Enterprise Software

Is your journey really necessary: Remote support is the answer

Jeff Dray is getting nostalgic about rationing during the 1940s and wonders if some of the values of economy from those troubled times could be brought back.

There was a poster, produced by the Ministry of Information during the Second World War, that made people of this Fair Isle question the need to make journeys. The fuel for private transportation was strictly rationed because every drop was needed for the tanks and Spitfires. With today's fuel prices and the imminent expiration of the world's supplies, we need to make remote support the default option.

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The type of equipment I support can often be fixed remotely, but there is not yet the option to control remotely. I often need to talk the customer through fixing a problem; in this way a physical site visit can often be avoided.

One of the things that stands in my way is the skill level of the end user. They are often not confident that they can do follow my instructions, and my visits are often a psychological crutch to the customer rather than a necessity from an engineering point of view.

The other problem is that while I am fairly conversant with our machinery, it can often be hard to remember all the menu options and the names of the switches and buttons. Something that is very easy to do while standing in front of the machine can be tricky to visualize, especially when negotiating the one-way system in Bournemouth.

Hands-on support is obviously the Gold Standard, but in these days of the £6 gallon ($9US to you) it is important, both from a financial and an environmental standpoint, that I start to reduce the number of miles I drive. So far this year my car has had three 15,000-mile services, so anything I can do to spend more time stationary is good for my sanity and good for the pocketbook.

Sometimes when a call comes in, it is obvious that a hands-on repair is needed. Other times a phone call to the customer will allow me to deal with the problem, either permanently or as a running repair to take the urgency out of the call, so that I can stop in when I am passing the area to effect a permanent fix.

I tend to spend more time on the telephone trying to see if a visit is really required than I did two years ago, and the policy is just beginning to pay off.

The other thing I am doing is taking the lead of PC support teams and training selected customers as power users, so that I can clear more of my work by phone. My ideal day would be staying at home, calling customers, and fixing everything remotely. Happy Days!

What are your favorite and most reliable remote support options?

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