By Adam Wilkinson
Thanks to the proliferation of smartphones, tablets and laptops and the development of apps such as FaceTime and Skype, video calling is increasingly becoming a regular part of people’s personal and social interactions.
Even in the business world video-conferencing is fast becoming the norm when face-to-face meetings are physically or financially impractical.
But what role might video calling play in the future of customer relationship management?
As we have highlighted previously, customers are growing more savvy when it comes to using technology to interact with companies and organisations, whether it’s messaging through social media platforms such as Facebook and Twitter or communicating with customer service representatives via live chat software.
As technology advances, and internet speeds improve, will customers come to expect customer service via video, and if so what will this mean for companies and organisations? There are benefits and concerns on both sides of the equation for this disruptive technology.
From the customer’s point of view there are a number of benefits, the most obvious and immediate being convenience (two thirds of UK adults own smartphones) and cost (video calling is free over a WiFi connection).
Another positive selling point is transparency. Instead of being concerned about the level of sincerity, care and interest the agent on the other end of the phone or live chat is giving to their enquiry, with video the customer can see exactly what that person is doing, including the amount of attention they are paying them and even the facial expressions they are making.
Video calls also have the potential to be valuable for issues in which a practical demonstration or a visual ‘how to’ guide is required – a household repair for example.
That’s not to say some customers won’t have reservations about using video. Audio and text enquiries allow customers to feel anonymous and hidden and for some this brings a feeling of confidence and even empowerment, whereas the openness of the video chat could take away some of that and leave the customer feeling more vulnerable.
For a company or organisation, offering video as a customer service option could bring with it a real reputation boost, allowing it to promote its own openness and transparency and to boast that it offers a 24/7 face-to-face service with a real person and not just a voice at the end of a phone.
How would customer service agents feel about using video? Would they be happy sacrificing their own anonymity to come face to face with customers? This could be a difficult experience, especially when dealing with complaints or angry customers
It would also limit the amount of multi-tasking an agent could do. Currently agents are trained to comfortably deal with a number of different ongoing interactions, for example two web chats at once or a web chat and a voice call at the same time.
But a customer on a video call would expect and probably demand the undivided attention of the agent, no matter how efficiently that individual was dealing with the enquiry. It would be difficult for an agent to disguise the fact they were addressing more than one enquiry while on a video call.
This would ultimately mean fewer interactions and more expense for the service provider.
If a company or organisation is going to allow agents working on web chat to initiate or accept video then they will have to get queue and channel management right to avoid an agent dropping other interactions they were working on.
As we have said before, we believe the proliferation of technology has made human interaction even more important than ever to the customer service experience, especially when it comes to customer loyalty and brand reputation.
It seems likely that video technology will be part of the future of our industry and something for which we should carefully prepare. The risks of getting it wrong are obvious, but if we get it right it could be another valuable channel to add to our customer service offerings.