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Dell Introduces New Fee-Based Tech Support

Dell launched two new customer tech support initiatives last week and said it will double the number of its Dell On Call support staffers to 2,500 by early next year.

This augmented staff will be based in three call centers, two in North America and one in India, and they will help operate two new programs: a fee-based tech support service and TechConnect, a Web-based support tool that enables Dell agents to remotely repair a customer’s PC.

Both are part of Dell’s latest push to enhance its customer service sector. In September, the company rolled out a tech support team that handles only Dell’s high-end XPS line of notebooks and desktops. A Dell spokesperson said these latest moves are a complement to the XPS program, and the two teams will operate separately.

The initial Dell On Call plans will cover only Dell computers and a wide range of third-party products Dell sells. However, in the future, Dell intends to expand the service to handle other PC brands, a Dell spokesperson said.

TechConnect is a downloadable software application that will allow a Dell On Call agent to remotely take over a person’s computer in order to analyze and repair non-hardware related problems such as spyware, operating system malfunctions and general set up. Dell said this is a much more efficient system compared to having the agent talk the consumer through a fix.

The fee-based plan is an adjunct to the existing Dell On Call service that handles warranty-related issues, It will handle difficulties that fall outside those covered by the computer’s warranty.

As of Nov. 25, Dell will offer two service packages. The first, offered at the point of sale, costs $49 and gives a consumer an unlimited amount of tech support for a one-month period, the time when most people have set-up or general operating issues, Dell said. The next level is a one-year plan for $149 that covers the repair of five separate incidents. Dell was clear to point out that this is not five calls, but the complete repair of five issues regardless of how many calls are made. There is one stipulation: all the follow-up calls to the initial request must be made within 72 hours.

The second package is post-sale. For $99 Dell will fix a single problem and for $239 four repairs during a one-year period.

The one-year contracts do not allow the customer to carry over any unused incidents. Dell said its pricing structure is in line with its competitors.