DSG International (DSG), the parent company of Currys and Dixons, has launched a service to help customers cope with today’s technological gadgets.


The Tech Guys is aimed at the increasingly technology-dependent homes in the UK and provides "expert" technical advice on issues including installing, connecting and upgrading consumers’ home computers and high-spec televisions.


John Clare, DSG’s chief executive, said: "As the UK gears up for one of the most important technological transitions in 100 years, for which the majority of consumers are not prepared, we’re creating a national support operation to help customers navigate their way around the digital universe.


"The forthcoming national digital switchover programme, combined with the rapid development of digital technology, will have a huge effect on every home in the UK and create an unparalleled level of demand for expert technical advice."


The service, which mirrors similar services offered by retailers in the US, will be staffed by 3,000 advisors offering assistance 24 hours a day, 365 days a year to consumers, no matter where they bought their technology.


The service will be supported by dedicated call centres, one of Europe’s largest technical databases, specialist repair centres and a spare parts vault of two million components.


Call centre advice will cost confused technophiles £1.50 ($2.80) per minute and home visits will cost approximately £80 with a service capacity to make approximately 16,000 home visits a week.


DSG plans to invest £50 million over the next five years in the programme that includes the opening of 200 standalone stores, upgrading in-store services offered through its chain of PC World stores and eventual expansion across Europe.


The company hopes to gain control of the UK digital support services market which is estimated to be worth £1 billion. With customers’ increasing reliance on technology, the company predicts that the market could double in size within five years.


A survey of 2,200 adults, commissioned by DSG, has revealed that 79 percent of adults in the UK routinely need help with everyday technology tasks and 43 percent have had to wait over a week for essential technical support from local suppliers. Research also showed that 67 percent suffer from ‘technology rage’ and admitted to having thrown away electrical goods in frustration without ever attempting to repair them.


DSG’s Clare believes that digital technology has become as important a utility as water, electricity and gas and predicts that domestic technical support will become as common around the home as visits by plumbers and electricians.


The Tech Guys launch follows similar service provision being offered by US electrical retailers, which aim to differentiate themselves from supermarkets which have started to stock electronic goods.


BestBuy, North America’s leading specialty retailer of consumer electronics, acquired computer support service Geek Squad two years ago, and now employs 12,000 technicians. The service accounts for $1.25 billion out of the company’s $30 billion annual revenue. The service provides a 24-hour computer support task force focussing solely on computer and network support.


Yet the future is uncertain for such services. Overhead costs of stand-alone outlets are likely to rise as service provision expands. The IQ Crew, the computer support division belonging to US consumer electronics retailer Circuit City, experienced flat sales growth and falling market share and was replaced by the Firedog brand.


DSG has made a massive attempt to rebrand this year. Dixons stores no longer trade on the high street and now trade exclusively online as a specialist electrical e-tailing. Dixons’ existing e-commerce operation has recorded on average more than 50 per cent year on year sales growth over the last four years. The Group has extended the Currys brand to all existing Dixons stores and will trade under Currys.digital.


The Tech Guys strategy is to appeal to the home-worker or small business that relies heavily on their PC. The service also aims to attract a broad customer base because it will accept customers irrelevant of where they purchased their equipment.
John Clare, DSG’s chief executive, said: "The focus is on getting something fixed, rather than selling."