Tips for Creating the Ultimate Customer (Virtual) Experience

With the coronavirus still looming large, today is not business as usual. Every customer-facing business, both consumer and enterprise, is struggling to respond quickly to customer needs and deliver an exceptional experience, which grows harder as face-to-face interactions become near impossible. Technology sales and support organizations are looking for ways to improve the experience and create customer intimacy between house-bound customers and employees, and retail firms are looking for ways to replicate the convenience of an in-store experience online.

There are a variety of tools available to create exceptional customer experiences, virtually mimicking in-person conversations. While some tools have been around for more than a decade and are well understood, others are much newer, and there are some nuances between them.

Here is an overview of technology categories that are especially applicable to the current environment:

Online Meetings

Every corporate employee is familiar with online meeting platforms. They allow multiple people to attend virtual meetings, typically using video and Voice over Internet Protocols (VoIP). Attendees can share their desktops or presentations, and everyone can watch. Chat is available to supplement voice.

Online meeting platforms offer a lot of capabilities but also tend to consume a lot of bandwidth and are a bit complex for the uninitiated. Though you could conceivably use an online meeting platform to accomplish some of the same capabilities as other categories outlined in this article, it is a bit of a heavy lift for more basic use cases, such as screen sharing between only two people or for basic text or video chat capabilities.

Examples: GoToMeetings by LogMeIn, Cisco WebEx, Microsoft Zoom and Teams.

Web Chat

Basic textual web chat allows customers to ask quick questions while browsing self-service sites or product catalogs. Their chat request is routed to an available agent, and experienced chat agents can handle multiple concurrent sessions, boosting productivity. Web chat offers a few advantages to the customer. It is easy to access when on a website, the agent knows on which page the customer is and can see a list of recent web activities (searches performed, pages accessed, documents read) to avoid forcing the customer down a path they have already tried. Also, the chat transcript can easily be written to contact or case history for future reference.

Examples: LogMeIn BoldChat, ServiceNow Connect Chat, Salesforce Live Chat, LivePerson.

Digital Chat

Digital chat offers the same basic capabilities as web chat, but is accessible to customers using SMS text or digital messaging applications like WhatsApp, Facebook Messenger, LINE, Kakao Talk, etc. As reported previously, a recent TSIA survey shows customer preferences for digital messaging is on the rise, particularly for younger demographics and specific geographies. Digital chat options are especially critical for consumer firms, as customers stuck at homes might not have access to a laptop and have to rely on mobile devices for shopping and trouble shooting.

Examples: LogMeIn BoldChat, SnapEngage, eGain, Twilio.

Video Chat

A step up from text chat, video chat introduces a live video feed so the customer and employee can see each other, which adds a lot of personality and intimacy to the interaction. This feature has been used by customer success managers and technical account managers to strengthen their relationships with customers, but we are hearing from multiple Technical Services Industry Association (TSIA) members that they are interested in adding video chat as an option along with remote control, text chat, or co-browse to boost stickiness and provide some needed face-to-face time to both employees and customers who are already weary of shelter in place.

Examples: ScreenMeet, Microsoft Skype, Google Duo.

Remote Control

A common tool for PC and PC software tech support, remote control allows support techs to access your PC to check files, correct settings, and perform diagnostics. Customers can control access and how much the remote agent can see: the whole PC, or just one window or application. Best-of-breed platforms include dashboards for supervisors to monitor remote control sessions in place, and even permit a manager to drop into a session—either silently or announced—to see how things are going. This is a very handy capability to have for remote employees, especially if you can see a session is going longer than usual, meaning the employee might need assistance with the issue. Note that newer remote control platforms allow access to mobile devices as well as laptops and desktops.

Examples: ScreenMeet, LogMeIn Rescue, Bomgar.


A slightly different tool and use case than remote control, co-browse is great to demonstrate something to customers, allowing you to share your screen and walk them through how to use a self-service feature or to go through options in a product catalog. Co-browse is more common in sales call centers than support, and best-of-breed tools include the ability to draw on the screen, such as circling a control or a specific product in the catalog, to draw attention for the customer.

Examples: ScreenMeet, LogMeIn Rescue.

Remote Video Link

A slightly different take on video chat, this technology leverages a secure connection to the camera of a mobile device to look into a customer's home or office to inspect equipment, see an error condition in real time, or provide contextual procedures to walk a customer through diagnosing a problem or replacing a part. More advanced versions of this can leverage the video capabilities of smart glasses or goggles, creating more a virtual reality offering. This technology is in hot demand at the moment to avoid on-site field service or repair.

Examples: Help Lightning, ScreenMeet, LogMeIn Rescue Lens.

Important Considerations

The challenge for most firms is how to leverage these tools in combination to provide the best possible customer experience. Since companies tend to add these capabilities one at a time, often from different vendors, offering dynamic interactions with customers might require a lot of integration work and create a disjoined virtual session for the customer. Instead of shopping for only one of these tools, companies should evaluate a platform offering some or all of the above and let employees and customers decide which to use depending on the occasion.

At the moment, retail firms are struggling with how to recreate an in-store experience with a call center agent, particularly with most retail closed to in-person shopping. Consider the following example:

A customer is browsing your product catalog and has a question about a product. She chooses the chat option visible in the bottom corner of the screen. After establishing a chat connection, the customer is offered the option of a video, and clicks a link to initiate video. Then the customer and the agent are speaking face to face. The customers explains what she wants, and the agent moves into a co-browse session, showing the customer how to navigate the product catalog. The agent locates a product that fits the customer's needs and circles it on the screen. An example of this can be seen in this screenshot:


In some examples, the agent could demonstrate how to use a product. As the face of retail moves from in-person to virtual, you can expect more companies to allow virtual access to personal shoppers to see products and how to use them before purchasing. In the last few days I have received multiple invitations from luxury brands for a virtual session with a personal shopper, and I expect this trend to become the standard, even after shelter in place has ended.

When shopping for virtual tools to improve agent and customer engagement, the following are a few things to keep in mind:>

  • One platform rules them all. Avoid adding solutions one at a time; instead, opt for a vendor that can enable a single agent desktop with multiple virtual options, allowing the customer and the context of the interaction to drive which tool or tools to use.
  • Focus on ease of use. Customers should not be subjected to typing strange URLs and clicking approvals over and over again to connect to a video, co-browse, or remote control session. Find ways to ease the access to these tools, creating a seamless, low-effort experience for the customer.
  • Connectivity counts. While online meeting software might be ubiquitous in the corporate world, it typically has noticeable sound and video lags, which can create a jarring experience. Look for tools that offer one- to two-second, or even sub-second connect time, and zero latency so voices don't lag behind video feeds or vice versa.
  • Don't forget security. Enterprise-class products offer fully encrypted connections, audit trails, and supervisor dashboards. Don't try to use a consumer-to-consumer tool that will not meet your corporate security standards. Leverage audit trails to capture virtual sessions and save them into the contact or account history in your customer relationship management (CRM) system.

John Ragsdale is a distinguished researcher and vice president of technology research at the Technology Services Industry Association (TSIA). He can be reached at