Consumer-Friendly AR Makes Its Way to Telecom

Consumer-Friendly AR Makes Its Way to Telecom

If there’s one feeling consumers have grown familiar with in their dealings with the telecom industry, it is – by all accounts – frustration. There’s just something about waiting for the cable guy to show up sometime between noon and 6 p.m. to fix your internet connection only to have him arrive late leaving with the issue unresolved. It’s the same old song and dance, which is probably why the telecom industry consistently ranks as one of the most hated by consumers.

And now, with a pandemic raging across much of the world unchecked, waiting for the cable guy isn’t even an option. If a router goes down or the Wifi gets glitchy, consumers can’t even sit and wait around for a technician. In fact, a January 2021 survey by TechSee, a technology provider to some of the world’s biggest telecoms, found that 65 percent of consumers would rather avoid technician visits unless absolutely necessary. What’s more, 60 percent would consider ceasing business with a company following a technician visit that did not meet their safety expectations.

Pandemic or not, though, waiting for a tech is becoming a thing of the past. And that’s very much welcomed news by the vast majority of the internet and cable-loving population.

The COVID-19 pandemic has fueled the rapid acceleration of technology adoption by some of the world’s largest telecom companies. Companies searching for ways to provide effective and fast contactless service have found a little bit of secret sauce in augmented reality (AR).

Most recently, Verizon and Vodafone have started experimenting with the technology. Consumers, for their part, seem to be overjoyed.

The introduction of AR has brought a visual element to the table that is the key to successful contactless interactions with customers. Visual technologies have three core elements:

Video

Video or images let technicians or remote experts actually see the devices in their environment (think wireless router, cable modem, TV set, etc.)

Augmented Reality

AR – the technology where graphical information is displayed over a physical environment – provides interactive guidance and clear notations to technicians and field workers.

Computer Vision

Imagine if your smartphone or tablet had eyes and could see. That’s essentially what technicians get with computer vision tech. It’s the science of teaching machines to see, learn, and identify everything from device ports, cables, LED lights, wiring – you name it. Computer Vision relies on a visual knowledge base that’s ever-expanding, making it easier to determine common issues and to develop automatic responses to those issues.     

How it Works in the Wild

It’s not just a pipedream. The tech is here. It’s really a matter of adoption.

When a customer needs assistance, an agent or virtual technician can instruct the customer from a remote location using AR for visual guidance. Instead of orally explaining how to reset a wireless router, a technician – sometimes hundreds or thousands of miles away from the customer – is able to show the customer what to do using an AR overlay right on their smartphone or tablet.

The strategy has proved successful for companies like Vodafone. When the pandemic hit, Vodafone recognized that their usage of visual assistance represented both a competitive advantage and an indication of business continuity, and heavily advertised the service on their website. Other telecoms stepped up to meet the need of the day. For example, Verizon instituted Fios in a Box to help their subscribers self-install triple-play services, while keeping their technicians out of people’s homes. 

Empowering customers to resolve their own telecom-related issues through visual assistance reduces the need for technicians to be dispatched on-site, which ultimately translates into millions in savings and a better customer experience.

Visual Self-Service – The Next Step

Remote visual assistance, for all its benefits, still relies on a technician to guide the end-user. The stuff that really dazzles consumers – and what seems to be in popular demand these days – is no interaction with anyone. At all.

Self-service tools are just the ticket, giving consumers everything they need to simply fix and address issues themselves without ever having to interact with a support agent or technician. For example, imagine you’re stuck at home with a TV that’s giving you nothing but static. Using visual self-service, a consumer would simply point their phone at the television and a  virtual assistant could recognize the make, model, and guide the customer through a fix via a series of on-screen AR instructions. Think Snapchat but, you know, with an actual purpose.

The Future is Here. Now.

If it sounds like the stuff of sci-fi fantasy, it’s because even a few years ago it basically was. The COVID-19 pandemic has jammed a decade of innovation into little more than a year or two. The result? The next time your internet goes down, you might never need to speak with an actual person. And if past consumer frustrations are any indication, that just maybe a good thing.

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