on the remote-support tool to troubleshoot their callers’ problems, Baird says.
Overall, the staff uses the tool daily on
20 percent of their calls—
during peak season. Most times, help desk
staff ask users a series of questions to diagnose the problems, and then they coach
the caller through the troubleshooting
steps. But if the support staff is having
trouble diagnosing the problems, or users
aren’t tech-savvy enough to follow directions, then it’s easier for the help desk to
do it by taking over the user’s computer.
In some cases, Houghton Mifflin
Harcourt customers mistakenly provide
the wrong information, such as the computer’s operating system, and that could
lead the help desk representative down
the wrong troubleshooting path. Taking
control of customers’ computers takes
care of those problems.
The publisher’s help desk employees
connect to customers’ computers by
giving them a Web URL. Once a customer
types in the Web address, a page pops up
asking if the user will allow the technician
to connect to the computer. When the
user clicks “Yes,” the technician immediately sees the user’s monitor and has control of the keyboard and mouse.
tools are available as either a
Web-hosted solution or as software and server appliances that
are installed on an enterprise’s
in-house network. The type an
organization chooses depends on
its corporate policies, says IDC
analyst Matt Healey.
For example, if security is a
concern, a business may choose
to install the technology in-house
because all the data is housed
internally, he says. However,
he adds that with hosted solutions, companies can increase
the number of software licenses
almost immediately, while an
on-premise product requires IT
staffers to handle the installation.
The market for clientless
remote-support tools is still
emerging. Sales of these tools
are expected to more than
double in the next four years,
from an estimated $156.4 million
in 2008 to $335.7 million in 2012,
according to IDC.
needs a colleague to help resolve a call.
And it’s useful for tech-support trainees to
log into a session and watch experienced
The new system also allows the tech
staff to reboot a user’s computer and
automatically reconnect to it. The pre-
vious system forced the technician to
walk the user through the reconnection
process. “The first time our internal staff
used Bomgar and learned that they didn’t
have to walk through the reattachment
on reboot, they were doing handsprings
and saying it was fantastic,” Baird says.
The tool also records online ses-
sions, which comes in handy when calls
cannot be resolved and must be escalated
to the next step in the support process.
Houghton Mifflin Harcourt’s tech-sup-
port team resolves 90 percent of the
calls, because most issues are computer
configuration problems that are easily
resolved, but sometimes there are bugs in
the educational software. In those cases,
the company’s engineers can review the
online session and develop a fix.
“Logging of information is important,” Baird says. “If we have to escalate
a call to development, we can give them
the full transcript and the system infor-
mation—the operating system and DLLs—and they can
re-create the issue.”
MORE FEATURES, LOWER COST
Houghton Mifflin Harcourt initially used another vendor’s
Web-hosted solution, but, in early 2007, it switched to
Bomgar because it offered more features and was less expensive, Baird says. For example, the previous product supported
only PCs, and that was a problem because
20 percent of the
publisher’s calls come from Mac users.
“Our internal staff complained about the need to connect
to Mac clients,” Baird recalls. “Not being able to do so was
frustrating for them.” That frustration went away with the
new system because it supports both PCs and Macs.
Another benefit is that the publisher’s employees can
exchange instant messages with customers. That is important
because teachers generally don’t have phones in their classrooms or computer labs. Rather than having a teacher walk
back and forth from a phone to the computer, the technician
and the teacher can IM each other, Baird says.
Other features include a user interface that shows which
12 software licenses, or remote sessions, are in use and
which ones are available. With the previous product, technicians couldn’t tell which remote sessions were in use, so they
had to constantly IM each other. And if one technician accidentally logged into a session that was in use, it would disconnect
the session in progress, forcing the disconnected technician to
reconnect to the customer.
In addition to showing which sessions are available, the
new system allows two technicians to log into the same session. Baird says that’s helpful if one support representative
When the tech-support center implemented the Bomgar
remote-support tool nearly two years ago, the publisher saw
an immediate return on investment, ranging from faster call
resolution to cost savings, Baird reports.
After the first year, average call times fell from
10 minutes, and that dropped to about nine minutes at the
end of this summer. The faster resolution rate improves customer service because it allows staffers to take more calls.
That, in turn, saves the company from having to hire
more tech-support employees. Every 1.5 minutes that’s
shaved from the average call saves the publisher one full-time employee, Baird says. So a reduction from
to nine minutes a call obviates the need for two additional
full-time employees a year.
Switching from the old vendor to the new one also saves
$12,000 a year in software licenses.
Overall, Bomgar’s remote-administration tool has made
the job faster and easier for Houghton Mifflin Harcourt’s
tech-support team. “Since we installed this product, there
has not been one single minute of downtime, no connectivity
problems and no security breaches,” Baird says. “We couldn’t
live without it.”
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