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?

26 comments
ogregator
ogregator

Remote support is so easy these days, not like the past where I was dealing with 56K (or slower) modems. There's really not a lot of reason to drive out to site (unless it's a hardware problem or the client's cute).

Oz_Media
Oz_Media

I just had aclient call looking for a price list. I sent him the PDF and said I'd be at his office in 45 mins. This means I get out on a VERY sunny and warm day, leave the office early, and build relationships too, not to mention by then he'd have put together an order which I'll get when I arrive. It's a win win all the way, there's no possible way he'll shop me or pick up the phone and call someone else next time.

Oz_Media
Oz_Media

I have grown in the state of mind that if I can make ANY excuse to see a client, I will use it. I will go out of my way to go visit a client rather than help on the phone or by email, and yes I still did that when I fixed PC's too. Building close relationships with clients is what allows me to steal business from others who would rather not go out to see them. No matter what industry I've worked in, even automotive, a client visit wins 100% of the time. Even if they want help on the phone, I'll help them AND go see them to make sure everything else is cool. One of the major things we (as a society) lost due to modern technology was hands on support, many people just prefer it. I see new sales reps, IT staff, even management all the time who feel they can work from the office and be just as effective. It is better to do process less clients and actually visit them, than to take care of more clients remotely. Perhaps not in the immediate cash in cash out sense, but on a long term sense, such support drives business harder than anything. It reduces eth time needed in office to market and build client bases, as referrals make life so much easier and the money goes up too. I can charge more than others with the exact same product offerings because they want to deal with me and tell me that it is because I am more of a hands on person. When I worked in IT I had higher pricing too, as most netware engineers do charge mroe than MS engineers, but people paid it because of my ability to show up and help out. When I visited to solve one proble ,often a few more were thrown at me, sometimes quick fixes but also some weekend work. With more and mroe businesses closing remote offices in order to keep employees local and reduce costs by conducting business online or over the phone, it simply opens up a wealth of business for me as I will hang out with them, spend time working on projects and solutions with them and am a human being, not someone who drops in once a year to say hello. Proactive, hands on help? Always. Working from the phone or remote access? Anyone can do that and you will always be pushed to price competitively with other 'no service' competitors. I JUST this very minute got off the phone with a client who I see often but who has been buying some products from a competitor due to a relationship between an employee and the 'other competitor'. His exact words, "I've had enough, I don't care what the price structure is, we get way better service and support form you. You guys do all the work, you deserve our business." I quote that verbatim; plus he's buying breakfast tomorrow. :) What he doesn't realize is that I will actually save him money, so price is not an issue anyway, but the key is that he doesn't care. Our competitor is a multinational company, has easy online ordering and sales/technical support. They have the odd customer appreciation day and product/industry seminars wher ethey promote their own products (as opposed to offering solutions and THEN offering their products to fill them). Their focus is on generating more business by openign themselves up to a vroader audience and being into technology, my focus is on providing solutions and helpign my CUSTOMERS increase business, which of course increases my own. I find teh difference is when you serve a greater geographic area. If you are offering services across teh nation, you must do most business remotely, with sit evisists periodically of course. But for locally based business, it is always best to see and get to know your clients personally, that keeps the lure of larger, cheaper solutions at bay. NOTHING beats the visit, no matter how savvy or unique you may be, people need people. If you don't care who you are dealing with, or don't need ot build lasting relationships in a competitive marketplace, just do as others do and pick up the phone then offer a grumbling 'uh-huh' before you hang up. if you care and want to build lasting relationships with your clients, learn their spouses names, learn about their kids sports, keep a list of anniversaries BDays etc in a database for them and make them personal contacts. go see them, touch base from time to time to check in and see how they are doing, use that time to talk about a new service or something extra you can do. Such relationships are the most beneficial to any company in any industry, you simply cannot top it with a phone call or webcam. NOTE: Reading through posts here it seems teh goal is to stay put and that apparently saves money by reducing road trips. Kepe in mind, when onsite you will usually find mroe work whiel you are there, will boost your company image and views of your service, which is irreplaceable marketing just by showing up. It will ultimately pay more than you will ever save by not driving for 30 mins.

NickNielsen
NickNielsen

If I get the call, the Help Desk has already tried the remote fix(es) without success. There are times when a simple power reset will fix the problem, but between my customers' lack of knowledge/confidence and the fact that no two of my stores have identical power distribution systems, doing so over the phone is not possible. Not only are the switch locations different, but the way the equipment power is wired is different. In fact, the only reason the power cabling is the same between [u]checkstands[/u] in some of my stores is that I re-cabled them myself to make it so. My pet peeve? Cleaning up the cabling under a checkstand only to return a week later and find it completely knackered again because a tech from an outside vendor doesn't like the client's standard equipment placement.

christop095
christop095

it is free for non commercial use. hands down the best product i have ever used, works on xp, vista and mac. Try it out, you cant loose! i bought a licence for life... it stopped the support battle of getting into a persons machine so you can actually fix the issue

LasVegasRich
LasVegasRich

A freebie, it's an easy setup and I can talk my most computer-illiterate clients through the process over the phone. (My client base is 90% located in a 55+ retirement community in Southern Nevada). Once Crossloop has been installed, I can remotely download, install, configure, update and run apps from my desk. If a reboot becomes necessary, the client and I will re-establish the one-time connection and I can get back to work. I recommend this little utility. Oh... and did I mention, it's free?

qhcomputingny
qhcomputingny

you get paid less for remote support.. why is that a better option? I'd rather get paid more than less.

kgunnIT
kgunnIT

The company I currently work for has two office locations. I am in the Accounting Office, while our Main Office is about 7 minutes down the road. When I first started working here, I was going to our Main Office at least 4 times a month, sometimes multiple trips in a day. Until I found LogMeIn Inc. (www.logmein.com). This has served me well. Now, I have been able to cut my trips down to very little, usually once a month. We use the free version, but it has suited our needs. I just install it on our laptops and computers at the other location, as well as my PC in the Accounting Office. That way, if I get over there and forgot a file, I can remote connect to my machine to retrieve it. I also have setup a two-way vpn to a desktop over there, so I can transfer files to/from the main office, as well as remote printing. Now, the only time I go to the main office is for hardware support and program updates that require running CDs.

reisen55
reisen55

Remote has it's advantages for some, not all, tasks. One of my larger accounts, for example, has five software applications that require rotational backup. Two I can automate but the other two, of the three, require a remote login to execute and then, because of sheer size of data (160gb for one of them alone) I do make a weekly visit to take off-site storage and check for posted problems on a board. Remote helps, live visits are better in some ways too. Always good to have a FACE present and I also bring my clients' staff FOOD on occasion too.

PJ Ruder
PJ Ruder

I have worked remotely for the last 5 years. I've saved car and air fuel costs. My client uses gotoassist. It has worked well so far. Working remotely has some trade-offs. The lack of face time may result in missed opportunities. Remote workers need to find ways to keep themselves in the minds of decisions makers so they don't miss out on choice assignments.

ws3d
ws3d

There are many good hardware and/or software solutions but the bigger question is the cost/benefit and risk/reward for the customer (and by extension, me) worth it? Many customers don't want to pay for a good remote assistance solution. Another issue is securing the remote solution adequately, since most security issues begin with the end-user. As a result, most customers pick ease of use over proper procedure and create even more problems. ...but I LOVE remote access when I can persuade a customer to take that option.

WTRTHS
WTRTHS

There are some very good ones out there, and while they do cost some money to the company, it pays in the amount of time saved by not having to go to the cli?nts place. A few things are very different to solve remote (like hardware/printer problems and internet connection troubles obviously), but for software problems, it's just great. Depends on the kind of support you're most likely to give.

JustinF
JustinF

I wonder if a webcam at the client site that they could point at the equipment so you can talk them through what they are doing would be useful? That way you can shout "No! Not that button you dolt!" with some authority.

Coss71
Coss71

There are 2 different schools of thought here. The closed network (your company owns all the locations) or the open network (clients are call in, or not part of the company you work for). So here is where the face time will make a difference. If you are doing it on a bill as you go process, yes, nothing replaces face time. But these are all end users in your network, remote is the BEST!. I have to maintain 22 offices over 2 states, and remote is an invaluable tool. I can work on offices, and end user machines that are 100's of miles apart all at the same time. There is no way in the world you could ever do the same thing in the "real world". You would need a personal jet, or a teleporter to be able to do the same. Since my company is a "closed network" I use RDP & remote assistant. Free, built into Windows, and works excellent. So take this aspect into the conversation also.

Jeff Dray
Jeff Dray

When you have access to very cheap road fuel but try justifying it at UK prices..

bill
bill

Most of my clients are within a 45 minute radius of my home office. I agree that personal contact is important and I see my major clients at least weekly and the others every couple weeks, but most are happy when I can solve a simple problem in a few minutes over the phone or remotely without wasting their time. On major projects, a balance of onsite and remote also works will for me. I bill less per hour for remote work, but find I am able to complete close to twice the billable hours in the days I am able to work from my home office.

kgunnIT
kgunnIT

I agree with what you are saying. We seem to get in this mindset that whatever is more suitable for me is suitable for everyone. I also know some people who prefer on-site work rather than someone working remotely. Two ways I can see remote support helpful: - Clients across a wide geographic area (state wide or country wide). Here, offer remote support when possible, maybe make a trip out there ever-so-often to make sure things are going well (or let them know when you are in the area and have some time to stop by). - Within a company with multiple offices. For me, this is where I use remote support. It saves time, I don't have to fight traphic, and even my coworkers find remote support very helpful. When they have an issue, they call me and ask if I can help them remotely. I log in to their computer and get to work, often with them on the phone walking through the process. I still physically go to our other location once a month because there are somethings that are just easier to do in person, or cannot be done remotely. Great post and thanks for sharing. I will definitely keep some of your comments in mind when working with other clients of mine outside of my day-to-day job.

Jeff Dray
Jeff Dray

In the UK we pay twice as much as you do for our road fuel and the time it takes to get about on these narrow roads is longer so remote support is great, unless like me you don't work on PCs

nzimmerman67
nzimmerman67

My experience with remote control includes letmein, gotoassist, realVNC, etc. Personally, I prefered DameWare's NT Utilities Remote Control feature. What makes this tool very useful is the ability to install the client "on the fly" and then remove it, if needed, when the session is over.

V.H. Scarpacci
V.H. Scarpacci

I use remote control of equipment around my state. The furthest out is a 3 hour drive. This save me lots of car time, but when the network equipment goes haywire and no one is available to be my hands the trip still has to be made. I just got back from having to reset a router. This trip just 3 miles, but if it was further out I could have had someone do it for me.

delarren
delarren

We are cousins!!!! I found someone who thinks like me. :-)

pdr5407
pdr5407

I have used remote desktop connection (RDC) that is free and also built into Windows XP and Vista. Once I remote in to the server at the NOC location, there is another RDC icon on the desktop to connect to any machines on the Domain.