The approach by the telecom giant provides some insight into how enterprises are using AR for real-world use cases such as training.
While AR and virtual reality are technologies in flux, the big lesson from Verizon’s deployment is that content matters more than the technology. Yes, Verizon is using Oculus for training, but the primary effort revolves around 360-degree video and using AR to deliver content to technicians in the field.
Joseph Beasley, vice president of field operations in New York City, is overseeing the AR training rollout for 4,600 technicians, and the plan is to scale it across the company. Beasley said the goals for the project are to do the following:
- Accelerate training
- Cut costs
- Create a technician workforce that can learn multiple skills and be nimble enough to go beyond core specialties
- Quickly create training content where technicians are the stars
- Develop a culture that uses the platform for community building, too
New York City provides an interesting training test bed for Verizon’s FiOS unit. In the boroughs, technicians may have to climb poles. In Manhattan, technicians may be working underground in manholes, installing in new construction and toggling between fiber optic and copper. “The goal is to store data and content and have it available,” he said.
Verizon’s AR training efforts have only been up and running for a few weeks, but the company is already gaining a few insights worth passing along. Here’s a look at a few key lessons:
- Cast a wide net to gauge success. Beasley said the AR training efforts can improve customer experience scores, create a more productive workforce and save time. “If a two hour installation can become 1:40 it can equate to millions of dollars over the year,” said Beasley.
- The library of content has long-term value. Beasley said one aim will be to have video of how an installation was made in a new building. This type of content may not have value until a few decades pass. If Verizon had insight into installations from 50 years ago it would be handy today.
- Don’t over think content. If a technician has an idea for a training video, it can be filmed and live in a day or two.
- No system works if the field workers don’t participate. Beasley said he has been surprised by how technicians have adopted the AR and video efforts. The company uses AR to provide information and the technicians have embraced the effort to pass along information. “The best ideas are from the front lines,” he said. Indeed, enterprises have seen multiple knowledge transfer and training efforts flop due to lack of participation.
- Video is better than best practice documents — especially when workers are used to using YouTube to learn how to carry out a DIY project in their personal lives.
- Transferring knowledge is also about the nuance. Customer service and the first impression of Verizon often starts with the technician. Training content from a real technician can highlight not only the scripted moves, but also tips to provide a good customer experience.