When something you own malfunctions, whether it's your smartphone or your microwave or your car, you really only have two options: Call tech support (if it exists for your particular product) and sit on hold forever, or pay a professional repairman a wad of cash to diagnose the problem and maybe fix it. If you're lucky, maybe you've got a third option in a tech-savvy friend or a car enthusiast for a father you can call, but otherwise, you're kind of stranded.
That's where a new tool called 6ya comes in. It's an app-centric concierge repair service that wants to be "a Genius Bar for your entire life."
Here's how it works: When something breaks, open the 6ya app, request an expert, and immediately connect via video or audio chat with someone who knows your product inside and out. It's kind of like calling an Uber, only you're calling an Apple expert or a seasoned mechanic. In under six minutes, the 6ya expert will try to diagnose the problem and help you fix it. Or they can give you the confirmation you need to have it replaced or fixed by a professional repairman.
"For more than 70 percent of the issues consumers encounter, there's nothing broken with the product," says Yaniv Bensadon, CEO and founder of 6ya. "It's just a setting or an operational issue and someone who is knowledgeable and passionate about the product is in the best position to help."
Bensadon already runs Fixya, a Q&A site that's amassed 900,000 experts during its 10 years of existence. If Fixya is a more staid web-based forum for sharing product knowledge, then 6ya is like its younger, cooler sibling. It takes the program mobile, putting an expert in your pocket, just a few taps or swipes away. "Instead of searching and asking and getting an answer, jump on the phone for a few minutes with someone who knows everything about that product," Bensadon says. "Think of it as like Car Talk for everything."
Well, just about everything. The app launches with four areas of expertise: computers and internet; smartphones and tablets; home appliances; cars and trucks. He hopes to expand into more areas at a later date, once the app works its kinks out. The cost is $6 a month with no additional fee for calls. It's an all-you-can-fix buffet. And it's cheaper than other repair services. The Geek Squad, for example, costs $10 a month, has a $100 setup fee, and only offers technology help (it also has some pretty abysmal reviews). Geekatoo is at least $9 a month with a $79 setup fee and also has a narrow tech focus. "For a lot of products, there is no Apple Store," Bensadon says. "If your sprinkler system is not turned on when it should be, what are you gonna do?"
Experts are vetted for knowledge but also customer service experience. Many come from Fixya's existing pool of well-rated experts who have been doling out advice for years. With 6ya, they'll keep dishing out advice, but now they'll get paid. Bensadon has an optimistic goal of paying experts between $20 and $30 an hour, depending on call volume. They can set their own hours and log on or off whenever they want. "They're compensated each time they take a call. And they are basically invited to work every time they have a free five or 10 minutes," Bensadon says.
The trick for 6ya will be making sure enough experts are on hand to handle calls in a timely manner, otherwise the service loses its convenience and becomes just another tech support call that puts you on hold.
But if 6ya can crack that problem, it promises to be a very smart app that fills a void in the service market. After all, so many of our technical problems could be easily fixed at home if only we knew what buttons to push and levers to pull.