(Virtually) Walking in our Customers’ Shoes

At some point in our lives, most of us have experienced the scene where we had to engage in a difficult conversation with a customer agent – the last flight out cancelled (ok, sooo two years ago!), those beautiful, expensive shoes where the sole started to fall off after a week, the broadband installer not showing up in the agreed time slot and so the list goes on. Let’s concentrate for a moment on those conversations where, despite the missed expectations, we come away feeling so much better about the situation. These “good” customer experiences tend to boil down to some combination of:
a) The person was empathetic to the situation I was experiencing
b) I felt listened to
c) The person was genuinely curious about figuring out the best path forward
d) I was presented with different options
e) The person was empowered to solve my problem

These are complex behaviors for inexperienced customer facing staff and yet are seminal to turning around a bad initial customer experience. And too often for many consumers, mastery only comes after years of experience or costly, time-intensive, face to face learning programs.

Matt Dixon from Tethr says it succinctly:

While the journey toward exceptional customer service used to set leading businesses apart, today’s customers are more interested in an excellent customer experience (CX). How a customer feels when they interact with your organization and brand is now arguably as important as the products and services themselves. — Matt Dixon, Chief Product & Research Officer

Behaviors really matter within the customer experience as they are a direct determinant of how your customers feel when engaging with your company.

One proven solution to accelerate the mastery of these complex behaviors is by developing automaticity through learning, deliberate practice and feedback, often known as feedback loops. It turns out that the power of immersive virtual reality helps us do that in a modern, time efficient, scalable way.

The use case developed is to help a retail agent engage effectively with a challenging customer. The customer is really upset because the expensive merchandise she purchased last week is faulty. Imagine you are that retail agent, standing by the till and a customer marches in brandishing a shoe box. She comes face to face with you and she’s visibly upset. She starts shouting about how frustrated she is and waves a shoe in front of you where the sole is starting to separate. She’s complaining about you, the shop, the situation. How do you react? You get to choose….. do you a) blame the supplier, b) say you are sorry and hurry to get your manager or c) do you apologise and acknowledge the emotion she’s displaying? In the cool light of reading this article, the answer is probably quite clear and yet in the heat of the moment, virtual reality feels so life like that our amygdala gets triggered and we just want to get our manager to deal with this frightening person.

So you make your choice and then the barrage starts again…. Or does it? It depends on your selection. The immediacy of the response based on your selection has a dramatic effect on user’s emotions and learning. If we can provide users with feedback responses to their actions as close as possible to real time, then give them an opportunity to change those actions, it pushes them towards better behaviors.

And that’s exactly what users do.
The user travels through their 360 virtual interaction with the challenging customer, selecting different choices as she goes. When the scene is complete, she receives a personalized feedback report informing her of her score, the areas she did well in and where she could improve. She also gets some reflection steps that help her absorb the positive and development feedback and implement specific changes in real life. Total experience time? 10 minutes.

So it sounds pretty straightforward but in fact the learning science that sits behind the VR learning format is multi-faceted and contributes tangibly to a powerful, high impact learning experience.

Agency & Presence
In a 360 degree video, carefully crafted story lines allow you to choose where to look, and this permits you to “create” your own personalized version of the story in virtual reality. This freedom of choice is called agency and is one of the major differences between 360 and standard video. It creates a level of investment on the part of the user which we call emotional immersion. Presence is created by the ability of virtual reality to trick users into feeling they are somewhere else. The greater the belief they are actually in the virtual environment, the greater the potential for users to react to stimuli as if they were in the real world. A recent PWC study found that VR learners felt 3.75 more emotionally connected to their content than classroom learners.

Deliberate practice
Deliberate practice requires clear goals and feed¬back on those goals. Goals are easily integrated into the learning scenario and can vary according to the skills required. It is critical that the positive and developmental feedback provided in the report is linked to those goals. VR has the benefit that it is possible to extract automated feedback metrics from these data meaning that it is possible to generate valuable perspectives at scale about your organisation.

Learner engagement
In a study by imotions, using EEG (electroencephalography, a measure of brain activity), they could detect differences in learner engagement. Comparing the level of engagement for participants in the VR world vs those in a 2D environment, a clear picture emerged from the EEG data with the mean engagement score for VR 20% higher than that of the 2D video. PWC’s study also substantiated the engagement finding reporting that VR trained learners are up to 4 times more focused during training than their e-learning peers.

In summary, we are starting to see practical evidence that VR combines the scaling potential of e-learning with the experiential impact of face-to-face training.  Let’s jump on a 20 minute virtual coffee to explore your use case https://calendly.com/sarah-5/theskillsacceleratordemo?month=2021-05