Smile for service in low-touch economy

Johannesburg, 23 Jul 2020
Read time 4min 10sec
Barry Venter, CEO, Nashua
Barry Venter, CEO, Nashua

Today, a photograph of a smiling customer has replaced a signature as proof of execution. COVID-19 has driven a low-touch – or even a no-touch – environment in which even providing a digital signature can be regarded as a risky activity.

Unlike many office workers, service technicians aren’t able to work remotely, the very nature of their job requires them to go to customers and repair whatever needs repairing, which means that companies with service engineers have had to come up with new and safer ways for them to do their job.

Barry Venter, CEO of Nashua, says: “Companies are having to implement new solutions and processes to align themselves with the requirements around COVID-19. These include coming up with smart ways for service technicians to get approval or sign-off from customers while still adhering to the social distancing rule.”

Standard low-touch measures that companies can deploy include implementing online signatures for the remote approval of documents and using facial recognition instead of fingerprint access. Thermal cameras can measure the temperatures of people wishing to access the building as they approach the entrance, while a screen also detects whether they are wearing a mask and tells them to put one on if they aren’t.

These measures are excellent for protecting people entering a premises, but additional measures are required to protect service technicians who may need to visit several premises in the course of a day.

“Different measures are required at different stages of lockdown,” says Venter. “For instance, in level five, only essential services businesses were permitted to operate, so the primary thing is to ensure that the request for assistance is coming from a business that’s permitted to operate at that level.”

Strict health and safety protocols are required to govern the technician’s actions while at a customer. The relevant permits must be issued so that, should the technician be stopped at a roadblock, they’re sent on their way without an issue.

Venter also advises that businesses identify who among their customer base qualifies as a business that’s permitted to operate under the current lockdown level. This would not, however, mean that certain categories of businesses would be denied service. It would just mean they should be offered remote support.

While many businesses were already en route to adopting remote management solutions, the advent of COVID-19 just accelerated that journey. “Businesses that were on track with implementing technologies that enabled remote monitoring and management were ahead of the curve when COVID-19 hit,” says Venter. These types of solutions enable proactive service, where technicians can deal with an issue remotely, sometimes before the customer even knows that it’s there.”

“As a rule of thumb, all customers should be offered remote support initially,” says Venter. From an office automation point of view, for instance, it’s possible to connect to a device remotely and troubleshoot and fix it without leaving your desk. Strict key performance indicators will enable the service technicians to successfully service customers remotely. In addition, more customers will be able to be serviced that way, making the service desk more efficient.

While the aim is to reduce the number of site visits that service technicians have to do in order to protect both them and the customer, some call-outs are essential and should be handled with care for the safety of all parties, he continues. “The use of an application to log tickets and prioritise technical issues means that the technician will always know what their day entails. Built-in tools can minimise user interaction, such as the ability to take a photo of the customer to signify a completed call-out instead of requiring a signature. All technicians should be issued with personal protective equipment and trained on how to use it properly.”

Education forms a key part of keeping staff and customers safe during a pandemic. “Not only should service technicians have access to videos on their mobile devices that can help them troubleshoot customers’ technical issues immediately, they should also have access to training on COVID-19 protocols and how to conduct themselves to keep themselves and other people safe."

It is possible to go fully no-touch to ensure your customers can make calls, have connectivity and print documents. Whether the issue is resolved remotely or in person, the aim is to ensure you get the fastest resolution possible for the customer.

To read more about the low-touch economy, click here.