AR customer service

3 ways you can use 3D and AR for customer service

By David Ripert

3D and augmented reality (AR) are often talked about in the context of sales. This is not surprising—technologies like these have been proven to drive conversions and reduce returns by enabling customers to visualise products before purchase. However, it’s not just sales and marketing teams that can benefit from 3D and AR. Many brands are also using 3D and AR customer service experiences to improve their customer support. 

From helping shoppers make better decisions to teaching them how to use their products and guiding them through repair procedures, 3D and AR can provide value to both customers and customer service agents. 

One survey found that using AR for customer support increased customer satisfaction by 25%. It also boosted first-time fix rates by 39%. 

Here’s how retail companies can implement 3D and AR into their customer service/support process. 

1. Showing off product features

Even though more people are shopping online than ever before, many customers still worry that the items they buy on the internet won’t match product photos or descriptions. 

Close to 1 in 2 customers say one of the main reasons they dislike shopping online is because they can’t see products in person

By using 3D/AR, brands can show off product features and improve customer confidence. 

Ecommerce websites

Brands can embed 3D models of products on their e-commerce site to get ahead of customers’ concerns and answer any questions they may have about a specific item. 

This is what the handbag brand Rebecca Minkoff did. Noting that their customer service team was spending a lot of time answering customer queries about how specific handbags looked and felt, the company made 3D versions of some of their most popular bags and then incorporated them into their respective product pages. 

As a result, shoppers browsing the Rebecca Minkoff site can look at products from every angle and even see them in augmented reality (AR). This gives them a pretty good idea of what the item will look like in real life. 

Rebecca Minkoff have 3D models of their products on their ecommerce website, which can be visualised in AR
Rebecca Minkoff have 3D models of their products on their ecommerce website, which can be visualised in AR

Not only did implementing 3D models improve the customer shopping experience, but it also:

  • Reduced the number of questions the customer service receives about products. 
  • Gave customer service teams more time to deal with critical issues. 

Customer service calls/demos

For more expensive items, only looking at them in 3D/AR may not be enough to reassure customers. The good news is that brands can also use 3D and AR technologies for customer service calls and demos. This feature helps businesses virtually replicate an in-store experience for high-ticket items. 

For example, shoppers can already use AR to see what a Peloton bike would look like in their homes. As a result, they are unlikely to have questions about bike dimensions or specifications. 

But they might still have questions about a bike’s features. Right now, to find out more about a bike’s features, customers have to go online. This leads to a disjointed customer experience. 

A 3D/AR customer service experience would let shoppers “place” the bike in their environment, and, via hotspots, a salesperson could go over the features in real time and answer customer questions. 

2. Product manuals

Brands whose products come with instruction manuals can replace these with AR overlays that teach users how to use a product in a more accessible way.

Research shows that:

  • About a quarter of UK adults think that having to use a product manual is the worst part of getting a gadget. 
  • Almost 1 in 2 adults say instruction manuals are “boring”.

It makes sense, then, that many customers turn to YouTube rather than reading a manufacturer’s booklet. Around 1 in 2 YouTube users say they rely on videos to learn how to do new things

In the future, instead of watching a video on how to use a particular product, customers will likely use their smartphones/tablets/AR glasses to overlay AR instructions directly over the object in question. 

For example, a user could point their smartphone camera or AR glasses at a coffee machine and see an overlay that goes over what each button does and what they need to do to make a cappuccino/clean out the milk frother/descale the machine. 

An AR customer service overlay showing the different features of a coffee machine
An AR overlay showing the different features of a coffee machine

AR overlays are already replacing instruction manuals in the automotive industry

Mercedes-Benz provides Mercedes-Benz E-Class and S-class sedan customers with digital owner manuals (“Ask Mercedes”) that let users point their smartphones to the car’s dashboard panels to learn how to use them.

Ask Mercedes, Mercedes’ digital owner manual
Ask Mercedes, Mercedes’ digital owner manual

Hyundai has also experimented with AR user manuals. Their virtual guide to the 2015 Sonata vehicle includes information on how to use some of the car’s more difficult features, as identified by customers in a survey. 

AR instruction manuals can be helpful in other industries, too. In 2016, researchers at Carnegie Mellon University’s School of Computer Science demonstrated how Google Glass (Google’s smart glasses) could be used for a Lego AR instruction manual experience

In the demonstration, the glasses display step-by-step instructions on how to build a Lego model in front of the user, even going so far as to flag when a brick has been attached incorrectly and give instructions on how to fix the mistake. 

Lego Assistant with Google Glass

3. Reporting or repairing product issues

Brands can also use AR overlays to make it easier to repair products. 

For example, a business can create 3D and AR tutorials that customers can overlay over products to see what might have gone wrong and how they can fix the problem. Studies show that nearly 7 in 10 customers would rather fix issues themselves.  

In 2022, Dell introduced an AR app that provides customers with step-by-step instructions on how to replace common parts in their devices. At the moment, Dell AR Assistant Guides are available in seven languages for 100+ Dell PCs and servers. 

Dell AR Assistant Guides for customer service
Dell AR Assistant Guides

Dell hopes that enabling customers to fix their devices themselves will reduce repair times and improve the customer service experience. 

In cases where customers don’t have a great understanding of a product and might not be able to explain what’s wrong, they can use AR overlays to:

  1. Identify product part names.
  2. Report them to the customer service or support team, who can provide further assistance. 

Support agents can also take advantage of 3D/AR visualisation and hotspots to assist customers with repairs remotely, similarly to the Peloton example. 

Getting started with 3D and AR customer service experiences

Regardless of whether you’re looking to add 3D or AR to your customer service experiences, you’ll need to start by creating 3D models of your product catalogue. Once you have your 3D models, you can develop augmented reality (AR) visualisation experiences.

Neither part is difficult, but it helps to have an experienced partner by your side to make sure that your venture is a success. 

Poplar Studio has years of experience creating 3D and AR experiences for brands like Shopify, L’Oreal, and Aveeno. 

Contact us today to discuss how we can help bring your customer service to the next level through 3D/AR.

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