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Is WebRTC a Magic Solution for Contact Center Success? The Answer is 'No'

August 20, 2015

While the WebRTC standard offers a lot of promise to most departments in a business, the most compelling benefits are perhaps in the contact center. WebRTC, which allows for instant browser-to-browser communications without the need to download a separate application, can help people communicate via voice or video (or both) in real-time. For complex customer support transactions (think Amazon and its “Mayday” instant support button), the standard could be invaluable to provide customers with that extra value they require today to remain loyal, engaged customers. There is no doubt, though, that for WebRTC to perform to its potential, contact centers will need to make some changes.

Web chat is becoming one of the more popular methods of customer support. Not only can it be used on a desktop browser, but it’s also easily configurable to the mobile Web and mobile apps. For this reason, it’s the fastest-growing support channel. By adding video to the mix, the level of personalization and customization of the support experience will skyrocket. While certainly not every interaction needs to be accompanied by video, for some – resetting a mobile phone, installing a new part on an appliance – the channel could be invaluable. The trick will be understanding where it’s needed, and where it’s not.

“WebRTC can be a labor-saving technology,” wrote Gary Audin and Douglas Green for No Jitter. “Through its collaboration capabilities, agent labor can be more strategically deployed. It can reduce the time required to complete tasks, which can be done today--though mostly with more expensive solutions. WebRTC promises to deliver these capabilities at a much lower price and to a greater number of organizations.

Obviously, whether to deploy WebRTC-based live customer help will require a cost-benefit analysis, since it will be an expensive channel (in manpower, not in technology). Encouraging customers to engage the channel for transactions that could easily be solved with a self-service approach would break the bank. Without careful planning, WebRTC availability could drive costs up. Green and Audin write that the number of agents and the accompanying contact center budget will likely increase with WebRTC use. Customers will be more willing to enter a voice chat rather than continue with a Web site that they don't like.

“The end result of adding voice and video chat to a website will mean an increasing agent bill and probably higher pay,” they write.

For this reason, WebRTC won’t be for every company. For low-value, high-volume products, the costs would likely far outweigh the benefits. For high-value, low-volume items, however, the prospect of offering a more compelling customer experience than competitors could provide companies with the edge they require to succeed. 

Edited by Stefania Viscusi

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