Change This One Thing About How You Handle Remote Troubleshooting

Learn how to address the most urgent needs of every service call and provide service with or without a remote systems management tool.

Alex Boyle

Running a profitable service department requires striking a difficult balance.

On one hand, you need to provide an excellent customer service experience. On the other hand, you need to watch your costs and be as efficient as possible.

These factors combine to make the art of remote troubleshooting more critical to your success as a home technology professional than ever before.

Knowing how far to push your remote support efforts is a question of risk versus reward. Solving problems remotely rewards us with lower costs (truck rolls are expensive) and happier clients (no one likes to pay for unnecessary in-home service calls), but there is always the risk that pushing remote support too far will frustrate your client and potentially make the situation worse.

Let’s look at a simple example.

Sally, a longtime client, calls in for support letting us know that Pandora is not playing through her whole-house music system and that she is having a dinner party in an hour.

Answers to a few simple questions reveal that, although her control app appears to be responding and other sources (such as her cable box music) hooked into the audio system are functioning properly, the cover art is not displaying on the screen.

Related: Don't Absorb Remote Monitoring as a ‘Cost of Doing Business’

This likely points to a problem with her media server, which an on-site technician could confirm in a matter of minutes. However, on a remote support call, it can be a very different story.

If remote systems management (RSM) tools are deployed on-site, there are steps we can take that may fix the problem such as power-cycling the media server. At the very least, these tools will likely give us information such as part numbers or system architecture clues that we can use to help steer the client towards resolution. Alternatively, a client who is knowledgeable and comfortable with their technology may be able to provide us with valuable insights as well.

But what if Sally doesn’t have any RSM tools installed? What if she is uncomfortable and unfamiliar with her technology?

In this situation, we are limited to asking Sally what she sees in front of her. Based on her feedback, we can try and guide her towards rebooting her media server but, if we’re not careful, this process can quickly lead down a deep rabbit hole, which is a sure-fire recipe for a negative customer experience.

What if our troubleshooting causes the entire music system to stop functioning? Or what if she gets frustrated or distracted, given there’s one hour until party time?

The 'Risk vs. Reward' Equation

Knowing how far to push the remote support experience with Sally requires not only the belief that tech support isn’t just about tech, but also requires a firm understanding of the goals of something OneVision calls Instant Triage (what most integrators refer to as basic support):

  1. Provide an instant response: Be a reliable resource for our clients 24/7.
  2. De-escalate the situation: Empathize with the client and understand that the real problem is not the tech, but the interruption of their life moments. Take control of the situation.
  3. Fix what can be fixed: If the problem can’t be resolved, provide workarounds.
  4. Don’t make the situation worse: Enough said.

Using these four criteria, our best course of action with Sally would likely be to reply instantly to her call, acknowledge her frustration (but don’t say sorry), and to suggest that she use an alternative source for music during the party (in this case, her cable music channels).

Through these actions, we addressed the most urgent needs of the call (“I’m not going to have music for the party”) and we avoided making the problem worse. After the party, we would follow up with Sally to make sure the original problem (“Pandora isn't working”) is fixed.

Next: Quick Response Times Pave the Way for RMR Success

Assessing this “risk versus reward” equation early in the support call is vital to ensuring an excellent support experience. We should always openly ask our clients about their level of comfort and knowledge with their technology and use their response as a filter through which we guide every question and troubleshooting decision.

When deciding if we should proceed to the next step, we need to ask three simple questions:

  1. What is our client’s comfort level with their technology?
  2. Is this step likely to get us closer to resolution?
  3. Is there a chance it will make the problem worse?

If all three criteria are favorable, then we move forward with the next step in the Instant Triage process.

If any of the above criteria are negative, then we need to think very carefully about moving forward as further efforts may only make the situation worse. In both of these scenarios, it’s best to gather detailed documentation which will help Advanced Support when we escalate the ticket.

Through this decision-making process, we can ensure that our efforts always create the best possible experience when any client reaches out for remote support. Every home technology professional can implement these concepts today and immediately reap the benefits.

For more information about service and using it to create RMR, visit

Author Alex Boyle is a Technology Specialist on OneVision's Integrator Service Desk​ who recognized the importance of risk-reward concept while creating an excellent support experience for a client. For anyone wondering how OneVision does what it does, it's because of specialists like Boyle.