Once upon a time, companies dictated how their customers did business with them. If the company thought the time was right for a sale, it did so. If the company decided that customers could now communicate them via e-mail, the marketing department let them know. Some retailers or business-to-business vendors had products or services available at only certain times of the year, and customers were required to wait for those times. (Have you ever tried to buy a table fan in the winter at a retail outlet?)
The days of companies dictating the terms with which they do business with customers is over. Customers today have higher expectations, a broader variety of needs, and a belief that they are entitled to get the experience they want if they’re paying for a product or service. It may make life harder for companies, but it’s an expectation that can’t be argued with. Smart companies are already building the infrastructure they need to serve customers on their own terms via whatever media channels the customer chooses. Increasingly, the WebRTC (“Real Time Communications”) standard is the choice to enable twenty-first century customer communications, according to Jim Saunders, EVP of Digital Communications for Xura writing for RCR Wireless News.
“Throughout 2016, businesses [will work] to implement more convenient ways for customer interaction, with the use of rich messaging, video and click to communicate technology for business and customer interactions,” wrote Saunders. “In 2016, mobile services will place more emphasis on smarter communications and more personalized client interactions through technology advancements like WebRTC.”
While companies have been maintaining a certain amount of self-service on their Web sites for the last 20 years, live help and digital self-service were two communications media that never merged. Today, when a customer is browsing a Web site or a mobile app, they expect to be able to connect to live help within the browsing session, without having to log out and pick up the phone. WebRTC is the vehicle that will enable this. A browsing customer can simply “click” to initiate a chat session with an agent who can see the customer’s online session on the Web site, mobile Web or mobile app.
Now, roll into this idea the increasing proliferation of smart networked devices that is becoming the “Internet of Things.” A customer support rep could , in theory, “speak” to both a customer and an inanimate object at the same time, by tracking a delivery, running a diagnostic check on an appliance, geolocating a lost piece of equipment, or restarting a computer or digital device.
In the contact center, WebRTC will allow customer support agents to go to impressive lengths to identify customers who need help and understand what the customer has been doing up until the point when he or she reached out. While relatively few companies are currently presenting customers with click-to-dial widgets, more vendors are using WebRTC to receive calls, according to Tsahi Levent-Levi writing for Networkworld. This keeps costs down and allows agents to work from anywhere.
“The dominant use case for WebRTC in contact centers in 2015 was contact center agents using WebRTC to receive incoming calls,” wrote Levent-Levi. “Users dial in and routed through a company’s interactive voice response (IVR) to the contact center. Once there, instead of being routed to a physical phone or even a software client on the agent’s desktop PC, the call gets routed to the agent’s Web browser. This means IT has fewer vendors and less software to manage and maintain, and it enables the business to scale out of the physical contact center by allowing agents to work from anywhere.”
Ultimately, WebRTC will come to represent a cost-effective way to reach customers who are already inside a support transaction – digital, mobile or self-service – but who would benefit from concurrent interaction with a live agent. Used properly (and not intrusively), it can be a great differentiator for the customer support functions of companies, raising the level of the customer experience while driving sales and customer loyalty.