Leveraging Augmented Reality in Today’s Post-Pandemic Support Center Plans

Dr. Marlene Kolodziej, DBA, ITIL

Vice President, Centralized Services at RICOH USA, Inc.

Learning Objectives

In this presentation, Dr. Marlene R. Kolodziej, DBA, ITIL, VP, Centralized Services, Ricoh USA, Inc. will discuss how Augmented Reality (AR) is one silver lining that has come from the pandemic and is allowing for a superior customer experience, despite the limitations of not being able to complete in-person service calls. She’ll also detail how people, technology, knowledge and process play into the delivery of a business continuity plan and use Ricoh’s response to the pandemic as an example of what worked, while also sharing lessons learned.

Key Takeaways

  • Learn about how Augmented Reality can play a critical role in service delivery

  • Understand the difference between a disaster recovery and business continuity plan

  • Learn how to build a balanced business continuity plan

"We're using chatbots and augmented reality to provide greater depth of services to our customers, and then using that knowledge to ensure that we reduce and eliminate those call volumes in a way that brings the customer joy during that experience."

Dr. Marlene Kolodziej, DBA, ITIL

Vice President, Centralized Services at RICOH USA, Inc.


Hi, everyone. I’m Dr. Marlene khaleeji. It’s such a pleasure to be here with all of you today, I’m really looking forward to spending some time with all of you to talk about our topic today, in terms of leveraging augmented reality, and today’s post pandemic Support Center plans, it’s going to be very exciting. And I hope you will all enjoy our presentation. So let me share my screen with you introducing our augmented reality today’s post pandemic Support Center plans. You know, I think one of the one of the really, the main items that we’d like to talk about is not only introducing you to Rico, and who we are, but talking about disaster recovery and business continuity, and what that means to all of us from a support center, as well as from augmented reality. So Rico itself is a information management and digital services company, you may know us for our printing and for all of our support services. But really, we’re transforming ourselves into a digital services company. And we have 1.4 million businesses around the world. We connect technology and processes, as well as people. And really the objective is to help all of you work smarter, not harder. And we make that data accessible to all of you faster and with more insight than ever before. So when we think about a disaster, right, we think about the traditional preparation, right? power outages, weather strikes, and public transportation disruption. But I personally did not have pandemic on my 2020 bingo card. And for all of you, I’m sure, you know, you did not either. And and I remember that, you know, back in January, we were hearing of reports about a virus that was outside the United States. And that virus was potentially very impactful. But you know, a lot of us thought, well, that’s not going to affect us. We’re not worried that that’s that’s way over there. And it’s not really going to impact our operations. But and little did we know.

But what it did is it gave us an opportunity to dust off our our disaster recovery and business continuity plans, and to really look at how do we as an organization, make sure that we continue delivering call center services, and provide support to our global customers without disruption. And we started sending our folks home and practicing remote work from home and work working in remote locations, just to make sure that we didn’t have areas that we needed to identify or improve. And so when you think about a disaster, it’s not necessarily simply a power outage or something as extreme as what we’ve come to learn is a pandemic, it’s it’s literally just an unplanned event that has an impact on your ability to deliver the services and your core business services to your customers and to your employees as well. So it’s really important to understand that a disaster looks different to everyone, depending on what your core business might be. At. But there is a difference, right? We think about disaster recovery as this all encompassing bubble. But it’s not necessarily just one thing. There’s a business continuity piece that is a little bit different than disaster recovery as a whole. So when we think about business continuity, it’s that plan, it’s that execution of how do we continue to deliver our core businesses, so that’s not really disaster recovery. It’s more around business continuity. And and it’s, it’s really making sure that all of us can continue to deliver our core business and, and what resources do we need people products, locations, equipment, all of those key resources that we need to deliver those core business services. And then what do we need to do to make sure that we can recover that we can that we can deliver those services, not only short term, but in a long term perspective and way, disaster recovery is a piece of business continuity. It’s not disaster recovery at the top and then you have business continuity, it really is the other way around. When we think about business continuity planning, disaster recovery is a piece of that it really means if we’re impacted physically from delivering our core business services, what is the restoration of those vital services and support system? How do we make sure that if we do experience downtime, that we minimize that impact? And then how do we return to normal operations? So we, when we, when we think about disaster recovery and business continuity, it’s really both pieces. And so how do we balance that business continuity and the delivery of those services? There’s four components, right, there’s people, right, how do we make sure that we have skilled for us customer service resources? Where are those resources located in terms of their geographies? And then how do we make sure that we continue to have a robust pool of agents and resources available to us? It’s the technology, you know, making sure that we’re utilizing cloud based services and cloud based technology. We’re diversifying our telecom and are and those communications protocols. And then how do we implement deeper understanding and and more technology around avoiding calls meeting that were either the calls are not coming in, because they’re being resolved before a call has to be placed, or that we’re implementing more self service, that we have integrated voice response, we’re using chatbots, and augmented reality, all to provide greater depth of services to our to our customers. And then using that knowledge to ensure that we reduce and eliminate those call volumes in a way that brings the customer joy during that experience. And then what’s the process to to deepen those business continuity plans to create that notification escalation and to execute, you know, I, you can see here on the screen that I do say that you have to write your plans as if you are dead. And, you know, well, that’s very, it’s very difficult to say, we really want to make sure that there’s an understanding of if I’m not here, or my leaders aren’t here, or some of the people aren’t here to execute, is the plan robust enough, that we are able to continue to implement and execute that plan.

And so when you write it as if you’re not part of the recovery, it creates a plan that anyone can pick up that plan and execute. And that’s what’s meant by writing the plan as if you’re not involved. So from a people perspective, certainly, you want to make sure that you have fundamentally a business continuity team that helps create that plan that you have identified all of the resources from people and technology, to physical space, all the resources you need, as part of that continuity plan. And then to lead the execution and testing, as well as update your learned experiences from the test. And then leading again, that execution and that we think about that geographically diverse workforce. If you have all your your workforce in one location, you’re subject to geographical interruptions, whether it’s on you know, whether you’re near a hurricane area or are prone to earthquakes and wildfires. You want to make sure that your your workforce is not only geographically diverse, but they can work remotely and they can we can utilize resources that a variety of locations that maybe you want to think about hiring staff that’s not in your immediate physical location, but you can utilize staff that isn’t in a more remote area. And then you want to make sure that certainly you have relationships with staffing agencies should you need to be very nimble and onboard staff very quickly, that may not be in your geographical location. from a technology perspective, you want to make sure that the systems that you’re using are in the cloud, if they can be we recently, during the beginning stages of the pandemic had planned to move to a cloud based system. I’m very glad that we did it was it was just I’d like to say it was planning and it was we knew this was coming, but it was really just on our roadmap. And, and, you know, it’s it was we had to execute at that point. So I was very glad that the timing worked out. Well, for us. It was part of our overall roadmap to move to cloud based systems for both our automated call distribution as well as our integrated voice response. So we were just glad that we were prepared in that way. Certainly our ticketing tool was already in the cloud, our knowledge base as a part of that. And then you know, all of our folks, our agents and our support personnel, have laptops and have a headset. And they were starting to use augmented reality as well. And I’ll talk about that in a little bit, because we weren’t really good at it before the pandemic. And and I’d like to share with you some of the lessons learned and how we built that program. And then certainly our customer technology, we want to make sure that we’re provisioning and opening up our doors for our customers. from a technology perspective, opening up our knowledge base for more self service, making sure that our web portal is functioning in a way that customers can really get what they need, that we have chat bots, that’s able to help the customer navigate the support options. And where we on our roadmap, we have robotic process automation and machine learning activities that will further enhance the customer experience. We also from a knowledge perspective, we want to make sure that not only is the knowledge base connected for our customer, but our integrated voice responses routing the calls by the customer need if a customer should call us and say, Hey, I have problem 123 with printer ABC, it should be able to direct that customer to either immediately to it to a technician that can help them diagnose and resolve that problem remotely. Or if it’s a problem that we know requires a field technician, we want to make sure that call is auto dispatched to a technician immediately and not keep the customer in our queue. And and on hold with us. When we know that we need to dispatch a technician

and then further enhancing the integrated voice responses, making sure that as we listen to the customer describe their issues and their problems, that we can connect that with that that customer with an agent that is able to have the knowledge base articles and the resolution available to them as they’re connecting to the caller and to the customer and be able to have that discussion, thereby reducing the customer time in call with us. So it’s all about making sure that the focus is for the customer on their business, and growing their business and, and helping develop their business while we’re minimizing the support time to resolution. And certainly investing in our knowledge delivery systems further reduces that human interaction, we love working with our customers, we love engaging with them. But really the customers focus is not on the problem at hand. But it’s about resolving those issues that they might be experiencing, we want to make sure that that knowledge is embedded in the incident ticketing systems to further drive resolution for the client and to reduce that time and call. And then you know, we’ve implemented a quality management program. We want to not just measure agent performance, but we want to measure the entire customer experience and make sure that we’re delivering that customer joy. So it’s become a really important tool for us to measure performance against knowledge base use and agent interaction and the entire end to end experience for our customers. And certainly, there’s key processes for our support center operations that when we think about business continuity, you want to make sure that you have So for us, you know, when we received our stay at home orders in mid March of this year, we were able to quickly execute a shift from from being in the office to being remote. So we sent our folks home. Remember, we were practicing in January and February. So within two hours, we had our entire staff that was working and storing second shift in the US, actually. And we issued those orders at 10pm. Those by midnight, we had that staff fully remote, and we’ve been remote ever since. So we think about all the processes that we needed from a workforce management perspective for onboarding and off boarding employees, the access and security needed even the training and assessment because we practiced we had a lot of these things, like I said documented we practice in January and February and learned from it. We executed in mid March. And you know we’ve our support center operations have been very nimble in terms of being able to be remote. And for us it was around the execution notification. Right. And I’d say for all of you as well. When you think about having to define those decision maker roles who’s pulling the trigger to actually declare that you are that you are executing your business. continuity plan that you are in disaster recovery mode in a sense. And then how do you automate that escalation for us? You know, we had a phone tree, which which we found was delayed us from, from really getting people to be remote, especially the next day, we still had some folks that showed up to the office, and we had people stationed there to send them home. But you know, we learned from that and we’re looking at, we’ve identified a tool that we can implement, that’ll automate that escalation and communication. And so there were exceptions. We have exceptions where some folks might have challenges in terms of working remote, and we have to work around that. And then certainly our dependencies, right, and you’ll figure that out as well. What are your main dependencies from a customer perspective? are physical dependencies? Are there any facility and infrastructure activities that we have to address? And then what about the voice and quality management as well as the automation and information technology needs? So there’s a lot of these main dependencies that, you know, we had to go back and take a look at and understand where there room for improvement? Do we have to make any changes? How did it go. So you want that post mortem around the execution of the event, making sure that you

implement those improvements as part of your planning. So for us, you know, we when we think about augmented reality, we are right, we’re already using it in our express in our production, print support centers. And these are Center of Excellence groups that work with our trained field technicians to make sure that, that we’re offering resolution in places that might not have geographically available, experts or engineers, that we want to make sure that the field technicians can resolve these issues without us having to send an engineer. And that reduces our cost. But it increases the customer satisfaction, because they’re getting faster revenue resolution by using a resource that they already have a relationship with. And that might be on site or at least traveling to that site on a regular basis. And then using these type of relationships, where we have these engineers and our Express and production print Center of Excellence, it’s exposing the fields resources to additional learning opportunities, and that elevates their skill set and knowledge. So when we were using augmented reality, back in January, in February, we averaged about 12 150 calls per month. So not a lot. This is across all of the groups not just express and our production print. But across all of our groups, we averaged about 12 150 calls a month, pre pandemic, in March, there were the stay at home orders that were issued. And, and we restricted our travel. So we couldn’t send those engineers but the field folks, these field technicians, these very talented individuals, were still working at the customer sites for our customers that were open, we saw a 662% increase in the use of augmented reality from our Express and production print centers, to the field technicians to resolve these intricate and deep technology issues at some of our customer sites. In April, we saw a 754% increase in augmented reality from pre pandemic numbers. And then what that led to is cross training of those field technicians, those field technicians were exposed to problems and challenges that they had never had an opportunity to be to, to address and to be part of before so they’ve increased their knowledge. They’ve increased their learning, and they’re now able to solve problems at a level that they hadn’t had an opportunity to do before. And then we also implemented a dispatch avoidance program. While we had inbound dispatch avoidance meeting a customer calls us and were able to resolve that issue before sending it to the field. We also implemented an outbound dispatch avoidance program, and that program and someone logged a ticket through our web portal. We picked up that ticket and call that that customer first to try and get in front of that that ticket. And to resolve that issue before sending it to the field. And pre pandemic we were projected to resolve about 900 calls a day. Instead of sending it to a technician and routing it to the field, post pandemic. We’ve had a reduction in those type of calls. So it’s about About almost 500 calls a day, we have the potential to still resolve. So we’re pretty excited about that program. And we’ve seen some some great feedback and some movement in terms of really some positive outcomes to implementing that outbound dispatcher program. So from May to August, we’ve were running at about 145% increase in augmented reality usage. If we compare it to pre COVID numbers, right, so we’re still running high, we find a lot of technicians now are not needing to call into the center of operations, because they’ve gained that knowledge to resolve those calls in the field, that they normally would have needed an engineer, or help from the center of excellence. So we’re really proud of that work. And again, I don’t, I’m, I’m reluctant to use the word pandemic and silver lining in the same sentence.

But when we look at at this type of movement in terms of support and customer satisfaction, and bringing the customer joy, in terms of resolution, this is one area where it really is a little bit of a silver lining, it really pushed the need for this augmented reality. And it really pushed our technicians and our our center of excellence to utilize technology in a way that they never had to before. So really important for us, in terms of moving the needle, to really use technology to solve customer issues. And so really, what made us successful, again, is when we think about business continuity, it was documenting and practicing. And certainly, for us, it’s making sure the contact information is updated on a regular basis, we need to make sure that you’re rotating staff to work remote or work in other locations and setting the expectations around performance. You know, we recognize that there was a potential potential pandemic threat. And we practiced for that threat, not really expecting having to, to really action, what we were what we were practicing and learning. And we identified and solved for the problems that that we needed. For example, our regional specialists that I talked about, the ones that used to travel, that are now using augmented reality, did not have the webcams and the cameras that they needed, because they needed these high resolution cameras. They didn’t have them. So we had to quickly order some equipment for those regional specialists. So that that’s just one example of some of the things that we had to do that we didn’t realize we needed, pre pandemic, even though we’ve practiced. And then we need to make sure that we keep the lines of communication open, that we have to share. And we have to be willing to listen, when people give us feedback about what they were experiencing, what they need, what what’s happening in the world than the field, you know, be willing to discuss that and be open to listening and maybe even embracing some of what’s being discussed into your plans and into your future roadmap. And again, what did we learn, again, filling those technology gaps, I talked a little bit about the cameras that we needed, you know, especially for augmented reality, automated notification, we really needed that the manual phone tree just didn’t work well for us. And then any other peripherals that folks will need from, you know, especially if they’re working at home or remote for long periods of time. And then we need to make sure that we connect right we need to make sure that we’re connected with each other through video. We’ve had informal gatherings and video happy hours with our teams. We even did what we call the yappy hour, and we after work has had a had a little happy hour gathering through video and brought our pets. So some dogs, some cats, some stuffed animals for people who didn’t have actual pets. And we just made it a really good time. And so you also want to make sure you’re increasing recognition of your staff when you’re using this sort of remote type of full time work environment, you want to make sure that staff is still feeling connected and still feeling appreciated. And and there’s using all these are ways to combat that isolation and loneliness that some folks might be feeling. And you know, not everyone is ready to work remote. So we want to make sure that from a professional career development perspective, we’re investing in all of our remote folks and that the the remote working environment It may not be conducive to support center work, and that we need to be more cognizant as leaders around agents and service performance. For those folks, it really is a culture shift. And so we have to make sure if we’re shifting the culture, to be truly remote, we have to be respectful and cognizant of the things that that might impact people and their ability to execute effectively and efficiently. So with that, I will encourage you to reach out if you have any questions or feedback, or would like to have any discussions. I’m very excited and passionate about this subject. And I would really want to thank all of you for attending today and for being a part of this environment. So thank you again. It’s it’s really been tremendous. And I really appreciate appreciate all of you. Looking forward to hearing to everyone so hope everyone has a great day and thank you again.

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