Real Time Communications Featured Article

WebRTC - It's Now Mission Critical

April 07, 2016

For anything involving customer contact, audio and/or video, WebRTC's time has come.  The only question is the best way to apply it to your business needs and applications without getting bogged down into a discussion down other, more expensive and proprietary roads.  And WebRTC works equally well as a pre-packaged service as it does as a tool to build more interactive apps.

Plenty of WebRTC cloud services for business voice exist today because the technology is cost-effective and it just works.  Last month, I was involved with write-ups of business voice and call center services.  Nearly all of them offered cloud-based, no desktop phones needed services delivered through WebRTC.  Access was easy as a credit card and five minutes to get business voice service with almost all of all the bells and whistles anyone could imagine out of a "traditional" PBX solution, including the basics like voice mail and call forwarding to call queues and multi-level IVR menu programming.  New phone number were typically free on a per seat/per subscription basis, with existing phone numbers able to be ported over.

For a few dollars more (per seat), call center capability was easily accessible and additional, with capabilities such as various forms of queuing for inbound calls, with calls routed by time in queue, agent skill set, priority based upon customer caller ID, and any number of other functions.  Outbound capabilities were equally powerful with predictive, progressive, and preview dialing available.

And everyone has a mobile app able to make and take calls as easily from a smart phone as a desktop web browser.  Integration with and other third-party CRM services tends to be a standard feature of all WebRTC-based cloud offerings, making phone service a matter of plug (in a credit card number) and play (start the browser).

WebRTC's role in customer relations, be it a basic call center or a field service bureau, is all the more important as the business world moves from a few types of communication to an omni-channel approach where everything from traditional phones to social media are available and used by the organization to communicate with its clients and prospects.  The technology provides an affordable and seamless way to blend voice and video into existing web-based processes such as chat, email, and other online services.  WebRTC may actually be the key to "unified" communications between customers and businesses because of its ease of use.

Adding WebRTC into existing processes leverages the growing power of APIs.   Developers can quickly build, test, and move applications from ideas to production in a matter of weeks using WebRTC to provide voice, video, and even data channel functionality, tapping into APIs and service-based models such as GENBAND's Kandy to drastically cut rollout time.  A few lines of HTML calling WebRTC services replaces large chunks of code and reduces build and testing time, not to mention the expense of third-party proprietary solutions to bring voice and data to desktop and mobile apps.

Health care is one area where WebRTC is playing a more significant role.  There's been a lot of recent press around the MindMe mental help app that provides an instant real-time communications intervention lifeline between patients and professionals, but less so on the growing embrace of more generalized telehealth applications by insurance companies.  With little fanfare, the virtual house call has moved from being a niche application to a benefit on a number of employee plans -- like myself, you may have it and not know about it until you look in the fine print or receive a promotional notification. 

For a cost drastically less than an emergency room visit, I can talk to a health care professional  in the privacy of my own home. The health care system gets the benefit of me not clogging up the ER for a non-critical call, the insurance company wins because it is cheaper, and I win because I don't have to slog down to the ER and wait around.  Depending on the malady, the tele-doc can even call in a prescription to the local pharmacy, so I can get relief quickly.

The net benefits of WebRTC and its rapidly expanding growth make the technology one that has moved from the "gee that's cool" and "Nice to have" category to a mission critical asset akin to broadband and email.  Examining and embracing WebRTC is now vital for businesses, regardless of sector.

Edited by Stefania Viscusi

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