WebRTC World Feature Article

December 10, 2012

What WebRTC Might Mean for the Call Center


WebRTC is about to change the way we communicate, and the business and technology worlds are scrambling to get ready for it. As consumers, there is nothing we need to do, except wait for the benefits it will bring to us.

What is it?

WebRTC stands for “Web Real-Time Communications,” and it’s actually a standard: a free, open project that enables rich, high quality, real-time communication applications to be developed in the browser via simple Java APIs and HTML5. In essence, it’s a technology that will make it much easier to communicate over the Internet: it will allow consumers to use click-to-text or click-to-call buttons, video conferencing and other Web-based communications technology with no need to first download an application or a plug-in.

Is it a big deal?

Yes, say stakeholders. WebRTC "has the potential to really change the Internet," said Google's Hugh Finnan, director of product management for Chrome. "When you think about that, [with] just a few JavaScript APIs and as little as 15 lines of JavaScript code in an HTML page, you can create a simple one-to-one video conferencing solution; this has the potential to be as important to the Web as HTML was in the beginning."

Few industries rely on new communications media more than call centers, and the standard could revolutionize the contact center in a number of ways:

It may largely eliminate the need for interactive voice response (IVR) applications, since callers can simply be routed to the correct departments or agents from clicks off a website. E-commerce customers could be serviced in a truly multimedia way without the need to log off a company’s website and pick up the phone simply to have questions answered by an agent.

It could allow for easy face-to-face video communications between consumers and agents and helpdesk personnel, allowing contact centers to offer a truly personalized customer experience.

WebRTC has the potential to enable a newer, easier way to conduct virtual meetings, according to headset manufacturer Plantronics, an early supporter of the standard. Aside from simply voice and video, meeting attendees could co-browse, share presentations, watch videos together and work collaboratively.

Beyond the call center, the standard is likely to revolutionize a number of industries, particularly when joined to other technologies. WebRTC can be combined with technologies such as facial recognition and 2D or 3D graphics, which will allow developers to build a wide variety of products based on the standard new security systems and interactive games. The applications for social media are very broad and will ultimately allow people to virtually “hang out” together, co-browsing, watching video, chatting face-to-face and even shopping together. (A recent Mozilla blog entails how WebRTC could revolutionize social media.) A collision between WebRTC and the upcoming technology of Hypervoice could also yield an earth-shattering shift in the way we use the Web. Hypervoice is an emerging model for organizing and navigating voice conversations. By converting voice into a native Web object, hypervoice conversations can actually become searchable, findable and shareable in any language.

We’re not there yet, of course. Not all browser makers and technology companies are on board with the standards (most notably Apple, which has sent out mixed messages on its willingness to fully embrace WebRTC.) While the stakeholders are still tinkering with the WebRTC standard, the general public will likely get a preview of it in the next few months with the release of updates on two popular browsers: Google’s newly launched Chrome browser, and in January, the new version of Mozilla’s Firefox.

Regardless of how the applications enabled by the standard come to us first, expect them to be game-changing for not only the customer service industry, but the Internet as a whole.


Edited by Rachel Ramsey




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