We are celebrating that TechBuddy has performed over 50,000 services, primarily in customers’ homes, but also in their offices and other places of business. For the whole TechBuddy team, this has been an incredible learning journey.
We are celebrating that TechBuddy has performed over 50,000 services, primarily in customers’ homes, but also in their offices and other places of business. For the whole TechBuddy team, this has been an incredible learning journey. Our understanding of our value offer toward all our stakeholders has changed many times over the years. On the one hand we’ve been completely on point where others haven’t, and on the other hand we’ve made more mistakes than we can remember. As a result, we became better, more efficient, stronger as a team, and are able to deliver higher value to our customers. We are proud to be one of the leading companies for tech support in Europe. However, we’re aware of how much there is left to learn, and are dedicated to become even better. Here are 10 lessons we’ve learned over the past four years:
1. The gap was bigger than we thought
We launched TechBuddy based on an identified gap between consumer electronics being sold, and how end consumers were interacting with these products. Coming from retail, the founders had seen first hand how customers were changing their loyalties when experiencing problems with their devices and weren’t being helped to their satisfaction by the retailers. This meant that there was a big business opportunity to provide value by addressing this gap.
At first, we believed that there was a service gap connected with problems with devices, but we have seen that the need for guidance and information when it comes to everyday tech also entails search, the choice between brands, choice of reseller, getting started, maintenance, and recycling. Throughout our journey into this space, we have seen how customers struggle with these areas, and have widened our service offerings accordingly.
A majority of our tasks are onboarding and installations.
2. It should just work, but it often doesn't
We’ve seen that people expect the devices to work straight out of the box. Companies like Apple, Google and Amazon have outdone each other in creating more convenience for their customers, and over time customers have gotten used to the simplicity and user-friendliness of their products and services - to the point where even these pioneering brands fail to meet the customers expectations of simplicity.
A study conducted by Telia shows that 8 out of 10 people suffer from tech anxiety, which we believe is connected to this behaviour change. This is especially true for smart home products where customers are struggling to get started with their new devices, and retailers are seeing massive returns on products believed to be faulty when they’re not. This has been a big learning, and also a big opportunity for TechBuddy to provide value not only to customers but also to retailers and brands. A majority of the 50K services TechBuddy has performed have been installations and onboarding, as most customers prefer doing something else with the time we save them.
3. It's not about speed, it's about accuracy
There has been a “last-mile” race to offer faster and faster deliveries of products and services. We too were affected by this race and assumed that customers needed to be helped as fast as possible. To a large extent this is true. Tech support often represents an urgent need for many, and they hope for a speedy resolution to that need. We have however seen that more than a third of our customers are more proactive, and have decided on a date in advance for when they will need support. For these customers, it’s all about accuracy. At first we thought that we’d failed these customers as we measured our delivery based on definitions of speed, and after investigating further, we saw that we had to change our definition of delivery to reflect accuracy based on the customers expectations, and not our own strive for increased speed.
We’ve since become better and better at ensuring that Buddies serve customers on their preferred time and date.
4. The missing value link
At one point, a major consumer electronics brand bundled TechBuddy services with their premium TVs. This would be a differentiator against competing brands and the aim was to increase sales for both us and them. What we learned from performing those at home services for customers was that the greatest value for the customer was when our Buddies walked them through how a Smart TV works. This is after they had already paid about €2,000 for a TV, meaning that they only learned the true value of what they had bought after someone explained it to them. Without the TechBuddy service, many of these customers would have used their new TV the same way they had used their TVs from decades ago. This was an important learning for us, that a large segment of customers are not keeping up with the latest innovations.
What we’ve seen is that the more customers learn about what their devices can do, the more appreciation and value they associate with the brands behind their devices. Similarly, the more brands help with onboarding, the more value they are creating for their customers. This also gave us a better understanding of TechBuddy’s value to both end users and the brands, which is to bridge this missing value link.
Internet is now an essential utility, in the likes of electricity and running water.
5. Internet is an essential utility
These days, we declare our taxes, manage social security services, handle transactions and much more within minutes using technology. Our experience from the past 50K performed tasks illustrates though that for a large part of society, this is not the case. The elderly often have to stand in line at the ever decreasing locations of tax offices, banks, and other public and private services and fill out paper forms to manage many of the same errands mentioned above - spending hours of time and weeks of waiting compared to minutes and days with digital alternatives. As these public and private services are going digital, we’ve seen how a large segment of society has been abandoned and largely left behind.
If it was bad having tech anxiety before, the Covid-19 pandemic has certainly brought the problem areas much more front and center. Now it’s apparent that this is a society wide issue, with so many struggling to get started with remote working, teaching or studying remotely, and for the elderly - having any semblance of connection now that they are told not to meet in person. More than ever, it is apparent that a fully working internet connection at home is now in the category of essential utilities next to electricity and running water - and just as the other utilities, you need someone to call when they don’t work.
6. Testing vs. Resumés
Many of us have been the go-to person in the family for tech problems, and the TechBuddy founders knew that there must be an ocean of people out there who know the things others are struggling with. Therefore, we created a comprehensive test that covers the type of skills necessary to perform our services with high quality and professionalism, as well as doing a background check and interview. Most importantly, we put much effort on establishing a community where we could get to know Buddies more, and where they could get to know each other. As a principal, we don’t want to send strangers to strangers as matchmakers, but rather we want to send our trusted Buddies to our valued customers.
Whereas many companies are struggling to find skilled IT professionals, we have found over a thousand people - often from the unemployment office - that we identify as true digital talents by testing them. Through us, many of these digital talents are gaining the work experience they need to be able to progress in their careers both internally at TechBuddy and by becoming attractive to other companies. Having a rating of 4.7 out of 5 after 50K performed services, we can see that we made the right decision.
7. Why Buddies chose TechBuddy
We decided to ask our Buddies why they chose to work with TechBuddy - and the answers surprised us. When we compiled the answers, we saw three clear common denominators. The most prevalent answer was flexibility, meaning that they can decide for themselves how much and when to work and on which tasks. The second main reason was The opportunity to work with Tech. These digital talents, that we know to have high level skills in perhaps the most important tools of our time, were delighted that they could work with something many of them previously thought was just an interest or a hobby. The third main reason stated was to help people. Buddies expressed that they felt a sense of accomplishment and pride in helping people with their tech frustrations or needs. Customers are often delighted that everything works, and our Buddies get to be the hero of the day.
What more could you want from the people representing the business, than them truly caring for the customer and have a professional pride in helping customers with their needs. This is probably one of the main successfactors for TechBuddy.
Our community of Buddies truly care about our customers.
8. Incentives vs. Community
Early on, offering the flexibility for Buddies to choose our tasks at will could at times create gaps in our service delivery. To counter this, we tried to introduce bonus programs where Buddies would earn more, for instance by taking tasks during the weekend, or by taking several tasks in a row, or in a certain area. This would work well in solving our immediate problem, but it also created new problems. We would see that our regular delivery rates would decrease, perhaps because there was a higher incentive to wait for more bonuses at the end of a week.
What we’ve learned since is that the more we invest in the community and long term benefits, the more engaged our Buddies become. Through our community, the Buddies are gaining new friends and acquaintances of like minded individuals, with whom they share pictures of daily activities, set up gaming nights, after work events, and also share knowledge about devices, solutions and more areas of development. We strongly believe that maintaining a vibrant community of like-minded individuals is what drives our Buddy retention and engagement - far more than any bonus or monetary incentive would achieve.
9. Insource before you Outsource
We have always had Buddies that show a higher level of ambition, who contact us to see if there is anything more they can work with at TechBuddy - and we’ve always tried to find such opportunities. In time, this became a strategy for TechBuddy. We can proudly share that our operations managers in Sweden and Spain, our lead developer, a content creator, one of our customer service representatives, and our previous community manager started with us as Buddies. This has been very successful for us, as our Buddies have first hand experience and knowledge of our business. To build on this, we recently also launched an initiative called Buddy Market. This is an internal channel where we make requests for things that we might otherwise outsource, such as graphic design, cameramen, video editing, photographer, marketing content, extra support for our second line and more. This creates additional opportunities for Buddies to earn more from their wider set of skills.
To be honest however, most Buddies have availed themselves for these extra tasks not because of the extra income but because they care and want to support the company, and we ask them first because we care and want to support our Buddies. When we share a video and know that a Buddy made it, it makes us that much more proud of TechBuddy.
10. Trust is everything
At one point, we were approached by a brand that would give us a high kick-back if we recommended their devices to our customers. We were still quite young as a company and it would mean a significant boost to our revenues and margins. After talking it over, we decided against making that deal. That conversation was probably one of the more defining moments of TechBuddy’s progression, and our strategy for the future.
As mentioned before, our whole approach is to send trusted Buddies to valued customers. We lean a lot on the term Buddy, because it should be as if a good friend or a family member comes to guide and support customers. Our Buddies will not try to stay longer to make more, or recommend things customers don’t need. This is why we work hard to maintain our independence, so that we can always make recommendations based on what customers actually need, rather higher margins or a big stock in inventory. It is however, also highly important for maintaining credibility with our existing and potential Buddies. It is important that our Buddies can express their expertise with integrity and authenticity. This is how we create the greatest value, and how we will build a long term relationship with our customers - as well as our Buddies. We are in this for the long haul, not some short term returns.
To the next 50K
These are only some of our learnings from the journey so far, and we are excited about all the things we will learn ahead. We promise to translate every new learning to provide a higher value to our great team, Buddies, partners, supporters, investors, advisors, and of course our customers - and share our learnings with anyone who may be interested in following our journey.
Tahero Nori - CEO TechBuddy
and Siavash Habibi - COO TechBuddy