Customer insights and futures BT
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Video chat: Our future call centre channel of choice?

24th Oct 2016
Customer insights and futures BT
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Video chat

Video killed the radio star. Or so crooned The Buggles back in the late ‘70s. For the last 30 years, video has eaten away at a number of media formats. And now, as customer experiences become increasingly automated and remote, video is seemingly becoming a way of providing consumers with a richer sense of presence beyond what’s available with voice or live chat.

A combination of smartphones, tablets and PCs with cameras, plus better/faster/cheaper connectivity means that video services like Skype, Facetime and YouTube have become part of the fabric of our everyday lives. But does that mean that we want to use video to talk to organisations, rather than simply use it to chat with our friends and family?

The research data looks persuasive. Gartner has put video chat at the peak of this year’s CRM and customer experience hype cycle.

Indeed, in our ten country ‘Autonomous Customer’ survey, the appetite for consumers to use video chat for service has increased significantly — particularly in the UK (with 50% in 2015 versus 36% wanting video chat in 2013) and the US (50% in 2015 versus 32% in 2013). Demand is already high in China (78% thought video chat would be great to see a product demonstrated in real-time), India (81%), Indonesia (74%) and UAE (71%).

In our recent financial services research, ‘Youbiquity Finance’, 54% of customers thought that video would help them better understand the advice being given by their financial institution. 41% thought video would be more secure than the traditional phone-based contact centre. They also felt that advisors would be more engaged in the conversation.

Video overkill? Amazon Mayday provides round-the-clock video support for all Amazon Fire tablet owners.

So will radio ga ga ever become video ga ga (to misquote an 80s song)?

We decided to ask a number of organisations who have already integrated video into their customer service infrastructure, as well as some customers that had used it, what they thought. It became apparent that there were some very successful deployments of video, along with the inevitable stories of it not working so well.

Here’s what we learned:

  1. Strategy is key — the success of video is dependent on understanding whether there is a need for it. Successful deployments have used video as a sales and service tool for a customer segment looking for convenient, personal and expert advice in a digital channel. Significant failures have largely taken place where video has been implemented in a customer segment that didn’t want it, where the interaction didn’t greatly benefit from a visual component, or the channel didn’t fit the task in hand.
  2. Trust matters — with both mortgage and medical advice being topics that have garnered key successes in video chat. It’s clear that video can provide a visual connection between expert advisor and customer, thus improving trust, rapport and reassurance in complex situations.
  3. A picture paints a thousand words — advisors are able to demonstrate products and customer can show problems rather than describe them, like water damage with insurance companies. Similar results are also reported with the use of static video and personalised (i.e. not face-to-face) video situations, so it may also be appropriate to use video in other ways to help customers. For example, retailers report that providing a visual channel where products can be demonstrated can result in far better engagement with customers and better prospects for sales. The video assistant can talk the customer through personalised promotions and new stock in a video tailored to them individually.
  4. It gives customers quick and convenient access to expertise — since mortgage advisors, tech experts and medics don’t grow on trees, video can provide customers with access to expert advice out of traditional working hours or in branches/shops/surgeries where the expert isn’t physically present. This saves both the customer and the organisation time and travel costs and can improve accessibility of expert advice when it is wanted, rather than having to make an appointment.
  5. Image can be a barrier — both customers and advisors expressed reservations about the intrusiveness of video. People get self-conscious about their image and personal appearance, especially if they are letting strangers into their home (albeit virtually). Neither customers, nor advisors, necessarily like having a camera pointed at them. Seventy-one per cent of our autonomous customers said that they checked their appearance before making a video call. The discomfort that comes with this more direct form of communication with a stranger is one of the biggest barriers to adoption.

It’s clear to see that, if deployed appropriately, video chat does have the capability to create better customer experiences, greater engagement from both the customer and the advisor, and improved customer satisfaction (with many successful deployments reporting increases in both customer Satisfaction and Net Promoter Scores).

Video may not have killed the radio star just yet but, given that it offers customer experience advantages that voice or written digital communication can't, we may yet go ga ga over it.

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