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The September 10, 2009 Issue Provided by System Dynamics Inc.
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One User's Experience With Remote PC Support

[Dave]If you're like me, you've often had the experience of trying to help someone--a business colleague, friend or family member--solve a PC problem. This is often frustrating. It's very hard to figure out what's going on if you can't see the user's screen, and difficult to explain what you'd like him or her to do to gather information.

There are a variety of remote support tools on the market. I've tried several and run into problems with all of them. For example, Microsoft's Remote Desktop Support seems to work over a local network, but not over the Internet--at least not if there's a firewall in the way. I've never found a tool I liked.

So it was interesting to be on the other end of this, and experience a good tool in the hands of a very good support person.

I'm an instrument-rated private pilot, and have subscribed to Jeppesen's Airway Manual paper charts for close to forty years. Like most pilots, I've gotten tired of lugging twenty pounds of books onboard our plane every time we make a trip, and throwing away reams of unused paper when the approach plates are updated. Every time I renew my subscription, I think about switching to an electronic update service.

This year the cost of the updates finally got high enough that I decided to switch over to JeppView/Flitestar, Jeppesen's PC-based flight planning and chart service. All the approach plates are now downloaded and stored on my notebook PC, and updated over the Web every two weeks. When I plan a route, I print only the plates needed for that route. The system is designed to keep track of the changes that occur during the update cycle, and prints out only the plates that have changed since I last printed that route.

"Exemplary use of a remote support tool"

That sounds fine in principle. But after planning our first trip, I wanted to print all the plates for the route, and couldn't figure out how to do it. After several attempts, I called Jeppesen tech support, which operates 24x7. After asking a few questions, the tech support person asked if he could use remote support. When I said "yes" he asked me to open a web browser and type in a short URL. I was asked for an activation code, which he read to me. Soon after I typed in the code, he had taken control of my PC. Moving the mouse on my screen, and talking with me on the phone, he very quickly showed me how to tell JeppView to print the whole set of charts.

I then asked if there was a simpler way to check for updates than the one I had been using. He said "sure," and showed me which program to select from All Programs. Then he said "would you like it on your desktop?" and when I said "yes," he put the icon right where I could easily find it again.

This took all of about five minutes. It was an exemplary use of a remote support tool, in the hands of a very proficient person. I called back to find out what tool Jeppesen uses, and found it is NTRSupport. I'm thinking about signing up for a 15-day trial and using it myself.

"The support person is key"

A week later, I downloaded an update and couldn't figure out how to get JeppView to print only the charts that had changed. So I again called tech support, and pretty soon the (different) support person had taken over my PC. After a few minutes of talking with me and trying to get it to work, he said he was going to get some help and put me on hold. With music playing in the background, I watched him move the mouse around my screen. After about 5 minutes, I wanted to tell him that I had other things to do with my PC and would try to figure it out later--but I couldn't because he had me on hold.

Five more minutes passed, still on hold. He obviously hadn't solved my problem and seemed to be flailing around. I had work to do. So I grabbed the mouse and moved it on the screen to signal that I wanted to talk with him. He didn't get the hint, and went back to what he was doing. At that point, I grabbed the mouse and closed JeppView--that got his attention and he came back on the line. I told him that he'd had my PC for at least ten minutes, I had other things to do, and I'd deal with JeppView later (hopefully with someone who understood it better).

The lesson learned? The support person is key. Great tools require great support people. Companies that use remote support tools really need to pay attention to how their support procedures impact their customers--and tell their support people not to leave customers on hold!

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