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Is live video chat an option for service agents?

23rd Apr 2019
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The whole idea of customer experience is creating a smooth journey with your brand at every interaction point. It means simplifying the transaction process, reducing call times, solving problems quicker – all through a highly personalised and tailored service. The introduction of tools such as chatbots and digital agents have made great strides in improving this journey, however, sometimes you need to see the customer’s pain, to understand it and ultimately fix it.

So much of a person’s communication comes from their body language, the tone of their voice, their facial expressions – something no text-based conversation can ever assess. Indeed, Albert Mehrabian’s well debated 1971 study ‘Silent Messages’ found that only 7% of face-to-face communication is verbal – the rest non-verbal. However, when face-to-face communication isn’t possible (most brands today don’t have a physical outlet) – how can you still deliver the human touch?

Enter in the world of live video chat. Live video in the contact centre is hardly a new concept. The idea has been hyped up and discussed for several years as a game changer in the delivery of a more personalised experience for customers, but levels of adoption have remained low. So why the focus now?

The mobile generation
As with most things, innovation usually stems from public demand. Live video chat is no exception.  We live in a time where mobile phones are a staple – bringing connection, information and entertainment to young and old alike. The proliferation of smartphones, the rise of 4G (and indeed 5G) and a host of video calling apps, like FaceTime and Skype, have normalised the experience of seeing the person you are talking to. So much so that in 2017 WhatsApp carried 55 million video calls every day – equating to two billion minutes of video chat.

This familiarisation with the technology makes video support viable and indeed, many customers are already using their phone to seek support. However, where on smaller screens, navigating help menus or text chats could become a fiddly frustration, using video might be tempting to customers who hate typing out long questions on their phone’s tiny virtual keyboard.

From a commercial perspective, retailers are already in on the action with Amazon embedding a video support service into its Kindle devices. Its ‘Mayday’ feature enables customers to get live help on any issue with their tablets and e-readers. In addition, footwear retailer Schuh offers video support as an option on their website. However, customers can opt for text chat if they prefer.

Turning on the camera
The appetite for such a service is clearly there, however, how does a project get off the ground? The first thing to note is that live video chat doesn’t have to be a big undertaking – a couple of webcams may be all the tech that’s needed to get started and test the waters.

Training of agents is a must – even for the smallest of deployments – so staff know upfront what is expected of them. Policy documents and staff manuals should also be updated to include the rules for video. Also, bear in mind that live video support won’t suit everyone. Whilst some agents will be eager to learn something new and develop new skills, some won’t, so talk to teams to gauge interest in this new approach. It is essential that the team running the show is on board with the concept – as they are representing your brand.

Also, consider the environment that the video calls will take place in. Contact centres are not usually designed to be seen – so it may not be the right time to show off the office surroundings to the customer. However, a little set dressing, can usually remedy this problem – perhaps using screens to mask the background, or turning a meeting room into a studio.

Customer experience is king
Contact centres are being pushed to contribute more to improving the customer  experience. And while it may seem that giving customers the option of live video is a novelty, the reality is that being able to see an agent can make a call more productive – and reassure customers that there are real people available to support them.

When the delivery of excellent customer service depends on the human touch, it seems logical that the next phase of the contact centre moves in the direction of live video. Retailers have jumped on board with the concept, so the question that remains is how long until it becomes the norm?   

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