Written by

James Kobielus
November 12, 2020

Augmented Reality Can Improve Remote Support in the COVID-19 Era

Using AR for remote work

Businesses find themselves increasingly challenged to provide hands-on support in a hands-off world.

In the COVID-19 era, more workers operate from home and more users take delivery without ever visiting a brick-and-mortar retail outlet. If you’re the manufacturer of complex physical devices, such as routers or at-home medical devices, this presents a serious problem: How can you guide the customer—who may be a non-technical person or a technician encountering an unfamiliar product—with remote guidance when setting up or troubleshooting your product?

 

Distancing Makes Remote Support Essential but Tricky

Considered in light of the coming post-pandemic “new normal,” the key challenges facing remote support organizations are as follows:

  • Safe distancing: How can enterprise enable users to work through complex hands-on exercises virtually without the need to interact with other people or manipulate physical objects that could potentially spread contagion?
  • Digital experience: How can businesses ensure a seamless digital-first experience on easy-to-solve troubleshooting tasks?
  • Self-service: How can support and training groups provide users with self-service capabilities for solving problems without the need for assistance from in-person agents?
  • Remote guidance: How can support organizations enhance users’ unassisted learning through remotely guided training, management, and troubleshooting?
  • Fast resolution: How can businesses ensure speedy resolution of complex issues either unassisted or remotely guided through a call-center agent?

These challenges come to a head when remote technical support is provided through call-center agents. For starters, it may take a seeming eternity for agents to come online. Even when agents become available, it may take a while for them to gain a clear understanding of the user’s situation. The longer it takes to resolve the user’s issues, the greater the risk that the device may become inoperable or that customer experience will deteriorate significantly. Longer waits also lead to higher support costs and lower agent productivity, due to the fact that agents can handle fewer calls. The business might also see declining revenues if equipment is out of service for long periods.

 

Augmented Reality Delivers Hands-On Interactivity into Remote Support

Advanced technologies can mitigate these risks while helping call-center agents to provide more comprehensive support to remote users.

Every well-run call center uses various technologies to ensure high-quality remote support. Intelligent call routing ensures that calls reach the most appropriate agents. Product databases, user profiles, and other support applications help agents obtain the information they need for each particular situation. Agents often receive intensive training to learn how every support machine, device, and other product works.

Emerging technologies, such as machine learning and natural language processing, are tailoring call-center scripts and automating more of the upfront information gathering and query-answering. This speeds resolution of routine matters so that human agents can focus on the more complex issues.

However, none of these tools and techniques can entirely replace the interactive, guided support that some technical issues require. That’s why more support organizations are turning to augmented reality (AR).  This technology—which can reside as an app or just a web link on smartphones, laptops, tablets, or other end-user devices--delivers hands-on interactivity into remote-support environments.

Leveraging artificial intelligence and image recognition, AR recognizes objects from different points of view and may be engineered to assess such physical attributes as an object’s dimensions, weight, and maintenance status. When additional biometric features are added, wear and tear indicators such as vibration, heat and other factors can be monitored and assessed.  The technology dynamically superimposes descriptive labels and guidance over a 3-D camera view. It can provide interactive guidance in an entirely disconnected, self-service model.

When deployed in conjunction with agents operating from a remote call center, AR can support interactive, hands-on guidance in various scenarios:

  • Business-to-consumer: AR might help customer support agents to guide consumers in operating complex products—such as laptop computers and home health equipment—in the comfort of their homes.
  • Training: AR apps might allow remote instructors to guide individual students or larger groups in the assembly and operation of devices that are either presented virtually to the trainee, or to operate real equipment on which appropriate labels and guidance are displayed dynamically.
  • Sales support: AR can be used to remotely deliver virtual, interactive product demonstrations that complement information and guidance that is offered over phone calls, emails, documents, and linear videos.
  • Operational technical support: AR can enable help-desk personnel to remotely guide workers in performing the trickier, less familiar tasks of their jobs. For example, an operator in a factory might be guided through a maintenance procedure, such as a belt substitution. An AR-based application can display step-by-step instructions for complicated assembly work. This can eliminate the need for workers to retrieve that information manually from desktop computer or paper manuals. Instead, the user’s device displays a series of pre-defined options that could include the most common malfunctions that a particular piece of equipment might experience.

In any of these remote-support scenarios, AR-driven guidance can offer several benefits:

  • Achieve call-center efficiencies by reducing the number of calls routed to agents;
  • Reduce equipment downtimes by training end users to tackle and solve problems on the spot;
  • Involve remote agents only on problems that cannot be solved by AR-driven self-guidance; and
  • Train users to predict, prevent, and rapidly solve routine problems on their own.

Last but not least, using AR-driven tools to provide interactive, remote support eliminate the need to have field technicians travel to solve a particular issue. In the COVID-19 era, this helps to keep technicians and users safe from contagion.

 

Explore Outsourcing Offerings to Adopt Augmented Reality for Remote Support

Enterprises face significant challenges in providing high-quality interactive training and support in the COVID-19 era.

Outsourcing may be the best option for many enterprise training, tech support, salesforce management, and consumer call-center applications that would benefit from AR-driven remote guidance. In this regard, organizations should look into commercial solutions such as CGS’ Teamwork AR for their needs.

Teamwork AR is an outsourced offering for self-paced guidance, remote support, enhanced training, and interactive sales engagement. The solution uses AR to deliver real-time, contextual guidance in remote and self-service scenarios. It uses a question-and-answer dialogue to tailor guidance dynamically to ensure that the user has taken all necessary steps to solve the problem. It allows users to solve problems without the support of a human agent, or, as needed, easily connect to a qualified remote agent for fully digital guidance. And it uses crowdsourcing to acquire appropriate guidance that can be delivered to other users who face similar problems.

Launched in November 2019, Teamwork AR earned Frost & Sullivan’s 2020 New Product Innovation Award. To download a whitepaper describing why CGS received this award, click this link. And for further information on CGS Teamwork AR, click here for the product page.

Written by

James Kobielus

BPO study reveals biggest challenges for growing tech companies