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VR was a lightbulb moment for user engagement

news #tech #inspiration

A bunch of people playing virtual reality games is one of the last things you’d expect to see in the offices of an insurance firm, but this is exactly what happened at DLG Digital in March.

For two whole days, members of the Digital team could enter virtual worlds featuring killer robots, Spider-Man, alien invaders and much more.

The sight of our colleagues looking ridiculous as they became fully immersed in the experience was something not to be missed. And thankfully we’ve got video footage to prove it.

All this was possible thanks to our lead product manager Royston Starling, who brought in his own PC and virtual reality equipment for us to try. And while it was great fun for everyone who took part, Royston had a good reason for introducing the wider Digital team to VR. His aim was to open our minds to new ways of engaging with the customer.

“From my perspective, customer engagement and customer experience are crucial aspects of anything that any business does,” explained Royston.

His love of VR feeds from this passion for the customer experience.

“It comes back to the experience and the engagement you get with the user. It's a completely different angle that we're looking at,” he said.

Royston talked about a “lightbulb moment” while showing off VR during a family get-together last Christmas. He realised that “we really struggle to adopt new things because of the old stuff that we've learned and formed habits from”.

This was presented in crystal clarity when seeing how his 76-year-old dad and 14-year-old niece took to VR.

“My dad couldn't get his head round how to interact with his environment,” explained Royston.

Royston’s dad’s approach was to try all kinds of button presses and controller movements that had no natural link to the world in which he had been placed.

His niece, on the other hand, took to VR like a duck to water.

“She instantly just did it. There was a little robot dog that wanted to play fetch. She just bent down, picked up a stick and threw it in exactly the same way as she would have in the real world.”

You could dismiss what happened as a tech-savvy teenager versus a technological dinosaur, but there’s more to learn, said Royston.

“The reason it was sort of a lightbulb moment is because we're pre-programmed now with all of the stuff that we've learned through our life so far, and unless we open ourselves up to new ways of doing things, it's going to be very difficult for us to come up with solutions to a new problem.”

This is one of the key reasons why Royston lugged thousands of pounds worth of gaming equipment into our office.

“I wanted to take people away from the comfort zone of the mouse and keyboard sort of environment,” he reasoned.

He continued: “And I think that's a really important thing for us here in this part of our business; to think of a different way of solving problems rather than just what's tried and tested.

“Always challenge the status quo. And that's not just in terms of what we do, it's the way that we do it.”

While VR might have been the key to open our minds, Royston doesn’t necessarily believe it’s the answer for the insurance industry.

“I can't imagine that we’ll have a direct link from VR with insurance and vice-versa,” said Royston.

“However, if we consider a number of different aspects, we've talked about engagement and experience and lot more. The reason the gaming industry overtook movies and TV in terms of entertainment revenue, is because of engagement and experience.

“VR is all about user experiences, it’s all about immersing a customer. And that's one of things I think we can we learn from VR.”

So what technology could be used to solve the problem of customer engagement?

“Let's look at another new technology; Alexa for example,” said Royston. “I think there's a very real opportunity to provide a quote to customers when they ask Alexa for a quote for their home or car insurance.”

He added: “If you can just say, ‘Alexa give me a quote for my car insurance’ and then it does the rest because it knows everything else that there is to know about you - providing that consumers are confident about data security and privacy - I think that’s a great experience. A simple, easy, secure experience.”

Royston concluded that DLG Digital has a great opportunity.

“How can we make our insurance customers feel in control of what they’re doing, able to access what we offer for them whenever they want in a really personalised and engaging way?

“It's a really strong message that we’ve got about being open to taking a different approach, being brave enough to try different and exciting things.”