Earlier this year HelpCloud joined the Tech Care Association (TCA) after discussions with its founder and CEO, Rob Link. We found that the goals and mission of the TCA very much aligned with HelpCloud’s goals to fight for a better World Wide Web. There are a few factors that I’ll discuss in this post that highlight the dire needs of repair shops and remote tech support companies. As Apple, Google, and Microsoft all make the push against the fight for our Right to Repair and thus, push to destroy small repair companies like our own, there is nothing we can do but band together at this point. Stronger together.
Who is the Tech Care Association
The TCA is open to not just tech repair companies but also tech reuse and recycling companies. From their website, the TCA states:
The Tech Care Association seeks to unify those in the tech care industry to create the first fulltime professional trade association to take on big tech companies that have controlled the industries destiny for too long.
The Tech Care Association, a national not-for-profit trade organization, works with companies in the tech repair, reuse, and recycle industries to assist in expanding and promote the tech care community.Source
Why Join the Tech Care Association?
Other than strength in unity and participating in the fight for our Right to Repair and exist as a company, we want to establish industry norms. HelpCloud has always attempted to be the industry leader in remote tech support. We have high standards that include a very transparent funnel for purchasing our services that are accompanied with detailed transactional records (for us and the customer). We deliver on our services and when we don’t, we refund the customer. We always adhere to our 14-day satisfaction guarantee. We have serious technicians and very caring customer service available by phone and by chat. We’re here 24/7 for our customers. Regardless, we’re in an industry that is viewed as mostly scammers. And the tech support industry justifiably is considered an industry riddled with scammers. Even Apple’s certified repair shops have been caught multiple times lying to customers to push them to buy a new Apple product.
HelpCloud is the first remote tech support company to join the TCA. Our hope is to sit on committees and to share our standard operating procedures so that we can help establish industry norms for remote tech support. We feel this is the most efficient way to sift out bad actors and identify the legitimate companies.
We also hope to network with local repair shops so that we can refer our members (when they need in-depth hardware repair) to trusted businesses. We will trust the standards of those repair shops that have also joined the TCA. We also hope they refer their customers that prefer remote support to us. You can find a member directory and trusted tech care companies on the TCA’s new website, Where to Repair.
Lastly, we hope to win some battles with our partners in the trade organization. These are listed below.
Battles we are Hoping to Win
When Google, Apple, and Microsoft target your industry then you feel very small. Even me writing this post gives me anxiety. Luckily we’re just a small gnat but what if one of these mega-corporations gets wind of this resistance to their measures? What happens to our website on Google Search? Or on Bing?
We’ve already picked up on artificial manipulation of Google Search results when someone searches “HelpCloud”. For over two years, the number three link is not even our Better Business Bureau profile, but a link to the complaints filed with the BBB. Normally the top result of a website would go to the first link/profile of ours on the site. That would most certainly not be the complaint section but, rather, would be our entire BBB profile (which includes almost all positive reviews and our BBB accreditation). Our site has never had more than two links on the first page of the search engine results when you search our company name. This is not normal behavior for an algorithm that should be pulling the most relevant results related to our company and website. Because this has remained the same since the Google tech support ban, one can confidently infer that our company/industry is targeted. These search engine results normally change with time and multiple Google algorithm updates. But not for us. While this tactic by Google may help someone detect that a certain company is a scam, for legitimate companies like ours, it displays all our harshest complaints first and foremost. More so than the myriad of good reviews, good content we’ve created, and strong social profiles (HelpCloud’s YouTube channel has nearly 50,000 subscribers as of May 2021). It also makes prominent a negative link in our brand search results when a user is not even looking for such a thing. To a user on Google, this appears to be one of the most important issues regarding our company.
We hope TCA, as a trade organization, sitting with these companies pushes for the changes below. If not, we will band together and take our fight to the FTC where a collective complaint is something for these monopolies to consider.
The Right to Repair
Apple, Microsoft, and Google have very effectively done their best to stifle the repair industry. This is simply driven by greed. If a broken product can’t be fixed then it forces the consumer to purchase it again. This is wasteful and only economic for these monopolies.
Our stance on the Right to Repair has recently been strengthened as the FTC has released statements regarding warranties that are null and void if you use third party parts or repair. Essentially, these warranties are illegal and have been since the Magnuson–Moss Warranty Act of 1975. You can report this type of warranty fraud here.
You can also read my full write-up on the Right to Repair.
Have Google Create the Long-Awaited Authentication Process for Tech Support Companies
On August 31, 2018 Google banned third party tech support services. We were promised to be white-listed (after the creation of an authentication process) as we’re the model remote support company. They originally promised a quick route to a review and authentication process. We waited. Then in September 9, 2019 they said they couldn’t deter the potential for abuse, etc. I doubt it. You’re telling me Google doesn’t have the capacity to sift out bad players and scammers? Even by having an authentication process alone, you funnel all the potential bad players and can execute measures to make sure they keep in compliance with high standards. We can and want to do this.
At the moment, our newest and most impressive service goes unadvertised. We can’t show an ad to the many people searching for our type of help. This effectively shuts our advertising down as Google dominates over 90% of the online search engine market share. You can learn more about Technician by-the-hour here. The service could have been crucial and needed help for countless people during the pandemic. People were stuck at home and remote support would have helped them.
We’re not the only ones struggling due to this. Local repair shops can’t advertise, even on Google Maps. So when a user searches online for a local repair shop, those with limited capacity to build a substantial online presence, cannot advertise in order to promote their services.
Have Microsoft (Bing) Lift their Unfair Blanket Ban on Tech Support
Microsoft banned tech support ads on Bing in 2016. However, I regularly find ads for support on Bing. It’s a guise and executed as “answers to questions”. You click the ad to a landing page, chat with a live agent (or a well designed bot), then the agent forwards you to tech support services. They effectively allow what they want but if we approach with straight forward advertising then we aren’t permitted to advertise. It’s frustrating. Again, we desire to participate in an authentication process and to sit at a table with Bing Ads to determine what type of ads we’d be allowed to run.
The days are gone when the World Wide Web was open to all privileged enough with internet access and open to those with the desire to build a website/company that was built on a mission. Currently, we live in a time when over 90% of internet users rely and are dependent on Google Search. One doesn’t “search online” for something, they “Google it”. While it would be great to witness a shift in semantics and for people to explore alternative products, that is not our mission with us joining the Tech Care Association. The American dependence on Google has led to Google controlling the fate of most companies by simply creating rules that, regardless of being justifiable or wrong, prohibit certain industries from advertising on their mega-platform. Similarly, when Apple flexes and sends all its best lobbyists to push for legislation against the Right to Repair, independent repair shops all over the country suffer. Then when Microsoft, who owns Bing, also bans tech support advertising, what are companies like ours supposed to do? We band together and take the fight to these monopolies together.
Why can’t these mega rich and powerful companies spend the time to create and launch an authentication process for tech support companies? We know Google almost did it. But that stopped. Now repair shops and remote support companies suffer because they feel no priority to let us advertise…or is there a more nefarious reason? Interesting to see will be what type of conversations have happened at and between these companies with regard to 3rd party support. After all, a device that lasts longer (i.e. is repaired) means less consumption of their products.
This year HelpCloud joined the Tech Care Association for a few reasons. First and foremost is survival. Let’s be real, that’s why we’re fighting. We also joined the Tech Care Association because we stand by their mission and their Code of Ethics. We are excited to participate in creating norms and standards for a legitimate remote tech support company. We want to be a model to the industry because we believe in our product and believe in our caring staff that care for our customers.