We recently took over tech support for a company who used to have “a guy.” We had to obtain some information from him, and he wasn’t very responsive. I guess after losing the client he wasn’t really inclined to be helpful, and I can’t entirely blame him.
We were a little surprised though – most of the time, when we called, we got his mom. Apparently he lives at her house, in the basement.
The thing is, this isn’t unusual. There are lots of guys in lots of basements handling tech support for small companies. They are often very smart and very cheap.
So why is this a problem?
For starters, they are usually self-taught and lack real-world experience. Given the large ego of your average tech, chances are they don’t know what they don’t know – nor are they willing to admit they might not yet know it all.
There can be a big knowledge gap: if you spend all your time in the basement, you never learn enterprise-class support procedures. This means your business technology is run using non-standard setup processes, instead picking whatever suggestion comes up first on Google. It’s hard to feel confident that you are getting the best solution when they are making things up as they go. Speaking for myself, I prefer established best practices over educated guesses any day.
Another issue: those basement geeks rarely get out. If they fall ill, or get busy, or take vacation, or take on a day job, they may not have a backup geek to handle your tech issues. Got a sudden emergency? Don’t count on getting it fixed right away if the timing’s not right.
And professionalism…well, these guys are geeks first and foremost. They happen to be self-employed, but it doesn’t mean they know how to run a business. We often find that they stay in the basement because they are more comfortable there than around people. So don’t count on high standards of professionalism, or clear communication, or an understanding of your business priorities.