Service is evolving. For organizations to continue to drive revenue and efficiency, they must create a culture of innovation throughout the enterprise. According to a recent Service Council™ research study, 40% of service leaders cite “Service Innovation” as the #2 focus area in 2022, while 47% say it will be the #1 focus area for the next five years. One of the quickest and most effective tools for infusing innovation is visual support technologies like augmented reality (AR).
When the Service Council first inquired in 2017, 60% of service leaders said they were evaluating AR solutions at that time. Interest in deploying AR has only grown since then. In 2021’s Technology Investment Planning survey, nearly 80% of said they are either planning on a new deployment, or extending the use of, AR.
Recently, the Service Council hosted a webinar entitled, 5 Ways AR Can Infuse Innovation into Your Business. During the webinar, Service Council’s CEO John Carroll was joined by John Perry, Vice President of Global Delivery Transformation and Technology at Xerox, and Sajeel Hussain, CRO of CareAR, to discuss how Xerox successfully leveraged AR to create a continuum of innovation that has positively impacted customers and frontline agents alike.
Meeting Evolving Customer Expectations Through AR
The traditional field service break-fix model is no longer your customer’s expectation. Instead, they expect remote resolution or self-service first. Having a technician arrive onsite to fix an issue is now considered a last resort when all other avenues are exhausted.
As John Carroll states, “[Customers are] looking for speed, agility, accessibility, and empowerment. The personalization of customers is happening right in front of us, and it continues to rise in terms of the immediacy in pressures that they’re placing on providers.”
Organizations are realizing that if they want to increase customer engagement and retention, while also delivering efficient and cost-effective service, they must move to this new service model–and fast! This has certainly been the case for Xerox. With more than 6,000 field service technicians in EMEA and North America and nearly 700 contact center agents that support customers, Xerox has long been a vanguard of field service.
When it comes to evolving customer preferences, John Perry, who helms service innovation at the organization, has had a front-row seat. “In many ways, Xerox was one of the early inventors of field service. Customers would call us when there was an issue, and we’d show up and fix their printer or copier. Now, that’s evolved. More and more, customers are expecting an opportunity to get their equipment quickly fixed themselves.”
The Shift to Remote Resolution
For Xerox, this means turning towards remote service in the form of call centers, chat, and now visual technologies like CareAR. The result has been overwhelmingly positive because it takes the guesswork out of the situation for both the customer and the technician, while also allowing the technician to quickly diagnose whether the issue can be solved remotely or will require dispatch.
Says Perry, “We don’t have to make the customer an expert on our products. We can also better give the dispatched technician visibility into the issue beforehand by attaching images to the work order, so they aren’t having to decipher cryptic notes from a contact center agent.”
Xerox isn’t the only organization to realize the benefit of dispatch avoidance. In the Service Council’s 2021 State of the Market report, 3 out of 4 service leaders whose organizations had invested in AR-Enabled Visual Support Technology reported a positive impact on helping customers resolve problems without having to dispatch a technician.
Perry admits that he was initially concerned implementing CareAR would increase call lengths for helpdesk agents because of the time involved in walking clients through setting up and launching the application. However, this was not the case. “We’re finding the handle time for the agent is the same or less because there is better visibility and less time spent explaining the problem.”
For Sajeel Hussain, the payoff has been in watching the results end-to-end, “It’s really satisfying to see CareAR in action, solving problems not just internally for service employees, but also for the end-customers.”
AR’s Role in Rapid Process Automation
As products–and the knowledge needed to service them–grow more complex, organizations are turning to technology platforms to better support technicians. One of the challenges for service leaders is the integration of technologies into process workflows. In the Service Council’s 2022 Service Leader’s Agenda Survey, 41% of service leaders cite that integration is the biggest inhibitor to witnessing value. The major reason for this, explains Carroll, is that the technology becomes a pocket of innovation in terms of digitizing the experience, instead of being fully immersed into one seamless experience.
According to Perry, “Having a cloud-based modern platform is great, but often it’s only as good as the slowest application that it integrates with. AR, on the other hand, is an easy lift to bring into the organization because it rides alongside the applications that you have today.”
Democratization of Service
In the 2022 Voice of the Field Service Engineer Survey, we asked technicians what tools and technology they wished their company provided to support their work. The overwhelming number of responses were related to better access to knowledge at the point of service, including knowledgebase access, parts identification, service information, and remote assistance technology. As organizations like Xerox realize this need, they are turning to technician agnostic technology like CareAR, to empower technicians of all abilities and skill levels with the information they need at the point of service.
Says Hussain, knowledge requirements are changing so quickly that it’s hard to keep up, not just for enterprises, but for service agents as well. “What CareAR really wants to do is give the power to enterprises to create instructional experiences, sub-guided experiences, in the simplest, easiest, and most efficient manner.”
The concept of service democratization has become a focus for many organizations. The question is: How can they build a democratized platform of data and knowledge so technicians can have the information they need to be effective?
According to Hussain, it doesn’t need to be a long, drawn-out process. “Rapid idea to action, rapid creation, digitizing of content or service procedures, self-authoring of content, the ability to maintain and update content. Imagine if all those elements could be done quickly. It’s what I call democratizing the whole service experience creation process, because it’s giving the power back to the enterprise and technicians.”
Overcoming Adoption Hurdles
For some organizations, an area that has been an inhibitor of value for their visual support journey is low adoption rates. Xerox’s adoption strategy included closely monitoring and analyzing usage, publicly recognizing users who were early adopters, while also proactively reaching out to those who were struggling with adoption. Says Perry, “One of the things we found was that the newest employees and the most tenured employees seem to resonate with AR more than the ones in the middle.”
To solve this issue, Xerox went through series of role-playing exercises with these employees, and what they found was surprising. “When an employee played the role of the client talking to an agent to solve a problem, they immediately understood the value. For some reason, they didn’t understand what the customer experience was. Once they saw that, adoption started to grow.”
A Catalyst for Service Innovation
As organizations like Xerox are proving, visual support technologies like AR are becoming a prerequisite to the proactive experience. This is something that John Carroll has been tracking closely through Service Council research, “AR is becoming so critical to the journey. You can’t have a predictive environment or a proactive service culture without it and our researchers is proving that.”
John Perry calls CareAR a game changer for Xerox, likening it to the introduction of mobile devices, “When we first introduced laptops to technicians, they didn’t want to use them. But if you took those laptops away from a technician today, they would be lost. I think we’re in that same inflection point now with AR. Being able to see something, being able to get help remotely, visually bringing an expert to the job with me, or just bringing a less experienced colleague along to observe and gain more experience, is invaluable.”
According to Hussain, the key to success is to start small and focus on demonstrating credibility. “I call it the 80/20 rule. 80% of the pain when implementing new technology is caused by 20% of the issues. Look at what those 20% issues are.”
Hussain says it is also important to have a change agent, “You need to have some level of sponsorship that is open to adopting this sort of technology. Because, quite honestly, change is coming. Whether your company does it or not, everybody around you is going to do it. We see the trends, and they’re very clear that this is the way forward in field service.”