For the launch of its new Galaxy Note 8 smartphone, Samsung is — not surprisingly — doubling down on the whole support thing. New Note 8 buyers in the US will get 60 days free of Samsung Premium Care service if they buy through Samsung.com, a service that normally costs $11.99 per device per month and includes everything light support to coverage for damage.
For the in-home support portion of the service, Samsung is relying on a lesser-known logistics startup based out of Los Angeles called HelloTech. And HelloTech is promising Note 8 customers that it will come to them whenever they have questions about their new phones, whether that means visiting them at home, at work, or at a local coffee shop.
It’s a decidedly different approach from Apple’s support services, which normally occur online, over the phone, or in one of its many retail stores. Since Samsung doesn’t have a network of hundreds of retail stores to rely on, it has to outsource support services to companies than can handle demand in different markets across the US. Customers will still go through Samsung’s Premium Care site, but the person who shows up at the door is HelloTech.
HelloTech first launched back in 2015 amid a new crop of companies that were all trying to take on the incumbent Geek Squad, companies like Ron Johnson’s Enjoy, Eden, and CellSavers (recently rebranded as Puls). Usually, visits from HelloTech contractors range in price from $49 for simple demos, up to $199 for more complicated setups. In the case of the Note 8, they’ll be free for at least a couple months. After two months, Note 8 buyers will have to start paying $11.99 per month for the broader Premium Care service, which will still include the HelloTech visits.
According to HelloTech co-founder and chief executive Richard Wolpert, the company operates in 88 percent of cities across the US, with exceptions for some rural or remote areas. It’s officially passé to refer to a startup as an “Uber for X,” but that’s basically what HelloTech is: it relies on 7,000 contractors who go through training before being sent out on a tech support job. The company originally considered a commerce angle (which is Enjoy’s model), where it might also try to upsell you on other tech products while a technician was at your home. But HelloTech has since moved away from that model and is focused entirely on demos and support.
HelloTech is funded by Upfront Ventures, Crosscut Ventures, Madrona Venture Group, and Accel Partners (which, in full disclosure, is also an investor in Vox Media, The Verge’s parent company).
The Samsung Galaxy Note 8 deal is possibly the biggest one that HelloTech has nabbed so far, though it also provided some support for the Samsung Galaxy S8, did a three-month trial with Samsung for the Galaxy S7, and has even worked with Samsung to provide support around its “smart” fridges.
But to be sure, HelloTech’s visits will only address light issues with the phone, Wolpert said: things like setting up the Note 8 from scratch, switching from iPhone to Android, demos of crucial features, or how to use Bixby, Samsung’s relatively new virtual assistant. More serious phone problems, ones that require replacements, will be handled by Dish.
In fact, when I asked what HelloTech’s response would be if a customer expressed concerns about the battery given last year’s Note 7 debacle, Wolpert said HelloTech hadn’t worked with Samsung to formulate an official procedure yet. But let’s hope, for everyone’s sake, Samsung Note 8 battery issues aren’t a thing that the company has to address.