How WebRTC Could Usher in the Era of Video-Enabled Customer Service

Simple, near-instant customer service still eludes most Internet retailers (maybe you are experiencing that frustration this Christmas shopping season). This is a shame. At Avaya, we offer contact center solutions that allow retailers to meet their customers on the channel they want, WHEN they want. This enables companies like the Bank of Moscow to offer consumers 24/7 access to customer service specialists via video.




As number one in the overall contact center market according to Gartner, it makes sense we would lead the way with multi-channel integration in the contact center. Other vendors are looking to add similar capabilities by using a new Web programming standard called WebRTC.

At the WebRTC Conference & Expo in Santa Clara, Calif. last month, experts argued that WebRTC could lead to the mainstreaming of video for customer service. The platform is still on the bleeding edge, with developers still arguing over which video compression technology should be used.

Is Video Necessary for all Industries?

During a panel discussion, Yugan Sikri, vice-president of Enterprise Product Management for cloud-based unified communications vendor, Agnity, said video so far has two key uses in customer service: Higher-end, high-touch customer service and services that need visual assistance.

Healthcare, insurance, and financial services are industries poised to adopt WebRTC-based video early because of the high level of service required by customers, such as for fixing bank account issues or receiving help with medication. WebRTC will then slowly spread to other industries.

“What I see though is over time, video is going to get better, faster, cheaper. And more and more businesses are going to essentially catch onto that,” Sikri said.

Boosting Sales and Solving Problems Faster

Instant customer service built into the web browser is the future, said Val Matula, Avaya’s Senior Director of Multimedia Research. He said the potential to improve e-commerce sales is huge, particularly such as using WebRTC to allow a customer to ‘co-browse’ (share his/her screen) with a customer service agent.

Say the customer is “three quarters of an inch away from the cart. They’ve got something in the basket. They are not someone that’s randomly calling,” Matula said. “You know the statistics. If you can keep them on the website, instead of having them call and talk about a recent past experience, co-browse with them, show them how they can go in and solve that, that’s money in the bank.”

Gary Spirer, CEO and founder of interactive marketing solutions vendor Questionmine, saw potential in alleviating customer tedium with WebRTC-powered video. Instead of putting people on hold, companies could use WebRTC to queue up videos relevant to their issue.

“What we’ve done is put interactive buttons over the video,” Spirer said. “Q&A, where in effect, based on answers to questions, we can immediately feed them videos in real-time that actually solve a problem and pick up the analytics simultaneously.”

While bringing video to a call center is getting cheaper, companies may worry when customers can suddenly see inside a contact center. Suddenly, aesthetic factors such as lighting, the background behind an agent, and even his or her clothing come into play.

To Avaya’s Matula, the cost for creating a video-worthy “set” would be relatively low. It could be as simple as making sure the agent’s background included the company logo, had some properly-trained lights, and the agent was trained to look into the camera rather than off into space.

If WebRTC jumpstarts video customer service, contact centers would look to hire video-savvy contact agents. That would boost the job market for those with multiple skills, including video. It would also allow contact centers to run more efficiently and let customers receive the help they want – the way they want.