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There has been so much discussion about the metaverse lately, as companies try to understand what it means for their interactions with customers and employees, and how to extend their brand within it. Since the metaverse is a complex technological concept, the first step to understanding its potential impact is to define it. Is the metaverse a virtual place or a network of online places created and operated by technology companies? Is it the technology-mediated experiences we already have on a daily basis that combine physical and digital travel, such as location-based offers appearing on our phones and interactive displays in museums and stores?
Both views are correct. The metaverse is the next (non-definitive) iteration of the Internet where human interactions will be a combination of virtual, real-time, three-dimensional and physical experiences. Our ways of working, creating, buying and consuming are already radically changing. The impact of the change will be deeper than the impact of the smartphone.
We’re still in the early stages of real ROI for businesses, but now it’s time to experiment and invest and innovate in metaverse-based use cases.
The key for organizations is to focus on the bottom line and purpose for creating metaverse experiences, whether they take place online or in a hybrid digital-physical space. For example, while there has been a strong business and media focus on the marketing and revenue-generating potential of the metaverse, there is also a growing recognition of the variety of potential metaverse use cases. For example, in addition to entertainment, organizations can use the metaverse to optimize business activities and enrich employee collaboration and training experiences.
It’s also important to see how digitally-enabled human experiences evolve and expect them to continue to evolve for strategic planning. For example, most of us are used to 2D flat user interface-based interactions with tablets, phones, computers and monitors. In fact, we expect those kinds of interactions and may be surprised if they aren’t available in stores to help with tasks like planning room decor.
Now we see more of what we call natural or spatial user interfaces, where users and the physical environment interact. Some technologies that support natural interfaces include beacons, biometrics, and 3D augmented reality environments that users experience through a headset.
Other senses can be activated by natural user interfaces via touch (haptics), audio and even olfactory experiences, to create a more immersive interaction. Experiences can include augmented or virtual reality (AR/VR) to enhance or create new opportunities or ways of interacting. The result is an experience that combines visual, natural/spatial and traditional interfaces that enable a multisensory experience.
But we still have a lot to learn when it comes to the actual human-machine-human interaction. User experience and interface design skills are about to change radically. Ultimately, the experience should feel familiar, safe, and private when needed.
Engagement Blueprint for Metaverse Experiences
The interesting thing about the metaverse is that the technologies that support it aren’t new – they’re just maturing and becoming more accessible and affordable. Engagement blueprint is an effective method of planning and designing the art of the possible. The process involves looking at every moment in a journey to see what the user experience is like now and to think about how new real-time 3D and spatial technology can improve it.
For example, consider a consumer who contacts a customer support call center. The customer doesn’t see the behind-the-scenes service design associated with that experience, from the phone menu to the music on hold to the conversation with the customer service representative. All those elements were laid out years or even decades ago, and they can now have a brand impact that is very different from when they were first launched.
Engagement blueprint brings a fresh look to the experience to understand the customer or employee’s feelings about the brand as they go through the process. For example, long wait times negatively affect customers’ perception of the brand, while slow interactions create frustration that puts pressure on front-line workers.
By looking at the stack of technology, processes, and training that create that experience, blueprinting can identify areas for improvement to create a better experience for customers and employees along their journey, helping them maintain a positive impression of the brand and remain loyal advocates. .
Increasingly, metaverse experiences will provide solutions to these challenges. For example, a customer can interact with a real-time 3D model of the product through the company’s help portal to locate a problem before speaking to a representative. Then the agent can see the same product model to guide the customer through a problem-solving process that is easier to navigate and more effective than a standard phone call.
In addition to improving service interactions for customers and employees, metaverse-based solutions can support more effective training, field service, and sales. For example, in many industries, companies are preparing for the loss of a large proportion of their workforce at retirement age – and these employees are likely to bring with them a large amount of institutional knowledge. How can these companies effectively capture, organize and present that tacit knowledge to employees who need that information to work more efficiently? Virtual and comprehensive experiences using headsets, 3D models and haptic feedback help to capture, preserve and share that knowledge without relying on tedious one-on-one training interactions. Using virtual reality for training purposes helps employees retain 75% more knowledge.
Once trained, a service technician can work more efficiently with access to product diagrams, guided installation walk-throughs, and other virtually comprehensive experiences — all of which can reduce phone call time, increase customer satisfaction, and drive employee retention. In addition, these solutions can generate custom cross-sell and upsell recommendations that field technicians can share with customers.
Understanding how to make the most of the metaverse may seem complicated, but it follows the same arc as any other technological application. Start experimenting first. Apply traditional structured innovation and identify the candidate use cases for businesses to solve. Then create a blueprint of the involved process to understand how customers and employees experience it. Then think creatively about how you can use and combine existing and new technologies to improve the experience. Finally, keep an eye out for emerging technologies so you can revisit the process as the metaverse evolves and customer and employee expectations evolve with it.
Charlton Monsanto is executive vice president, digital customer experience at Capgemini America.
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