I read the service tickets today, oh boy. That “oh boy” exasperation is likely well earned by every member of an integration company’s service department these days as they filter through the myriad reasons clients reach out for service. Ultimately, “a day in the life” of a service department can be just as complex and nuanced as that namesake classic highly produced Beatles’ song.
Often, the calls are simple fixes, but even an easy solution can be a time nuisance for a lean-and-mean integration company that doesn’t have a dedicated service team.
Indeed, on any given day an integration company might face a range of complex service calls, each one requiring not only a level of expertise, but also the ability to calm the potentially frazzled or angered nerves of individual clients, many of whom can be demanding and impatient in nature. Additionally, the service must be performed in a manner that is efficient and profitable for the integrator.
For far too many integration companies, service is festering part of the business that disrupts the daily installation schedule and bleeds time and money from the coffers.
The fact that service calls can vary so widely in complexity — from poor TV signals, to problems with TV volume, wireless audio components, video streaming sources, remote controls, exterior lights and much more — highlights the importance of remote service capabilities to determine priority and keep installation technicians on their regular daily schedule versus driving around town to resolve service issues.
Since most integration companies have a sizable bank of past projects in the field, service calls can be generated by a multitude of clients and a broad range of equipment.
That complexity of service has led many integrators to determine the need for remote service capabilities, usually based around an in-home device — such as SnapAV OvrC or Control4 Ihiji platforms — that allows the team to remotely log in, take control of the system, troubleshoot, reboot and take other necessary steps to correct the problem and avoid a costly and disruptive truck roll.
De-Escalating Client is the First Goal
Any integrator not yet convinced of the value of remote service need only spend an afternoon with a remote service team. CE Pro did just that, tagging along for a hectic day with the service specialists at OneVision Resources, a Boston-based provider of remote service for scores of integrators. OneVision’s team handles between 80 and 100 service tickets per day for its stable of integration company clients around the U.S.
About half of the service events from end users come in via phone and half email. Each integration company has a unique service phone number for their clients to use, so the OneVision Basic Support Team answers the call using the individual dealer’s company name. The team has a layered approach, with initial calls or emails responded to by a concierge, who subsequently can pass on the call to a specialist if necessary.
On this day, Whitney Dillon is the concierge. If the concierge is overwhelmed, the call or email goes into voicemail or a queue, and calls or emails are typically returned within 15 minutes, depending on the volume of calls. (Customers can pay for various levels of service; higher-tier plans include guaranteed 10-minute response times.)
Each call is given a priority ranking of 1 (important) to 5 (low priority) based on the level of aggravation coming from the client along with the scope of the problem.
On average, a typical integration company will experience 50 unpredictable service events per month. Of those, only two service calls per month per integrator will be escalated to “urgent” by OneVision.
That means 96 percent of the service events are handled in a satisfactory way for customers, meaning the Basic Support Team either solved the issue entirely or de-escalated it with a workaround such that the client is OK waiting for a coordinator to follow up and schedule an appointment.
As most dealers know, clients can be perturbed when they first reach out for service; therefore, the initial mission is to de-escalate the situation via an initial “triage” process for customers. On this day, the tech specialists onsite were Joe Amanatidis, Shannon Schultz and Christopher Winn. Many of OneVision’s triage personnel work remotely from their own homes, and the company now has a total of 18 support specialists.
“Our goal is to get them talking. That calms them down,” says Amanatidis, who says only about 5 percent of clients on incoming calls are “angry.” He estimates another 20 percent are “slightly peeved … only because they don’t want to be taking the time to be on the service call in the first place.”
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As they are talking with the end user, the Basic Support Team specialists take time to write out a detailed note recounting the initial problem, troubleshooting measures taken and ultimately the resolution. The de-escalation process starts by simply asking questions about the problem, then transitioning into actual troubleshooting.
In some cases, the homeowner is asked to conduct a series of troubleshooting tasks (power on/off, etc.). In other cases, the tech specialist will ask to take control of the homeowner’s system using OvrC or Ihiji.
Selling Service Plans or Billable Labor
“Only about 20 percent of the service tickets are resolved by a simple reboot,” comments Joey Kolchinsky, founder and CEO at OneVision.
“That percentage is lower than one would expect, but the statistic is a bit misleading. In the past, clients would only call their integrator for service when there was a big problem, but once they realize they now have instant response availability, clients will call more often and for little problems that usually go well beyond a simple reboot.”
In the long term, that reliance on an integrator for service is a good thing because it brings a higher value to a service plan. And of course, one of the best times to sell a service plan is when a customer is in need of service on their system.
That’s where the next goal at OneVision comes in.
“Our second mission is to tee up the integrator for success,” says Kolchinsky. By “success,” he means the upselling of service plans, or “memberships” as OneVision calls them. More than 70 percent of customers from integrators who have signed on with the Boston-based company in the past 90 days purchased some level of service membership, Kolchinsky says.
But even if the customer has not purchased a service plan membership, the remote Basic Support Team will still push the service ticket, if necessary, on to an individual dealer’s Advanced Support Team, which can bill the end user an hourly rate for the physical service call. Customers who have not purchased a membership receive a one-time exception for remote service assistance.
The aim of that “freebie” is to expose end users to the value of having immediate remote service response.
“Since all clients sign a Terms of Service, agreeing that Advanced Support is billable, we are not afraid to offer Advanced Support as an option. The integration company partner makes money, and the client is happy. That is why solve rate is not the most important statistic; rather, ensuring a sustainable, scalable, and profitable process is in place so that everyone gets what they want/need is important,” says Kolchinsky.
“OneVision sees service as a profit center, so the dealer/partner is set up to make money whenever they take care of the client, either through RMR [recurring monthly revenue] or billable labor.”
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The service plan memberships create several benefits for the integration company, including increased client loyalty, the generation of RMR, and higher employee morale.
Because the remote service eases the service burden, which is often on weekends or after-hours, integrators and their technicians can “get their personal lives back,” so to speak.
Again, all these benefits breed success for the integration company. OneVision’s system has Checks and Balances built in to make sure all situations are resolved.
The Basic Support Team even follows up with the end user one, three and six days later to make sure the problem has been resolved by the dealer’s onsite Advanced Support Team. Only then is the actual service ticket closed.