Rating tech support

It’s time for my semi-annual roundup of technology tech support. I’ve added a few companies, dropped a few because I no longer use their products and expanded those that I still use.

Acronis: This excellent disk-cloning and backup program offers toll-free and no-fee tech support. Techs are offshore, have a comprehensive knowledge of their software, listen carefully and follow up by email after the initial call. A-plus

Amazon: Toll-free support features excellent tech support and customer service. By answering a few questions online before you call, the tech knows who you are and your issue. Solutions come fast and reimbursement for returns often comes the same day the return is picked up. Some returns, such as ones that involve changing your mind about a purchase require a return fee, which is only fair. A-plus

Apple: U.S.-based support is unfailingly excellent. Hold times have gotten longer, but you get the option of the kind of music you want to hear and can skip music altogether. A-plus

Brother: I’ve had problems with wireless connectivity, and Brother always is on hand to help solve the issues. My large Brother laser printer is a real workhorse. Techs are knowledgeable and helpful. I’d give Brother an A-plus if it weren’t for the wireless problem. A-minus

Crutchfield: This company sets the standard for tech support and buying experience. Their techs are helpful, never try to up-sell and offer tech support on everything they sell. A speaker I ordered came with a small dent; a new one came three days later. If you’re looking for just about any electronic purchase such as a flat-screen TV, shop Crutchfield. A-plus

Dell: I’ve had my issues with the computer maker’s basic tech support, which is pretty awful. Dell probably makes its money on service plans; a one-year Premium support contract costs $69 for the first year. Absolutely worth it. They make great products and back them. I’ve been buying Dell PCs and laptops for years and seldom have a problem . I’d give them a solid A if it weren’t for the awful free support that comes with their computers. A-minus

Epson: In the unlikely event you’ll ever need tech support, you can count on Epson’s free-support techs to solve the problem. I have an Epson scanner and a color inkjet printer. The scanner has been use on thousands of documents with very few paper jams. The printer sometimes loses its wireless connection, and the techs figure it out. A

Honeywell: I’ve had no end of problems trying to program Honeywell’s wireless thermostat, and their techs have proved to be pretty worthless in trying to solve the problem. I finally figured it out, and now the thermostat works as advertised. I replaced a dependable low-tech thermostat with the high-tech wireless model, which can be programmed from a tablet or phone wherever there’s a wireless signal. All things considered, I should have stuck with the low-tech model. C

LG: I paid more than $2,000 for LG’s mid-range high-tech washer and dryer, only to see the washer fail only months after it was installed. Techs from the factory fussed over the failed part, and the replacement didn’t fit right. Several years into its service, the labels that indicate cycles simply faded off. LG’s offshore tech told me it was a cosmetic issue, and would involve a $250 service call and another couple hundred for a new front panel – which eventually would lose its lettering, too. To spend that amount of money for buying them and not know which cycle I’m on is unforgiveable. The washer is unusually nosy; the dryer rattles. Neither machine has much in the way of noise insulation. D

Nautilus: I just bought an exercise bike from these folks, but before I placed the order, I spoke with a customer service rep, who patiently guided me through the options for what I needed and what I can afford. More about the high-tech bike in a later column. So far, A-plus.

Parallels: This software, which allows a user to run Windows or any other operating system alongside the Mac OS, is dependable, has a functional interface and is beautifully programmed. Tech support is superb. A-plus

Quicken: When I lost my main file for this money-management program, a tech stayed with me for more than an hour to get the file back. I was left wondering whether another tech could have solved the problem quicker. Long hold times, but support is free. A-minus

Refurbees: This company, which sells refurbished computers at bargain prices, failed to send me a replacement keyboard. But when I sent a PC back because I didn’t want it, the refund for the return (my dime) had a deduction for the original shipment. Dealing with their customer service was pleasant and efficient. Their wares tend to be a generation of two behind current models, so I’d check out refurbished computers from Dell and others first. B-plus

Roku: This streaming device now comes in a model that handles 4K resolution. The model I bought cost nearly $100, and I can’t tell the difference between it and the $40 streaming stick on my 4K TV. Free offshore tech support for the first year is fine – nothing to write home about – and usually involves resetting the device. Beyond that, techs often seem stumped by the problem. B-minus

Time Warner (Spectrum): I may be the only person on the planet who writes rave reviews about the cable company. Free tech support is excellent and they’ll send out a technician (with a one-hour arrival window) if there is (rarely) a problem. I have 300 mps wireless internet, phone service and TV service, and all work as advertised. A-plus

Western Digital: I have a MyCloud external hard drive made by WD, and I still can’t figure out how to use it, but it looks grand on my desk. Tech support, free for the first 90 days, is generally competent, but sometimes the tech gets impatient. C

Wix: I use Wix for my website (www.helpware-online.com), and it took me less than an hour to build a home page. The templates are well done, and tech support via a massive knowledge base is so good that I’ve never had to contact a live tech. The price is right, too. Premium support is included in a $25 package, while other packages cost as little as $5 a month. A

Generally, I’ve seen tech support improve over the years – with a few exceptions. Minimum requirements should be toll-free support, knowledgeable and understandable techs and support beyond the first year. Before I buy anything, I check out their support. Are hold times long? Can I understand the tech? Are they familiar with their product? And most of all, can they solve a problem quickly and efficiently? Apple is a standout, Dell Premium support is catching up and if I could buy another washer and dryer other than LG, I would. Happy trails, technophiles.

Apple and Dell lead the way

By Harold Glicken