Remote IT support has become one of the most effective solutions in the globalization age. Setting aside the obvious practical reasons – different time zones, smaller wages in the developing countries, faster response time, and so on – we may say that it was an inevitable change.
The new generation cares more about their wellbeing and comfort. Working from under a cozy blanket feels more rewarding than sitting in an open space where you can’t even adjust the room temperature without disturbing others. The possibility to work remotely was more of a bonus only a year ago, but now it has become the new norm. No wonder that the IT industry, the fastest one to implement the latest practices, is so fond of it.
Moreover, IT companies hugely benefit from hiring remote teams as they can deliver more flexible and fast results at a lower cost. A client of such companies does not need to wait for an IT support specialist to physically come out to the office – so the issue can be addressed right away, 24/7.
All the mentioned benefits of providing remote IT support services (instead of the traditional ones) make us curious about what is the future of this type of work. So, let’s discuss this question.
COVID-19: a revolution instead of evolution
The COVID-19 pandemic has grown the percentage of remote workers to unprecedented heights. According to Statista, before the pandemic, about 17% of employees in the US worked remotely, and this number has risen to 44% after the coronavirus outbreak.
This drastic change shifted the balance of office and remote workers and created some new issues. The businesses had to adapt instantly. The companies able to do so created one of the most potent remote IT support teams in industry history.
The first big challenge was, obviously, the drop ineffectiveness. The team members, who were already having a rough time with the quarantine, had to adapt to the new working conditions. Working from home became a tricky task when the rest of the family members stayed at home, giving each other zero private space. The personal issues of the support workers turned into frustrated customers (also impacted by the stressful situation in the world) and lost revenue. Luckily, the new ways of communications stepped in, resulting in new strategies, sharing the load with colleagues, and even new technical solutions allowing access to the client’s app directly. Remote teams have tested different approaches to work, various software for productivity and tracking, and found the most effective online communication ways. This helped develop an even stronger and more stable working process than before the pandemic.
The second challenge was tightly connected to the first one: the clients’ base diversification. When everything is rearranged, the team that previously worked with pro users now may help people from the other side of the globe reboot their PCs. This issue was a huge crash test for support protocols in most of the companies. Still, it helped them find the weak sides, optimize solutions to the frequently emerging problems, and improve overall support quality. The multi-translation tools, chatbots, neural networks, and big data processing finally made the workload not only bearable but sometimes easier than before.
When we have analyzed the current situation and how everything has changed during the last year, we can move to the predictions of how the remote IT support might change and what are the challenges to be prepared for.
Prediction one: a more proactive approach
The main drawback of remote support is that you can’t just go and fix the issue manually. All the support team has a chat or phone and some limited access to the client’s app if the software is allowed. The most natural solution is to minimize issues that demand fixing in person. Being more proactive, predicting possible problems, and eliminating them before they become the actual troubles can save lots of working hours and revenue.
The proactive approach may increase the workload initially, but it can save much more time if put into perspective. Such an approach means figuring out possible workflows and then actively testing them to find the least and the most effective ones. Moreover, it means hiring such people who are ready to be proactive and push their initiatives as well as to be open to changes and all types of feedback (especially negative).
The proactive approach allows the support team to work at a more even and relaxed pace, preventing problems, not troubleshooting them. The proactive approach always was the most optimal workflow, but the shift to the remote teams made it essential. The companies that will be able to implement it fast and to the full extent will be more competitive and eventually win the support market. A proactive approach will not only improve the workflow within the company but also can help to increase customer loyalty and even revenue.
Prediction two: increasing automation capabilities
Preventing troubles is excellent, but why don’t staff members let the clients fix them by themselves? The automated troubleshooting apps, the libraries with the most popular solutions to known issues, and explicit instructions may save the day for the support team. Or several months’ worth of working hours.
Each company completes this step in its own way, depending on the product it is supporting, client base, range of responsibilities, etc. As with a proactive approach, creating some instant decisions – from complicated scripts to Wiki pages – demands more time, but it will save much more. It also allows companies to lower the load on the first support line (general specialists that should diagnose the program). If the customer gets to them, they have already checked their product for the most common problems and know that the issue is with something else. The main task here is to carefully collect all the common issues together, group them, and properly describe possible solutions.
Automated limited support may also be provided for the customers when live support isn’t available for some reason. If the client doesn’t know the language of the support team (a well-known issue in international support service: the client gets redirected to entirely another region and English is not a common denominator), if they can’t chat, if the support center went offline due to emergency – people still can get the semi-automated or fully automated help.
Prediction three: wider use of knowledge management
This part is tightly interwoven with the previous one. Automation needs knowledge management to work correctly. The data about the most common requests and issues should be stored and processed to improve both the automation and the manual support. Having a whole Wiki full of this information (and, possibly, some automated search that processes the client’s request while you are just saying hello to them) may save lots of time and neural cells to the support team, increase the response speed, and the overall quality.
The knowledge management base has another, more subtle advantage. The more data you have stored and processed, the lower is the knowledge threshold for the individual team member. It allows the managers to put less experienced people to the first response line, saving the time of the more experienced ones to investigate the complicated cases.
Another benefit that is a direct consequence of it – lower qualification of the first line support members allows the company to save costs, find the employees faster (e.g., using the home support option) and to let trainees work as soon as possible, getting real experience almost from the first day of their job. This way, companies can wisely allocate their team members’ resources and quickly grow new employees to be able to solve more complex requests.
Prediction four: increased use of chatbots
We briefly touched on the chatbot theme in the previous points, but they deserve a section of their own. Chatbots are so advanced now that they can (and sometimes do) substitute the first-line support members. Access to the knowledge management database and learning mechanism can cover a wide range of issues, only reporting the most complicated ones to the human operators. Chatbot support is already used by the biggest companies with an ever-increasing flow of customer requests.
Chatbot usage is an inevitable consequence of technological growth. There is a threshold after which increasing the support team doesn’t make it more effective. The costs that should be spent to pay the more experienced specialists are used to pay the first-line workers who answer the same questions daily (and those are people who can quickly leave the team due to loads of monotonous work). Actually, chatbots are the more advanced and interactive versions of the frequently asked questions on the inner company’s Wiki. They search for solutions for the customers and offer them prepared advice while also building a simple conversation.
The main disadvantage of chatbots is their mechanistic speech. Some people feel uncomfortable talking to scripts with pre-recorded phrases and thus, customers may refuse to use chatbots to solve issues they have.
But this issue is gradually solving itself. Firstly, even more, conservative people get used to chatbots and just take them as a part of the modern world (as today such automatic helpers can be faced almost everywhere online). Secondly, the development of neural networks makes chatbots more and more humanlike. They can react to human phrases, answer them naturally, and cleverly redirect clients to human specialists when they don’t know the solution. Often people don’t even notice that they have just talked to the automated script as their questions are very common and simple to answer.
Prediction five: expanding locations to hire remote teams
This one is more of a reality than a prediction now. Outsourcing technical support is common due to lower wages in some countries (which means companies can save their budget to invest more in developing better technical solutions), local languages, and different time zones (those two mean that companies can extend their support to more locations while growing the loyalty to their brand), as well as other obvious and less obvious causes. Each year more and more people get access to the Internet, learn English (as the most common language for professional international communication), and thus can work remotely. With all of the predictions above made real, the companies can shorten the onboarding process up to a couple of days, getting a competent support team in mere days in any country.
It may look like a simple (and practical to the verge of soullessness) way to save the company’s money, but there is a hugely positive effect hidden: new workplaces may severely boost the economy of the countries involved. Moreover, many highly paid specialists started as support team members so that it can become a great career start for people from different countries. Hiring remote teams may become a win-win situation both for companies management and employees-to-be as well as for companies themselves as they can expand their business to new locations and markets.
The number of remote support workers will increase whether we are prepared for it or not. The COVID-19 pandemic speeded this growth up drastically, and now the companies are trying to catch up. Today it is the time of revolutionary solutions and uncommon strategies. Luckily, technological progress (driven by the IT industry, too) allows the companies to provide a broader range of solutions both for their clients and employees. There is no guarantee that the offered predictions will become true but they help to understand the trends and prepare your business processes accordingly.
Nancy is a content creator at the educational project Self Starters which covers such topics as e-learning, personal development, and career improvement. She believes that technology has a positive impact on education and business and thus, we should know how to take advantage of it. Nancy loves writing about trends in the jobs market, new and prominent opportunities in online education, and finding the most effective personal growth hacks.