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Revolutionary, Evolutionary or Path to WebRTC in the Contact Center?

November 06, 2014

Real time communications (RTC) has been heralded as the Next Big Thing to transform the contact center. Or kill it. Or something like that. I'm not buying into the revolution, but am betting on evolution as WebRTC is integrated into and becomes a part of the customer experience. Just because you can talk to and see the customer doesn't give companies a magic wand to fix problems.

Live chat, among all things, seems to be the communications channel customers like, according to a recent customer survey by eDigitalResearch.  Of 2,000 consumers surveyed, 1 in 4 used live chat to contact companies, with 73 percent saying they were "satisfied" or "extremely satisfied" with the service they received via touch point.

From a cost/benefit perspective, live chat has to be the easiest, most cost-effective way to communicate with a customer.  You don't need WebRTC or voice or video on either end, you can do live chat on any browser or operating system, and it is nothing in bandwidth usage when compared to voice at 12 kbps or better and video at 128 kbps or higher.   No hardware upgrade for video support required or having to fret about what the contact center or its employees look like.

WebRTC provides a more seamless and richer experience to the contact center by far.  If you are browsing a web site to buy something or have a billing problem you want to resolve, assistance via chat, voice, and video can be provided through one interface and web page. Customers can choose the means of communication they are best comfortable with; if I'm slopping around the house in my sweats, I'm probably not in the mood to do a two-way video call.  If I am trying to fix my DVR or my laptop, I want both hands free and looking at the broken device, so I might choose a mixture of live chat and/or voice so I can be "hands on" to the problem when working through it.

I don't see WebRTC killing the contact center. It's a tool that is only as good as company procedures, staff training, and corporate culture. 

Take two examples out of the Amazon corporate empire, Mayday and Zappos.  Mayday has been kicking around for about a year, offering one-button customer support help with one-way video (you seeing the tech support assistant), two-way audio, and screen sharing.   In various third-party tests, Amazon contact center staff have been able to quickly answer questions and solve problems using Mayday, but the company has not published statistics as to how much faster Mayday usage results in either resolving problems faster than average or reducing overall call center time. 

Zappos, a subsidiary of Amazon, has legendary customer service.  Free shipping and free returns, 24 x 7 phone support, live chat as an option, and a culture driven by delivering "WOW" at every part of the experience.  WebRTC might help Zappos delivery a better virtual customer experience in the future, but the company is already delivering a superior customer experience by simply using phone and live chat.  Technology is not going to transform Zappos into a better company, so companies should be wary of believing WebRTC will turn the contact center upside down.

What WebRTC does is to provide improved tools to interact with customers over the web. In cases where the issue resides within a device or software application, WebRTC is a superior tool to help customer agents examine problems and help customers better understand the features and ways they can use through screen sharing and a collaborative, interactive process.

WebRTC also provides the ability for deeper interactions between agents and customers, if the customer wants it.  Delivering a video concierge through WebRTC enables real-time and prepared demonstrations of products via prompting and discussion with a customer, serving to develop a relationship between the customer and company and to more fully meet what the customer wants.

Contact centers shouldn't be shy about embracing WebRTC for the many capabilities and possibilities it offers. But companies should realize that, at the end of the day, contact center success is as much based upon personnel, training, and culture as it is on technology.

Edited by Stefania Viscusi

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