Top 3 Takeaways from the Service Council’s 2024 State of Remote Support

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Pete Humes Head of Content

Great service organizations don’t grow in a vacuum. Progress is always measured by comparison.

There's a comparison against internal goals:

And then there’s understanding where you stand in the service industry ecosystem:

For some companies, benchmark surveys can be sobering. They are hard reminders that innovation is no longer optional and the most important metrics are constantly moving targets.

Others embrace the insight, use responses to set new goals and take comfort in knowing they share common struggles with competitors.

Whichever best describes your company, we believe great research is always worth a closer look.

That’s why when the Service Council released preliminary results from its 2024 State of Remote Support Survey, we couldn’t wait to dive in.

The goal of the survey is “to uncover best practices and emerging themes in the management of the remote support operation.”

We combed through the preliminary responses, attended the summary webinar and came up with 3 key takeaways…

Today’s field service organizations are struggling with more complex equipment, more advanced technology and an ever-widening gap between customer expectation and service capability.

Companies are looking for remote support to bridge that gap.

The idea is not to have remote support completely replace on-site service.

The goal is to deliver a service that meet customer’s rising expectations.

The bad news is that we can't lower these exponential customer expectations. We’re all addicted to instant gratification and yesterday’s tech dispatch solutions are no longer enough to meet these expectations.

According to the survey, here are the 4 Biggest Challenges Around Remote Support:

  1. The need to support a large variety of equipment/products
  2. Building IoT capabilities into legacy equipment
  3. Preventing unnecessary dispatches / truck rolls
  4. Effectively triaging end-user queries

Challenges #1 and #2 remind us that the universe of assets seems to be expanding.

Every industry is unique, but just about every service organization we speak to is struggling to keep pace with a more diverse (and complicated) inventory of physical equipment.

Teams are responsible for more devices, but often given fewer people and resources to fix them.

“Do more with less,” is what we hear a lot these days.

While the dream scenario is to have every machine connected on the Internet of Things (IoT), the real world is crowded with legacy machines that lack the advanced functionality of cutting-edge models.

Old machines and new machines don’t always speak the same language.

And finding common ground is absolutely vital to keeping costs down.

In some ways, the core challenge of optimizing aging equipment is not that different from the workforce squeeze that so many service orgs find themselves in these days.

Whether it’s a veteran engineer headed for retirement or a 30-year-old MRI machine that keeps on ticking, companies are looking for ways to build a bridge between the past and the future to ensure a smooth transition and little disruption in the quality of service.

Getting from “where we’ve been” and “where we are” to “where we want to go” is going to require some extra effort and creativity.

"It's not just about the technology," said SightCall CEO Thomas Cottereau. "It's a change of a process, of a culture that needs to happen. Transformation in the way people work is more important than ever."

Challenges #3 and #4 speak to the lag that can come between implementing remote support and finding its maximum value.

Building momentum with remote support may take time. Efficiency doesn’t always come with the flip of a switch.

Adding a new tool is easy, but not every company is suited for the heavy lifting that real change management and digital transformation require.

Remote support isn’t a one-size-fits-all solution. Companies with the most success have found specific places where a remote solution can deliver the most value and efficiency.

If your goal is to reduce truck rolls, fixing the problem remotely is only half of the solution. The other half comes with establishing a pre-visit protocol to make sure you don’t undo that one saved truck roll by showing up with the wrong part or making another trip to fetch the right tool.

The good news? Once implemented, remote video support has a way of illuminating new ways of cutting waste and boosting revenue that weren’t even on a company’s radar.

While service technology is advancing at a full-blown sprint, most companies and service teams still struggle to keep up.

They can see where the new tech wants to take them, and they’re eager to get there. But the pace feels too fast. They aren’t giving up the race, but they need a minute to regroup and catch their breath.

Here’s what survey respondents ranked as their Top 4 Reasons for These Challenges Currently Faced by Your Remote Support Operation:

  1. No use at scale of IoT data to anticipate/diagnose issues
  2. Inability to predict/prevent issues
  3. Inability to remotely test equipment’s real-time performance
  4. Increasing end-user expectations on remote support experience

All four of these items tell a story of frustration.

Customers expect more and technology is delivering tons of data… but companies are struggling to leverage those capabilities and insights to actually improve service delivery.

Organizations are faced with serious pressure to process what the connected equipment is telling them, analyze it and then take action.

But “set it and forget it” was never the promise of IoT.

In the grand scope of things, we’re still in the early days of IoT, AI and automation. We’re adding layers and layers of new technology on top of legacy assets, processes and systems.

It’s going to take time to work out the kinks.

Think about driverless cars. The vehicles themselves will likely get you safely where you need to go. But the problems are the X factors: things like old roads, wild animals or unpredictable pedestrians.

It’s easy to fall in love with the bold promises of IoT and AI and daydream about a stressless future when our assets tell us exactly what they need, exactly when they need it.

But we’re not all the way there yet. That’s where Reason #4 comes in.

When they aren’t at work, your customers and end-users are regular human beings who exist in a consumer-centric world where the future of ultra-connected convenience is already upon us.

Today’s cars tell you when the tires need air and the engine needs oil. Our home printers give you a heads up when the ink levels get low. And smart refrigerators can send you a text when you’re at the supermarket to remind you to buy more milk.

It makes sense that these same expectations bleed over to business.

And in many cases, the latest machines ARE built better.

Richard Albanese, a service executive with more than 35 years experience in the medical device industry, told us recently that, “Things don't break as much as they used to. Things are easier to troubleshoot than they used to because there's a lot more intelligence built in.”

“The challenge is a longer learning curve,” he added.

It doesn’t matter if your commercial printer tells you it’s going to run out of ink on Thursday if your tech can’t get there until Monday.

Service transformation requires simultaneous alignment between the technology and the organizations that use it.

It will be interesting to see how future survey responses evolve. How many companies will do the work to close that gap?

On the flip side, this list is great news for companies that have already embraced digital transformation and institutional change. They’ll enjoy the peace of mind that comes with a massive head start.

Remote support has three jobs: save time, lower costs and meet customer’s expectations.

A look at the top survey responses shows that most companies are putting remote solutions to work the right way.

Here’s what respondents had to say about the Top 4 Metrics (or Indicators) Used to Measure the Health of Their Remote Support Business:

  1. Time to resolve
  2. Remote resolution rate
  3. Net promoter score
  4. Time to respond

These results offer clear proof that remote support is being used to do what remote support does best.

Many times, just the fact that a customer can connect quickly with a live technician can put a positive spin on the entire interaction.

In a recent conversation, SightCall Solutions Engineer Tyler Beck noted that, “One thing that I continue to hear is people really appreciate getting on that video assistance call.”

“Just letting them show you the problem and explain it and be heard? Sometimes they feel like you've already made a visit,” he added. “They feel like they're a priority as your customer and know you're going to be prepared.”

While not every issue can be resolved remotely, almost any service call can be better handled by putting eyes on the problem.

Communication between in-house experts and technicians in the field is expedited when both parties can show and guide visually instead of just talking or texting.

In the quest for field service optimization, efficiency is still king. And it will stay on the throne as long as it stays married to customer satisfaction.

About the Service Council

The Service Council™ is a research and advisory organization that focuses on the service industry, providing insights, data, and networking opportunities to help service leaders improve their operations and strategies.

The Service Council™ aims to support companies in optimizing their service and support functions through research reports, benchmarking surveys, and interactive events.

By bringing together a community of service professionals, it facilitates the sharing of best practices, innovative ideas, and actionable insights to drive service excellence and customer satisfaction across various industries.

SightCall CEO Thomas Cottereau is proud to be a member of the Service Council™ Technology Advisory Board.

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