I asked to help me find and use Hey Cortana. After providing him with my laptop's information and verifying that I had Windows 10, Mike placed me on hold for 1 minute. When he returned, Mike informed me that he was transferring me to Advanced Remote Support, which signaled that some lucky rep was going to be taking over my laptop.
That rep's name was Ray, who, after verifying my case number, went about setting me up with the remote support software I needed to let him dig around in my computer. Installing the file took about 4.5 minutes. Once Ray had control of my computer, he patiently walked me through setting up Hey Cortana, including creating a Microsoft account and showing me a few of the basic features. Once he was satisfied that I was comfortable using Cortana, he wished me a good day. The call lasted 23:22.
For my final call, I had a seemingly simple problem, which is part of the reason I felt safe making it at 8:48 p.m. ET on a Wednesday night. I wanted to find the setting to switch the direction my touchpad was scrolling. After several clarifications on my part, Pam placed me on hold in order to research the problem. Two minutes later, she was back on the call to give me my case number for Advanced Remote Support. It was now up to Kate to assist me in locating the correct setting.
Once again, I had to go through several rounds of explaining the problem. But once Kate and I were on the same page, and the remote connection software downloaded, she quickly found the setting I was looking for. She also took the time to run the updates for several Samsung programs before wishing me a good day. The call concluded after 24:02.
Overall, Samsung has a cornucopia of resources for your smartphones, tablets, home appliances and smartwatches. But when it comes to laptops, the pool seems to be shrinking. There's no Smart Simulator support for Ativ Books or Chromebooks, and most of the video and online information is out-of-date or in short supply. The fact that your purchase of a laptop doesn't contribute to your overall Samsung Plus tally points perhaps speaks to the company’s diminishing interest in laptops.
On the plus side, Samsung continues to offer exemplary phone-based service with level-headed, docile-toned representatives. (However, it would be nice if reps weren't so quick to escalate issues to the Advanced Remote Support Team. Samsung's social media team gets an A for providing relevant information, even if it's not especially timely. However, the Live Chat service is quicker than making a phone call and just as accurate.