Written by Barry Corless, Director Consulting Expert, CGI in the UK
Barry is a Director Consulting Expert within CGI’s ITSM Advisory Services team in the UK. He advises a wide range of public and private sector clients on their future operating models, transformation plans and service strategies. Barry was lead author of the current ITIL® best practices in Incident and Problem Management; he is also one of a select number of recipients of the itSMF UK’s Paul Rappaport Award for Lifetime Achievement in Service Management.
Over the course of my 30+ years in IT, I have seen a lot of innovations come and go. Whilst some advances burn brightly but quickly fade, others prove more enduring, and my focus for the last two decades has been on how these technological advances can add value to what remains an industry staple: service management. Most recently, the metaverse has grabbed my attention.
Earlier this year, CGI’s global retail industry lead Jean-Baptiste Branquart wrote a very interesting blog on how technological innovations in the form of artificial intelligence, virtual reality and the metaverse are growing in retail and consumer spaces. He also shared recommendations for harnessing and monetising these great innovations within your organisation.
This piece led me to think about my first real interaction with a retail metaverse-like environment. When purchasing a new kitchen last year, I donned a VR headset and virtually walked around our newly designed kitchen to interact with drawers, cupboards and appliances. I was impressed but soon realised the experience still had some way to go when I found myself locked in the refrigerator!
The obvious next consideration for me was in regards to customer service management and the delivery of IT services – can the same disruptive models be applied?
Could the metaverse transform service management and customer support?
The metaverse is undoubtedly a hot topic, melding the internet, social media, virtual reality and multi-dimensional gaming experiences into something that reaches far beyond conquering a new virtual kingdom or slaying mythical beasts with our friends. Some exciting metaverse opportunities are now emerging, such as Fortnite’s technology being used by the likes of Ariana Grande and Billie Eilish to deliver live music concerts, and Sandbox’s community-driven platform creating its own utility token.
So, could the metaverse also transform the future of customer support, or is it too early to adopt this new paradigm? There is certainly unlimited potential, but in true service management best practice style, we must remain cognisant of lessons from our past to avoid wasted investment in another innovation that may prove unsuccessful.
Maybe we could recreate 3D teams of virtual service agents to interact with customers. If done well, this might prove a far better solution than watching yet another “how to” video on an organisation’s intranet – after all, that’s so 2010!
With all things considered, we believe we should be heading into the metaverse space with our eyes wide open. However, a gung-ho approach probably isn’t going to work. It’s important that any organisation considering the metaverse first gains a clear view as to whether this type of interaction is finding wider acceptance amongst its user population. Acceptance might include looking at whether other parts of the organisation are already using the technology, thereby providing a guide as to how successful a new implementation might be. For example, it might be easier to embed the metaverse into a retail organisation whose customers are already being encouraged to use it.
Also, important to consider is the reliability of your solution. For example, an interesting parallel can be drawn with the use of chatbots in omnichannel support. There are very few good solutions in this space and many chatbots are easily confused by simple misspellings. A half-baked solution is therefore definitely something to avoid when creating your organisation’s digital world, as I soon found out after being locked in a virtual refrigerator!
Nevertheless, omnichannel support may be the best way for your organisation to leverage the metaverse, as in practical terms it makes sense to experiment with a new line of support without major overhead or risk. One option you may consider is adding a new metaverse-like channel to your existing phone, email, chatbot, etc.
At the same time, simply implementing a new channel isn’t always the success imagined during the design process. A prime example would be the use of Twitter accounts as a more proactive communication channel for customer support; these are often considered the achilles’ heel of customer service as they typically aren’t integrated properly with conventional support routes, which results in upset users being visible to the entire Twittersphere before they are dealt with via direct messaging.
So, should you be an early adopter of the metaverse?
We understand that digital transformation isn’t simple, and when it comes to disruptive technologies such as the metaverse it can be difficult to know where to begin. We have first-hand experience of the metaverse from developing our own Meta Hub for onboarding new CGI employees. As we continue to grow and hybrid working continues to become the new normal, we decided to innovate how we greet new members to the company. To attract the best talent, we create an innovative, collaborative, and supportive place to work. Effective onboarding through innovative technology and approaches is just one of the ways we do this.
This collaborative metaverse environment enables the onboarding of new members through a number of key scenarios:
- Engaging new joiners with a tour of our Fenchurch Street Office via the Meta Hub
- Meeting of leaders as part of welcome session
- Signposting key information and policies
- Visit pre-defined stalls and view relevant content
At CGI We feel this is a good use case that the Metaverse could be for employed today. However, as with all technological advances, the focus must be on delivering value to customers and users. Therefore, I believe that metaverse-based service centres are not far away, and this innovation should not be ignored. Having seen a plethora of technologies invade our industry, the metaverse is one worth watching carefully and investing research time in. The success of games such as Fortnite prove that the technology is there but needs to be adopted properly if it is to successfully enable your customer support. Therefore, the first crucial step is to ensure your organisation is confident in the technology.
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