By: Matthew Carr-Gomm – Founder & CEO
The idea to start Geeks on Wheels was born back in 2005 when there was a obvious gap in the market for a great quality, local computer repair & help service accessible to all computer users, not just businesses.
At the time I was involved in developing large websites for overseas companies, working from my kitchen table at home in Miramar, Wellington – I distinctly remember a time when I needed to quickly buy a network cable to hook up a new printer, I popped down to my local computer shop (that’s no longer in business) and was gobsmacked by the appalling lack of service! Given that I knew exactly what I wanted, I couldn’t help but wonder how other, less technological, people might feel when attempting to get help and assistance with their computing needs.
I conducted a little research, and it wasn’t too surprising to learn that there was a common perception about computer technicians. They had earned themselves a poor reputation for being condescending, patronising, big-headed, and in some cases downright rude! Amongst the common complaints was that technicians used far too much jargon that the average person couldn't understand, they didn’t listen, and they didn’t explain things well enough.
The public were becoming more and more dependent upon technology, which was, and still is, changing at a forever increasing pace – it was clear that Geeks on Wheels needed to exist, and we needed to provide a fast, efficient, friendly & personal service.
I had previously worked as an Authorised Apple Reseller during the 90’s throughout the UK, and had spent a vast amount of time in many peoples’ homes setting up the original Apple iMac when it first launched in 1997. So, I had first-hand experience & understanding of people's requirements, especially when on the steep learning curve with new technology. I quickly understood the importance of clarity when conversing with customers.
Hiring technicians was a great challenge, as many of the applicants who demonstrated a high level of technical knowledge, didn’t necessarily meet the high standards required for superb customer service & communication skills. As was the case then, and still is the case now, we only ever employ the very best technicians, and we take great care to focus on the on-going training of our technical team to always improve and refine those skills.
In October 2005 our first advertisement was published in the Wellington Yellow Pages. On the same day that the new edition was delivered, the phone began to ring and Geeks on Wheels hit the streets. We bought our first car, a Holden Barina, and with our distinctive sign-writing, we were in business! Very quickly it was clear we needed to hire more technicians as the service proved to be extremely popular!
Our first ‘Computer Problems?’ billboard in Miramar Cutting drew lots of attention, but after struggling with council red tape trying to get more billboards around other parts of town, we came up with a slightly alternative solution. We bought a 1980 Bedford CF230 which we made-over as an A-Team van to become our now infamous mobile billboard.
In 2007, after the birth of our son, Geek Baby Tim, I persuaded Sarah, my wife, to bring her teaching skills to Geeks on Wheels. She would develop the training program for our technicians and help run the growing call-centre team. Unlike all our rivals, we don’t outsource our call-centre in preference of our own dedicated staff that know exactly what we do, and what our technicians can (or can’t) do for our customers.
Later the same year we opened for business in both Auckland & Christchurch, and we forged relationships with Vero, for insurance computer repairs, and with Slingshot, launching their ‘Man in a Van’ service. We also entered into a business relationship with TelstraClear providing wireless router installations for their cable network.
However, in our endeavour to be truly independent, unbiased, and with our desire to be nothing but the best, we chose to end these arrangements to focus on giving our Customers the best advice & options without having any obligations to business partners.
Our Hamilton operation opened in 2008, and it was our first franchised territory that enabled us to bring on-board better management skills & talent. Christchurch and Kapiti Coast now operate under franchise, whilst all other areas are operated by the parent company. Unlike many franchise models, Geeks on Wheels remains focussed on a consistent service level across all its 30+ full-time technicians, and both franchise & parent company operate seamlessly together as one team.
Following the Christchurch earthquakes, we remained committed and determined to help the Canterbury region rebuild, and our fabulous Christchurch team of technicians stepped-up with on-going support for our Cantabrians.
We opened for business in the Taranaki in 2010 and in Tauranga the following year. We continue to work on bringing Geeks on Wheels to all other parts of New Zealand as quickly as we can.
In 2011 we were invited to write the Help Desk section of the NetGuide magazine, and we became the proud sponsor of the NetGuide best ISP award – which was won by Orcon.
Also in 2011, we moved to a brand new head office located at the Cobham Drive Retail Centre in Kilbirnie along State Highway 1 near Wellington Airport, and we launched our first walk-in drop off workshop that we call the Geeks on Wheels HQ.
We feel it is important that our customers know who they are doing business with, and know where we are based. So here, our customers are welcome to pop-in if they have something urgent that needs fixing, and it’s also a place for our technicians to work in a fully kitted-out state of the art workshop. It is envisaged that in the coming years our Geek on Wheels HQ concept will roll out nationwide into many High Street locations.
Meanwhile, we always strive to improve our levels of services, through continual customer service development & training, whilst ensuring that we stay on top of the vast array of new technology. Today Geeks on Wheels has serviced close to 100,000 computer systems around New Zealand – so we feel we definitely have the experience, and are the market leader in mobile computer servicing.