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Reaching customers with remote access

Remote service options have become more popular in an era shaped by the COVID-19 pandemic

February 10, 2021  By  Alanna Fairey

Image: natasaadzic / iStock / Getty Images Plus

In a year of social distancing, the COVID-19 pandemic has kickstarted the need for remote troubleshooting for dealers and integrators.

Patrice Samuels, senior analyst, consumer technology, Parks Associates, says that remote integration and troubleshooting services were starting to take off prior to the pandemic, but a lot more providers have started to embrace them as a strategy going forward, given the strict guidelines about physical distancing.

“The technology has been here for some time but, of course, it takes a lot of time for a business to embrace a whole new technology because they have to integrate it in their back-end systems,” Samuels says. “What the video remote solutions are facilitating is the ability for the customer to show [dealers or integrators] the physical product in the home and the dealers are then able to make recommendations about what’s wrong and how to resolve the issue.”

Adds Samuels, “COVID-19 really drove the need for this [remote troubleshooting] service.”


Ahead of the trend

While the pandemic may have given some vendors and dealers the push they needed to make the switch to remote troubleshooting, there have been many who were way ahead of the trend.

Richmond Hill, Ont.-based Northern Alarm Protection Co. Ltd. was offering remote integration and troubleshooting services for their clients before the pandemic hit. David Koziel, Northern Alarm Protection president and CEO, says that this remote troubleshooting feature was a value-added service for their clients.

“Our clients have always found the need or the value added in regards for us to remotely access their systems,” Koziel explains. “There are a lot of things that we can remotely fix to save the client money, and especially in our industry, security can’t wait.”

Koziel says that when COVID-19 was declared a pandemic and the lockdown was first announced back in March 2020, it was business as usual for Northern Alarm Protection.

“Different sections of our disciplines like access control, alarm systems, and CCTV have been able to go online, and we’ve been able to automatically start offering this to our clients,” Koziel says. “We’re not getting individual calls asking, ‘Do you do this?’ We already do this.”

Similarly, Burnaby, B.C.-based Axis Systems Group has seen that there is an expectation to be able to access systems through remote support.

“Clients did not want us to come to the site and they were more motivated to look at this is as a solution because they prefer to not have us come to their property,” says Axis Systems Group business development manager Peter Soet. “It made them wake up to the possibility of removing it from being on-site and allowing us to make these improvements for them to host their servers for them.”

Soet shares that his technicians are able to remotely service their customers using applications such as TeamViewer. Soet also stresses the importance of having a strong network connection that would also protect the privacy of their clients.

“We can do [remote troubleshooting] with a Virtual Private Network (VPN) connection through the internet, which has a secure connection to ensure that the customer’s data is protected,” Soet says.

On-site essentials

Although dealers and integrators have quickly adjusted to remote troubleshooting for their clients, there are situations that still require on-site inspection and it is not possible to handle the situation remotely.

“There’s still obviously going to be door strikes and card readers that will fail and cam-eras that will fail and they need to be physically changed,” Soet describes. “There’s definitely a fair bit of service — physically installing for new systems and pulling wire require on-site inspections.”

Koziel says that in order to be compliant with ULC standards for fire and intrusion detection, technicians must complete mandatory inspections on-site. This includes checking sprinklers, fire alarms and burglar alarms.

“These inspections absolutely are still mandatory. You still have to go do our test as per code in regards to the other gamut of services related that we cannot do remotely,” says Koziel.

Other tasks that cannot be done remotely often have to do with fixing faulty equipment and physical labour.

“You’ll always have equipment that does eventually go down, whether it’s a power surge, whether just longevity of equipment, and it cannot be reset remotely,” Koziel explains, “There will always be in our industry the need for us to attend, just with all of the remote connectivity.”

However, Koziel says that it is up to the client if they wish to have a technician come on-site to fix the problem.

“There’s a lot of things that we can diagnose and advise remotely, so it is totally client’s choice,” Koziel reiterates. “There always will be the need to go on-site, but with the remote diagnostics, we can always advise on the situation.”

Cost savings

While the COVID-19 pandemic will not last forever, the remote troubleshooting trend may continue to serve a purpose for dealers and integrators.

Samuels predicts that remote trouble-shooting will still be offered as a service, as it reaps benefits not just for customers, but for dealers and integrators as well.

“It’s really costly for a company to drive out to a home and sometimes they might get there and discover they don’t have the proper equipment or everything they need but eventually have to make an appointment and work out the logistics to go again,” Samuels says. “The COVID-19 pandemic has really accelerated companies’ interest in these and pulled the trigger for them to adopt these solutions.

“I do think many of them will be leveraging them going forward because of just simply how [much it] can save them.”

Soet agrees that remote troubleshooting will continue through 2021, as time and money are the two of the biggest factors in decision-making for any business. Soet points out that “customers do not have to pay a two-hour minimum service call, they do not have to pay a truck charge — they’re just paying a 15-min-ute remote tech support charge.”

Service flexibility

Koziel shares that Northern Alarm Protection has received a number of requests from their customers for live remote system diagnostics. The biggest takeaway of offering remote troubleshooting during COVID-19 for Koziel is the willingness to adapt and being flexible in finding ways to serve their clients.

“Our industry is extremely unique and is built on trust,” Koziel concludes. “With trust comes relationships, and automatically showing that we care for our clients by being able to diagnose remotely, and explain to them why we do have to go to the site and being prepared, certainly gives them the peace of mind that we do legitimately care for them.”

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