Real Time Communications Featured Article

Technology Brings More Real-Time Interactions to the Customer Support Process

November 05, 2014

What’s the most effective version of real-time communications when it comes to the customer support industry? A face-to-face conversation in person, of course. But unless the customer is shopping in a brick-and-mortar store – and increasingly, he isn’t – and there is a store associate available all the time to help – and increasingly, there isn’t -  then this is a form of customer support that’s likely to become increasingly rare.

It’s worth preserving the real-time aspect of the transaction, however, even if it’s not in person. Home improvement giant Lowe’s is currently testing two robots developed by its Lowe’s Innovation Labs in two hardware stores owned by the company in San Jose, California. The robots act like rolling kiosks that can approach customers and offer all manners of assistance and information to customers (including leading customers to the location of products in the store.) While it’s not “person-to-person” (not exactly, anyway), it is real-time, and chances are good that frustrated shoppers will appreciate the gesture and the effort, particularly once the robots are capable of speech interaction with customers. (This is an event planned in a future iteration.)

But let’s presume that most of the time, the customer and the agent aren’t in the same room, the same state or even on the same continent. While of course the telephone remains one of the most popular forms of customer support and is as real-time a channel as they come, it lacks the multimedia and visual nature of the Web. This is where new standards like WebRTC (“Real-Time Communications”) come into play. By combining voice, co-browsing and video in the same interaction, it adds a personal, real-time nature to the arsenal of customer support offerings without the need for customers to download any special applications.

By some estimates, two-third of customer voyages today begin on the Internet, either through product or service research, mobile browsing, social media or more. In most cases today, customers need to log off and pick up the phone in order to get live support. This simply doesn’t make any sense. Why should customers have to leave the browser to get live support? Thanks to the WebRTC standard, a quick click can launch a live session: a phone call in the context of the browsing session, a video conference, document sharing, or a co-browsing session, all within the context of the customer’s original browser search.

The WebRTC standard, which is still in its infancy, will become increasingly important as more and more customers use mobile devices to seek customer support. Customers today expected to be serviced whenever, wherever and however they wish. WebRTC, in its full maturity, will be one of the most important tools to allow this to happen. 

Edited by Stefania Viscusi

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