Sit down with Tim Tyrell-Smith, Help Lightning CMO, as he leads a panel discussion about virtual expertise in a pandemic, and the future of the technology, looking past lockdowns. Joining him are Dan Turner of Oxford Instruments, Greg Wilson of Cincinnati Inc., and Steve Dobbins of Gosiger. Also on call is Help Lightning COO Marc Guthrie.
This panel has been edited for clarity and length.
Tim Tyrell-Smith: Welcome to the panel discussion! Thank you all for taking the time today to talk about Help Lightning and how it’s helped navigate this pandemic. But let’s get going, shall we? When did Covid-19 become “real” for your organization? How did it impact your transition from a digital standpoint?
Steve Dobbins: I lead a senior team of technicians who were all somewhat familiar with Virtual Expertise. We’ve had them all working at home since pretty much the end of March.
Dan Turner: Oxford Instruments has been using Help Lightning for a while now. But when the lockdowns in Asia started, we had every service guy in the world gravitate to it. The pandemic really drove people towards it, but a good idea just flies. It’s just part of our daily operations now.
Greg Wilson: Covid became real for us around the March timeline also. Pre-pandemic, our customers were used to in-person service. However, social distancing made the customer take a second thought, “I can minimize the time somebody else is in my facility.” The pandemic was definitely the push that made them try where they may not have tried before.
Virtual Expertise Use Cases
TTS: Do you have any specific use cases for Help Lightning that you could share with us?
SD: We actually had to do an install on a high end product for a customer in Indonesia. But Indonesia was in lockdown. So, we trained up a core team and have been working with this customer up to 4 hours a day on Help Lightning to install the machine. Normally, a highly trained technical person would be doing this job, so there’s definitely a learning curve involved. However, one of the guys told me this morning, “You know, I can’t imagine doing this type of work without being able to see and talk and share, collaborate on what we are doing.” It’s been a great success of using tools we would not have thought about before.
DT: It’s actually become second nature for a tech to come into a Zoom meeting and say, “Ah, sorry I’m late, I was in Italy doing an install.” We don’t even think now that it was all done with Help Lightning. It’s just so normal now! But as a business manager, the most important thing for me is the commercialization of it. We used to charge a sum of money for an engineer to go and install a piece of equipment. Now though, we can do the same thing but charge a lot less. Some rough numbers, but if we charged $5000 for an install before, we now charge only $1000 a day to do a remote install. But that tech can do that 5 days a week, rather than one large block with 5 days of travel. If you look at our margins, we are making the same kind of revenue, but our travel costs are now zero. We are actually 16% ahead of where we were last year, and our margins have doubled! Virtual Expertise has really moved us into a new normal.
Making Revenue with Service
TTS: That’s great Dan. And Marc, while we are on the subject, do you have thoughts on how to turn service from a cost center to a profit center in your business?
Marc Guthrie: Yeah, this year has not just increased the want, but the need to do that. An interesting use case that’s really grown for Help Lightning this year is inspections. A line inspection before may have taken five people flying to a country in Asia for three weeks to insure that line is right. Now, Virtual Expertise takes care of that. And, talking about margins Dan, these were $90,000 expenses that are now $15,000-$20,000, so there are great opportunities to drive margins and increase service by using these tools.
GW: And because travel restrictions are constantly changing, I have some technicians that can only visit one other state without a long quarantine process there and back. So, we redeployed them to work with our customers using Help Lightning. We probably still have months to go in dealing with lockdowns, so customers are understanding; they are getting creative to do what they have to do to keep their businesses flowing.
TTS: The pandemic is going to end though. Which of these changes do you think will stick around after social distancing is no longer necessary?
SD: Well, we spend a lot of time trying to translate our customer’s explanation of the problem into the real need, so being able to see and hear and nearly touch has been a huge change in our support. Help Lightning isn’t perfect for every problem, but, most of the time, it’s going to stay our go-to.
DT: One of my colleagues told me, “Dan, this is great. Do not let things go back to how they were!” Before, if something went wrong it could take anywhere from a couple of days to two weeks get an engineer there. Now, we can say, “we are going to give you support here and now, using the device you already own.” And we don’t just send whoever is closest; we can have the world expert on the issue from China helping out an American company with zero travel costs. People can’t unlearn this. They’ve seen it, experienced it; we are getting customers addicted to it.
The Roots of Success
TTS: What advice would you give to someone who wants to do what you’ve done with their own business?
DT: You have to really explain to people what it is, and get really good at using it. You have to explain that it’s cross-platform, cross-device, and then you can say it’s in the moment. It’s also been a huge help with customers that have English as a second language; sometimes you say, “take this part out and twist it,” and they say, “what is twist?” You can just show them! Even if there is just zero common language, you can still resolve problems with this technology. So I would say really understanding virtual expertise and what it can do will make your techs want to use it.
GW: If you’re selling it as a service, give your customer a percentage of it. If you’re improving your margins, you can pass some of those savings onto your customer to incentive them to keep using Help Lightning.
SD: I’m constantly trying to show value to my people. I brought an engineer in on a call, and we figured out pretty quick that the customer never would have been able to tell us what was going on through phone or email. That kind of things help sell the product to my own team and the customer as well.
MG: I work with a lot of service leaders and Fortune 500 companies around the world. I can say confidently that 50% of business travel is never going to come back. And 30% of office space is never going to come back. Most people are thinking the same thing right now as well.
TTS: Thank you so much, Steve, Dan, Greg, and Marc for an interesting and informative discussion!
How Virtual Expertise Works
When someone encounters a complex issue, they need an expert to be onsite immediately. With Help Lightning’s virtual expertise software, two video streams become merged into one. Therefore, users can collaborate and resolve an issue together. The remote expert can actually insert their hand, use tools, and share documents. This simplifies the problem-solving process. Easy, right?
Using mobile devices, experts can now work with a partner as though they were side-by-side. You can telestrate, or write across the screen. It’s easy to freeze images and use hand gestures. You can even import documents and add real objects into the merged reality environment. So, using Help Lightning, experts can solve any problem, even from thousands of miles away.
To see Help Lightning for yourself, schedule a free demo here.