Remote Support Software: What It Is, and How It Is Enhanced by Augmented Reality

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What is remote support software?

Remote support software enables companies to deliver virtual, platform-based video assistance to their customers, reducing barriers like location or time, as well as mitigating the impact of disruptions preventing travel to and from a service or job site.

Remote support can be easily accessed through a customer’s own mobile device, with or without an app download. It is typically one of several tools integrated within a company’s digital suite and is greatly enhanced by the use of an interactive feature like augmented reality.

How does augmented reality make remote support more powerful?

The definition of augmented reality (AR) is the enhancement of an interactive, virtual component onto a real-world environment or situation, layering tools like informational text and 3D graphics on top of a user’s field of vision. The use of AR tools has witnessed exponential growth over the past several years, with more than a billion global users projected in 2022 alone.

Augmented reality capabilities maximize the potential of remote support to achieve rapid, accurate issue resolution in a wide variety of use cases. This article will explore its benefits in the manufacturing, energy and utilities, healthcare, and insurance sectors.

Remote Support in Manufacturing

In manufacturing, remote support can connect experts to a digitized environment where they can troubleshoot, train and resolve complex work orders. Supported by AR and artificial intelligence (AI) insights, they realize better resolution rates, less downtime, and improved customer satisfaction.

Benefit #1: Create stronger customer assistance

Manufacturers differentiate themselves through a modern approach to assisting customers with remote support. Immediate visual assistance can reduce service wait times from days to minutes, for example.

Benefit #2: Enhance technician support

Service teams are equipped with one-touch visual assistance through a mobile app or wearable, improving uptime and empowering them to accomplish tasks without the need for a return visit.

Benefit #3: Perform data-driven maintenance

Coupled with AI, augmented reality can help companies make informed decisions by identifying parts, diagnosing issues, and proposing data-based solutions.

Benefit #4: Enable hands-on training

Technicians can be trained through new repairs and complicated work orders on the job through visual assistance, navigating real-world examples they are likely to encounter later in their careers.

Hands-on training can be further supplemented by wearables, encompassing a variety of versatile digital devices that are worn on the body, embedded or contained within clothing, and even tattooed onto skin. Handheld devices can be replaced by smart glasses, for example, freeing service experts to use their hands in complex, or risky work situations.

Deloitte has called wearables a “workforce superpower.” According to its research, technological advancements such as augmented reality (AR) are improving the viability and utility of wearables. Hardware like smart glasses are becoming, to quote the consulting firm, “smaller, lighter and more affordable.” As a result, they form an increasingly irreplaceable part of an enterprise’s Internet of Things (IoT). In fact, one study even suggested that half of manufacturing companies around the world would embrace wearable technology by 2022.

Whatever is used to access it, AR remote support blends the physical and digital worlds to create an environment that empowers workers to handle even the most intricate and challenging tasks.

Case Study: Remote support transforms printer maintenance

MacDermid Graphics Solutions, a leading global supplier of photopolymer printing solutions based in Atlanta, Georgia, delivers high-quality graphics to customers via a diverse array of packaging products. Its operations span North and South America, as well as several countries in Europe and the Asia-Pacific.

MacDermid is widely known throughout the industry for its excellent customer service. Its teams provide day-to-day solutions on a variety of maintenance, repair, and process issues around the world.

In recent years, the company has been focused on applying virtual solutions to further improve several key performance indicators (KPIs) on equipment maintenance, in order to bolster customer satisfaction and shorten resolution times. As with many companies, its interest in these tools increased at the beginning of the COVID-19 pandemic. With service technicians’ ability to fulfill maintenance and repair work orders on-site significantly curtailed, MacDermid had to balance keeping people safe while maintaining a hard-won reputation for customer care.

It was essential to find a solution that would work on mobile devices but also enabled its people to use wearable technology like smart glasses. A primary objective was to permit technicians to be remotely guided through a task or repair process with the benefit of AR overlay, while still having both hands able to maneuver.

Customers and technicians can launch SightCall remote support sessions through their own smartphones, providing and receiving crucial work order information in real-time thanks to Salesforce integration. Even in low-bandwidth environments, sessions benefit from guaranteed HD picture quality and reliable video. And tools like optical character recognition can accurately read and interpret data on a machine, even from a distance of several feet, and feed it directly back to the work order, with no manual entry required.

When technicians have no other choice but to go on-site, they can have their hands free to do the work using smart glasses, while a remote expert walks them through it. Because of this, only a single tech needs to be dispatched to handle more complicated cases. The training of junior or less experienced workers has also been boosted by the immersive experience of the platform.

After only a few months of deploying remote support, MacDermid Graphics Solutions realized a 20% truck roll reduction in the number of work orders that required sending a technician on-site. Customers were also guided through issues with their printers with the help of a remote expert, increasing first-time fix rates.

Remote Support in Energy and Utilities

Energy and utility organizations require proven technologies that can contend in rugged and volatile work environments.

Remote support enables them to reduce equipment downtime with assistance that is secure, device-agnostic, and adaptable to changing network conditions.

Benefit #1: Reduce downtime, improving profits

The financial impact of equipment downtime can easily overwhelm companies, but remote support can enable them to identify and address technical issues faster than before. With a clear line of vision on issues in the field, service organizations can keep equipment online and reduce unnecessary truck rolls, providing increased profit margins and a key competitive differentiator.

Benefit #2: Target first-time fix rates

Visual assistance means technicians are never alone in the field. With AR and AI insights, they have a greater chance of a first-time fix.

Benefit #3: Cut down on truck rolls

The costs associated with dispatching technicians to remote job sites can be reduced, empowering local technicians to accomplish the tasks with all the background information they need for accurate completion.

Case Study: Remote support essential for the standardization of offshore rig work

Take the example of one of the world’s biggest energy technology companies, seeking to standardize maintenance and repair processes, including in remote and high-risk locations, while also improving audit compliance and reducing their carbon footprint.

For much of its history, the need for highly specialized engineers meant numerous in-person site visits were required, posing a distinct challenge for offshore oil rigs. As a result, deployment time was in a matter of weeks, instead of days.

Engineers previously used pen and paper to log their work, writing down what repairs and maintenance tasks they performed on a wide range of highly specialized equipment, then transferring those notes to a database at the end of long shifts. This came with considerable risk. The company once paid back nearly $1 million to one of its customers for a repair that was improperly documented, because the work couldn’t be verified.

With remote support on repair and maintenance, a technician can access a specific Digital Flow on their mobile device. As they go through the automated process, they are prompted to enter all relevant information and collect helpful media, such as photos or videos. Engineers can scan a serial or model number, automatically capture display readings, perform accurate AR measurements, and document and confirm their work on the spot.

The company subsequently achieved hundreds of thousands of dollars in reduced travel costs in just six months, with significant savings realized on every site visit. And with other efficiency gains included, these figures are even higher.

Remote Support in Healthcare and Life Sciences

Healthcare professionals use remote support tools to extend their reach beyond the walls of facilities, with the ability to care for patients wherever they are. Multi-party care interactions, plus a reduction in the number of necessary in-person visits, are among the benefits of this specific use case.

For medical device manufacturers and clinic owners, the use of remote support with AR minimizes downtime for lifesaving diagnostic and treatment machines, enabling intelligent, intuitive repairs.

Benefit #1: Meet patients where they are

Two-way, AR-powered video chat allows patients to connect with providers from their own mobile device, facilitating timely, convenient, and contextual care.

Benefit #2: Aid provider and technician productivity

The use of augmented reality can increase clinical efficiencies by cutting down on the time, travel, and resources needed for office visits.

On the maintenance and repair side, AR use can cut downtime for essential tools, saving providers time and money, maximizing technician time, and ensuring more patients get the diagnostic assessments they need when they need it.

Benefit #3: Reduce the number of preventable admissions

Avoidable hospital admissions can be minimized by using AR as an immersive patient education tool.

Post-discharge, an augmented reality-powered platform can help coordinate care, perform evaluations and even improve medication adherence by enabling fast answers to questions.

Benefit #4: Encourage improvements to patient outcomes

Better outcomes can be achieved by keeping care teams engaged with patients, using AR to manage wellness proactively and preventatively.

Case Study 1: Major hospital expands patient reach with AR-powered telehealth

A major urban hospital network in the Midwest serves as a Level I Trauma Center and healthcare safety net for a metropolitan region of more than 2 million people. Its online patient portals hold more than 30,000 individual accounts, and the network is particularly committed to harnessing the latest technology to engage and care for vulnerable patient groups throughout the region. 

Administrators had wanted to launch telehealth and virtual physician visits for several years but felt unsuccessful in realizing an effective and fully integrated system all parties were on board with using.

Previously, the hospital network tried several different platforms to manage its care advice line, along with the limited number of telemedicine calls they facilitated monthly. With each, it encountered complicated training and licensing systems and little to no integration with its Salesforce customer relationship management (CRM) software and online patient accounts. Some medical staff were also resistant to taking bigger steps toward virtual visits, having not seen anything that convinced them it was a tool to transform patient care. These factors worked against a larger rollout of remote solutions.

By contrast, embracing AR-powered remote assistance, the hospital network could go live with nearly unlimited numbers of users in minimal time, as well as upscale call capacity on short notice. Physicians and nurses appreciated the platform was device-agnostic, with high-definition picture quality and low-bandwidth requirements. With AR, they could guide patients through solutions to problems in real-time, using tools like annotation, screen sharing, and even remote activation of the patient’s smartphone light. 

A live telehealth visit could take place at the same time the Salesforce patient portal was being navigated, without any interruption or screen changes. This meant the written patient assessment could be completed or in-person visits could be scheduled simultaneously with the virtual appointment.

The hospital’s adoption of augmented reality tools took hold just in time for the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic in spring 2020. When the pandemic hit the Midwest, the network established a dynamic command center in a single day. An average of 80 telehealth calls per month exploded to 18,000 calls in April 2020 alone. While these numbers eventually peaked down with growing numbers of patients returning for in-person clinic visits, by fall 2020, the network still averaged about 8,000 calls each month. A virtual waiting room handled the increased volume of patients waiting for a provider if they were running slightly behind or needing to review records or test results.

Case Study 2: More effective, connected management of chronic patient conditions

1 True Health is a healthcare company providing better information, engagement, and protection to patients with chronic care conditions. The company engages with patients almost entirely remotely, achieving better engagement between them and their healthcare practitioners.

Through remote assistance with augmented reality, the result has been the improved health and wellness of underserved populations, such as senior citizens.

The company created a Care Navigator role, where workers based out of call centers perform chronic care management through SightCall sessions launched with the click of a button in the patient file.

With Medicare supporting virtual patient encounters every month, the company’s Care Navigators track and follow up on care plans, disseminate health and wellness information, and link patients to doctors and specialists. This service is accessible to every patient, operating across a wide range of products, reception, and bandwidth levels with identical high call quality and HD picture.

Backed by a platform well-suited for telehealth, chronic care patients benefit from easier access to care, without having to drive to a clinic, and can maintain a regular cadence with providers and stay on top of their health.

Case Study 3: Repair and maintenance of diagnostic equipment simplified

GE Healthcare, a global health technology company, specializes in the engineering and production of diagnostic machinery – including MRI, CT, and X-ray scanners. The company is constantly investigating innovative solutions with the goal of enhancing patient experiences and providing immediate repairs in order to put hospitals back on the path to saving lives.

When troubleshooting an issue during a field maintenance visit was especially complicated, a field technician frequently mobilized one of their peers or a more senior technician to the job site, resulting in multiple trips and greater labor costs applied to a work order. This often caused the affected machinery to be out of use for a period of time while a solution was found, much to a clinician’s detriment.

From the standpoint of a radiology clinic or a specialist’s office, a day – let alone longer – without an MRI scanner creates a significant functional barrier. Patient appointments must be delayed or canceled, and the scanner becomes unavailable in the event an emergency arises. GE needed to reduce any unnecessary downtime and ensure the equipment would be available in the moments that matter.

The company’s goal was to shorten the length of time on-site and improve first-time fix rates, reducing the need for multiple trips. When it decided to search for a visual assistance solution, one priority stood out: the highest possible call quality to facilitate real-time work order completion and a higher issue resolution rate.

Today, GE Healthcare complements its field support solution with SightCall AR-powered visual assistance, drawn especially to its ease of scalability. Field technicians were impressed by the reliable video quality and consistent audio and video. They could carry out remote-guided repairs with greater ease and agility, thanks to touchless capabilities using the device of their choice. Site data, like product serial numbers, could be fed back to the work order with the smartphone camera simply held in front of the desired data to read it, with no manual entry required.

GE Healthcare noticed an increase in several key performance indicators, most notably with improved resolution rates. Maintenance turnaround times were shortened to averages of six to eight hours, versus three days prior to the implementation of SightCall. With the average call taking only 40 minutes, the company estimates it has saved hundreds of thousands of dollars in travel costs.

Remote Support in Insurance

Replacing on-site adjuster visits with live video shortens the claim lifecycle, and even makes it possible for insurance policyholders to be reimbursed during their call.

Using remote support means a policyholder can show damage in real-time, and file claims more efficiently. For their part, adjusters can handle claims remotely through a live stream, pausing live video feeds, highlighting key issues, and opening claim documentation on the customer’s device.

Remote support yields numerous specific benefits in this sector.

Benefit #1: Shorten the claim lifecycle

With the ability to file claims on the spot, the typically onerous claims process can shrink from months to days.

Benefit #2: Cut down on supplemental costs

Supplemental claims can become simpler by collecting better, higher-quality data over the live video stream.

Benefit #3: Boost speed of customer payments

Moving quickly and accurately through the claims process ensures that policyholders are made whole again much sooner after they sustain a loss.

Case Study: Remote support revolutionizes repair and claim solutions

In one example, a global third-party administrator (TPA) working closely with insurance companies, their adjusters and homeowners needed a standardized way to ensure that repair work was performed and inspected to exacting standards while working with a large network of independent contractors.

The company offers customized managed repair, restoration, and mitigation through a large contractor network spanning nearly 2,000 locations. Offering a one-stop solution for securing high-quality repairs for property damage and restoration work meant the company earned a reputation among homeowners as one of the nation’s most trusted names in the restoration industry.

Nonetheless, having such a large number of contractors working under their umbrella meant standardized repair processes were all but impossible to achieve without multiple inspections and redundancies. Besides the costs accrued by additional site visits and contract delays, safety and regulatory compliance issues also became a concern.

With remote support, they receive access to a Digital Flow through a text or email link or directly from within the CSM. A Digital Flow can be completed on any mobile device, with all relevant information and media uploaded directly to the case file. When kicking off a project, a Digital Flow guides the contractor to record a video of the work site while describing the work needed. The contractor is then prompted to identify any safety concerns present. Selecting any of these triggers an action that immediately loops in the people needed to approve the work so it can move forward. A task is generated in the CRM software, notifying the relevant party to review the case file and associated media.

During the repair, remote support can also be used to monitor the quality of the work. For instance, contractors are prompted to take videos with commentary about the work for each relevant room or area in the house. If any additional work needs are identified, they can be instantly sent directly to a supervisor of the project and an insurance adjuster for carrier approval.

Full and auditable documentation acts as a quality check, while also producing increased efficiency. For homeowners, who in many cases are interacting with the TPA and insurer after having faced damage from catastrophic events like fires and storms, repair projects are completed faster, with fewer errors, thereby maximizing satisfaction. Being able to inspect and approve work remotely has already helped to reduce delays, as well as eliminate unnecessary site visits.

An Essential Component of Digital Transformation

The question that many enterprises use to guide them as they consider this step along their digitization journey is: How could the business change if issues could be seen and resolved remotely?

Remote support is particularly well-suited to closing access gaps that companies and their customers frequently grapple with, impacting cost, reputation, and customer loyalty, but there are a number of other sectors and use cases that it can be harnessed for.

If you’re ready to learn more about how remote support software can transform your operations, contact us today to request a SightCall demo.

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