Originally published in Utility Dive on July 10, 2023
Like many technologies, augmented reality (AR) has always held great promise, even as adoption lagged while the hardware and software matured. Slowly, different industries began to find ideal use cases for the technology; while the gaming industry was an obvious AR candidate (the Pokémon Go craze of 2016), retail also served as early adopter, from offering virtual try-ons (Warby Parker’s app) to placing furniture in the home (IKEA Place). Over time, consumers have shown they will embrace AR when it’s applied effectively for the right purpose. In many instances, they adopt it when it helps them make important purchasing decisions.
With CapTech’s AR-powered VISTAR app, utility workers offer customers interactive experiences with real-time, on-site visualizations to foster immediate collaboration and buy-in. Explore VISTAR
For electric utility companies, advancements in AR couldn’t come at a better time. Now, more than ever, customers have a choice of providers. While this is due to the rise of electric energy alternatives, it’s also because customers can choose alternate suppliers in states where the industry has been revamped. Though the benefits to operational efficiency are undeniable, AR will ultimately change the game by enhancing the customer experience in an increasingly competitive climate.
The Art of Exceeding Customer Expectations
Customers have come to expect the same high level of customer experience from their utility company that they get from large consumer retail brands. AR brings innovation that can help utility companies improve onsite and offsite customer interactions: at its heart, AR is an interactive experience, one that merges the real world with digital content.
When you consider the use case of installing utility equipment on a customer’s property, the tech and industry are a perfect match. Using just a tablet in the field, utility workers can present customers with easy-to-understand visuals and collaborate onsite to get real-time feedback and buy-in.
In addition, an AR application can offer precise measurements, aesthetics, safety considerations, and other critical details to review before any construction — no matter how big or small the project — ever begins. This removes any guesswork around equipment placement, ultimately giving the customer satisfaction that the job is done right the first time. This also applies to “behind-the-meter” assets like solar panels and electric vehicle (EV) charging equipment. While equipment visualization provides the customer with peace of mind, it also facilitates swifter adoption of alternate energy solutions.
Cutting-edge technology, including the integration of public or internal consumer data, has the potential to greatly enhance an AR-based app. By combining data with artificial intelligence (AI) capabilities, these apps can generate personalized scripts and talking points for field representatives, maximizing their ability to influence customer decisions effectively.
How AR Drives Credibility and Leads to Loyalty
Companies seeking higher customer satisfaction scores must do everything in their power to differentiate. For electric utilities, customers are understandably anxious about property impacts that come with large equipment installations, such as transformers. This is where AR can have a significant impact on ensuring satisfaction; through the power of visualization, customers have a clear understanding of the impact on their respective property.
Additionally, showcasing innovative tools when visiting customers onsite leads to building brand credibility and customer trust. For example, CapTech’s VISTAR app allows companies to incorporate their brand, further adding to that sense of cutting-edge credibility. While this applies to the interface itself — which is critical to the on-site collaboration between the customer and the onsite utility rep — it’s also relevant to the resulting documentation of a site visit. These details, when integrated with AR, can make all the difference in garnering customer signatures.
How AR Leads to Acceleration and Increased Savings
By harnessing the power of visualization, businesses can experience accelerated project timelines, improved equipment installation accuracy, and substantial cost savings on construction rework.
The benefits of visualization extend beyond these immediate gains. With enhanced accuracy, electric utilities can minimize customer complaints, resulting in reduced call center costs. Customers themselves are delighted to see equipment installed precisely as agreed upon, supported by visual documentation. This level of precision also brings efficiencies to internal teams, empowering both on-site workers and customer service representatives to work smarter, not harder.
AR: A Mutually Beneficial Solution for Customers and Companies
In the realm of tech advancements, the most exceptional solutions are those that prioritize the customer while concurrently streamlining operations and generating cost savings. In the electric utility industry, embracing Augmented Reality (AR) creates a winning scenario for both customers and companies. By harnessing AR technology, utilities can effectively address customers’ specific needs while simultaneously achieving significant internal cost savings.