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Wanted: American geeks to work at MyTechHelp

As Broward County continues its economic recovery, one Margate company wants to hire hundreds of workers. MyTechHelp needs local English- and Spanish-speakers who are also fluent in technology.

The company is looking for gadget-savvy employees to assist customers who can call the MyTechHelp hotline 24/7 whenever a desktop computer freezes, a cell phone mutes itself or a laptop erases important data. Rather than calling the help desk of a company that outsources its tech support, at MyTechHelp, you can get U.S.-based agents who will shed light on (and fix!) the mysterious malfunctions of any device in the house.

The company has grown exponentially since its inception in 2009, and founder Benzion Aboud says by the end of the year, the phone-answering army of 200 needs to grow to 500 to handle demand.

“We want to make sure, number one, that they [customers] can relate to the person they’re talking to,” he said. “Think about it, if you call us and you’ve got a problem, the last thing you want to do is talk with a guy in India who doesn’t know what the hell he’s saying.”

Besides getting someone who sounds more familiar (in terms of both accent and cultural understanding), the agents at MyTechHelp have access to a “knowledge base” of solutions for just about any technology problem. Once a problem has been resolved, the solution goes into the company knowledge base system that agents can quickly search whenever a customer presents a problem they haven’t seen before. Aboud says this database makes response time faster and more efficient.

The agents on the other end of the phone are “techies, geeks and IT ninjas,” said Brett Bieber, the director of MyTechHelp. These people “love technology,” he added, and have a “resolution rate well over 90 percent.”

The service works on a subscription basis; like AAA subscribers are covered for roadside car problems, MyTechHelp comes to the rescue for technology problems. First-time customers can buy a year membership for $159.99 that allows them to call as many times as they want with any problem on any device, including computers, cameras, TVs, scanners, printers and cell phones. There is also an option for a six-month subscription for $99.99, or a 30-day subscription for $59.99 and an additional monthly charge.

This compares to the $69.99 charged for a single visit from Best Buy’s Geek Squad. The more established competitor iYogi charges $169.99 for a year subscription and limits the scope of its tech support.

Aboud, a fast-talking New Jersey native who also founded parent company Saveology, says that the service should be so efficient and professional that it becomes something that people can’t live without. “We have customers who call us now two, three times a month,” he said. “Some of these customers know our agents by first name.”

Much of the customer feedback sings the praises of these technology miracle workers. Sister Glenna Smith, president of a federation of Benedictine monasteries in Bristow, Va., called MyTechHelp when her computer started “behaving oddly.” In an email to The Miami Herald, she described the agents as “courteous and competent.” Acknowledging her own technology illiteracy, she said “the technician’s knowledge and perseverance were amazing.”

Of course not everyone who calls MyTechHelp for the first time signs up for a subscription, and even those who do might want to end their monthly payments at some point. Michael Wallace, the company’s CFO, explained that in these situations, the last month’s charge is automatically refunded and the customer can terminate their subscription. Billing disputes are reviewed on a case by case basis.

Still, the explosive growth of the company suggests that MyTechHelp is offering a service that fills a real need in our technology-saturated world. More than 150,000 people in the United States subscribe, and the company is signing up 26,000 new customers a month. The now “multimillion dollar business” is seeing its revenue grow by 20 percent a month, Aboud said.

The spacious Saveology complex in Margate has the same creative feel as the technology start-ups of Silicon Valley, although this one is somewhat incongruously situated in a strip mall off Coconut Creek Parkway. Inside, the headquarters is like a playground for grownups, with a putting green, a wall of jellybean dispensers and birdcages with enormous parrots. There is a barbershop and a comfy break room that encourages the informal interaction that is so often credited with generating innovation in technology companies. With the primary colors of the décor and employee achievement charts on the walls, the atmosphere is undeniably cheerful and everyone is encouraged to contribute to the development of the company.

There are two tiers of employees in an operation Bieber describes as “sales with a technology flare.” Tier I agents answer phone calls from first-time customers to diagnose their technology problem and sell them a subscription plan. Once enrolled, subscribers speak with a Tier II agent who can work with customers to resolve issues or “remote-in” to take control of the computer and work some MyTechHelp magic.

There is no traditional career path in such a new company, and there are many opportunities for moving between tiers and into management. Jonathan Silverstone, 20, is a thin, blond geology student at Broward College who wears his dark-rim glasses with pride and self-identifies as a geek. He began in April as a Tier II agent and quickly moved up to Tier I, welcoming the opportunity to exercise different skills and interact with customers.

“I love it,” Silverstone said. “I’ve been doing really well since I started here.”

If MyTechHelp is going to keep up with demand, the company is going to need many more eager agents like Silverstone. It is recruiting heavily at local tech schools like Atlantic Technical Center and Florida Career College, often sweeping in as many as 50 new employees at a time.

The majority of this growth will swell the ranks of the Margate team, although there is a small office in Utah of 60 employees to handle some of the late-night demand.

Aboud’s vision for the future of the company goes beyond tech help to “get into the hardware game and additional softwares.” He imagines a technology Costco, where membership comes with dramatically low prices on all kinds of gear and gadgets.

“Besides giving me 10 bucks a month, they [customers] go out and buy cases for their iPad, plugs, a new HP laptop. I want to be able to not only service them but also to sell them that,” Aboud said. “If you’re a member of our program, you can buy the hardware products at a heavily discounted price, and the reason for that is because I have no overhead, I don’t have a retail store, I don’t need salespeople.”

He also envisions MyTechHelp as the global leader for technology assistance, and the energy of this ambition touches every phone call, meeting and impromptu putting tournament at the Margate headquarters. The number one task right now, Aboud said, is to grow the company to keep up with the expanding subscriber base and offer an excellent service that people find they can’t live without.