Dell's Premium Support is like OnStar for your laptop

Enterprise-grade technical support for consumers

If you've ever been on the phone with technical support and feel your blood pressure rise because the representative couldn't solve your issues, you're not alone. To fix the shortcomings of technical support and warranty services today, Dell is launching its next business day Premium Support service for consumers in the US and Canada using Inspiron, XPS, Alienware, Venue and Chromebook products.

Premium Support is built on the success of Dell's enterprise-grade ProSupport and ProSupport Plus business. Dell has three tiers of support – a basic tier that covers the standard manufacturer's warranty, a better tier through ProSupport, and a best tier through ProSupport Plus. The consumer-grade Premium Support is equivalent to the mid-tier ProSupport, according to Doug Schmitt, Dell's vice president and general manager of Global Support and Deployment

Like ProSupport, Schmitt says that Premium Support is built on a proactive model. Intelligent SupportAssist software installed on a Dell notebook, desktop or tablet monitors the system's health and sends diagnostic data back to Dell's support centers. When there is a failure, a case number is automatically generated, a Dell support staff would call or email the customer and then on-site service is scheduled to fix the problem.

When benchmarked against competing support services, Dell says that its customers spend 90% less time on the phone, and SupportAssist's diagnostic data means that customers take 69% fewer steps in the support process, saving time and reducing frustration.

Proactive support

When probed about how Dell competes with rival support services with physical retail presence – such as Apple's Genius Bar and Best Buy's Geek Squad – Jim Roth, executive director of Support and Deployment Services at Dell, told TechRadar that with Dell customers won't have to call in when an issue arises. Roth compares Premium Support to automotive services like OnStar, which constantly monitors the system's health and performance, and then proactively reaches out to the customers.

Dell Pro Support

"Proactive support completely changes the tech support model because we call customers knowing the problem and how to address it instead of customers calling us to troubleshoot," Schmitt explained. "This level of support is the first in the industry."

At this time, Premium Support's SupportAssist software is only able to get readings for battery and hard drive failure, but Roth says that the goal is to expand the component-level monitoring to other parts as well, such as the memory and fans. However, the most common points of failure on a laptop is a hard drive and the battery, and that's where Dell is starting.

Dell told TechRadar that only basic information about the drive's health is sent to Dell, not the contents of the drive such as your files, photos or videos. Additionally, SupportAssist is an opt-in service, so if you don't want your diagnostic information collected, then you don't need to sign up.

In addition to proactive support, Dell also offers on-site service within one or two business days, help with connecting Dell hardware to other third-party software and hardware, and operating system support for migration to Windows 10. This helps to ensure minimum downtime to ensure you're maximizing your productivity.

Essentially, Premium Support is the equivalent of AppleCare and One-on-One, with the former providing technical support and help with warranty issues, and the latter providing software training and tutorials.

Predictive support

While not offered in Premium Support, predictive support also comes with Dell's top-tier ProSupport Plus. With predictive support customers will be notified before an incident occurs.

If your hard drive is about to fail, Roth explains, predictive support will notify you and give an estimate to when your drive will absolutely fail. This gives enterprise customers a chance to backup their data before the catastrophic incident. Premium Support detects the catastrophic event, and either ships you a new hard drive or send a service tech to your home after the occurrence.

I asked Dell if it has plans on offering predictive support in a Premium Support Plus offering, and the company told me that they "constantly evaluating our support products and when the market is ready we will respond as needed."

ProSupport Plus also covers accidental damage.

Pricing and availability

Premium Support will be available this summer starting at $39 per year. The service will cost more on pricier systems as the components will cost more to replace or service, Roth explained. Asked if Dell had plans to offer Premium Support globally like the ProSupport counterpart, the company told me it's constantly evaluating new opportunities and markets.

Dell says that Premium Support is also available to customers with existing Dell systems, not just new machines.

Dell's goal with Premium Support is to position it as a unique selling point so that customers shopping for a laptop will choose a Dell notebook because of the post-purchase support, Roth explains. At retail locations starting this summer, customers can purchase Premium Support merchandise cards located in close proximity to Dell notebook or PC displays.

Dell says that its enterprise-grade support business supports 113 million units in 160 countries. Support is performed by over 40,000 employees and is available in 55 languages. The success of ProSupport has led to a 90% customer satisfaction rating, and Dell says that the Net Promotion score doubled for customers signed up on ProSupport.

Dell has built its ProSupport business to a billion-dollar per year industry in just two years.

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