Remote assistance with its augmented reality tools is now a well-known solution for many industrials.

Industry players understand the concept: a field technician facing a specific issue needs support; an expert in his office has access to communication and interaction tools to help the technician effectively, who performs guided tasks in real time; ideally using connected glasses to keep his hands free.

The benefits are also easy to evaluate and quantify as the time saved on repairs, the reduction of experts’ travels, the increased execution speed rate, etc. Savings are quickly visible within the organization.

For these mature applications, new usages are emerging that can be just as effective; for example, they can be used in retail distribution for after-sales service by replacing the technician with the consumer and the expert with the after-sales support professional.

In view of their performance, why are these solutions not used more frequently by Retail’s after-sales departments?

A sector under pressure

“The customer experience” including customer service and pre-sales/after-sales support are strategic areas for most retailers; especially since price is not a key competitive differentiator anymore, as Pure Players have changed the ground rules. But those areas become increasingly expensive departments, with the rise of required service level to remain competitive (7/7 breakdown, 24/24 hotline, free installation assistance, etc.).

Retailers, particularly in the domains of household and electronic equipment, but also DYI and furniture stores, are constantly facing these challenges, especially as customer expectations in terms of service grow. Every call, every technical visit is an additional burden on the budgets of the retailer, which often put pressure on profitability.

In addition, within this evolving range of services, after-sales service, which is frequently correlated with product warranty (which is also growing) weighs heavily.

There is a real trend to strengthen after-sales services, whether through the increase of allocated resources to this departments, or the introduction of new tools. And it is no surprise that 83% of customers agree that they feel more loyal to retailer that respond and resolve their complaints. (Khoros, May 2021)

When it comes to helping a customer quickly and efficiently, what better way than using a fully connected remote support solution to pre-qualify the need, or even solve “small” problems? Some retailers have already started to use this process, but in view of the potential benefits, we can wonder why this is not yet a generalized approach.

Why not using remote assistance in augmented reality?

What does this solution look like in this context and how does it work?

There are now a substantial number of solutions available on the market with their specificities, but the approach is the same and extremely simple.

  • A customer has a problem with a product and calls customer service. Once the concern is qualified, he will be directed to a technician, who will then send the customer an internet link via SMS/email.
  • The link will open on the browser available in the customer’s smartphone and will use the camera of the device.
  • The customer shows the problem thanks to the video feed provided by the camera, and he follows the instructions of the technician who will guide him in the assembly, or the troubleshooting.
  • Depending on the software solution used, the technician can use tools such as arrows, drawings, texts, diagrams, etc. that will be displayed on the customer’s smartphone to improve the guidance.
  • They can even chat in a video conference (by just reversing the camera) to create a real “relationship” with the customer.
  • Data and streams created are not registered (unless submitted to customer’s approval) and the link becomes inactive after hanging up, in accordance with the GDPR rules.

And we can easily realize all the advantages of the tool: the potentially drastic reduction of actual visits down to «real» problems; technicians at the office can troubleshoot several customers’ problems one after the other; a technician can more easily replace another in case of absence because he has access to documentation, colleagues, and can therefore deal with a greater number of cases.

Depending on the company’s strategies and needs, this can either strengthen the technical skills of in-house technicians, or alternatively the entire routine can be outsourced.

A happy customer is a loyal customer

Beyond these benefits for the actors of the distribution, there are certain advantages in creating the link with the customer to be valued.

We are all consumers, and we all know that at the slightest technical concern about a product, we start worrying; the idea of contacting the customer service, taking an appointment with a technician according to the mutual availabilities, to make oneself available at the given moment are not often welcome. And especially in the meantime, the washing machine/TV/computer is down, or the furniture is still in bits and pieces……

Who has not dreamt of getting support within an hour rather than trying to solve the problem ourselves? (And eventually lose the warranty in the process?)

In addition, the consumer is not having a simple phone call with an anonymous contact, he has an interaction with a real person about an identified issue they can «solve together».

The user is a stakeholder and the actor of the execution, he understands better the problem-solving scheme, and this action can strengthen the confidence in the brand/retailer. This can be a significant benefit nowadays.

Finally, it can be an important source of customer satisfaction and an entry point for qualitative feedbacks.

In conclusion, these solutions have a real potential for after-sales service departments; they are not overly complex to set up and quite affordable (licence costs can often be shared among users). The main barrier is probably that they lack visibility within the retail sector; but with the emphasis on the benefits from retailers using the solutions, their expansion should be rapid.