Tech Support Showdown 2015: Who Wins, Who Loses
Sure, searching Google and YouTube is often helpful for finding answers to your technical problems. But your laptop manufacturer offers tech support, and you should be able to count on it for accurate answers. Based on our extensive undercover testing online and over the phone, Apple emerged as the clear winner for the second time in a row. Microsoft, a newcomer to our Tech Support Showdown with its Surface line, was an impressive runner-up.
We take a comprehensive approach to rating the 10 major laptop brands. Do the support teams know their stuff? Are they pushy about selling you something? Does it take forever to get an answer? If talking on the phone isn't your thing, there's the company website and the possibility of live chat. Most brands will even give you help over Facebook or Twitter, although you shouldn't always expect a timely response.
This year, we noted a general trend toward online-only or online-focused support and away from traditional phone service. In fact, in some cases, the only way to get an answer (or, in some cases, a correct answer) to a question was to go online. Plus, Windows 10 upgrades seem to have thrown some companies for a loop, causing hiccups in the support we received from more than one company.
Who Wins, Who Loses?
1st Place: Apple
Once again, we found that Apple offers the best tech support in the business. The company's knowledgeable and energetic representatives offered quick and accurate help via prescheduled phone calls as well as live chat. The comprehensive online support pages for specific devices further point to why Apple earned the highest rating. Jumping in on the social front would be helpful, but overall, the company's help is second to none.
2nd Place: Microsoft
Other Windows PC makers could learn a thing or two from Microsoft and the way it offers support for the Surface line. While it was clear that the company prefers customers to seek answers online rather than over the phone, the representatives we interacted with were quick, friendly and accurate. Now, if the callback program improves its time management, the company may give Apple a real run for its money.
3rd Place: Samsung
While the pool of laptop tech support resources is shrinking, Samsung still beats many of its competitors in terms of depth and breadth. Calls were relatively quick and accurate, and the live chat system was very helpful. Plus, the company has even created its own loyalty-style program that translates to a tiered tech support system.
How We Tested
The Laptop Mag staff doesn't conduct its undercover testing with the goal of stumping a brand; we simply want to gauge the customer experience for ourselves. Armed with three questions (two general and one specific to the brand), we looked for quick and friendly assistance through various channels, as well as a breadth of knowledge.
We sought answers to "How do I set up Hey Cortana," and "How do I change the direction of scrolling on my touchpad?" Then, we tried to find an answer to a question uniquely tailored to each brand. For example, we asked Samsung how to use SideSync software to transfer files from a phone to a laptop over Wi-Fi. For Apple we asked the same touchpad question, but followed up with managing photos in iCloud Photo Library and silencing a single tab in Safari while letting audio play in another. We explored each company's website for answers to these questions, looking for ease of navigation and live chat options. If brands offered any other Web-based help, we tried that, too. We also conducted three phone calls at various times of the day.
Because asking for help is inherently social, we also turned to Facebook and Twitter to seek assistance. While it is true that neither service is part of a company's warranty coverage, the average consumer has started to expect some level of attention through these channels.
Online support is quickly becoming the way to get assistance, with page views on company support sites and forums outweighing the frequency of phone calls. As such, we weighted our grades to favor online and social forms of support (60 out of 100 possible points) more heavily than phone support (40 out of 100 possible points).
Does your experience with your laptop brand line up with our experience? Do you have a tech support horror story to tell? Sound off in the comments, or message us on Twitter @laptopmag.