Tech giants Google and Microsoft have released practical hands-free Augmented Reality devices aimed solely at enterprise. The hardware could spark an AR revolution in service, prompting boards to consider a technology that may, at one point, seemed a risk. Mark Glover considers what impact this could mean for service professionals when putting together a use-case for AR's adoption...
In B2C, the customer can also benefit. Simple fixes can take place over an AR call with customers being talked through the solutions via from the firm’s call-centre. It means one of the main customer frustrations – waiting for an engineer to fix their boiler – could be negated.
Companies who successfully integrate AR into their field service strategy can expect to reap these and many other benefits however, the challenge remains in that integra-tion, the origin of which is the building of a use-case to qualify the investment. To do so requires discipline; a certain amount of self-restraint to suppress the child-like excitement that AR creates, projected from science fiction stories and films; technology we once thought confined to the pages of an Arthur C. Clarke novel is becoming mainstream. As service professionals it’s important to look beyond the hype and instead focus on deployment.
“It’s too easy to say, ‘oh...virtual reality, artificial intelligence, augmented reality,’ but you’re just naming technologies, you’re not naming the application of the technologies.” The wise words of Bill Pollock, regular Field Service News’ contributor, spoken on a recent episode of the Field Service Podcast. I have many conversations with service professionals about technology adoption but given Bill has seen most trends in the industry come and go, his words on applying VR, AI and AR are resonant.
“The number one thing is you’ve got to be in a position where you personally, as the head of your group, need to embrace the new technologies that are coming around to support an expanded and enhanced capability to deliver your service offerings,” Bill urges, looking as ever to the bigger picture.
"The most integral part of any service strategy is the customer..."
Presenting a use-case on the benefits of a new technology is an important part of a service professional’s armoury. Communicating confidently and concisely to a risk-averse and perhaps cynical board about the long-term benefits of any new technology is paramount, underlined by Bill’s sets out above: that adopting an exciting and innovative new piece of technology has to have a positive return on investment and be delivered as part of the firm’s service strategy.
The most integral part of any service strategy is the customer. Their needs define the solutions that form the delivery; there’s no point in adopting AR if it’s not going to benefit your customer. Think of the hypothetical customer I created at the beginning of this article, able to fix their own boiler after con-necting with an engineer remotely.
They’re not thinking, “This is excellent use of Augmented Reality, I’m really excited,” they’re just pleased the boiler is fixed and they haven’t had to wait in all day for someone to come out. Flipping back to the b2b arena, it’s useful for service providers to understand their customer challenges and to really try and understand the space they operate in. Nick Frank, referencing Rolls Royce’s 1962 pioneering ‘Power by the Hour’, a version of which is still being used by the firm today, says a reason for its longevity and success is the firm’s willingness to step into their client’s world when a plane is unable to fly – a KPI that drills down into customer experience and beyond.
“They brought that performance indicator into their engineering site,” Nick said, again as a recent guest on the Field Service Podcast, “so that they could say, ‘hey, this is how much money is being lost caused by the downtime on our engines and that whole approach.” Now that's really going much, much deeper than customer service. It's going into how you make your customers' business successful and understanding what success for your customers' business is.”
"We stand on the cusp of a mainstream AR revolution, a path paved by early adopters who have been using the technology for some years..."
Nick who is co-founder and Managing Partner at SI2 Partners, a consultancy firm operating in the industrial sector says Rolls Royce’s service blueprint should be considered during any decision to adopt a new technology, a theory he applies to his own approach. Flipping the funnel to look at your customer busi-ness rather than your own bottom line. “I’ve found that really illuminating, he says, “especially over the last two or three years when we have so many people talking about digital analytics, talking about Augmented Reality, talking about the technology and pushing out looking for a solution. But that’s now where the success comes from, it comes from the other way around.”
We stand on the cusp of a mainstream AR revolution, a path paved by early adopters who have been using the technology for some years. These pioneers have mostly been technology firms, and its these outfits, naturally curious and driven by technology who are usually first to experiment and trial new innovations like AR.
But with Glass by Google who have just launched a new enterprise version and Microsoft's recently showcased HoloLens 2, genuine hands-free hardware is starting to bridge the gap between early, niche adoption and full-on mainstream acceptance.
I spoke to one enterprise application firm who told me they're starting to see firms purchase AR wearables in bulk, citing realware's HMT-1, the hands-free voice-controlled interface as a popular option. The lightweight wearable sits snugly on an engineer's helmet, allowing practical intuitive movement for the user. It's this swift integration that is attractive to companies who know they can get the devices out into the field quickly and add immediate value to field service engineers.
Adding value through any technology integration is the focal point of any use-case. Deciding what that value looks like to you and more importantly to your customers is essential and should be carefully considered before jumping into AR.