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How Utilities Can Improve First Time Fix Rates With Remote Assist Software

April 20, 2021

Utilities can improve first time fix rates – and not just for an organization’s annual bottom line. Getting the solution right the first time with decision support software goes a long way toward customer satisfaction and retention rates too. Not to mention increasing word of mouth referrals. So it may be welcome news that the water, gas, and electric industries have found a new friend in the form of remote assist software.

But what is remote assist software, exactly? How does it work? And does it really have the potential to improve your utility first time fix rate by 35%? Those are the questions we’ll be delving into today. So if you’re a gas, electric, or water utility considering implementing this innovative technology as part of your customer service and to support your field techs, then stay tuned. 

What Is Remote Assist Software (AKA Remote First Service?)

Remote assist software essentially entails leveraging augmented-reality enabled software to more easily accomplish a set task or series of tasks in a shorter period of time. For water, gas, and electric companies, this translates to improved utility first time fix numbers. All through fewer unnecessary truck rolls, less dispatches of incorrectly chosen equipment, and less ill-informed unilateral decisions that affect the larger service team.  

Examples of other popular use cases in which remote assist software plays a particularly useful role in filling missing visual cues and non-verbal communication patterns may include:

  • Trouble-shooting customer problems
  • Assisting newly onboarded personnel, 
  • Accelerating training for junior engineers from a distance, and 
  • Better understanding the deeper dimensions of a technical problem. 

So How Does It Work?

Remote assist software works by merging smart technology and expert guidance to aid communication, reduce inefficiencies, and make fixing technical issues a whole lot easier. By creating a shared reality between expert and on-the-ground workers, remote assist technology creates an environment in which communication is seamless.

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Not all remote assist software functions the same way. But here’s some insight into features Help Lightning’s AR-enabled software offers. Users are able to freeze images, add annotations, upload pictures, use hand gestures, and even institute real objects, to further interactive collaboration. 

Check out this video for a 90 second, bite-sized demonstration of what this looks like!

3 Ways Remote Assist Software Improves Utilities First Time Fix Rates

1. Offering The Right Kind Of Assistance 

Did you know that 65% of the US population are visual learners, while the other 30% are auditory? And the remaining 10% are kinesthetic learners (aka those that learn by doing)? 

This means that almost 2/3 of the customers or workers your experts connect with over the telephone won’t be able to troubleshoot the problem optimally because they don’t interpret instructions as well through verbal cues. 

So what does this data tell us about utilities first time fix rates?

Well, it indicates that to improve utility first time fix numbers right off the bat. You’ll want to empower your on-the-ground persons who rely on expert instructions in the first place. In other words, speak to people in their own language. 

  • For visual learners, AR offers screenshots, visual interactions, and frozen frames.
  • Auditory learners want verbal, detailed instructions supplemented by shared reality.
  • For kinesthetic learners, they are able to learn by replicating what an expert is doing on the screen. They can feel comfortable that the actions they are iterating are the right ones for future calls or scenarios. 

And in circumstances where specialized personnel are helpful? These distant experts can even perform virtual inspections, with the ability to ‘sign off’ on the safety of a matter without the associated unpredictable wait times or uncertainty of whether an assigned technician can handle the issue when they eventually reach the site. In turn, there’s shorter pauses on customers’ production times. As well as less inconvenience overall, and your utility company has just cut costs to boot. It’s a win-win. 

2. Filling In The Gaps 

If you’re talking to someone over the phone, according to psychology experts, you’re losing between 70 and 93% of the overall message in translation. 

That’s an awful lot. But studies indicate that only 7% of information is conveyed via words themselves. The other 38% is through tone of voice, and the remaining 55% is through body language. 

So it appears that talking via phone isn’t enough. If you want to quickly and efficiently get to the heart of the issue: then you need to take into account nonverbal cues. 

And this sentiment is echoed by both quantitative and qualitative findings on the subject. In fact, the Journal of Nonverbal Behavior finds that adding gestures and nonverbal cues substantially improves speed of understanding – which in turn results in enhanced recipient/customer perception of overall experience, while the British Journal of Clinical Psychology finds that nonverbal cues are 430% more effective the verbal ones. The conclusion? Add in nonverbal communication to conversations and you’ll see a 10x more effective rate of understanding. 

Introducing a new level of understanding

And that’s what remote assist software offers – an exponentially improved level of understanding through a more holistic environment. An environment in which one can see hand gestures, nonverbal hesitations, physical movements, and other minute details. These could mean the difference between a quick fix and a full-blown service call. Gone are the days when you would need to dispatch an expert to pull a lever or turn a knob; now customers have the ability to remedy both routine easy-fixes and more complicated matters with zero downtime themselves. 

The takeaway here? Improve lines of communication, and see reduced time spent on service calls, an increase in utilities first time fix rate, and improved customer satisfaction levels. 

3. Shining A Light On Deeper Issues 

Aberdeen Group estimates that 33% of service work orders require a second trip. Some of these are inevitable – but some are entirely avoidable.

And that’s all extra expense that’s cutting into your bottom line for no good reason

And the problem may be worse than you think. Aberdeen Group also finds that almost 50% of second trips are needed due to 1) a lack of experience, 2) limited access to information, and 3) wrong diagnoses. 

But when – via remote assist software – you can include an entire crew on evaluating a power restoration project, critical storm damage, or new customer services, you cut down your room for error significantly. Issues that could initially stump a single on-the-ground worker are now hashed out via real time video collaboration. And these previously unilateral decisions can be made multilateral, informed calls that are able to better diagnose the problem, and in turn, expedite the timeline on a solution. 

So, when it comes to remote assist software – it’s clear that utilities benefit from AR-enabled software. This is because they often respond in-person to problems that require advanced troubleshooting skills

So what should you look for in a provider offering remote assist software? 

Primarily, opt for a solution that: 

  • Offers a complete merged reality solution, in which experts are able to:
    • Draw on screen (otherwise known as annotation), freeze images, use hand gestures to indicate a certain instruction or change. And the ability to add real objects to the video environment.
  • Allows users to access this software via a link:
    • This is an easier option than through an app or download, since downloads are associated often with higher upfront cost. This is especially true for customers who want a here and now solution.
  • Offers integration assistance to clients
    • Depending on your target market, an integrated toolset can be useful in guaranteeing a streamlined customer experience. If that’s the case, you’ll want to make sure your service provider has the ability to integrate with your field service or call center platform. This will ensure a seamless interaction with your team members. 

Interested in learning how remote assist software can benefit your utility? 

Learn more about what to look for in remote assist software buyer’s guide. Or get in touch today to schedule a demo.

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