Virtual reality is on the rise in customer service
According to analysts, 2017 will be the breakthrough year for virtual reality, also in customer service. Nanopixel is firmly on the way to becoming a VR market leader in Belgium. CEO Dietrich De Blander shares his vision for the future.
In virtual reality, a special helmet or glasses ensures that the wearer is immersed in a different world. Within that virtual reality you can look around in a radius of 360 degrees. Above, below, beside and behind you: everything is visible in an almost tangible way or changes into an experience. This technology has a positive impact on the customer experience. For example, tour operator Neckermann is already allowing people to sample future travel destinations in four of its locations. Customers can take a look at a Cypriot beach, take a boat trip around the Statue of Liberty and discover Manhattan in a nutshell.
The so-called ‘try before you buy’ principle is already being applied by some car brands, which allow their customers to sample interior styles and options via VR during the ordering process. Peugeot even lets you take virtual test drives on a mountain road in southern France. Architects, construction companies and real estate agents also switch VR technology for their customers. Project developers Matexi and Re-Vive and real estate company Dewaele have been offering house hunters virtual visits to the properties in their portfolio since this year. Potential buyers can virtually visit hundreds of homes in the office – or even at home – without having to relocate to different addresses and regions. The potential of VR is also great at helpdesks: in certain (technical) questions, employees can literally show customers which actions need to be carried out or which parts they need to check.
The fact that the application possibilities of VR for customer services are very large is also encountered by Nanopixel. The product developer from Roeselare has been working hard on the breakthrough of virtual reality within sales processes and customer service. “Since the end of 2014, we have been developing customized virtual reality applications,” says Dietrich De Blander, CEO of Nanopixel. “That happened very organically, at the request of the market. For this we mainly made 3D visualisations and renders for project developers and manufacturers. Floor producer UNILIN wanted to be one of the first Belgian companies to use a virtual reality application for contact with the customer. For them, we developed a virtual home in which customers can configure and view the full range of Quick-Step laminate floors. The reactions to this were unanimously favorable. ”
The first VR-project of Nanopixel was soon followed up. The company then developed a tool with which future shop managers, key figures at companies and consumers – before the foundation stone has been laid – can visit the Uplace shopping complex. And that is just the beginning. “When the shopping center will be built effectively, we want to turn that same tool into a virtual shopping channel”, says Dietrich De Blander. “Customers will be able to shop in the virtual version of Uplace after closing time of the ‘real’ stores. Within the retail sector I see a lot of possibilities for such client applications. In addition, I believe that just about every business sector can benefit from the use of VR technology in its customer services. Although these applications must of course be studied on a case-by-case basis and tailored to your needs. “
Almost every business sector benefits from the use of VR technology in its customer service
In addition to VR there is also a technological variant: augmented reality (AR), or added reality. With this technique, the user is not visually disconnected from his / her immediate environment. The living room, a street or an object remains perceptible, but is enriched with text, images or animations through special glasses. Instruction or information on your retina projected via an AR glasses while contacting a customer service are among the possibilities.
However, this technology is by no means as advanced as VR, claims Dietrich De Blander. “We now bought a Hololens, the famous AR glasses from Microsoft. We certainly do not want to exclude that technology and certainly interesting applications will be devised, but at the moment there is very little demand from the market. The hardware is not ready for it yet. ”
Mark Zuckerberg also believes more in the immense potential of VR than of AR. Immediately one of the main reasons why the Facebook founder acquired Oculus VR for more than two billion dollars in March 2014, a company that designed Oculus Rift virtual reality glasses for PC users. According to Zuckerberg, it certainly takes another five to ten years before AR is technically at the same level as VR.
As far as VR applications are concerned, Nanopixel is confident about the future. “The VR market has been heavily steamed in the past two years, also in Belgium. What started with us at the time as a fascinating dodge, today became a full-time business activity. We can hardly keep up with the demand for virtual b2c and b2b applications. We are currently working on a dozen new VR projects in various sectors, which I am currently not allowed to talk about. Our team is growing incredibly fast. For example, we currently have five vacancies for VR developers. It seems like everyone wants to join the evolution train that is VR. ”
In addition, VR technology also finds its way to the consumer fairly quickly. With affordable VR glasses from HTC, Oculus, Samsung, Google and even from PlayStation. “In our opinion, the VR market will eventually become as big as the smartphone market today. And that will even go pretty fast. The more people have access to VR hardware at home, the greater the utility of VR applications will become in the customer services of companies. Exciting times “, concludes Dietrich De Blander.