B&Q to trial avatar service for advice-shy DIY shoppers


New research today revealed the UK’s reluctance to seek advice, with statistics confirming that 70% of Brits refuse to ask for advice and 26% would rather go online than consult a real person. In light of the research, B&Q is trialling a hi-tech new customer service channel using ‘advice avatars’ to help encourage the nation to overcome our phobia of asking for assistance.

The trial saw hi-tech avatars, twinned with real life colleagues at B&Q Wallasey, help customers with home improvement tasks. The avatars, dubbed ‘iB&Qs’ took live advice and tips directly into customers’ homes, linking in real time with store colleagues. Each avatar is equipped with its own orange apron and a unique ‘i’ name badge to match its human partner, for example, Megan Peters from B&Q Wallasey controlled iMegan.

Hollyoaks actress and local celebrity Jennifer Metcalfe was one of the first to participate in the iB&Q trial as she embarked on some DIY chores in her Liverpool flat. Metcalfe took advice from iMegan, as she undertook some plumbing, put the finishing touches to her kitchen and sawed wood in her garden.

Metcalfe said: “I hate asking for help, and although I’ve done a bit of DIY before, I wanted to make sure I was doing everything perfectly in my new home. The live advice from iMegan made all the difference as I was able to ask her what I needed in real-time. We were a real team!”

When looking at why the UK is so reluctant to ask someone for help, the research shows that 70% think they can manage on their own, 29 % are too embarrassed to ask and 24% simply don’t want to impose. Mums were edged out of the top spot for who gives the best advice in favour of those with professional expertise and experience. Of those that do feel comfortable asking for advice, they are more likely to ask for directions than they are for home improvement tips, while they’re less likely to ask for financial, romance, professional and fashion advice.

The iB&Q trial is supported by everyday helpfulness from team members across 300 stores, as well as a colleague takeover of Twitter and Facebook accounts as B&Q staff respond live to requests for tips and advice as the UK undertake their bank holiday projects. DIYers can also find further help online at B&Q’s YouTube channel and DIY.com, which feature 300 helpful articles and 250 videos, everything from painting a wall to fitting kitchen units.

Richard Sherwood, B&Q customer and marketing director, said: “Like Jennifer, some customers may be nervous about asking for advice, but help is always at hand at B&Q.  Whether you’re planning a project, buying your tools or materials, or needing a bit of guidance during your home improvement, our colleagues can help you in person, online, and from other new technologies in the near future.”