AARP and Best Buy's Geek Squad recently announced a new partnership to help AARP members take full advantage of all that technology has to offer them. Members pay $169.99 for one year of unlimited tech support and guidance -- a 29% discount off the normal price, and members get a contact number and their own queue.
Geek Squad agents get special training to assist consumers with a broad range of tech fluency -- so they're equipped to help the senior who is already on Pinterest and skyping with their grandchildren as well as AARP members who are looking to buy their first PC.
"It's very important for [Geek Squad agents] to remember the fact that yes, we will often spend Friday nights reading a computer manual...but not everybody does that," said Geek Squad covert agent Derek Meister ("covert agents" are online support agents, we learned in our interview -- the guys who will be especially useful to seniors who don't have easy access to a local Best Buy. Users can "drop off" their computers with a covert agent for tune-ups and virus scans, among other services, from the comfort of their homes).
It turns out more than half of those already subscribed to The Geek Squad's tech support services are between the ages of 55 and 64, according to Meister. "One of the only generalizations you can make...is that there aren't any generalizations," Meister says of his older clientele. But he admits that "we do see a fair amount of intimidation," and noted the 2009 AARP study that found that 33 percent of boomers are frustrated by their technology. (The study also found that 24 percent of younger people surveyed reported the same).
So what are boomers and seniors looking for in the tech world? Meister says they're investing in smartphones and tablets (Meister himself purchased an iPad for his mother, since it's "nice and simple" and suited to her frequent travels). They're also accessing The Geek Squad's services for help with existing technology that isn't living up to their expectations. Across the board, printer malfunctions are one of the biggest tech complaints. They also want to get on board with social media -- and get more out of their existing gadgets.
And what should they be taking further advantage of? Skype, Meister says. "We live in a world where most of us are separated...and don't really have time for those family get-togethers," he observes -- so video-chatting is a great solution for Christmas dinner or just keeping in touch. He also thinks the internet is an untapped resource for many, and not merely as a vehicle for maintaining social ties.
"There's a lot of not just great information but great resources online," he said. Internet users can get the information they want about healthcare and other concerns, if they only know how and where to look, as well as pay taxes and get tax refunds online, for example -- a particularly useful app for the housebound, Meister notes.
On that note, one of the coolest parts of the AARP-Geek Squad partnership, we think, is the education component. AARP members can get one-on-one training over the phone, so they are not merely shown or told but really know how to take advantage of all these great tools. Some of these trainings include internet safety and how to use a digital camera.
"One of the things that we like to say...is that tech skills are only 49 percent of what makes an agent. It's actually 51 percent people skills," said Meister. "Part of our whole purpose is not just to fix that computer for you, but actually make you feel comfortable with that technology. When we really do our job, you don't have to see us again any time soon."
Check out The Geek Squad's 8 tip for taking advantage of social media: