Post CES reflection on role of technology and Alzheimer's.
Boston, mid-May, 2016
Software as a Service to seniors. A follow-up: It was just over a year ago that FirstSTREET and MyGait launched the GO Computer -- a Software as a Service (SaaS) PC for seniors who (no surprise) don't want to or can't deal with the hassle of upgrades, security updates, and the myriad of features that make owning a standard computer so challenging. Chatting with Chuck Lalonde, SVP of Senior Services at MyGait, the vendor that provides a variety of computer-related products for seniors, it turns out that more than 5000 GO PCs, all desktop, have been sold since that June, 2009 launch, not counting those sold into senior housing communities. Chuck explained the 'service' that is the benefit to seniors provided by the GO PC, which now sells for $879 plus $19.95/month.
The GO PC service reps are trained on the target market. Chuck talked about the 18-20 agents (all age ranges today): "The agents all have GO computers -- they are trained on dementia and Parkinson's, taught to speak slowly to callers, each of them who calls at least once when the computer arrives. The agent spends an average of 15-20 minutes per caller, although starting up an ISP through a conference call with the provider can take as much as 1.5 hours."
Customers range from occasional to 'power' users. With an Internet provider in place, agents connect remotely into the customer's computer and provides training on the hardware and the GO software. That includes printing to the customer's printer, installing the right print driver and printing a test page, explaining how to deal with paper jams and canceling print jobs. They also hear questions from 'power users' -- that is a customer who is online much of the time -- about Twitter, Google docs, or Facebook (including warning customers that what they see in Facebook may shock them). Chuck emphasized that no calls are ever escalated -- agents are trained to answer the question or solve the problem. Shipped with a large trackball mouse, a 19-inch monitor with a 'big, orange power button', zoom features, the GO also has a giant HELP indicator on the screen; per Chuck, all questions are answered within 24 hours.
The GO Computer is not all things to all folks. Chuck noted that the GO Computer comes with a 30-day free trial of the product and service: "If it is not for you, send it back." Although the GO enables loading of a digital camera SD card for picture viewing, MyGait draws the line at devices (like scanners) that could generate further complexity and follow-on step-by-step decisions. He also noted that the most difficult (by far) calls are with the adult children of seniors who pepper agents with why-doesn't-it-do-this-or-that. Senior callers, no problem. And buyers are pleased: The GO PC has introduced them to a whole new world of e-mail, chatting, web surfing and picture viewing. Consider the up front work to provide a user-friendly startup experience -- including ISP startup, training and that pesky printing. Think about the potential hours getting a computer ready for use, not to mention troubleshooting this and explaining the sometimes bizarre behavior of that, let alone installation of future 'features'. Sigh. The GO experience sounds downright pleasant.