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T-Challenge – Ideas for XR in sales and service

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Interview with Elke Anderl (Deutschen Telekom Service) on how to improve XR for a better customer experience in the shop and at home.

Elke Anderl has been Head of Service Development & Innovation at Deutsche Telekom Service GmbH since January 2019. In this position, she is responsible for Customer Experience Management (CEX), quality management, process optimisation and innovative technologies such as analytics and AI. Innovations such as Ask Magenta or the latest avatar, Selena, are just a few examples of what Service Development & Innovation is responsible for.

T-Challenge

XR brings emotion and closeness into sales and service.

How important are new technologies in service?

Elke Anderl: The requirements and expectations of our customers are constantly changing. The generations Alpha (born after 2010) Z (born after 1995) or Y (born after 1980) have different requirements and expect the technologies they use in their daily lives to be used in customer service as well. They clearly address their expectations: "I want everything, everywhere, immediately - and preferably digitally". However, we want to meet all customer groups and all customer concerns. To achieve this, we use simple and intuitive technologies for our customers and also test them together with our customers in advance. 

The customer service of the future will become more and more proactive, anticipatory, individualised, personalised and automated. In order to meet the constantly changing customer requirements, we use new technologies such as artificial intelligence (AI). This allows us to resolve more customer concerns proactively, better or through more self-service. For the more complex concerns or when personal contact is desired by the customer, personal contact remains with our employees in the service centre or in the shops. 

But we also support our colleagues in customer contact with new technologies. This can be support in processing customer concerns or completely new channels to communicate with the customer. For example, "MagentaServiceLive" enables video-based advice instead of just phoning or writing to the customer. This makes both service and sales consultations easier for our employees and customers. A 360-degree view with all relevant customer information - at a glance - is indispensable for competent and individual consultation or sales talks. This is offered, for example, by our MagentaView - developed with and for customer advisors in the office and in the field.

In addition, technologies in the RPA or RDA environment also help us to make our work more effective and efficient. We automate process steps with so-called front-end assistants (FEAs) or support our colleagues with recommendations for action with our PIA (Personal Interactive Assistant). New diagnostic systems detect impending problems at an early stage and can ideally prevent their occurrence. 

In order to continue to develop in this area and to always offer our customers the best service, we are particularly eager to receive new impulses from outside.

Augmented reality has been a hot topic not only since Mark Zuckerberg discovered the Metaverse. What can AR and VR do for service? 

Elke Anderl, Head of Service Development & Innovation at Deutsche Telekom Service GmbH.

Elke Anderl, Head of Service Development & Innovation at Deutsche Telekom Service GmbH.

Elke Anderl: AR and VR can not only make a difference in the service sector, they are already doing so today. Before our field service colleagues travel to a complex customer appointment, they can already arrange to meet the customer for a so-called "remote exploration". In a video chat, the situation can be viewed on site and assessed in advance. AR elements help in the communication with the customer. In this way, we know in advance what the situation on site is like, and it is easier and more accurate to estimate the duration of the assignment, for example. That's great - for our customers and our staff!

Of course, this is only a very simple example and the potentials are much bigger and concern all the areas mentioned: the self-service for our clients, the communication with the client and the work of our colleagues. 

One of our latest pilot projects is an avatar. Our avatar “Selena” supports our customers in online counselling to find the best individual internet tariff for them. Recent studies show that the barrier to using chatbots is reduced when you give it a face. That's why I'm particularly excited to now be testing Selena as an enhanced contact option for our customers. The customer feedback we collect helps us to train and align Selena in the best possible way with customer needs, concerns and dialogues. 

XR could also be a big step forward in our communication with customers. Seeing the smartphone the customer is interested in in MagentaService Live is of course already great, but being able to look at it yourself, maybe even feel it, would really bring the shop into my living room.

For the transformation in our Regio Centres, where all teams, from technology to office and field service to the shops, work together, physical proximity is important. Of course, this is not always possible due to different locations. With our pilot project of a "virtual office" we are creating a virtual image of a Regio Center. So all employees sit together virtually, even if they are not all at the same location or office.

Through the T-Challenge, Telekom and T-Mobile U.S. are looking for creative ideas on how AR and VR can further improve the customer experience. What do you hope for from the challenge?

Elke Anderl: I am very excited about this special challenge! The challenge of how we can be even closer to our customers by using "XR in a hybrid environment" is great and incredibly important! We want to use it to present our products and offer inspiring customer service at all touchpoints, in the shop or at home. We are very happy to receive numerous impulses.

As for the ideas themselves, I'm hoping for bold concepts that surprise me. I would like to encourage everyone to submit visionary and perhaps even somewhat crazy ideas. However, we should never forget that this challenge is not an end in itself! We want to solve real pain points and challenges of both our clients and my colleagues with these ideas. The deadline for ideas is 31 January 2022, so take part now and submit your application at www.telekom-challenge.com.

If I had an idea, why should I apply to the Challenge?

Elke Anderl: We offer a great platform to implement the idea and make it big. Deutsche Telekom has over 240 million customers and over 220,000 employees and thousands of shops in Germany, Europe and the USA. Therefore, it is a truly unique opportunity for the winners to implement and advance their ideas together with us. This way, we can show our customers everything that is possible with AR and VR technology and how the technology can actually support us in our everyday lives. 

As part of the Challenge, we naturally also offer an insight into our company. Our mentors will be on hand to support the most promising teams. And for the final presentation, the finalists are invited to Bonn to present their solutions to top management. And as if that were not enough, there is of course also attractive prize money. The first-placed idea will receive up to 150,000 euros in prize money. So it really pays to take part! I'm already incredibly excited about the ideas. 

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