A few weeks ago in our Tech Tails publication I wrote about how much I love using Mac HelpMate to consult with clients remotely. It’s an application that allows us to control our client’s machine while we speak with them over the phone about their issues. This has been a great tool for both troubleshooting and training.

This week I had a great opportunity to help a client with the help of Mac HelpMate that ended up saving her a lot of money, and saving me a lot of driving time. A few months ago I had gone to a customer’s home in southern Vermont for a lesson and to install Microsoft Office 2008. All seemed to have gone well until she contacted me a couple weeks ago asking about upgrading to Snow Leopard and she also let me know that since my visit, her attachments wouldn’t open in her email program. She told me that she had to drag the attachment to her Desktop and then open it, which had become an arduous process. She blamed the Office install.

I explained that installing the new version of Office should not affect her attachments in an email program, as I personally had never run into that before. I offered to help her over the phone, but she wanted visual help. The problem was that the client lives far away. Our minimum bill-time for an on-sight consult is one hour, plus we bill a small mileage fee and she lives about three hours away round trip. Since her issue probably wouldn’t take more than 20-30 minutes to resolve, I felt that it made more sense to try a remote consult. She was wary of the idea at first, but agreed that the price sounded much sweeter, so she agreed to try it.

About two minutes into the remote consult we discovered the problem. My client is using Thunderbird for her email client. I’ll admit that I don’t have much experience with Thunderbird; my expertise lies in Apple Mail and Entourage. When my client clicked on a Word or Excel-formatted email attachment, a dialogue box appeared saying that Thunderbird had not been told what application to use for that document. The message went on to explain that we needed to go to the Preferences and tell it which application to use for each file type. Sure enough, I opened Thunderbird’s Preferences, navigated to attachments and was able to tell it which application to use for each file-type. Voila; worked like a charm! The client was thrilled with the experience!

While we try to anticipate any issues when going into a consult, there are occasionally surprises. Most mail applications easily find the application that would open each extension type. Thunderbird is unique in the sense that it was not able to open attachments on its own without having the preferences specifically configured for each file type. This left the client frustrated for months until she called for help. Luckily, we had a system like Mac HelpMate that allowed us to offer a remote solution instead of charging her for a full-fledged consulting visit.

Mac HelpMate has really opened up our consulting possibilities. I’ve had the pleasure of helping clients as far away as The Netherlands and on a variety of internet connections including satellite and 3G (though I wouldn’t personally try it over dial-up).

Give it a try! We offer remote consults for $54.99 per half-hour. Call in the next two weeks, mention you saw this article in Kibbles & Bytes and get the first remote session for only $39. Give us a ring at 802-496-7171 ×512 or email consulting@smalldog.com to set up an appointment.

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