Proactive tech support: New frontier, or yet another gimmick?

PCWorld reports that Dell’s Tech support will act proactively to correct the problems with your PC or device – before the problem occurs. In summary, Dell gets to know about potential problems in your PC and calls you to resolve those problems without any action required on your part.

Have we reached tech support nirvana? Let’s look at a few details.

Proactive tech support is not new

As far back as 2006 GE Aviation published that they monitored real-time data from aircraft engines to look out for failures (which are far more catastrophic and expensive). They continue to do that and collect large amounts of data, which has recently also become one of the case studies for big data analysis.

Oracle offers tools that can monitor the server state, look for any recent software updates, and provide notifications through the tool, and through the very friendly Oracle support dashboard.

Almost every company advertises its support as being really “proactive”. Even Dell has this proactive support enabled for its enterprise customers.

Monitoring for potential problems is not quite new. Not only provides an opportunity for the company to prove that it’s different, but also avoids problems that can be more expensive to solve at a later time.

Unfortunately, most of the monitoring that I have seen is fairly basic and disappoints at several counts. Except for checking critical updates, providing messages that are fairly obvious (e.g. disk is getting fragmented, disk space is low, etc.), these software components to not accomplish much.

What has to change in yesteryear’s monitoring tools?

We really need to push sophistication to the next level as far as proactive monitoring is concerned. As devices get more and more connected to each other, and get the ability to relay their own state, the monitoring software have to keep up as well.

  • Collect data from individual distinct components
  • Categorise actions for the end-users and for tech support personnel
  • Plug into organisations support processes and systems
  • Plug into analytics to help users make sense of the data. Proactively identify problems with entire lots, tools or processes

All this does not require a lot of investment when you consider the sophistication of software today. But it does need a change in mindset for companies to implement such proactive support mechanisms.

Proactive Technical Support

I really hope Dell has accomplished all this and more with their proactive support. But, I wouldn’t hope too high at this time.

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