September 06, 2023

4 Ways to Pair Generative AI and XR for Soft Skills Training

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Businesses that properly combine emerging technologies realize a force multiplier. The end result is tangible business value: improved scalability, greater efficiency, and better outcomes.

When we synthesize generative artificial intelligence (gen AI) with extended reality (XR) technologies like augmented reality (AR) and virtual reality (VR), we unlock tremendous potential. Especially when we look at use cases like corporate learning and development (L&D), we can see how the combination of immersive, intelligent, and customizable tech is already changing the game.

And it doesn’t stop at typical XR learning scenarios, such as technical training or machine operation practice. Gen AI opens the door to soft skills training as well.

Forward-looking enterprises are already using this technology to teach skills like customer service, conflict resolution, and negotiation.

Here’s how.

1. Sales Training and Negotiation

Immersive role-playing prepares staff for the inevitable difficult conversations.

Winning new sales, upselling existing customers, and negotiating the best deal for the company tests a salesperson’s interpersonal skills to the max. They need more than an in-depth understanding of what they’re selling, how to counter-position it, and how to demonstrate real value.

They need a strong emotional intelligence (EQ) and the proper coaching to adapt their sales tactics accordingly.

Knowing what to say in the heat of the moment often comes down to practice. Seasoned salespeople have mastered this art, but the growing talent crisis in sales means that organizations need to onboard and upskill new salespeople, fast. According to The Bridge Group, the average ramp-up time for an SDR (Sales Development Rep) is slightly over three months, while for an AE (Account Executive), it's just under five months, so time to proficiency in sales is critical.

Before gen AI and XR hit the scene, organizations had to pick between two bad options: the time and expense of one-on-one coaching or put learners through impersonal lectures and multiple-choice quizzes.

Now, sales people can learn their craft by interacting with a dynamic chatbot who is pre-loaded with best practice institutional knowledge, in an immersive environment. This means that they get a higher quality L&D experience, lots of real world practice at a lower cost and broader scale for the organization.

The end result is a clear path to ROI.

2. Customer Service Training

Customers can be unpredictable at times, to say the least. Providing exceptional service to someone polite and gracious is one thing—what’s really challenging is navigating conflict resolution with unruly or aggressive customers. Brands need to walk a fine line between enforcing their policies and providing an exceptional level of service.

Now imagine that the stakes are even higher because the interaction is happening at 36,000 feet over the middle of the Pacific.

That’s why Scoot Airlines, a subsidiary of Singapore Airlines, has begun using a combination of gen AI and XR to train their flight attendants. From the safety of the ground, trainees can enter a virtual 747 to handle a variety of unscripted difficult scenarios: crying babies, unauthorized seat switchers, and the obstinate passenger who had one too many of those little bottles.

Another interesting detail is that the virtual customer isn’t the only chatbot involved. Scoot also trained a virtual coach on its customer service manuals, best practices, omnichannel support library and standard operating procedures. This coach then assesses performance and offers optimal feedback and recommendations that are in-line with Scoot policies and customer satisfaction KPIs.

3. Leadership Training

Leading a successful enterprise requires a lot more than business acumen and smart decision-making.

At the end of the day, leadership is about leading people.

A company’s upper management sets the organizational culture. This trickles all the way down to front-line employees and can be the difference between a great customer experience that builds brand loyalty and one that causes them to switch to a competitor. Leadership and executive coaches charge roughly $350 an hour on average, according to SHRM. A little quick math shows us that a six week engagement with one hour-long session per week comes out to $2,100 per manager.

Leaders can use the combination of XR and gen AI for cost effective, dynamic leadership coaching that closes the gap between implementation and theory. It provides an immediate and tangible way to see how their decisions may affect their employees and their organizations.

For instance, customer service managers can gain valuable experience putting out fires, de-escalating conflicts, and boosting team morale.

4. Technical Support Training

There are few things more frustrating from a customer service perspective than waiting for a technician to arrive on site, watching them troubleshoot the problem, and then schedule a follow up service call because they didn’t have the equipment or couldn’t fix the problem on the first try.

In addition to needing to have the skills to solve the problem itself, technicians also need the be able to navigate around flaring tempers and boiling frustration, keeping in mind that they’re brand ambassadors.

Immersive learning with gen AI and XR helps on both of these fronts. Extended reality can improve field service by empowering technicians with better information. Using XR for training is a bit more all-encompassing and enables technicians to pull up a schematic, map or diagram and collaborate with another expert connected remotely.

Learners show improved recall rates for technical skills while also being able to tap into soft skills like conflict resolution and customer service that are practiced during immersive role-playing sessions.

This type of training is useful for both external customer service calls and internal support, such as fixing machinery in a manufacturing context. No matter whether a technician is interacting with a teammate or a valued customer, it’s important that they can draw on their soft skills to provide the best possible service.

The future of soft skills training is immersive and interactive

Before gen AI and XR, companies had to pick between some not-so-great options. Either pay a premium for individual coaching or use impersonal methods like video lectures and multiple-choice quizzes.

Now they get the best of both worlds. XR and AI are scalable technologies that can meet your workforce where it is, but at the same time it’s interactive, flexible, and personalized.

And this is just the beginning.

Excited to learn more? Check out the VRARA Enterprise Forum 2023 Keynote by Doug Stephen, President of Enterprise Learning and XR at CGS.

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