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Tech Support Showdown 2010

Your notebook is only as good as the help you receive when something goes wrong.



Sony Tech Support Results
Hold Time Minimum<2 minutes
Hold Time Maximum>2
Average Call Length>11
Phone Grade 2010B+
Web Grade 2010B-
Overall Grade 2010B
Overall Grade 2009B+
Overall Grade 2008A


This year, Sony touts its Interactive Customer Experience system as one of its biggest improvements. According to the company, this system guides help agents through the service process, aiding with everything from finding troubleshooting solutions to ordering repairs.

The main support page makes it easy to start looking for help. Users can enter their laptop's model number and go directly to a model-specific support hub page or search by general topic. However, finding specific information can be difficult. The customer support forum is only used occasionally, and the support pages have a few organizational issues. For example, when we keyed in a "power settings" search for a Windows 7 laptop through the model-specific help page, the first two results were for Windows 95 and Windows XP.

Sony's other online support services fared considerably better. When we e-mailed questions to their support line, they responded within a few hours with links to the appropriate support pages.

At around 11:30 a.m. (EST) on a weekday we asked about changing our laptop's power settings via live chat. The wait was brief since we were only second in line. Rebecca, our support agent, started by asking for our model number, e-mail address, and name. While our question was eventually answered, the entire chat still took around 1 hour and 20 minutes. When we asked about Sony's power control settings Rebecca directed us to the Control Panel, but had to transfer the chat to another representative The actual transfer happened within a minute, but most of the chat time was spent waiting for Rebecca to respond to our questions.

Our Sony phone support experience was quite good compared to most other notebook vendors. We called at 3 p.m. on a weekend and were connected to Lee in 1 minute and 26 seconds. We told her about the slow boot times our laptop was experiencing, and she recommended disabling any unnecessary startup items by going through System Configuration. The agent also recommended upgrading the system's RAM and doing a full antivirus scan.

We placed our second call to Sony support at 10:16 p.m. This time it took 2 minutes and 10 seconds to connect to Hector, our service representative in Costa Rica. Hector was easily the most accommodating of all three representatives, offering to directly connect to our laptops and help answer our question ("How do I share files between two Windows 7 laptops?"). He guided us through the process of setting up a work group, pointing out smaller details such as noting that the group's name is case-sensitive. However, he failed to mention the Windows 7 HomeGroup feature in the Control Panel, which would have been faster and less complicated to set up. The entire call took 16 minutes and 13 seconds.

The final call for our testing was placed around 1 p.m. on a weekend, and we started talking to John from the Philippines in 1 minute and 28 seconds. He was very easy to understand, and quickly told us how to access our system's power settings. When we asked about other power management options, he directed us to the VAIO Control Center and described exactly how the program could help.

Overall, Sony's tech support remains solid. Although web searches could use some work, we appreciate the improvements made to the company's online resources. We especially like the friendliness and thoroughness of the phone-based support.

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