Earlier this week, I was listening to our team have a discussion via our new Tactical Team Series — more on that later — but during the conversation, my colleague Luc Comeau shared an interesting anecdote that hit home for me. Luc chronicled how he helped his mom with a Wi-Fi connectivity issue and acknowledged he is the 'technical guy' in the family.
It struck me that yes, here at Mariner, most of us wear the ‘techie’ badge for our families.
Why is this important?
Communications’ technology is a ‘black box’ to all but those who operate in this environment where service infrastructure is underpinned by complex equipment and system interdependencies. So naturally, other than ‘unplugging the Wi-Fi’ to resolve connectivity issues, only the more technically inclined among us would venture to troubleshoot an issue before calling for help.
After all, no one envisioned the consumer experience as anything but enjoying the services they subscribed to – fixing things was the service provider’s job. The subscriber’s experience is reliant on a (hopefully) empathetic and experienced field technician or care agent.
Not surprisingly, the experience is changing. Self-service is now universal for even the most non-technical users who access online banking, track packages or food delivery via app and use lane assist AI while driving.
Now is the time for service providers to democratize the family appointed techie – at least for the technology our lifestyle has become so dependant on.
“Customers are more empowered than ever before. This wave of disruption is likely to continue over the next few years as growth in video streaming services, online ordering of food and products, and connected smart devices continue to challenge traditional models,” explains this IT Wire article that provides a deep dive into how silos within telecommunications still exist. (Incidentally, silos are yet another root cause of the black box.)
First, we need to move beyond remote visual assistance for virtual visits
Residential field and product marketing teams alike have gone back to the drawing board over recent weeks to better understand how to initiate virtual technician visits using augmented capabilities.
The base capability for solutions enabling virtual visits is the ability to see what the consumer can see. Remote visual assistance technology using the mobile phone is table-stakes.
Context, starting with data overlays, is the first missing thread for any full-service tool that will eventually be adopted across the board. Solutions need to be augmented with information available within the home and from the network while remaining simple and intuitive.
The path forward in self-service is a healthy topic for discussion - in-house purpose-built solution, an offering from a vendor or a hybrid enabled with data insights for a customized experience. (I would like to hear your opinion on this.)
Augmented reality (AR) overlays are next and not just because of the super-cool factor.
Augmented reality system developed by Lyft might make it less awkward for drivers to figure out who they are supposed to pick up.
AR is powerful when enhanced with data context. Imagine a Wi-Fi signal issue visualized using colour-coded bubbles as the virtual technician app moves throughout the home. The novelty is fun, but more importantly it puts the consumer back in control of their experience without technical know-how. Consumers have experienced AR to be entertained, they understand it, and the leap to use it for DYI troubleshooting isn’t a leap at all.
Not as cool as AR assisted self-service, but equally important, is the ability to deflect calls before escalation to a virtual visit.
Having remote investigators identify issues outside the home - perhaps it’s identifying network or configuration issues - informs the end customer proactively.
Allowing a customer to run troubleshooting workflows or diagnostic tests for themselves eases the burden of the black box.
This isn’t to say it’s a simple task.
Informing customers not only puts the onus on communication service providers to provide insight but also to involve consumers in the experience in a way that empowers them without having to understand the technology - the black box if you will. How can service providers incorporate natural troubleshooting language and collect the right data to support a seamless, 360-degree customer experience so this initial insight is referenced and built upon throughout any given service issue?
The changing role of the ‘technical’ team.
The concept of robust product design comes from the Japanese quality master, Dr. Genichi Taguchi. He describes the concept as ‘reducing variation in a product without eliminating the causes of the variation.’
Maurer and Lau put it another way, “The goal of robust design is to come up with a way to make the final product consistent when the process is subject to a variety of noise.”
The concept is derived from industrial engineering, but it is an elegant way of thinking of the problem at hand. To meet the needs of the non-technical end consumer, any solution for remote or virtual visits must present an elevated, simplified view and a feature-set that accounts for every variable.
Without a robust, powerful backend - purpose-built to account for the complex communications infrastructure - service providers will not be able to move to this next phase of customer enablement.
Our role as the ‘technical team’ is to consider the noise or variables and to use our advanced knowledge of telemetry, remote investigators and in-home data to put your consumers in the driver’s seat.
We’re having great internal conversations along those lines and invite you to join our Tactical Team Series to watch it first-hand.