When a router goes down or WiFi is glitchy, today’s safety-conscious customers have no intention of simply waiting for service.
A January 2021 survey by TechSee, a technology provider to some of the world’s biggest telecoms, found that 73 percent of UK consumers say they would rather avoid engineer visits unless absolutely necessary. 63 percent said they would be more loyal to companies that take extra technical support safety precautions, and 57 percent would even consider leaving a company following an engineer visit that did not meet their safety expectations. With the pandemic’s spotlight on safety, telecom customers are demanding service without direct person-to-person contact – a model known as contactless service.
Contactless service a la Augmented Reality
Telecoms searching for ways to provide effective and fast contactless service have found that using Augmented Reality is the secret sauce. When a customer needs assistance, an agent or virtual engineer can instruct the customer from a remote location using AR for visual guidance. Instead of orally explaining how to reset the router or troubleshoot the WiFi, an engineer – working remotely – can show the customer what to do using an AR overlay right on their smartphone or tablet.
Pioneering telecoms reap the benefits
The strategy has proved successful for companies like Vodafone, which has rolled out remote visual assistance to twelve markets since its early adoption in 2017, including Vodafone UK. The telecom giant uses the technology to handle hardware use cases such as router installations, and documentation use cases such as billing and contracts.
Customers can also get screenshare assistance on MyVodafone app for help with upgrades, plan changes, and info about their VeryMe rewards. Vodafone has seen significant ROI from the technology: engineer dispatches have been reduced by 10 percent, FCR score has increased by five points, and NPS score has been boosted by 15 percent.
At the height of the pandemic, Vodafone recognized the opportunity to position the technology as the eyes of their Remote Engineers. They heavily advertised their contactless service as a way to keep customers connected and safe during the lockdowns.
Other telecoms, such as Verizon, also stepped up to meet the need of the day. Over a single weekend, Verizon connected 10,000 customer service reps and engineers to TechSee’s remote visual assistance platform. In a record-breaking 48 hours, they solved the constraints of social distancing, ensuring service and business continuity. For example, Fios in a Box helps their subscribers self-install triple play services, while keeping their engineers out of people’s homes.
Contactless support is here to stay
There has been a lasting shift in consumers’ attitudes towards remote support. 34 percent of UK consumers said they would allow a home visit only if the engineer is vaccinated. Half (50 percent) said they would give preference to a brand that encourages their engineers to be vaccinated, but it seems the vaccine may not be enough: 42 percent of consumers indicated that they would prefer to get remote support and avoid engineer visits even after the pandemic. Clearly, contactless support is here to stay.
Visual Automation – The Next Step
This shift in consumer sentiment has created an unprecedented opportunity for telecoms. They can leverage their regularly-collected visual data and apply computer vision AI to build a continuously-expanding visual knowledge base of everything from devices, ports, cables, LED lights, wiring – you name it. Auto-recognition via computer vision makes it easier to determine common issues and to develop automatic responses to those issues.
Once implemented, telecoms can equip their chatbots with smart eyes, opening up a whole new range of use cases that can be solved by empowering customers to fix issues themselves without ever having to interact with a support agent or engineer. For example, using visual self-service, a customer would simply point their phone at their new router and a virtual assistant could recognize the make and model, and guide the customer through the unboxing and installation process via on-screen AR instructions.
When it comes to providing customers with on-site support in the future, more and more telecoms are prioritizing contactless service in order to ensure safety, service resilience, and high levels of customer satisfaction. While the current pandemic will eventually end, with each passing day it becomes increasingly clear that remote support using visual assistance will become a telecom industry standard moving forward, both for guided assistance and for self-service.
By Amir Yoffe, COO and co-founder of TechSee
Amir Yoffe has decades of experience as a senior executive managing enterprises and Internet companies. Amir has focused on building and commercializing enterprise products and service solutions, from video to security technologies. Amir was CEO of Avnet and CastUP (acquired by Cisco) and served as a director at Cisco. He holds an MBA in Marketing from Ha’Kirya Ha’Academit.