Online Owls makes in-home tech affordable for consumers
Whenever my 78-year-old mother has a problem with her laptop, she gives me a call. Mom uses email and Facebook to keep up with friends and family, and when she’s offline, she feels out of touch. Usually I can talk her through quick fixes, but recently her screen went dark, and I had no idea what to do. That’s when I heard about Online Owls, an on-call in-house tech service which recently launched in the Washington, DC area.
Within minutes of contacting the service I got a response, and they assured me they could send a tech to my mom, who lives in a rural part of Virginia, about 40 miles from DC. We set up an appointment that week on a Thursday morning. Within minutes, the company followed up with my mother, with an email confirming the appointment, along with the name and a photo of the tech assigned to the job. They sent another confirmation an hour before the appointment.
The tech arrived punctually on my mom’s doorstep at the scheduled time, professionally dressed, and before he entered her home he put on plastic booties to protect her carpets — a gesture that made a favorable impression on Mom.
Within 15 minutes he diagnosed the problem. My mom and the tech called me together, and he explained that the hard drive had failed, catastrophically, as in no possibility of recovery. He needed to take the laptop to replace hardware. This would be done at no extra charge. He would return the repaired laptop at my mother’s convenience, the following Tuesday.
While he was there, the tech also showed my mom how to set her Facebook privacy settings, as the previous week her account had been hacked, and an imposter sent her contacts sent a bogus message about a fraudulent investment opportunity. He also showed her a few shortcuts and tricks she didn’t know about on her iPhone 5.
The next week, as promised, the tech delivered the laptop and tested it out with my mother. My mom was back online, and now she has her own trusted technician to call upon, for the completely affordable amount of $79 per hour, unless of course I can figure it out first.
For those considering using the service for their own non-tech savvy parents, or themselves, here is a Q&A with Online Owls’ co-founder and CEO, Bruno Bianchi, about the launch of this enterprising startup.
What is the demographic of your customers? How many of your customers are seniors or do you expect to be seniors?
According to our market research, our clientele will be mostly busy professionals, stay-at-home moms and seniors. However, we do not limit or focus our services on a specific group – we are available to a 22-year-old that has connectivity issues as well as to an 88-year-old with a smart TV problem.
What are the top three to five most common problems you see? Are these problems any different among seniors? What is the age of your oldest client (if you know)?
Virus or malware removals are the most common requests we receive, followed by computer tune-ups, networking problems, installing peripheral equipment (printers, scanners, etc.), and mobile phone issues (email, applications, etc.,). The service requests among our senior clientele are the same with the exception that we receive many more training requests on how to use certain products or software. For example, we had the daughter of an 82-year-old man request that we go to his home, repair his virus-infected PC, setup him up with Skype, and teach him how to use it to call her.
How long does it usually take to fix these common problems?
Although it depends on the service requested and the extent of the problem, on average most of our service requests are resolved within two hours.
How do your services and fees compare to Geek Squad and similar electronics store repair departments?
If it connects to the Internet, we service it. Our pricing is a flat $79 per hour for in-home visits. We see the immediacy of our on-demand and on-site service and the ability of our technicians to go to customers at their doorstep as key differentiators, especially being the only service of this kind in the greater mid-Atlantic area. We believe that customers prefer a local presence and local techs in comparison to our competitors who are headquartered in California.
Where do you find your techs?
We recruit our technicians at tech-centered events, jobs and startup fairs, word of mouth, online databases, as well as directly via our website. The second step in the selection process is a detailed phone interview followed by a very thorough background check. Only when passing all of these steps do we invite our potential techs to our in person interview and onboarding event.
What kind of training do they have?
All of our independent technicians must have at least one valid IT industry-grade certification (CompTIA, Cisco, Microsoft, Apple, etc.) or extensive experience in the IT field. Upon applying, our team will give individuals a call to discuss their application and provide an over-the-phone exam based on their expertise as stated on their application.
When and where will your expand the service?
As of now, we provide our in-home support services in all of DC as well as major parts of Maryland and Virginia, basically drawing a 30-mile radius around our headquarters in McLean, Virginia. Outside of this radius we do provide nationwide remote support online or via phone. We will be expanding our service area drastically in the near future, targeting Frederick, Baltimore, Annapolis, Richmond and the area in between as soon as 2016.