The experts at firms like Gartner and Forrester have identified customer experience as key to business success. It is suggested that brands be built around customer experience (CX) rather than the other way around. Because of the advantage of being able to engage and interact with the client by creating life-like interactions and experiences, Virtual Reality (VR) is positioned to be a key value differentiator.
“By 2017, 89% of marketers expect customer experience to be their primary differentiator” – Gartner
However, the CEM (customer experience management) team must first seek to understand what modern virtual reality is and what it can offer. Important concepts to consider are:
- How to produce virtual reality to create a brand connected immersive experience
- How a company can leverage VR technology in their industry
- Research and understand specific instances where VR is being used today.
What is Modern Virtual Reality?
A set of VR goggles, the most commonly used gear, is integrated with numerous motion sensors. These sensors detect head and eye movements which aid the program in changing the view or altering the intensity of the experience. VR controllers allow the user to interact inside the VR program. More advanced “computer vision” can recognize the emotion being experienced through the use of built-in cameras and facial recognition software. The VR program can adapt to create a more positive experience based on this feedback.
Three of the most advanced VR technologies that have open API (developer) support are Facebook’s Oculus Rift, HTC’s Vive, and HoloLens, a Microsoft platform. While all three offer a robust experience and developer toolkits that integrate well into other hardware and software environments, the technologies use vastly different approaches when it comes to merging the real with the virtual.
Oculus Rift and HTC Vive offer the ability to immerse a person into a virtual environment. This gives the user a feeling that they are an integral part of that VR. HoloLens takes a different approach to VR by overlaying virtual elements onto real-world imagery to provide an augmented experience. Both of these approaches offer the ability for many applications to provide enhanced customer experiences by simulating in-person interactions within immersive environments for high-impact customer experiences.
Looking towards the future, the possibility exists to integrate VR and AR with other IoT connected devices which would generate and collect even more data relevant to the customer’s experience. This data can be valuable to inform future changes to the customer service and CX processes and improve customer satisfaction across the board.
How Can Virtual Reality be Used to Create and Immersive Customer Experience?
The technology can be invaluable in helping a client come one step closer to deciding whether to make a large purchase. Imagine spending hours online searching for the perfect automobile. No matter how many photos you look at or videos you watch you can’t fully imagine sitting inside the car. Will it have enough headroom or legroom? A virtual reality experience can allow the user to experience the automobile in a way that was only previously possible in the showroom.
Virtual assistants can be used to interact with the customer inside the virtual experience. This option gives brands an excellent opportunity to engage with the user and answer any questions they may have as well as provide additional information or relevant instructions. It is possible for a virtual sales assistant to serve as a guide throughout the experience, gaining valuable insight along the way and providing prompts and information at critical times. This presence represents an opportunity that businesses do not have currently in traditional sales channels.
Today’s connected consumer expects their needs to be met instantly. They want to order immediately, pay instantly and obtain their purchases quickly. VR can allow the user to become deeply immersed in a product or service with limited physical, emotional or fiscal risks. This gives brands the opportunity to deliver what was previously impossible: to fulfill at least some part of the customer’s purchase instantly, no matter how distant the physical product. This allows the brand an unprecedented level of engagement with their target consumers. As well, it allows the user to feel instantly sure of and satisfied with their choice.
How Can a Company Leverage VR Technology and Create High-Impact Customer Experiences?
This depends on the industry. Coming up, we will list several real-world examples of VR being used in just this way. Let’s consider for a moment, the general ways a company can leverage this exciting technology.
- Previewing – Offer a way for the customer to preview products or services before making a purchase. Through the use of drone imagery, the VR environment can create a life-like approximation that will influence buying behaviors in a positive way. This is an important feature in the fields of architecture and engineering.
- Experiencing – A step beyond the preview, the experience uses 3D interactive imagery to allow the user to feel what it is actually like to use the product or service. In travel sales, the user can experience being at the resort destination, in the spacious clean room, on the dancefloor, lounging at the pool, or walking on the beach at sunset. This can become a standalone product or service for activities like concerts and sporting events when attending in person isn’t an option.
- Prototyping – VR enables design engineers to produce several versions of models which can be tested and changed per the results. This eliminates the need to build a physical prototype for each model which in turn speeds up the development process.
- Buying Journey -Take your customer step by step through the buying journey. Provide information at key intervals, allow them to ask questions, provide valuable and timely feedback.
- Guiding – Perhaps it would be helpful to take the customer on a guided tour of your facility or factory. Maybe it would be influential for the client to sit in on a board meeting or strategy session. Take them on a virtual tour through the building you are designing for them and allow them to see key features or sample various options while still in the development phase. Recruiting and on-boarding new employees.
- Educating – This is one of the most exciting opportunities for the use of VR in business. By combining VR with 3D interactive 360 videos a company has the ability to provide interactive and life-like classrooms. This could be extended beyond customer service to include employee training as well. In elementary education, this combination is being used to extend the classroom and provide interaction that encourages interest in STEAM education.
- Troubleshooting and Repair – Consider the problems currently encountered when a client needs tech help. Remote troubleshooting, through chat or over the phone, is clunky at best. Representatives must haphazardly attempt to figure out what the problem is by relying strictly on the customer’s interpretation, which may or may not be accurate. VR could eventually allow your technical support to see and interact with the customer and their product.
- General Customer Service – One of the most interesting aspects is also the most basic. Studies have found that in-person customer service yields better satisfaction than help desks, chat and email combined. While it isn’t always practical for the client to come to you, VR can make it face-to-face interactions possible.
Real World Cases of VR Being Used by Businesses Today
We all know about the use of VR in the gaming and entertainment industries, but how is VR being used in other more practical industries. Here are a few real-world production applications of VR.
This is a valuable skill for which most training must be done in person. Now training is being supplemented by virtual reality. Using virtual reality training means companies can save money spent on practice materials. The VR training environment allows trainees to repeat the task multiple times as they need to perfect their technique. For training schools, this improves the customer’s experience by making the process faster and more cost efficient.
“With the availability of affordable headsets like the Oculus Rift and HTC Vive, VR is now within reach of AEC firms of all sizes.” Greg Corke, AEC Magazine
VR can play a major role in all phases of a project from design through construction. By immersing themselves into the building or structure, the VR user can better grasp design concepts and elements. While this may cause scope creep, the potential for greater customer satisfaction is readily apparent.
Engineering and Manufacturing:
Car manufacturers are using virtual reality for prototyping, design, manufacturing and implementation. The result is a more cost-effective, streamlined process. Car makers like Peugeot, BMW, Renault, Jaguar, and Ford, each have VR centers now. One of the main advantages cited is that it allows for enhanced collaboration when in-person meetings are impossible.
VR is not only being used to train physicians and surgeons to perform procedures but also to improve the patient’s experience and outcome as well. A group of psychiatrists at the Duke Psychiatry & Behavioral Sciences are using VR in cognitive and behavior therapy. When treating patients with PTSD, social anxieties, or phobias —things like flying, public speaking, or heights, they use the controlled environment of a VR experience to expose their patients to various triggers and then direct them on how to cope. Also, check out how the American Psychological Association is improving lives through virtual reality therapy.
The fact that VR platforms like Oculus Rift, Gear VR, and HTC Vive have made it easy for developers to adapt and create their own applications, coupled with the decreased cost to own VR headsets, are increasing the ability for companies of any size to develop and implement their own VR programs. These programs can be used to improve and enhance the customer experience by providing an engaging and immersive experience that will influence, guide, and delight the user and may prove to be a valuable asset for companies wishing to differentiate in this area.
What are your thoughts on the use of Virtual Reality for high-impact customer experiences? Connect with us today to discover the ways we can make VR and stereo interactive 360 video a part of your customer’s experience.