There’s no denying: augmented reality (AR) is exciting. It’s already changing the way we do so many things, from buying furniture to medical procedures and everything in between. If AR can do for field service what it’s done for other industries, like manufacturing, it will be a real game changer—especially when used with other innovations like mobile solutions and Novacura Flow.
When there’s so much buzz around a new technology, it can be tempting to leap into things head-first. But if you’re not careful, leaping into AR might hinder your business instead of helping it.
So, with that in mind, here are some things to consider when deciding how, when and why to add augmented reality your field service business.
What is Augmented Reality?
Augmented reality is technology that enhances reality using overlays. If you’ve ever used a Snapchat filter to take a funny selfie, then you’ve experienced AR.
The dictionary definition of AR is:
”An enhanced version of reality created by the use of technology to overlay digital information on an image of something being viewed through a device (such as a smartphone camera)”.
AR is different from virtual reality, where everything you see is computer-generated. Instead, AR enhances the real world with additional information.
How Can Augmented Reality be Used in Field Service?
Many well-known companies—like IKEA and Amazon—have incorporated augmented reality into their marketing and sales efforts. For example, IKEA has an app that allows you to preview their furniture in your home before you buy it.
But field service companies are using AR in a few particular ways:
- Interactive, 3d manuals for service technicians
- Remote guidance
- Smart sensors/IoT
This blog post has more information on how field service companies are using augmented reality.
Will Augmented Reality Help Improve Your KPIs?
The key question you need to ask yourself before jumping in AR for yourself is: will AR help me deliver better service? Adopting the latest technology to keep up with the competition won’t help your business if it doesn’t help you deliver better service. So, think about AR in terms of your key performance indicators.
Startup costs can be high: AR headsets like the Microsoft Hololens can cost up to $5000 per unit. Software and implementation can be expensive, too. But you don’t need expensive glasses, or custom-built software, to start using AR.
The most important thing is that your employees need to see the value of AR. They need to see how it will make their jobs easier. if you spend thousands of dollars building interactive service manuals but your technicians stick to the paper versions, it wasn’t a valuable investment. If you equip machines with smart sensors but don’t use the additional data to optimize your business, that’s another missed opportunity. You need to think about what you want to achieve, then find the tools that best meet your goals.
Employee Productivity/Average Resolution Time
If you want to work on improving your average resolution time, think about what kind of support will help your technicians work both smarter and faster. One great option is remote guidance (or remote visual assistance): you can read more about that here. Almost all the AR options available to field service businesses will help boost employee productivity—but only if your employees use them.
It makes sense that if you can improve your average resolution time, you’ll improve customer satisfaction as well—but that’s not always the case. If your technicians are over-worked or under-trained, rushing from one job to the next, they might not be fixing things correctly on the first try. So, think about ways you can use AR to help your technicians feel more supported while they’re in the field and boost first-time fix rates while they’re at it. If things are fixed efficiently and correctly on the first try, customers satisfaction will naturally go up.
How Much Will It Cost?
Right now, AR technology is still new and, therefore, the hardware can be expensive. The good news is that your technicians have a good AR device already: their phone or tablet. Most tablets and mobile phones are already equipped to handle AR—although right now, we mostly use that technology for Snapchat and Pokémon Go.
Think also about implementation. For something like interactive service manuals, you may need to hire an outside company to build 3d models for you. For remote visual assistance, you need experienced technicians to be available when someone in the field needs remote assistance. Software configuration, artwork, and so on: all these fees may or may not be included, so make sure you're prepared.
AR has the potential to revolutionize the way many industries work, and it’s especially exciting when it comes to field service. But as with all new innovations, you get out of it what you put into it.
Instead of diving in head-first, consider taking an incremental approach with Novacura Flow. The flexibility of Novacura Flow gives you the freedom to incorporate new technologies like AR into your business processes without a lot of effort, while growing/adapting to fit your needs over time.
If you’d like to talk about how to get started with Novacura Flow and AR, please give us a call.