The frustration of having an appliance or home system break down at the most inopportune time is often compounded by the aggravation of finding the right contractor, who is available and competent to make things right – NOW – not in a few days or next week!

Home Repair Disruption

A few notable disruptors in the home repair space are utilizing an abundance of new technologies to solve a legacy issue of slow and inefficient methods for home repairs. With the advent and proliferation of camera phones, video chat, text messaging and other smart device features, homeowners can get their home equipment problems diagnosed and resolved faster and more economically than any Maytag repairman.

Resolving issues remotely, aided by virtual technology, is not new. Computer technical support has been offering remote diagnostics and repairs for decades. This virtual method of support has been used to take advantage of labor cost differentials, technical knowledge and time zones in other countries, to services all areas of the world.  The twist in home repair involves coaching homeowners to repair the products themselves.

Learning to repair your own appliances may seem daunting at first, but the resultant challenge, satisfaction and empowerment will provide confidence and reduce anxiety the next time you see an error code or flashing red light. Modern homeowners are interested in learning how their homes and appliances work to enhance their products’ lifespans and to engage appliances and other systems with other technologies.

In tandem, advanced appliances are being built with prescriptive maintenance capabilities, such that connected technologies can further assist in the upkeep of your most important devices. Not surprisingly, the trend is moving away from ineffective and inconvenient on-site meetings that may require multiple follow-up visits to get appliances working correctly.


 

The Amazon Prime Effect on Homeowner Expectations

This adaptation of remote assistance for home diagnostics and repair demonstrates a shift in homeowners’ expectations to receive immediate results – however and whenever – also known as the Amazon Prime effect.

Purgula encourages homeowners to demand more from service providers and to reject the “old school” resistance to change. There is tremendous opportunity to diagnose situations significantly faster, many of which can have immediate “Fix It With Me” resolutions. This reduces the equipment’s downtime and creates the happy by-product of improved knowledge about one’s home.


 

What is Virtual Home Maintenance & Repair?

Virtual Home Maintenance & Repair is the use of technology to facilitate remote on-site viewing, assessment and communication between a remote service repair person and an on-site client, typically a homeowner.

What is a “Fix It With Me” Repair?

A “Fix It With Me” repair is when a problem can be resolved without requiring a service technician to be physically on-site. A common scenario for a routine “Fix It With Me” repair involves the following steps:

  • Schedule a Virtual Appointment
  • Receive a call from a certified technician on the appointed day and time
  • Assess & Diagnose the Situation
  • Identify the Solution, including identifying all necessary parts & tools
  • Schedule a Follow-up Replacement Part Virtual Appointment
  • Receive Guidance Through a DIY Part Replacement

 

Neli

Neli is the result of a homeowner’s frustration with attempting to get her washing machine repaired. Mary Nelson, CEO of Neli, researched the error codes appearing on her machine’s readout for over five hours, but to no avail. Although she could not service the machine on her own, she realized that a certified appliance expert, with the proper knowledge, could guide her virtually, via chat or text, allowing her to fix the washer without the wait, expense and “black hole” of knowledge that typically goes unshared.

Five years later, the North Carolina based company is an award-winning, A+ rated Better Business Bureau online platform that connects homeowners with certified technicians via phone, text, mobile video or computer chat. Neli has become synonymous with Virtual Appliance Repair, with an internal mantra of “Don’t live with it – fix it!”

A $35 fee allows customers to diagnose problems and order parts either through Neli or from an independent retailer. A $45 fee allows customers to be guided by a virtual expert to replace parts or complete a repair of an appliance.

Taking control of your home and its various appliances and systems by incorporating today’s abundant technologies and information is the modern way of approaching homeownership. Nelson understands how fear can grip homeowners when things go wrong, like being in the middle of cooking Thanksgiving Dinner for a party of fifteen, when suddenly the stove stops functioning.

Having a reliable, certified technician, who can help you diagnose and rectify your issue immediately, provides peace of mind and lowers anxiety. With a network of seasoned, certified technicians, Neli is available for virtual appointments during normal working hours, early mornings, late evenings, plus weekends. Troubleshooting assistance is just a phone call or click away, often within the same day of your incident.

How Neli Works

Neli is available to both the casual user and to Service Plus Home Warranty customers with active contracts. When appliances break down, simply visit the Neli’s website and choose “Book Appointment” and the type of service you need: Appliance Diagnoses, or Appliance Part Installation Walkthrough. Next, choose the brand of the appliance. By default, your preference for the technician will be set to “Any”. However, you can choose a specific technician based on reviews, or if you have a language preference. On the next screen you will chose a date and time, based on the availability of the given technicians selected.

The third screen allows you to enter details on the appliance, such as age, model number and additional information on the problem. This is also where you would enter your contact information, such as name, phone number and email address.

Once you hit enter, a confirmation screen appears with the date and time of the appointment along with the name of the technician. This screen also confirms that “no one will be coming to your location and that your technician will be assisting you through live chat”. Simply hit “next” and the appointment is set.

Technicians call customers using the company’s web portal, which allows for voice communicationlive camera sharing and online chat. The real-time video experience empowers homeowners to take control of their repairs with the assistance of certified technicians, who guide them through the diagnostics and eventually the repair process.

Preparing for Your Neli Virtual Appointment

Neli Virtual Appliance Repair Appointment


 

Streem

Streem is another disruptor in the virtual home maintenance & repair space, whose business model provides video technology to service companies, enabling them to offer a wide range of on-site virtual service programs. The company is branded as the leading Augmented Reality (AR)-powered visual assistance platform with a mission to make the world’s expertise accessible to all.

Streem categorizes their suite of technological capabilities into three buckets: remote video collaboration; augmented reality tools; and contextual data. A wide range of Fortune 50 companies, service providers, and well-known consumer brands use Streem video for real-time connections with consumers at all stages of the customer journey. End-users especially like their easy-to-use no-download StreemCore™ video.

Within industries that service homeowners, Streem’s technology is being employed for the following use cases: virtual assessments (e.g. insurance & warranty plans); virtual diagnoses (home repairs); virtual repairs (“fix it with me” home repairs); virtual estimates (home improvement projects); virtual audits (energy efficiency projects) and virtual home visits (real estate). Additional applications of Streem’s technology include: outbound sales consulting; customer service; warranty validation and support; insurance claims and underwriting.

Streem became a part of the Frontdoor family of home service companies in December 2019, which added forward-looking technical capabilities to be integrated within Frontdoor’s other service businesses, like American Home Shield (AHS), a leader in home warranty protection.

We especially admire Frontdoor’s frank mission statement of being “obsessed with taking the hassle out of owning a home” and believe that their acquisition of Streem is clear proof that they are demonstrably pursuing this goal.

Results from a pilot program between AHS and Streem, that ran between November 2020 and March 2021, showed tremendous promise:

  • 92% of AHS members who used Streem would use virtual diagnosis again
  • 70% of the time when Streem was used, a technician took one fewer trip
  • 10% of the time homeowners resolved the problem without an onsite visit
  • 66% of the time appointments were made on the same day of the incident

Along with American Home Shield, Lowe’s and CLEAResult were also among the early adopters of Streem technology to offer homeowner-focused video programs.

Streem Remote Support for Home & Field Service Experts


 

Additional Virtual Assistance Service Firms


 

Closing Comments

In our opinion, much of the progress made in virtual home services is owed to changing mindsets as much as it is in incorporating truly new and novel technology. Though the underlying technologies will continue to improve and provide new capabilities, the “industry of homeownership” needs homeowners to wake up and start demanding that vendors “get with the times”.

Furthermore, we expect to see homeowners adopt more expert virtual service offerings beyond just home repairs, such as projects involving: architecture; landscaping; home automation; security; energy efficiency; disaster resistant design; advanced home inspections; and ADUs. Our premise is that the ability to tap into virtual expertise, to assess your unique situations and challenges, unencumbered by geography and other constraints, will continue to grow in popularity.


 

Current State of Virtual Home Maintenance & Repairs


 

Benefits

  • Better Customer Experience
  • Time Savings
  • Cost Savings
  • Increased Safety & Privacy, with Fewer Outside Visitors
  • Convenience
  • Easier Scheduling
  • Faster Time to Diagnosis & Problem Resolution
  • Knowledge Transfer/Educational Learning
  • Feelings of Empowerment
  • Encourages Proactive Home Maintenance
  • Scalable Expertise Unrestricted by Geography
  • Pre-Ordered Parts & the Right Parts
  • Reduced Trips and Visits
  • More Efficient & Accurate Repairs & Installations
  • More Productive & Satisfied Professional Workforce
  • Easy-to-Use Technology
  • Improved Professional Access for Rural Markets
  • Extended Appliance Lifespans
  • Better Prepared On-Site Visits

 

Usage Scenarios & Service Types

  • Virtual Assessments
  • Virtual Diagnosis
  • Virtual Estimates/Quotes
  • Virtual Assistance
  • Virtual Repairs
  • Virtual Instruction
  • Virtual Home Visits
  • Virtual Customer Support
  • Virtual Claims
  • Virtual Audits, such as for Energy Efficiency
  • Remote Virtual Verification of Contractor Work
  • Virtual Handyman Services
  • Virtual Engagements

 

Technology Features

  • Video Chat & Text 
  • Automated Scheduling 
  • Augmented Reality Technology
  • Real-Time Connections on the channel of choice of customer
  • No App Downloads (may vary)
  • Remote Video Diagnosis Tools
  • Virtual In-Home Measurements
  • Recorded Video (may vary)
  • Data Enhancement per Appliance Model

 

Industries

  • Home Maintenance & Repairs
  • Home Improvement
  • Insurance
  • Home Warranty
  • Real Estate
  • Property Management
  • Interior Design
  • Customer Support for Home Goods & Products

 

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