Monthly Archives: January 2008

Can You Share Your Screen?

image of hand touching computer screen

Welcome to the first Support Center News post of 2008.  I recently met with several ESRI Support Analysts who have been participating in our pilot project for GoToAssist.  For those readers who may not be familiar with it, Citrix® Online’s GoToAssist® is a technology that enables robust screen sharing and other remote support tools that can facilitate the resolution of many support issues. ESRI Support Services is expanding its use of GoToAssist, and during the last few months we’ve been running a pilot project to help plan the expansion. The four people in this interview were heavily involved in the pilot.


Jason (SCN Blog): I’m here with four of our support staff: Josh J., Cassandra L., Chris O. and Ryan T. Thanks everybody for being able to be here today.  Maybe we could start by having you each introduce yourselves… Cassandra, why don’t you start us off?

Cassandra: Sure; my name is Cassandra, and I am a support analyst, supporting mainly ArcGIS Desktop but specializing mostly in printing and exporting from ArcMap.  I have been at ESRI for 13 years, 19 days, and 6 hours.  I spent the first 10 years at ESRI in development, actually developing the printing and exporting functionality in ArcMap, but now I’m at the other end supporting it.  I get both sides.  So, I’m happy to be here and happy to be using GoToAssist. 

Chris: Hi, my name is Chris, and  I’ve been with ESRI for a year and three months now.  I work with ESRI Support’s Desktop Unit. My primary focus is ArcGIS Desktop, but I also support ArcPad and ArcReader and Publisher.

Ryan: My name is Ryan, and I’m with the Server Unit, focusing on installation issues with ArcGIS Server and Desktop.  I’ve been with ESRI for about 5 months.

Josh: My name is Josh, and I’ve been with ESRI about 3½ months.  I’m on the same team as Ryan and I support ArcGIS Desktop and ArcSDE installs. Prior to joining ESRI, I did IT support for another company, and we used screen sharing quite a bit, but it wasn’t GoToAssist.  It was rather natural for me to start using GoToAssist when I joined ESRI Support Services. 

Jason: Josh, would you talk a little bit more about that?  In what ways were you using screen sharing in your previous job? 

Josh: I used it fairly frequently to support in client calls.  I can’t disclose any details, but I was basically using it to support customers’ technical issues; I used screen sharing, and sometimes I would control the customer’s mouse and keyboard.  The screen sharing solution we used at my previous company included a function to send files to the customer, but that particular function was so badly implemented that it was easier to just e-mail files to the customer. 

Jason: Based on your experiences, how would you say GoToAssist compares with the screen sharing solution you used at your previous company?

Josh: Well, they’re definitely competing technologies.  The one I used at my previous company was considerably slower, jerkier, and didn’t show the analyst as much information as GoToAssist does.  It didn’t allow you to draw on the customer’s screen like GoToAssist does, which is very useful.  The other technology used more bandwidth, so if the customer didn’t have a really fast connection, it was very painful to use. 

Jason: Thanks, Josh.  What about you, Cassandra?  What has your experience with GoToAssist been like?

Cassandra: It’s been a great tool to have available. I used it on a support call recently where was walking the customer through the steps to use a tool, and she was saying that the result wasn’t being generated.  So, we started a GoToAssist session and I found that she hadn’t actually clicked the OK button on the tool to actually run the geoprocessing and generate the output.  Using GoToAssist certainly saved time and frustration on that call.

Jason: Have any of the other of you used other screen sharing solutions in the past, anything that you can compare?  

Ryan: I’ve used a VNC-type of solution, but it wouldn’t have worked well in a support situation.  It’s blazing fast, even faster than GoToAssist, but getting it set up is not very easy, and it doesn’t have the built-in security needed for use over the internet.

Cassandra: That’s right.  I’ve heard stories about security issues with servers where VNC was left running…

Ryan: GoToAssist, on the other hand, has solid 128-bit encryption built in. I’ve told customers this, because some of them have been concerned… GoToAssist is just designed to be secure when used over the internet.

Jason: Security was one of the features we were concerned with as we looked at various screensharing technologies.  We chose to go with GoToAssist because, among other reasons, they seemed to have the most robust infrastructure for supporting a large organization like ESRI Support.  Citrix provides dedicated account managers and robust back-end reporting and management tools that will help us manage and monitor GoToAssist effectively for the 100+ people using it here in ESRI Support Services.

Changing gears here, the reason you four are being interviewed today is because, in a recent competition among our pilot participants, you found the most opportunities to use GoToAssist when helping customers over the phone.  Tell us what some of those situations were.  What kinds of situations are you finding where GoToAssist is proving useful?

Chris: I just find that it’s a great help when I’m describing something to the customer.  Maybe I’ve gone through the process of describing what to do and walking through the different steps and the customer is still struggling with it.  It’s wonderful to be able to log in and see exactly what the customer is doing, and a lot of times I’ll find that it’s some simple misunderstanding, like a forward slash where a backslash is needed, for example.  GoToAssist can really cut down the workload time and miscommunication between me and the customer… if I didn’t have GoToAssist, I’d just be sitting there going back and forth with e-mails or calls trying to figure out where the misunderstanding was.

Jason: Thanks Chris. Anyone else?  One obvious thing it seems to me would be cases where they say, “Yeah, my screen looks funny” or “My map doesn’t look right,” and they have a hard time describing it.  Has that kind of situation come up?

Cassandra: The customer will sometimes be describing something that doesn’t seem possible based on the description they’re giving.  This happens most often with our customers who are still learning the terminology that we’re familiar with here at ESRI.  One of the times that I will try to use GoToAssist is when a customer is having problems setting up the page setup of their map.  It’s often very difficult for the customer and myself to communicate clearly about what the problem is with the page setup and how they want it changed, whereas I can just jump on their computer and show them, “OK, if that’s what you want to do, then you’ll want to do this, and then do this, and here’s is what you’re going to get,” and then they go, “Oh!”  I’ll often refer them to a technical article from our online knowledge base, something they can use as a reference… but because they’ve seen it done once, they understand the concept and are more likely going to be able to handle similar situations on their own in the future. I’d also add that, using GoToAssist, I find I’m better able to make customers happy and resolve their issue on the first phone call. 

Chris: I think it’s also a good tool to help us teach the customers as well.  Like Cassandra said, if you can actually show a customer how to do something, they’re probably going to remember it better down the road, hopefully saving them a support call. This is going to be especially helpful for times when the queues tend to get backlogged.  If we can speed up resolution time using GoToAssist, then it’s beneficial to everyone. 

Cassandra: I used GoToAssist a lot when I was on the team that Ryan and Josh are on, especially working with license manager issues.  I’d be explaining how to resolve a problem, maybe an issue where the hardware key number doesn’t match, or the license file is corrupt, and I’d just be having a really difficult time communicating effectively with the customer.  With GoToAssist, I can jump on their computer and go, “Yep, here it is, this is the problem.  We’ll do X, Y, and Z and that will fix it.” The customer thinks I’m a genius, which is awesome (laughs), but really it’s just the ability to instantly and clearly see what the problem is. GoToAssist lets me figure out what the problem is quickly so I can move quickly to actually fixing it. 

Jason: What percentage of support calls are you currently able to find good opportunities to use GoToAssist?

Chris: I’d say around 50%.  I use it mostly when I’m handling “Direct to Specialist” calls.  These are instances where the customer has phoned in, explained their problem to the receptionist, and then we’re actually able to connect the customer with a support analyst during that same phone call, without them having to hang up and wait for a callback. 

Jason: So some customers’ calls don’t get put into the queue, they just go straight to a live analyst?

Chris: That’s right. One of our goals is to have a certain percentage of the incoming phone calls get handled that way. And with GoToAssist, we’re able to handle more calls that way, because we’re able to identify and start working on the problem much more quickly. It’s a huge customer service benefit, and the customer surveys that have come back have been very positive.

Jason: Excellent.  During the pilot project, we saw an average time-savings of 11 minutes every time GoToAssist was used.  If we manage to save 11 minutes per call for half of our support calls each year, that would be a huge amount of time.  Chris, you mentioned the customer surveys.  What are customers saying to you about GoToAssist?

Chris: Well, more and more customers are assuming we have it before I even mention it.  They ask if I can just hop on their computer and show them how to do whatever it is they’re trying to do.

Ryan: I’m seeing this too – once a customer has experienced GoToAssist, that’s what they want to go to automatically.  Some customers are totally amazed with what you’re doing, especially when you actually take control of their computer. I’ve heard them say, “This is so neat.”  It’s like a whole new world to them.

Cassandra: I had one customer ask me if I’d do her homework.  I told her no. 

Jason: (laughs) Good answer!  Have you run into situations where the customer isn’t able to or isn’t allowed to use GoToAssist?

Josh: Every now and again a customer will be pretty sure it won’t work because of their firewall, but then I tell them that GoToAssist runs over port 80 and sure enough, it works.

Ryan: Yeah, they’ll say, “I don’t think our system is going to allow that,” but then they try it and it works perfectly fine.

Cassandra: I think the biggest thing I appreciate about the latest version of GoToAssist is that I don’t have to try and communicate a URL to the customer.  One wrong letter or slash and the customer’s browser just returns an error.  And so, I love the new ability in GoToAssist to generate a quick link that I can paste in an email to the customer. It would be cool actually, Jason, if we could have a simpler URL to point customers to.

Jason: Well, since you mentioned it, by the time this interview gets posted we should have a new URL for GoToAssist: 

Cassandra: Good, that should be easier for the customers.

Chris: The other thing with the new version of GoToAssist which kind of goes with what was said earlier is that before, there were two steps for the customer: First, I’d have to give the customer the URL, a guest login and password and have them go to the web page and log in.  Next, I’d ask them to fill in a second screen with their name, company and question.  Now there’s just one step. They just type in their name, their company name and a seven-digit code and bam, you’re connected.  Or if I use the quick link method that Cassandra mentioned, the customer doesn’t even need to type anything in at all.   The connection process right there has been sped up by probably 2 or 3 minutes, if not more, and not only that, but the actual processing time with the new version of GoToAssist has been much, much faster, and the customers are noticing it.

Jason: Another change that’s going to help improve connection times is that, by the time this interview is released, each ESRI Support Analyst will have his or her own individual GoToAssist account – previously, we had only a limited number of accounts that all our analysts had to share, and it wasn’t always easy to find an available account to use.  The new GoToAssist accounts also allow collaboration, which means that if Josh is working on a problem with a customer and he knows it’s something that Chris has seen before, Josh can ask Chris to join in and help with a GoToAssist session that Josh has already started with the customer. 

Chris: I’ve been doing that a lot during the pilot project, actually.  The way that I’ve used it is specifically for ArcPad.  There’s another analyst in the pilot, Denise K., and she’s pretty much the go-to person for ArcPad so I talk to her a lot about ArcPad incidents.  If I’m on the phone with a user and I’m using GoToAssist to view their desktop, looking at their settings, if it’s something that I know Denise knows, she can just jump on.  She’s already logged in so all I have to do is send her a quick link and it just pops up on her screen and she’s right there with the customer and me.  So, it’s instantaneous and it definitely helps.

Jason: That’s awesome.  What other features of the new GoToAssist have you all been using?

Ryan: I’ve used the “Run as a Service” feature a lot, especially when troubleshooting License Manager issues. This allows the user’s machine to be rebooted and when it starts back up, the GoToAssist connection is reactivated instantly. This is very helpful!

Cassandra: I used the “Switch Monitor” feature one the other day. The customer had a problem, and I  was using GoToAssist to view his screen.  We reproduced the problem on his machine.  I then walked the customer through FTP’ing me the data.  I was testing with the data locally on my machine and customer said, “Hey, I can’t see your machine.”  I said “Ok…” and then and I used GoToAssist’s Switch Monitor feature so he could see my screen, and he thought that was really cool. We were able to go back and forth and it felt very collaborative, like he was working with a real human being and not an anonymous support robot.  I even gave him control of my mouse and keyboard for a few minutes, and he actually tried his steps with his data on my machine.

Jason: It’s great to hear that you’re already taking advantage of some of the more advanced features that GoToAssist offers.  We want to be taking full advantage of GoToAssist, to maximize the return on ESRI’s investment in this technology.  Does anyone have ideas on how we might encourage the ESRI Support Analysts to really jump on the wagon and start using GoToAssist to its full potential? 

Josh: Just let them know it’s there!  I’d expect everyone to take advantage of it.

Jason: Well, historically only about 70% of the analysts have used GoToAssist. Of course, part of the reason for that was that all the analysts were sharing a limited number of GoToAssist accounts… but that’s no longer the case.

Chris: Well, if we want 100% of the analysts using GoToAssist, I think that can happen with the right push from management.

Cassandra: Yeah, some kind of encouraging e-mail from one of the Support managers would be great.   

Jason: I’ll talk with Aaron Zureick (Manager of Support’s Operations Department) about doing this… or maybe he’s reading this blog post… right… now. I agree that this is a message that needs to come from the top: How we’re changing the way we think about and use GoToAssist, how we’re investing in this technology, and how important it is for all analysts to make full use of GoToAssist to maximize the benefits for our customers.

Chris: Anyone that’s used it knows how useful it is.  You only need to use it once and see how simple it is to use and you’ll always use it.  Granted, there are some analysts who may be reluctant to transition over, but I think for the majority of the people that work in Support, this is going to be a huge advantage for helping our customers.  Using GoToAssist not only increases customer satisfaction, but I can be more efficient and have more time to learn or take on new responsibilities to further my career.

Cassandra: Hey, I just realized that GoToAssist actually saves the planet.  (laughter)  No, really! It uses less resources, it takes less time, so it uses less electricity, less bandwidth than transferring a huge dataset, and it’s less taxing on our servers.

Jason: Wow… it’s environmentally friendly – I hadn’t thought of that particular aspect…

Cassandra: And it’s saving the customer money, too.  They don’t have to upload their huge dataset for us to see the problem – we can use GoToAssist to see the problem directly on their server and work on the problem there.

Ryan: It’s a green tool.

Jason: These are good thoughts.  Back to the topic of encouraging analysts to use GoToAssist, I’ll just mention that we’ll also be adding some GoToAssist usage statistics to the analysts’ monthly performance reports.  These stats will include an indicator of whether the customers felt like the analyst’s decision to use GoToAssist was a good one.  Customers will be able to indicate this in a survey they’ll get at the end of each GoToAssist session.

Ryan: As long as it’s presented in a positive way by management, having stats like that should help. I know some of the customer surveys that I’ve received have said things like, “I really like how the analyst got on my computer and showed me how to do it,” even when the customer had a relatively simple how-to type of question. 

Cassandra: I think you’re going to find that the majority of analysts will automatically start using GoToAssist as much as possible whenever it makes sense to do so.  For something totally simple, I’m probably not going to jump on the customer’s computer, but every analyst can tell fairly quickly whether it’s going to help to use GoToAssist in a particular support situation.

Jason: All right, it’s time to wrap this interview up.  Thanks, all, for coming and sharing your perspectives with us today.

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