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There’s been so much discussion about the metaverse lately, as companies try to figure out what it means for their customer and employee engagements, and how their brand can be extended there. Because the metaverse is a complex technological concept, the first step to understanding the potential impact is to define it. Is the metaverse a virtual place or a network of online places created and managed by technology companies? Are these the technology-mediated experiences we already have in everyday life, combining physical and digital journeys, like location-based offers that appear on our phones and interactive screens in museums and stores?
Both views are correct. The Metaverse is the next (not the last) 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 business ROI, but now is the time to experiment, invest, and innovate in metaverse-based use cases.
The key for organizations is to focus on the business outcome and purpose of creating metaverse experiences, whether they happen online or in a hybrid digital-physical space. For example, while businesses and media have focused heavily on the marketing and revenue-generating potential of the Metaverse, there is also growing recognition of the variety of potential use cases for the Metaverse. In addition to entertainment, for example, organizations can use the metaverse to optimize business operations and enrich employee collaboration and training experiences.
It’s also important to see how digital human experiences evolve, and expect them to continue to evolve, in order to plan strategically. For example, most of us are used to 2D flat UI-based interactions with tablets, phones, computers, and monitors. In fact, we expect these kinds of interactions and might be surprised if they aren’t available in stores to help us with things 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 extended reality environments that users experience through a headset.
Other senses can be engaged with natural user interfaces through touch (haptics), audio, and even olfactory experiences, to create a more immersive interaction. Experiences may include augmented or virtual reality (AR/VR) to enhance or create new abilities or ways to interact. The result is an experience that combines visual, natural/spatial and traditional interfaces allowing for a multi-sensory 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 drastically. Ultimately, the experience should feel trustworthy, secure, and private when necessary.
Engagement Blueprint for Metaverse Experiences
What’s interesting about the Metaverse is that the technologies that support it aren’t new – they’re just maturing and becoming more accessible and affordable. Engagement blueprinting is an effective methodology for planning and designing the art of the possible. The process involves looking at every moment of a journey to see what the current user experience is like and thinking about how new 3D and real-time spatial technology can improve it.
For example, imagine a consumer contacting a customer support call center. The customer doesn’t see the behind-the-scenes service design that comes with this experience, from the phone menu to music on hold to chatting with the customer service representative. All of these elements were put in place years, if not decades ago, and they can now have a very different impact on the brand than when they were first launched.
The engagement model takes a fresh look at the experience to understand the customer or employee’s feelings about the brand as they move through the process. For example, long wait times negatively affect customer opinion of the brand, while slow interactions create frustration that stresses front-line employees.
By looking at the stack of technologies, processes, and trainings that create this experience, blueprinting can identify areas for improvement to create a better experience for customers and employees throughout their journey so they maintain a positive impression. of the brand and remain staunch 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 identify an issue before speaking to a representative. Then the employee can also view the same product model to guide the customer through a troubleshooting process that is easier to navigate and more efficient than a standard phone conversation.
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 sectors, companies are preparing to lose a large part of their workforce at retirement age – and these employees will likely take with them a large amount of institutional knowledge. How can these companies effectively capture this tacit knowledge, organize it, and present it to employees who need this information to work more effectively? Virtual and augmented experiences using headsets, 3D models, and haptic feedback help capture and preserve this knowledge and share it 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 procedures, and other virtually augmented experiences, all of which can reduce call time, increase satisfaction customers and promote employee loyalty. Additionally, these solutions can generate personalized cross-sell and upsell recommendations that field technicians can share with customers.
Understanding how to get the most out of the Metaverse might seem complicated, but it follows the same arc as any other technology application. First, start experimenting. Apply traditional structured innovation and identify candidate business use cases to solve. Then, plan the process involved to understand how customers and employees experience it. Then, think creatively about how to leverage and combine existing and new technologies to enhance 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 Americas.
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