Virtual Visits: Temporary Fix or Residential Self-Serve Future?

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David Baxter, VP Product Marketing

April 8, 2020

Written By: David Baxter, VP Product Marketing

I hit the ‘End Meeting’ button on the call hours ago, and I still can’t get the image out of my head.

The concept is a virtual tech visit: sanitized equipment delivered by way of a field technician, who drops the package on the front stoop, parks their white service van adjacent the residence and proceeds to use FaceTime or Skype on their phone to virtually assist the customer through an install or troubleshooting session.

On this call with our team to discuss the market reaction to COVID-19, I was told virtual visits are quickly becoming a new normal for Communication Service Providers (CSP).

I am contemplating my own home being live streamed but also considering the complexities for the field techs. Depending on the level of competence on the part of the homeowner and the network unknowns – they are working blind with only the image on their smartphone to guide them.

Is this just a temporary approach to deal with the radically restrictive conditions of the current pandemic? Or, hidden within this innovative response, is there a path forward to deal with the rising cost of truck rolls? In this new universe, will we enlist customers to perform self-installs and self-care?

Either way, we have the tools today to augment virtual visits to be more efficient and secure.


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Virtual visits as a resolution for mission critical residential support

The situation is already critical.

Over the past four weeks, dropped call rates at customer care centers have increased alongside a dramatic increase in residential escalations. Both KPI indicate a high level of customer issues, which is alarming when set against a backdrop of decreased resolution capacity.

Social distancing is limiting the dispatch of field technicians for residential service. Care teams and help-desks are understaffed, reducing back-up support for techs in the field. It’s challenging to service customers in any industry right now, let alone one relying on truck rolls with technicians entering customers’ homes.

The challenge for CSPs is to enable technicians with insight on what the customer is experiencing without being physically present.

Your hands are tied if you rely on the usual tools; hence, the need for a virtual visit.


What about an MRI for network layer performance diagnostics?

Shortly after the call, I  was sharing ideas with a colleague on how virtual visits would drastically benefit from a diagnostic tool  – something along the lines of an MRI for network diagnostics.

Half a minute later, I realized our clients' existing Mariner capabilities could significantly enhance the virtual visit. (In full transparency, we recognize Mariner needs to better communicate our solution applications and are stepping up to that challenge, but before I digress, allow me to explain how a diagnostic tool to understand layers of network performance can improve this approach.)

Even before this crisis hit North America, European providers were reporting network traffic increases of 50% or more. Any traffic increase of this scale would test network performance and necessitate visibility beyond the access network.


Without visibility, how can we see if or when demand will break the dam?

Enter this equation, a set of virtual investigators to facilitate 360-degree troubleshooting.

In addition to looking at common problems in a service delivery mesh by traversing multi-layered network topologies, automated investigators go a few steps deeper. This investigation allows assessment of true impact, in terms of impacted customers or length of the problem. It can help discern the true root cause among multiple, competing problems or isolate service degradations before the point of no return.

Would that help your team prioritize tickets based on customer impact? Could you use that tool to get ahead of an issue before it spreads to widespread congestion? Could you direct your repair crews to the right spots to address the problem and avoid multiple expensive dispatches?




That same set of investigators can also augment awareness, empowering field technicians with data beyond what they can see. Automated checks can assess multiple possible problem causes and resolution options, increasing technician’s performance and accuracy.

For instance, to address customer’s connectivity problems, should a bandwidth profile be adjusted, should the home gateway be reset, the Wi-Fi channel changed, or Wi-Fi extenders be introduced? These are the types of questions that are automatically addressed by the investigators and can significantly reduce the time and effort needed for technicians to correct specific customer issues.

The takeaway is virtual investigations can eliminate field dependency on care, but also augment the ability of those same care and help-desk teams. What’s more is that this ability is available today within a secure, enterprise-grade solution.


Where self-service and enabled field techs collide, lives the virtual visit of the future.

Your customers are working from home on Zoom. Their kids are streaming Netflix while they’re on FaceTime. Like us, your customers are coping with the storm of today and they’re reliant on their Wi-Fi service to do so.  

We all feel the pressure to not let them down.


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Within the near future, or even already, CSPs will be reigniting self-serve initiatives. No longer to just improve the customer experience or find efficiencies, self-service options will be another means to rapidly diagnose and repair service problems remotely.

Perhaps augmented reality functionality within an enterprise-grade app could enable on-demand virtual visits. In fact, AR self-serve is closer than you might think – and that’s a conversation we’d love to have with you:


Let's start helping your customers remotely


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