Is Virtual Reality (VR) changing the Customer Experience?

The global market for Virtual Reality and Augmented Reality is expected to reach $109.61 billion by 2026. Although VR and AR are most commonly used for games and entertainment, these figures show that we are likely to see these technologies in more industries. How about in customer contact?

Door Renée Müller

5.8 min read

10 March 2022

Virtual reality

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More and more companies are seeing the lucrative impact of Virtual Reality and Augmented Reality on the Customer Experience (CX). At a time when companies are constantly looking for new ways to engage customers, AR and VR provide new opportunities to create a unique experience.

What is Virtual Reality?

Virtual Reality is a computer-generated simulation in which electronic devices allow users to physically interact in an artificially created 3D environment.

The physical presence of a user is digitised, giving him the feeling of experiencing this virtual world in a physical way. VR is supported by visual and auditory signals, so that you are, as it were, in a simulated reality.

VR replaces reality with a digital simulation and thus brings you a transformative experience.

Virtual reality

How does Virtual Reality improve the Customer Experience?

Recent research shows that customers are willing to pay more in 86% of cases when they receive a good customer experience. With VR, companies can create revolutionary customer experiences not often seen.

As the technology evolves and the hardware becomes more affordable, it is also becoming more accessible. Research shows that 84% of stakeholders expect to adopt Virtual Reality in the Customer Experience over the next five years.

What potential does Virtual Reality have?

Although VR is still in its infancy, it is rapidly developing into a viable medium for people to connect cyberspace with the real world.

The pace of innovation in VR is rapidly increasing, and the cost of the devices is expected to fall rapidly as more consumers adopt the technology.

Therefore, it is not such a bad idea to consider Virtual Reality in your business.

Currently, two VR technologies are leading the way: Facebook’s Oculus Rift and Microsoft’s HoloLens.

While both Oculus Rift and HoloLens boast a robust VR experience and a powerful toolkit for developers to integrate into other hardware and software environments (think gaming), the technologies approach the merging of the real world with the virtual world very differently.

In the case of the Oculus Rift, a person can be immersed in a virtual environment, becoming an integral part of that virtual reality.

Microsoft’s HoloLens approaches VR in a completely different way, superimposing virtual elements on the real world to enrich it.

Both approaches open the door to countless applications that can do everything from simulating face-to-face meetings to providing a highly immersive gaming experience.

Virtual reality

Virtual Reality applications to improve the Customer Experience

But what does all this mean for customer service? Think of all the difficulties that arise nowadays when a customer needs technical assistance. Solving problems remotely via phone, chat or email is awkward, to say the least.

In most cases, agents must try to figure out what the problem is by relying on a customer’s description of the problem, which may not be accurate because they lack technical experience.

Troubleshooting is often slow and incremental, which can be difficult for the customer to understand and follow. It is equally difficult for the agent to determine whether the customer has followed the indicated steps correctly.

Agents can give instructions to customers, but they still cannot see how well a customer is following those instructions. Video communication mitigates this somewhat, but is not often used (privacy reasons are often cited), and the 2D experience is still somewhat clunky.

A VR interaction would solve this problem. By allowing the customer to share what he sees and does with the agent, as if he were in the customer’s shoes, the agent could better guide the customer through the problem solving process.

The agent could also emphasise what the customer should do next, as if he were there himself. The applications of this approach could be as simple as a simple plumbing repair or something as complex as rebuilding a combustion engine.

This may seem surreal, but the prices of VR are dropping and you see more and more companies starting to work with Virtual Reality.

There are also experiments with haptics, which will bring a tactile dimension to the VR experience.

The practical application of VR for customer service is still a long way off. Devices must be cost-effective and widely available. Integration of VR technology into business applications must take place and customers must learn to accept VR as a medium for interaction in service requests.

That VR offers you the opportunity to create a new, immersive experience is certain. The technology holds enormous promise and it is up to companies to now look at what opportunities VR has to enhance the customer experience.

New ways of shopping

VR is changing the way we shop. We can now browse in a virtual shop, without leaving our home. This means that shopping is no longer time and place dependent.

With much of the logistical hassle removed from the shopping experience, customers are much more inclined to browse and try new products they wouldn’t otherwise try.

Emerging Experiences

VR creates an immersive experience that has a profound sensory impact and establishes a strong emotional connection with users.

Companies can leverage this connection to engage with customers in innovative and meaningful ways.

When customers are more emotionally engaged with a brand, they are more likely to make repeat purchases and become lifelong brand loyalists.

VR for the first time allows customers to enjoy an immersive shopping experience that feels like they are physically and emotionally engaged with a brand: what a technology!

Virtual reality

Try it out before you buy it

Virtual Reality ushers in a new era of ‘try before you buy’. Shoppers no longer have to travel to a physical shop to try something on, only to find out at home that it doesn’t fit.

With VR you can try things on and test them in a real-world experience. IKEA already has such an experience, with an app that lets you place a piece of furniture in your home to see if it fits.

Improved customer service

Customer service departments have improved dramatically in recent times thanks to the power of AI-powered chatbots and virtual assistants. But the introduction of VR into customer service is proving to be a game-changer.

Remote troubleshooting with chatbots is basically impossible. But when both parties see what the other is looking at and experiencing, both simple and complex problems can be solved in no time.

Virtual Reality as a Customer Experience: a summary

For companies it is crucial to create a powerful and meaningful Customer Experience.

Experiential technologies such as Augmented Reality and Virtual Reality are revolutionizing the way we work and can make customers feel special, empowered and valued by brands.

This makes them our best asset when devising a powerful CX strategy to help create strong customer relationships based on immersive and emotional engagement, which can result in lifelong loyalty.

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