Getting (Google) Glassed

By Shane Sweet

You exhale. It’s the kind of cold that you can see. Water vapor from your breath freezes and falls to the ground like snow. Your service department is “out straight.” Service calls are backed up ten deep in the queue. In a few hours the sun will be up, and then the fun will really start.

Time is at a premium, and you have precious little.

The good news is that your technician just arrived on site and the customer is happy to see him/her. The bad news is that your technician has never seen the advanced “Phenozerator Galaxy Class” heating unit before, much less put a tool or meter to one. This has the potential to suck up a lot of time that you really don’t have.

But alas, using our recently developed training and support platform, your field tech is donning Google Glass wearable technology that displays step-by-step call solutions on a screen, the size of a finger print, incorporated into the glasses being worn at the site.

The technician immediately accesses the cloud-based library of “Phenozerator Galaxy Class” unit instruction, trouble-shooting and support resources. Manuals-on-demand, interactive audio and/or video, technical bulletins or even live manufacturer’s support specialists using full video-audio chat get the problem solved quickly.

If it calls for it, you or your resident technical expert on the “Phenozerator Galaxy Class” heating appliance virtually join the service tech on site, in real time, seeing what he/she is seeing and hearing what he/she is saying. The result is the call zigs and does not zag, just as it is supposed to.

In the old days, you or your resident expert would get dragged out of bed at 2 a.m. , drive bleary eyed through whatever name they give massive snowy-icy “weather events” in your state and join the then frustrated and perhaps embarrassed tech in the customer’s basement. It usually worked out; however, billing out all the hours that really went into the solution is the stuff that gives service managers heartburn.

Not this time. The tech makes his connection, instantly accesses the library of support resources for the “Phenozerator Galaxy Class” unit, and he/she is out of there in 15 minutes flat.

Happy technician, happy customer, happy you.

We can do this. We should do this. Others are.

On the chicken front, KFC already developed a prototype to include a series of videos that play on Google Glass while guiding a trainee through product prep. As the employee completes the steps, he/she says “next” and the systems advances to the next video. KFC says “it is about the ability to provide learning at the time and place someone needs it in an easily accessible way.”

Doctors learning to become cardiothoracic surgeons at Stanford University Medical School are getting “Google Glassed.” Stanford has partnered with live-streaming firm CrowdOptic to transmit a surgeon-in-training’s eye-view from the operating room to instructors in real time via the Internet-connected headset. The idea is that by transmitting their visual point-of-view during operations, medical residents will get better feedback and instruction from the surgeons who are teaching them.

So-called telemedicine is not new; however, the Stanford use may be the first time that Glass has been worn by the medical student—not the instructing surgeon.

So, for us and for starters, consider two potential uses of this technology:
First, is onsite technical training and performance support as described above. Guiding a heating technician through a repair, step-by-step, in real time, as he/she actually performs tasks. The display points out key physical components, describes and demonstrates physical actions and perhaps provides feedback on how well the repair is progressing.

Second, consider the potential as a role play or teaching device. I’m thinking customer service representative training and sales training. Use the device to deploy effective techniques by having a remote person observe and provide feedback against company or industry best practices process. Recorded footage of the role play session allows the “trainee” to self-assess performance and link trainer feedback to specific examples from the role play session.

Notwithstanding real-time connection variables—including access to the internet from field locations—as well as the relative infancy of Google Glass itself, this technology has the potential to be a game changer in terms of speed, precision and efficacy of field service, not to mention a hedge against a growing intolerance for failure by customers.

Shane Sweet is an energy and management consultant with clients in the heating oil, propane and motor fuel sectors and is a partner with the firm of Lake Rudd & Company. He served the industry as president & CEO of the New England Fuel Institute “NEFI” from 2007 to 2011, and as EVP/director and lobbyist for the Vermont Fuel Dealers Association “VFDA” from 1993 to 2007.

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