The Next Step for CX: Augmented Reality Customer Experience

Earlier this year, and to great fanfare, Apple released its latest world-changing technology; the Vision Pro headset. The headset had inspired curiosity from the day of its announcement. When every other tech giant seem determined to go all-in on generative AI, Apple surprised the world by side-stepping the hype and announcing its new Virtual Reality (VR) offering.

VR has been something of a tech holy grail in the last decade. The idea of an immersive online space, controlled by physical gestures from the user, through which users can interact with billions of others around the world, was seen as an achievable, significant goal. If science fiction was to be believed, the company that could control this virtual world would become an era-defining giant.

That’s what Meta tried to do in 2021 going so far as to change their name (formerly Facebook) to match. But, with the arrival of generative AI, the Metaverse has lost much of its sparkle. Some tech pundits are now claiming that the idea of a ‘metaverse’ is dead. It’s hard to say that they’re wrong.

So what went wrong with the Metaverse? What does Apple’s new headset mean for the future of VR? And what does this mean for the future of Customer Experience (CX)?

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Customer Experience in the Age of Augmented Reality

To understand what changed, we need to know the difference between Virtual Reality and Augmented Reality.

In short, Virtual Reality describes a complete virtual world, realized in 3D, and accessed via headset (or other immersive technologies). Virtual Reality is often used in the context of video games, which provide similar virtual spaces in which millions of people interact every day. In principle, it should be easy to convert the technology to support other activities, whether for leisure, or work.

As always, it’s not that simple. High-level video games require expensive, highly specialized systems to run, and the infrastructure supporting online interactions is an even greater burden on the providers. Scaling this technology to support a persistent, immersive Metaverse for billions of people would require a 1,000 times increase in computational efficiency.

That’s where Augmented Reality (AR) comes in. Where VR creates an entire virtual world, AR adds to existing one. And AR is already all around us. From QR codes to phone apps, the digital world is overlaying and interacting with the physical one. It requires much less compute resource; why create a complete virtual world, when you can just overlay the existing one?

Whilst Apple’s new headset does allow users to enter completely visual worlds, what users are really excited about is its AR potential. Windows can be ‘placed’ in the world, where they will remain, fixed in one location, even when the user moves away. In practice, this looks like work-related tags positioned over the desk, timers over the kitchen counter, or streaming services in the living room.  

The headset also introduces a new kind of video chat, employing ‘avatar’s created by scanning the users face in real time. Despite its steep price tag, it’s clear that’s Apple’s innovation will transform the ways users communicate and interact with technology. As the technology grows in popularity, we’re likely to see the rise of imitators looking to capitalize on its success.

And businesses need to be ready to keep up.

Preparing for Augmented Reality Customer Experience

Today’s customer experience is channel agnostic. That means, whichever channels of contact your customers prefer, you should be ready to answer. And each channel of communication offers different opportunities. Recently, video has grown increasingly popular as a channel of customer communication. Video allows the customer to share more information than could be communicated via voice or text, supporting speedier resolutions, effectively ‘bringing’ the agent into the customer’s world. Combined with location and file sharing, this is an Augmented Reality all of its own.

AR headsets open up new possibilities:

  • The customer could bring the agent directly into their world, using the headsets front-facing cameras to share their view. For problems with a physical cause, such as broken equipment or products, this allows the agent to identify at once what the problem is, and how it can be solved.

  • Essential information can be brought into the world of the customer, displayed in pop-out windows around the customer’s space.

  • 3D avatars enable voice conversations with an added dimension of personalization. The agent is able to establish a human connection with the customer, delivering an experience that keeps the customer coming back.

For users of new AR technologies, being able to contact businesses fluently from within their immersive device would be a welcome benefit. But once devices like these become increasingly popular, new possibilities open up.

The Future of Augmented Reality Customer Experience

Right now, immersive devices like headsets are prohibitively expensive. Apple has aimed its new device, in part, at enterprises. AR and VR will unlock new levels of productivity, giving users access to interfaces that are more intuitive, flexible, and no tied to desktops.

So what might this Augmented Reality future look like?

  • Customers will look to access customer service through Augmented Reality. That means viewing self-service through windows pinned to physical locations, and controlled by eye and hand movements. To prepare for this reality, ensuring the highest levels of accessibility for your self-service is a must. You might have optimized your website to be viewed on tablets and mobiles; now you need to optimize for VR.

  • Customers will have the ability and inclination to engage with your business through video. Today, almost every customer owns a smartphone with a camera. That doesn’t mean they want to use them, however. Immersive devices and headsets, on the other hand, place video at the heart of every interaction. Your organization needs to be ready to accommodate this.

  • The Augmented Reality future will hinge on seamless integrations between services. Your customers will pick up on any delays, discrepancies, and distractions. You must provide your customer service agents with all the data they need to deliver a seamless experience, every time.

This all seems exciting, but we can’t forget that the mass adoption of VR and AR is probably a long way off. The steep price tag attached to immersive headsets means they’re unlikely to be picked up with the same interest as smartphones. The technology still has a long way to go, and further development will be needed before the technology is ready for general use. For now, businesses would be better off investing in more immediate technologies, such as generative AI.

Still, outstanding organizations orient themselves to the future. Better to be ahead of the curve than to fall behind.

Augmented Reality Customer Experience with storm®

Augmented Reality Customer Experience is a fascinating possibility, and one that could transform the way organizations engage with customers in the future. Right now, though, you need to be thinking about how you can augment customer experience in the short term.

Content Guru has decades of experience working with organizations to transform their customer contact. storm® LINK™’s expanded functionality enables instant video, location, and file sharing over any channel of communication; the first step toward an augmented reality customer experience.

Want to learn more about how Content Guru can help your organization meet the technology challenges of the future? Download our new whitepaper, Brace for Impact: Preparing Your Business for the Generative AI Tidal Wave.