... A New Reality: Leveraging Virtual Technology for Oil and Gas Customer Service, Support - North American Energy Pipelines

A New Reality: Leveraging Virtual Technology for Oil and Gas Customer Service, Support

Automation solutions and virtual technologies such as Augmented Reality (AR) and Virtual Reality (VR) are completely changing the way oil and gas manufacturers are now interacting with customers.

Much of this shift is to drive more efficiencies and enhance the overall customer experience.

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However, as the COVID-19 pandemic continues and cases of the virus return in large numbers, this type of technology is also helping energy producers interact with customers, albeit from a distance.

AR/VR technologies offer the ability to virtually present or overlay and share physical objects, spaces and images on a user’s view of the actual world. And with increased and expanded mobile device capability, oil and gas organizations have tremendous potential to interact three-dimensionally with their customers through these devices. Customers can now experience their products virtually and digitally, but almost lifelike in a fully-immersive interactive journey.

With this capability, the relationship between brand, manufacturer and customer has the chance to become stronger, with enhanced value added along the customer journey through research, design, production, and now post-sales in customer support.

A recent survey reported in TechRepublic1 in April 2020 found that 56 percent of businesses have implemented some form of mobile AR/VR technology, and another 35 percent are considering doing so.

Furthermore, a quarter of those surveyed said they have fully deployed solutions and are looking to scale up AR/VR use, especially given the challenges posed by the COVID-19 pandemic.

AR/VR technology

Virtually Demonstrating Value Before the Sale

Even before becoming a customer, virtual technologies can help build the right relationship today. The pre-sale phase involves initiating contact with a prospective customer, identifying their unique needs, formulating an offer, overcoming any objections and closing the sale. For example, oil and gas manufacturers can now offer virtual designs and blueprints to a large energy company that wants to see the finished product of certain heavy-duty or drilling machinery ahead of time.

It is important to engage with the prospect at this time to build rapport, offer proof points and develop confidence to foster a stronger customer journey.

“Try Before You Buy” Visualizations

AR/VR can be effective in helping customers not only visualize the blueprints or designs, but more specifically they can get a glimpse of how those specific designs will fit perfectly into their world. Virtual overlays can demonstrate how a particular machine can be used effectively on a jobsite.

AR/VR technology

Virtual Customer Support Post-Sales

After the sale is made, the relationship with a customer becomes even more important. Everything from warranties, upgrades and repairs, additional installation and other troubleshooting is often required by the customer — no matter the product or industry. This is where customer loyalty is formulated and cemented as a long-term relationship.

Companies and their manufacturing partners are now developing virtual and AR-enabled self-service tutorials and guides that help customers find everything they need right at their fingertips. Enhanced technologies like Artificial Intelligence (AI)-driven solutions are also being utilized. Through smartphone devices, customers can quickly access an entire product center with AI-enabled FAQs, manuals, training materials and detailed videos where AR overlays are used. For example, facility managers can address post-build heating equipment for questions when implementing throughout a facility.

Today, it’s not just about getting the customer the answer they need. It’s about doing it efficiently and remotely to minimize human touch points as much as possible. Virtual support enables customers to hold up their mobile device to a product and each part can be scanned and identified in real time by a computer on the other end. Agents and chatbots can immediately identify either the malfunction and solution or can easily identify each component that needs to be replaced, enabling a seamless resolution.

The critical component in all of this is cloud technology, which enables manufacturers to access product designs in real-time, or allowing customers to access virtual FAQs, manuals and videos quickly. This easy access is not possible when manufacturers keep all data and records stored at their location (on-premise) since this type of legacy technology is either too slow to handle real-time interactions or there is not enough space to house all necessary data.

AR/VR technology

Customer relationships with brands are quickly evolving, and CX is today’s differentiator. Brands have recognized the game-changing abilities of introducing AR into their pre-sales, point of sale and post-sale support operations for the ultimate customer journey. With this type of advanced technology, organizations will develop stronger, more successful long-term relationships with their customers in a pandemic-safe environment.

Dijam Panigrahi is cofounder and COO of Grid Raster Inc., a leading provider of cloud-based AR/VR platforms that power compelling high-quality AR/VR experiences on mobile devices for enterprises. For more information, visit gridraster.com.

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