TORONTO — Canadian technology and repair shops are anticipating a steady stream of customers lugging computers, phones and other devices as they open more of their stores.
They expect Canadians spending more time at home and online ended up with cracked screens, broken ports, finicky software and devices on the fritz.
Now that stores are reopening slowly in many provinces, those consumers will get their chance to revive their devices, but retailers specializing in repairs are warning the process could look very different and take a lot more time than it once did.
Best Buy Canada Ltd. experienced a flood of customers wanting help setting up monitors and video conferencing or needing support with printers or networks, when the pandemic started, spokeswoman Anjee Gill wrote in an email.
The company offered remote repairs and doesn't believe the high demand they experienced for that virtual service will waver any time soon.
"Customers may experience longer wait times due to high demand," said Gill. "We are adding agents to expand the number of customers we can support."
Agents for the company's Geek Squad repair service have been trained on providing a very different experience than before the pandemic.
Customers will hand off their device to be repaired inside the store across a counter or table with a clear plastic shield in some provinces, but outside in other locations.
Agents will contact the customer by phone to get additional details on the problem with the device, troubleshoot and provide an initial cost estimate.
"If the customer approves, the Geek Squad agent will perform the repair and ship the device to the customer’s home," said Gill. "If the customer decides not to proceed, the agent will sanitize the unit...and bring it back to the customer at the front door."
Mobile Klinik, a repair chain with about 80 stores across Ontario, Quebec, British Columbia and Alberta, isn't expecting longer wait times, but is bracing itself for more customers.
"We're definitely expecting a business surge from the pent-up demand of customers who've been waiting for our stores to reopen," Liz Hamilton, the director of people and customers, said in an email.
Her chain has decked out counters with clear plastic shields, restricted the number of customers in a store at a time, beefed up cleaning procedures and implemented mandatory physical distancing.
The repair counters in its locations, ranging from tiny kiosks to small stores, are particularly challenged by a pandemic.
"Our technicians are working directly in front of the customer in a fairly small space, often as a while-you-wait service," Hamilton wrote.
"We will ask them not to wait in or at the store while the repair is being done. We’ll let the customer know how long it should take and ask that they return to pick it up their device at that time."
This report by The Canadian Press was first published May 20, 2020.