You may not recall exactly when the call center became the contact center, but you understand what it means. With the rise of IP-based communications, we’ve been able to move from the telephony-centric legacy model of customer care to the communications-centric model, where voice is just one of several modes in today’s multichannel environment.
For the most part, this entails a mix of voice and data applications to interact with customers, but that mix is increasingly being dictated by the changing expectations of customers. Mobility has been the biggest trend, but video is now coming into its own for a variety of reasons.
Today’s contact center is quickly becoming multichannel, and before that becomes the new normal, you’ll be hearing a lot about omnichannel environments.
Rather than focus on the complex technologies associated with these trends, I’d like to touch on three table stakes in this post that you need to account for first. The main thing to keep in mind is that these issues are not just technical, they are strategic. Which, when you incorporate each of them into your contact center environment, make for a better customer experience, and that translates into stronger loyalty. That loyalty becomes even stronger when you apply these to a particular vertical market, such as healthcare or financial services.
The more you can customize video applications around a specific set of customer needs, the more influential your contact center will be with this constituency.
Keep in mind that video is more for the customer’s benefit than yours. The overall benefits of adding video to the contact center are well beyond the scope of this article, but I’ll cite some key points here. First, regardless of your industry or size of company, value comes from understanding the customer journey and making that journey as easy as possible. This is the essence of omnichannel in contact centers, and as video becomes part of everyday communications, customer expectations will extend that to how they get their problems solved.
The good news is that video is not that expensive to incorporate into your contact center and since customers consider it highly valuable, the impact can go well beyond a conventional session. Think about how more easily complex problems can be explained with video, how agents can better read the customer via their body language, or how a deeper connection can be made with direct eye contact. Even if the problem doesn’t get solved right away, the experience becomes more personalized, which is a key part of the customer journey.
This has long been a challenge with video in fixed settings, but as adoption grows, standards are emerging. Legacy video technologies are still in widespread use, and while the quality is generally high, they are complex, rather inflexible, and proprietary. IP-based technology is changing this, plus making video more affordable to the point where it’s now viable for the contact center.
Improved economics, however, does not address all the issues around interoperability. Not all video vendors are standardized around the H.264 codec, and the same can be said for audio codecs, which is important if you want HD to be part of the video experience. Another factor related to interoperability is WebRTC, which enables voice calling, video chat, and file sharing without requiring additional plugins. This technology is gaining rapid adoption in the contact center, and can help make video more accessible to your customers. While this holds promise, WebRTC is not supported across all browsers, and if you see this as an important driver for adding video, you’ll need a clear roadmap from video vendors to make the right choice.
Mobility is Part of the Video Story
As a medium, video is the most immersive and can turn a clumsy voice-based customer service session into a highly personal experience. Supporting desktop video is relatively easy today, but a bit more involved with mobility. If you truly want to engage with customers when they need you the most, you’ll need to support mobility. You’re likely doing that now via voice and data, but video adds a powerful dimension to the mobile experience.
Before jumping to a mobile-centric customer support model, you’ll need to ensure a secure connection. When using smart devices, customers are just as likely to contact you over an unsecure public Wi-Fi connection as over a private mobile broadband connection. Not only must you ensure the protection of customer data, but there will often be IT security and privacy compliance requirements in sectors such as healthcare and financial services, not to mention PCI compliance where electronic payments are involved. This is just one factor you’ll need to address when considering partners when extending video to the mobile environment.