The idea of incorporating live video chat into the portfolio of customer service offerings has been knocking around the industry for a while, but it seems to have caught fire lately.
The reason for its sudden popularity may be due to several factors that have converged to create the perfect storm: 1) the unprecedented number of customers using mobile phones and tablets; 2) a current emphasis on customer service as a differentiator; and 3) an emphasis on strengthening customer relationships.
While video chat is the least supported channel in today’s contact center (just 8.3 percent of contact centers had it available as of 2015), it is poised to take off. Gartner predicts that, by 2018, more than 100 of the 500 largest global businesses will introduce video-based chat for customer-facing interactions. With the technology firmly in place and customer service expectations at an all-time high, many businesses see video as the logical next step in their quest to provide a superior experience.
What advantages does video offer?
As we all know, the most successful Communicators strive to build rapport with customers. Video emphasizes that personal connection, enhancing the customer experience beyond what’s possible with non-visual channels. A smiling face and facial expressions generate a positive tone. Plus, the intimacy afforded by face-to-face conversations affects the way service interactions play out. Video conversations are likely to be less antagonistic and more collaborative than those that take place via phone or texts. The relationship transcends utility (“I need to get this done”), and becomes more personal (“Can you help me figure this out?”).
Customer support is also becoming increasingly collaborative. Customers who get in-store assistance may, for example, point to a part on an item that’s not working, or demonstrate their usage of the item, or describe something about the item. In this way, they’re working jointly with a customer service professional to solve a problem together. Video makes this complex collaboration possible even when the two parties are geographically separated. Everything can be shown on screen. It’s yet another way to elevate the service experience.
Finally, some information is best presented visually. Event seating charts, maps, picture directions and screenshots are just a few examples of information that’s easier to show than to describe. The use of video chat makes all of this possible.
Considerations before implementing video
There isn’t much concrete advice to go on when it comes to actually deploying video chat in contact centers, as adoption numbers are small. Clearly, however, there are challenges associated with this channel that should be considered before deployment:
- Space considerations. Communicators using video chat must be situated in such a way that their environment is uncluttered and the background is appealing. This could mean creating dedicated workspaces for video Communicators that are located away from the rest of the group. Is your office suited to accommodate the additional needed space?
- Staffing considerations. Do you have Communicators who are willing to work the video channel? Some may feel uncomfortable being on screen. Consider your current staffing requirements and determine what, if any, gaps you’ll need to fill.
- Additional training. Training will be necessary for employees assigned to video chat. Communicators who are comfortable without scripts will be best suited to this channel. If they put customers on hold, what does that look like for video? What are your standards for video etiquette? Document your best practices from day one.
Steve Brubaker began his career at InfoCision in 1985. In his current role as Chief of Staff and as a member of the Executive Team, he is responsible for HR, internal and external communications, and manages the company’s legal and compliance departments. Brubaker is a member of a number of professional organizations, including the DMA, SOCAP, and PACE. He also donates his time to serve on several university boards, including the Executive Advisory Board for The Taylor Institute for Direct Marketing at The University of Akron and The University of Akron Foundation Board. He is a frequent speaker for national events and has also been honored with a number of awards and recognitions for his contributions to the call center industry.