Remote means remote

After what seem like endless trials and pilots, companies are finally starting to embrace remote working.

Not the ‘work from home every Friday’, but a more fundamental permanent disconnection from the mothership of a Head Office.

Whilst work practices and attitudes have evolved though, in many cases though the support hasn’t. IT Support departments too often rely on physical connections for upgrades, repairs and fixes. In most of these cases, this attendance is driven primarily by outdated processes rather than physical requirements. The default model in most cases is expect the end user to jump in the car and travel to the office. Whilst this is an inconvenience many remote employees, it fails completely for those who work many hours from the office (as is possible) or even from another country (have broadband will travel).

Just as we have rethought remote working, we need to rethink remote support.

The model needs to be ‘remote by default’. A high quality service designed to meet the needs of the end user, not the support department.

Most importantly, the IT team need to stop thinking of how to fix technical problems and start to think about excellent service.

The priority needs to be how we enable the end user to stay productive and keep working whilst the issue is resolved – and resolved as quickly as possible. None of the options to deliver a service such as this are without cost, but this needs to be weighed against the lost time of the end user.

The good news is that logistics services have improved in leaps and bounds, as they have implemented technology to improve their services, and competition has provided a range of options at affordable prices.

Working closely with a logistics company allows a support team to design truly customer centric services – and critically to quickly launch these whilst technical architectures and applications/services are updated to better enable ‘bring your own device’ (BYOD) and browser based working.

Departments should realise that they will not get this perfect for the first release, but by learning from other service companies, and in particular leading internet retailers, they can start to make a big difference quickly.

As a remote worker of many years, here is what I would be looking for:

  • Let me speak to someone who wants to help. Customer service matters. I don’t want to bounce through switchboards, be passed around trying to find someone who can help. I want someone who understands what I am doing and cares about getting me working. If you want to get an A* for service then give me a dedicated number, staffed by empowered people passionate about helping. Think: American Express Travel Service
  • Help keep me working. My time is valuable so respect this. From the first call, take ownership and schedule the fix as soon as possible. I don’t want to log a call in the morning, only to be called back later in the day, when it is too late to courier a replacement piece of hardware.
  • Keep spares of key peripherals, parts and kit. I don’t want to wait weeks for a fix. Have the main kit ready to ship to me with ‘next day’ delivery. You cannot stock everything, but at least have the core devices boxed, tested and configured ready to go. You can provide me a box to ship back broken kit at my convenience. Think: Amazon
  • Have ‘hot swappable’ replacements. If you need my laptop/phone/tablet back, bring me another one – configured and charged – at the same time you pickup the one to be fixed. I know it may not be perfect, but have it configured and ready to go. Think: Apple
  • Not just 9-5. I work flexible time shifted hours some days, so extend the service hours to reflect this. Whilst 24×7 may not be practical, you should certainly have processes in place that allow me to log calls out of hours and have kit shipped when needed. If you are thinking that this is not cost effective then compare the cost of shipping me kit vs. the cost of me not completing the sales presentation for a ¬£10m client bid.
  • Come to me. If the fix cannot be sorted remotely, is it possible that someone could jump in a car and come to me? This level of service is not unusual for CxO’s and directors, but can this service be offered to others in the organisation cost effectively?
  • Include follow-up. Don’t assume that the initial solution fixes the problem. The lack of contact from me could be that the problem is solved, or it could be that I have no confidence in your department and I am trying to find another solution.
  • Plan for failure. Kit breaks, applications fail, software screws up. This is reality, so assume failure and plan for this. Be proactive and have multiple ways of resolving a problem.

One final tip. If you cannot do this, get someone in who can!

And the final test … give yourself a deadline, go home to finish the work, then break a piece of kit and see how effective your support services are. My bet is that these are far less effective then you think they are. So, sort these before YOU need to use them.




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