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The race to shape customer engagement in the metaverse

Matthias Goehler Profile picture for user Matthias Goehler August 4, 2022
As companies navigate how to interact with customers in a new realm, analysts predict that one industry above all others will be a prominent force in the metaverse - customer support. Matthias Goehler of Zendesk looks at the details.

man holds a screen with an operator's emblem and icons for after-sales services. Customer satisfaction communication channel © U-STUDIOGRAPHY DD59 - Shutterstock
(© U-STUDIOGRAPHY DD59 - Shutterstock)

It’s been a wild time in the cryptoverse. In early May, Terra/UST, one of the most high-profile projects in the sphere, crashed suddenly and volcanically, resulting in a dump in bitcoin, the cryptocurrency that determines the health of the entire crypto market.

Later that same month, Andreessen Horowitz announced a new $4.5 billion crypto fund — with no mention of market turmoil, says Business Insider. Yet another $100 million venture fund was announced that will focus on the metaverse and bring crypto adoption to emerging markets. Even high-profile executives like Twitter’s Jack Dorsey and Citigroup’s Morgan McKenney have recently moved into the sphere. So what is this all about?

For the average person, anything remotely tied to crypto or Web3 blurs into one thing. But the fact is: dog coins, NFTs, DAOs, FAAS projects, P2E games, defi, and the metaverse are different things with very different (or, at times, no) value.

Projects with value, and the people who work on them, continue — no matter the market trends or the currencies at play. The metaverse exists soundly within the value bucket. It introduces and offers an entirely new realm of experiences and social connection, including the customer experience (CX). And while the term ‘metaverse’ originated in a 1992 sci-fi novel called Snow Crash, think of the “real” version as a visually rich model of the internet. It’s a parallel world. When you “go” there, you’re an avatar, and so are those with whom you interact.

Why developing a metaverse CX strategy matters

Your customers need you to be where they are. We are far past the days when that meant a salesperson in a brick-and-mortar retail venue or an agent on the phone addressing concerns. Today it encompasses more customer control and emphasis on customer happiness, as well as customer-centric tools such as self-service options and in-app messaging.

Customer support is integral to digital, immersive experiences. Companies have a real opportunity to innovate their CX strategy to embrace this significant tipping point. Your customers need you in the metaverse, even and especially because it’s still an unfamiliar space for many.

The gaming industry already represents a strong example of how important it is to offer help within the context of a game. Here speed matters. There’s a win-or-lose element and if anything breaks it will need to be fixed — and fast.

These kinds of experiences could revolutionize the whole world of customer service, and the opportunity is hard to overstate. That said, a support area that’s hypothetical for now will become mandatory sooner than you might think. Your business has to start envisioning and planning, and the time to do it is now. “This is a build, partner, or perish moment,” says R “Ray” Wang, founder, chairman, and principal analyst of Constellation Research.

Experiences in the metaverse are changing

In the past, companies took a stab at metaverse-esque experiences, but they were inevitably low-fi and not-so-great. The idea was that there would be a virtual world (kind of) and you’d run your business within it. 

With the metaverse, we can use our devices to connect with each other in real-time to socialize — and these are good experiences that people actually want to make time for. Take, for example, passive entertainment like watching a football game. But instead of getting in your car or taking the metro and dealing with traffic or delays, you attend the game in this immersive parallel realm, with or without some kind of goggles, and interact with your friends. Gaming represents a more active, participatory form of entertainment, by contrast.

It’s fun, but the same concept extends even into the workplace. Any event where people can congregate can happen in the metaverse, including meeting or board rooms. Here at Zendesk, one of our teams recently held a meeting in the metaverse and reported back that it was more compelling and interactive than a standard Zoom. Wang says: 

In the metaverse, media, entertainment, software, and gaming are converging into the same model. Content must be rich, engaging, timely, and relevant.

In the future, we might regularly turn to the metaverse for compelling, enjoyable experiences — where we don't passively consume TV and sports, but instead use the headset as a doorway to active engagement. The metaverse may happen from the comfort of home, but in a way that feels less isolated. Whether it’s play, shopping, gaming, art, or business, it offers the possibility of spontaneous and socially-connected experiences.

In 20 years, we’ll be looking back at the early days of the metaverse, but the truth is that we don’t yet know what will manifest. And while we often frame this shift from two dimensional to three dimensional, we’re likely to enjoy metaverse experiences that are immersive but 2D. These experiences will become a larger and larger part of our lives. Old Fashion Research founder, Ling Zhang, told Tech Crunch:

We’re strong believers in the metaverse, not just user activity but the assets perspective,” “We believe web3 will be the very first step to revolutionize [our] own identities and asset management.

Customer relationships will look and feel different

At Zendesk, we're watching the metaverse evolve and seeing the potential for how it can impact customer engagement. When it comes to business, retail has the potential to thrive in the metaverse. A company can display and advise on its wares and, of course, create bespoke personal experiences. Or, if you sell real estate, you could show a client multiple home options in the metaverse. Going another route, an occupational therapist might demonstrate exercises to patients. All the things we do as a digital economy, including some we're not doing yet, have a future in this expansive, immersive sphere.

Even in this space, however, building good customer relationships matters. Customers in the metaverse will want the same easy, low-friction support experiences that they’ve come to expect in real life. They may want to text, chat, or message businesses asynchronously — or in real time — the same way they’d message a hotel concierge to request more towels. Some will be chatty, and some will not, but a need well met will impress the customer. If anything, support interactions will be more laser-focused, so as not to take the customer out of the immersive experience. After all, no one wants to step out of their immersive bath, missing a towel.

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