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Dell hooks up PC customers with online support

All U.S. Dell customers under warranty will now receive the one-on-one online tech support for free.

Dell is hoping to stanch criticism of its tech support program with a service that lets technicians remotely troubleshoot balky PCs over a high-speed Internet connection.

All U.S. Dell customers under warranty will receive the one-on-one online tech support for free, the company announced on Friday.

DellConnect allows a Dell tech support representative to remotely access a PC, with the user's permission, and troubleshoot the system while the user watches. The representative can download software updates, run diagnostic tools or identify configuration problems. Dell previously offered the service as part of its Dell-On-Call initative, but the remote troubleshooting feature was only available to Dell's XPS customers.

But Dell has realized that many of its customers are very dissatisfied with its current support offerings, and announced plans a few weeks ago to invest $100 million in improving its tech support operations. Dell Chief Executive Officer Kevin Rollins announced the DellConnect program during a press conference in Nashville, Tenn., where the company plans to increase head count at a support center from 1,000 employees to 4,500 employees.

The idea is to reduce expensive house calls and solve relatively simple problems, such as missing drivers or virus cleaning, without customers having to turn to other support vendors. PlumChoice, a PC support company that offers a similar service, estimates that 85 percent of most common problems can be solved remotely.

Dell customers will not be charged for the DellConnect service as long as they are under warranty. Users will need a high-speed broadband connection to connect to the service.