This special interest group covers mobile technologies and approaches that are helping utilities do business today. 


How remote service can help your utility organisation

Alan King's picture
CEO & Founder Dusk Mobile

Alan specialises in the design, build and running of utility centric workforce management software and has extensive experience delivering across asset intensive industries, including energy....

  • Member since 2019
  • 52 items added with 25,300 views
  • Jul 1, 2021

Utility Field Services hasn’t been immune to the impacts of COVID-19 and with the variety of locations, human interaction, equipment and physical touchpoints in a typical day, the industry has been heavily impacted.

This has led to organisations exploring alternate ways to provide service where possible including remote service. Remote service has been around for several years now in different forms but for reasons including, cost, video quality, bandwidth, need and skills, it hasn’t been widely adopted. However, COVID-19 has accelerated the need and acceptance of remote service.


What is remote service software?

  • Remote service software allows your office and field staff to collaborate by having the same view of the task at hand. This could be inspecting a utility asset, performing an insurance assessment or auditing infrastructure and many more.
  • The basics start with secure access between a desktop client through to a mobile device.
  • Security underpins the process using tokens, PINs and expiring links, which are sent via SMS or email.
  • Beyond the basics, the capability to use Optical Character Recognition (OCR) to remotely lookup asset ID's, take measurements, use Augmented Reality (AR), capture screen shots and take recordings are all readily available today for desk based staff.


What are some of the benefits of remote service?

  • Customer Service – based on the service type, the customer can be engaged in the process without a technician needing to visit the location. Getting closer to the customer has become more important since COVID-19 than before.
  • First time fix – 52% of Technicians quote, access to service manuals as one of their biggest challenges and 48% say access to a knowledge base is a challenge. For Technicians going onsite, having the backup of offsite experts, who they can hold a remote video service call where both can view the equipment, starts to bring these percentages down.
  • Safety – restricted access may prevent multiple people being at a location but with remote service software, the scene can be relayed at the click of a button to an expert. Furthermore in weather events, the distribution of skilled, certified resources is crucial and sending those women and men to the locations they can complete their work at makes a large difference in safety critical situations.
  • Profitability – this translates through multiple avenues including:
    • Lower costs to service a client through reducing onsite travel by one or more technicians
    • Reduced replacing of parts driven by better understanding of the problem
    • Increased first time fix resulting in reduced penalties,
    • Reduced time to resolve providing Technicians with more time to work on billable jobs


What can you do with remote service software?

  • Further value is derived from the desktop with the Expert able to use tools such as Optical Character Recognition (OCR), Augmented Reality (AR) and measuring tools. Screen captures, annotations and recordings ensure as much detail is captured during the call, if it can’t be resolved.


What else can you do with in the Remote Visual assistance area?

While we have focused on remote service, other use cases include:

  • Remote training – this includes on the job training for roles in a safe environment.
  • Customer calls – In some cases, there may not be a need for a field technician to visit the site and a secure visual assistance session can be setup between an expert and your end customer. Examples include large scale weather events, where your customers need to make an insurance claim quickly.
  • Field support – questions and answers that were previously communicated via email, SMS or photos can now clearly communicated and resolved.
  • Reviewing of equipment inspections or audits – The ability for an expert to take photos from their desk of equipment that can be quickly relayed to their customer for approval and sign off.
  • Pre-visit scoping – a necessary but costly exercise in some industries. Having reduced resources on the ground in the field, with the Expert directing virtually from a desk provides a more optimal way to plan and schedule work or quote customers.
  • Availability from anywhere. If your operation is 24/7, your Expert could be in another continent and using a follow-the-sun support model, your field staff receive tier 1 support at anytime of the day or night.


Takeaway Tip  


Now more than ever before, enabling and accepting remote working is happening in utilities. Where practical, tools to support this in the field are being trialled and launched.




Customer Think


Finances Online

Matt Chester's picture
Matt Chester on Jul 2, 2021

You cite the change of thinking brought about by the pandemic-- how much of that do you think will 'stick'? For example, in many businesses employees performing successfully for a year and a half while remote have caused organizations to consider an in-between measure of hybrid (some days in office, more days at home). In these utility examples, do you think they'll continue to be fully endorsed or will reality moving forward be more of a 'hybrid' approach where the remote options are integrated as a capability for when needed but not necessarily adopted 100% of the time? 

Alan King's picture
Alan King on Jul 2, 2021

Thanks for the response Matt! I personally believe the changes will stick in some capacity and as you mention with employees, many organisations are continuing to embrace the new norm, despite being able to return to the office. One of the challenges I see is, the pandemic has shown new levels of efficiency in the way of working and to go back to the previous way, would be less efficient. Yes, other social aspects have been lost and is part of the reason the hybrid model has been proposed across many organisations.

With remote service, it was around prior to the pandemic however as with many technologies, the adoption has been accelerated in the last 18 months. Looking beyond the technology, for example at the customer benefits including shorter times to have issues resolved and improvements to first time fix, I feel it is here to stay.

Thanks for the question!

Julian Jackson's picture
Julian Jackson on Jul 9, 2021

Yes, I agree.  However there are two diametrically-opposed forces working here: workers working from home, or being more mobile (e.g. service techs) against conventional thinking that everyone should be in their office, plus the sunk costs of the many huge office buildings put up in the past few years, where we have seen people being pressured into going back into the office, possibly prematurely.

I agree that many of the changes will stick, and personally better life, e.g. less packed tube trains, more flexible working, is going to count for a lot of people. 

The knowledge base support you mention seems to me to be something that will grow. As a consumer I often photograph or film malfunctioning appliances as a record and to send to a repair person to show them, not just the appliance but the access space (some very confined access in my home). I certainly can see that technicians having backup online would be valuable in many circumstances. 

I expect customer service will change in many industries and business sectors as a result of improved technology and the outcomes of the pandemic.

Alan King's picture
Alan King on Jul 9, 2021

Good points also Julian, thanks for your comments. This may vary from country to country but here in Melbourne, Australia, the topic is more along the lines of "how do we get people back into the city?". This is driven by the enormous cafe culture that was present prior to the pandemic, 1600+ coffee businesses, other hospitality businesses, accommodation and more that are/were big employers and the heartbeat of the city.

We have a couple of customers where flexible work arrangements have been unwound and that has had ramifications with staff leaving. With our borders closed and migrant inflows basically stopped, it has become an employees market.

Others customers embraced the long term flexible arrangements early on and in at least one case, were able to reduce their lease footprint in the city by categorising their staff into 3 role types. Visit the office once a month or quarter, never visit the office and required in the office. For tax reasons they had to remain a resident in Australia. This happened over 12 months ago and has gone well from my conversations.

Thanks for your contribution and great idea on providing info to your technicians before a visit.

Alan King's picture
Thank Alan for the Post!
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