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July 22, 2014

Is WebRTC the Death of the Traditional Call Center?

WebRTC is the death of the traditional call center. If used correctly, the technology will offer benefit to both businesses and the consumer.

It seems whenever we have a question or an issue to resolve we dial an 800 number (not always part of a mobile price plan) and sit on hold for what seems like an eternity. Alternatively, we try sending an email to a geenric customer service email address and hope a customer care assistant gets back to you in decent time. Not only are the premium rate numbers expensive but also inconvenient, as are sending emails. 

Customers are looking for improved service in a timely and efficient manner. However, customer service can be notoriously slow and ineffective. Frequently being passed to other departments and rarely having issues resolved.

Live chat has the highest levels of satisfaction (73 percent) compared with email (61 percent) and phone (44 percent).  Live chat can also help drive sales as well as increase customer satisfaction. Thirty-one percent of customers said they are more likely to purchase online after a live chat experience.  Online chat using WebRTC is evolving the ways in which we can resolve issues with the introduction of instant file upload and video interaction so both the organization and the consumer can re-enact the face-to-face experience.

In a world where only 26 percent of consumers feel customer service centers provide great support (Fonolo, Customer Service Blog) and with 27 percent of customers looking to use methods to eliminate call waiting, it’s obvious that the service industry needs ways to improve customer satisfaction.

Web Real Time Communication (WebRTC) is set to alter the call center landscape, and ultimately customer support as we know it.  But why? Firstly, the way people access customer service requests is changing. In the past, if someone had a customer query, they would get a telephone number to call from either an existing bill or the Yellow Pages – and then pick up a phone and make a call. More and more people are accessing contact information through websites from their smartphones or their desktops now, where they already have an ability to make a call and many other functions such as video. Ovum predicts that over 50 percent of inbound customer care queries will be made with smart devices (mainly tablets) come 2016. Smartphones provide the access to video and document sharing as well.

So where does WebRTC come in? WebRTC is a web technology that enables instant communication through your web browser with no downloads required. It is without a plug-in and includes the fundamental building blocks for high-quality communications such as network, audio, and video components used in voice and video chat applications.

WebRTC is the instant bridge between the business and the consumer and provides an instant route to customer service for both the business and the consumer. With capabilities including video and audio within the browser, consumers are set to resolve issues more effectively. Call centers within their nature can be restrictive to a one dimensional way of dealing with customers and issues and the traditional method of over the phone descriptive wording, is no longer cutting it.

This technology opens a new paradigm of dealing with issues when utilizing video. Issues can be displayed directly within the browser and video technology makes it possible to not only assist the customer service rep. but also ensure the standard of service is reached.

‘See what I see’ functions (screen sharing) and other high content exchanges can not only reduce the amount of time spent on explanatory communication, but remove a layer of customer frustration caused by misunderstanding and miscommunication. Poor customer service can prove critical when considering 89 percent of consumers went to a competitor as a direct result of poor customer service (Amanda Marsh, 2013), its easy to identify the value and bottom line impact to a business in customer retention alone. 

With the ability to simply press to enact a voice call or video share, the extension of customer services is significant. Think of the ability to go to a web site, find out who you need to speak to and simply click on them to talk, chat in real time, with no downloads or plugins to complicate things. Simple yet effective communication can even extend to new experiences. Explaining to the plumber what the problem is using your phone is now simplified as the customer now has the ability to get the service and support they need as a customer.

So why is this the death of the traditional call center? It's not that call centers will not exist in the future, to the contrary, customer support will never disappear. But the way that customers are served and supported will change, driving an inherent change to the structure of traditional call centers. Take the case of online chat. Many chat conversations can use canned responses and information, saving everyone time as well as enabling a more consistent service. Enabling video, document sharing, document collaboration and many other functions mean that the functions of a call center have shifted and it is no longer receiving and managing inbound calls and relevant information needed to deal with that call but is now about a customer interaction center where many communication methods are combined.

There are deeper data and application combinations; all for the benefit of both the customer and the service provider. The ability to extend care to grow sales with WebRTC is shown in the earlier plumber example. Overall, this meeting of traditional communications, computing technology and web communications and applications is set to transform the call center into something completely new.

And finally, by extending the ability to have a rich communication experience from any device, whether it’s a desktop, tablet or smartphone, the future of customer service is mobile. 

Edited by Stefania Viscusi
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