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Can You See Me Now?
Video-enabled call centers will change the company-customer relationship.
Posted Dec 15, 2008
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So you've just purchased a 42-inch plasma screen TV in time for the first game of the World Series, and you assured the salesperson you have the chops to install it yourself.

Unfortunately, after everything is set up, you still have no picture. Your heart sinks as you can't make sense of the customer service representative's (CSR's) instructions on how to properly connect the S-Video cable into your home theater system. As the first pitch rockets to home plate, you learn that you won't see a technician until "sometime" tomorrow.

Oops. This is not a textbook positive customer experience.

But fast-forward the timescale a bit to a point when call centers are no longer limited to the voice medium. You call from a cell phone and the CSR sends a video directly to your phone that gives a specific diagram of exactly how to correctly wire the system. Within five minutes, you're enjoying the breathtaking images of the game just as the pitcher takes the mound.

This scene is imminent as call centers are beginning to kick the tires on new mobile technologies that incorporate video into their services. The benefits are straightforward: faster problem resolution, strengthening customer satisfaction; remote problem diagnostics and resolution, saving field service time and money; and dynamic marketing, increasing sales.

Interactive, mobile video will change how call centers operate and transform relationships between organizations and their customers. The potential impact on a variety of industries will be huge. For example, vacation rental properties agencies can deliver beautiful images of a beachside bungalow to someone who has called on a whim.

The maintenance division of an appliance retailer can ask a customer to use a camera phone to send a picture of a malfunctioning washing machine water pump to the CSR handling the call. That image could help the CSR better determine whether it's a problem the customer can fix on the phone, or whether a trained technician needs to go to the customer's house. The CSR might also be able to make sure the technician has the right part based on the image.

Similar technology is already changing the automated movie phone line into a richer customer experience. Theaters in France send movie trailers to mobile phones so subscribers can better determine which films to watch.

That said, the technology that would video-enable contact centers is still nascent. Interactive video and voice response (IVVR) technology is slowly working its way into trial phases in markets where the 3G-324M video protocol is in use, such as in parts of Asia and Europe. Application developers and operators there are discovering the best way to deploy the technology so that it is easy to use, dependable, and operable on a variety of different handsets.

Interoperability is indeed the operative word. As with any mobile application, making the technology accessible to the broadest population of subscribers is critical to growing revenues. That's why video call centers will most likely first take off in markets where the 3G-324M standard is widely used: because it is adapted to more handsets. These call centers of the future will be slower to emerge in the U.S. and other markets where interoperability and the lack of common handset standards are a bigger issue.

Within five years, there will be a new call center paradigm, where the convergence of voice and video will help companies build stronger relationships with their customers.

About the Author

Brough Turner is senior vice president and chief technology officer at NMS Communications. He is regarded as an industry guru with a widely read blog (http://blogs.nmss.com/communications) and a vision of tomorrow's technology.

Please note that the Viewpoints listed in CRM magazine and appearing on destinationCRM.com represent the perspective of the authors, and not necessarily those of the magazine or its editors. If you would like to submit a Viewpoint for consideration on a topic related to customer relationship management, please email viewpoints@destinationCRM.com.

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