Analyzing the Aftermath of COVID for Computer Repair

by Komayal Hassan
A micro-solderer at work

The COVID pandemic, still an ongoing socioeconomic reality, changed everything. It universalized an expedited shift to the digital. In real terms, this has meant a thorough adoption of all manner of connected gadgetry. Devices that attempt to substitute life processes to enable human autonomy.

The goal of this rabid drive toward digitization has been to continue the ‘way of things’. And to some extent, the said target has been achieved. There are, however, some pockets of resistance left still. The human, as it were, continues to rear its head; for the creative mark cannot be erased.

Accounting for Repair’s ‘Wind in the Sail’

Computer repair, like most allied repair fields, has benefited tremendously from this picture. Its ascent has largely been unprecedented. The pandemic, of course, resulted in a global majority being left confined with their machines. For many, the web became the sole means of conducting commerce. All social interaction, in fact, was rendered under its purview.

Computers and smartphone use increased exponentially. More usage, as can be expected, has tied in with a greater frequency of breakage. And more shot gadgetry, of course, means an upswing in repair contracts. More business for ‘fix shops’, as they’re called in shorthand.

Just to put things in perspective, one of our pieces titled The 5 Business Perks of Computer Repair Shop Software fetched an unprecedented number of engagement hits from our readers: sufficient indication of the interest inherent to the subject.

The trend towards scale, however, had been in the making for some time. Thanks to an all-industry spike in inflation, the last decade saw more and more people retain their devices for longer. According to some informal estimates, average PC lifespans increased from 5 to 7 years.

App and software developers, for their part, attempted to build on this trend. They have designed frameworks with low requirements for local processing. ‘Ad hoc’ programs, as they’re referred to by the people in the know.  These applications boast a preference for ‘plug-n-play’ browser deployments.

Computer Repair: A Good Industry to Get In, But…

As per the latest IBIS World reports on computer and cell phone repair in the US, the industry forecast tells of a:

  • Stable future
  • Marked by periodic peaks (in demand correlated with sales)

A good time to make an entrepreneurial angle inward.

Business aspirants and VCs, always on the lookout for suitable opportunities, have been quick to take note. Their response, however, has saturated the domain. Resulting in a further solidification of the field’s barriers to entry.

Another impediment faced by many newcomers has to do with repair’s steep learning curve. Fix work is essentially technical; requiring dealings with micro-circuitry, small valves, and minuscule wires. Even with the trade’s theoretical understandings pinned down, success here is a function of experience. It does get better with practice; with the formulation of the tech’s own repair rubric.

Field entrants, then, have to contend with these forces to keep afloat. They first need to establish their repair competence vis-a-vis their competitors. At the same time, they need to develop their own signature approach to the trade.

Even with these prerequisites covered, though, the monies up for the taking are dismal. At least initially, that is. It is only after some time has elapsed in the field that repair techs get to demand their preferred wages. These can either be fixed or commissioned – or both.

Workflow Automation: A Death Knell?

Over the last several years, there has been an increasing trend towards mechanization in the repair workspace. This digitization has come on the back of such new-age implements as computer repair shop software and POS software.

These aids, in line with their intended function, seek to automate the repair business workflow. Take full care of repetitive tasks like:

  • Tickets Generation
  • Inventory (Supply-Side) Management
  • Human Resource Management (HRM)
  • Business/Financial Accounting
  • Leads/Marketing/Customer Outreach Management

and a host of other ‘dailies’.

Their aim is to reduce reliance on human workers as much as is made possible. Allow repair techs to get on with their ‘primal skills execution’: the actual repair work.

For this purpose, many in the industry are referring to this new-age field iteration as a ‘death knell’ for the labor pool.

Algorithmic produce, after all, is not only cheap in the long run, it is also error-free. At least, until, a design bug gets in the way of proper flow. And in the normal course of events, the dynamic that sets in promises more sales and revenue inflows.

Newer Display Technologies & the Unfolding (Retracting) Scope of Repair

As you – as the still-field-unaffiliate (hopefully) – may have noticed, repair is a hybrid endeavor. Part human, part machine; always a confluence. Its modern-day practitioners, by the same token, have to profess a demonstrable proficiency in both. They need to be versed in the intricacies of both emotive human interaction and repair shop software (as the two ends of the spectrum).

The foreseeable future, though, will favor more AI-machine repair field internment. Here, the human agent would need to chase empowerment on the direct customer engagement front. This is because people don’t respond well to machines. Especially for sales, they need a more subjective, rationally unquantifiable type of motivation.

Generic, machine-learning-informed scripts, while incredibly sophisticated, have so far proved to be more irksome than converting.

As a SaaS field researcher generally attuned to the currents underway in tech, I believe this to be the best vantage, also, for further human exploration.

Machines, by way of an eventuality just waiting to emerge, will take over every predictable field of exertion (social or commercial) in the brewing future. And so the way forward for the serious economic agent – be they in repair or otherwise – is clear:

The cultivation of human subjectivity – that basic stuff of being this planet’s apex sentient. Intangible stuff, translatable into the wondrous world of the concrete, that the machine cannot replicate.

In many ways, this will be our species’ eventual vantage of operation.

And as the dictates of Darwinian evolution prescribe, we must ‘adapt to survive’.

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