Six years ago, when I heard Justin Uberti of Google announce (*) that Real Time Communications could be executed in the Chrome Browser, I had a vision. This new technology would allow users to communicate from one browser to another; a new form of business communication was possible. Stand-alone voice and video would be a thing of the past; the Skype’s of this world would be used for social chitchat. Old heavyweight legacy videoconferencing systems, from companies such as Polycom and Cisco, would die away.
I could see a time when we would use any mode of communication - chat, voice, video and data – in an interchangeable manner and in a ubiquitous form, via a plethora of different apps and tools on any device of our choosing. All communications would be synced and versatile, being able to switch from one mode to another at our choosing and depending on circumstances. More fundamentally, we would be communicating with whomever we wished simply by accessing a webpage and checking an icon. (Yes, of course, this also extended to communications embedded in native apps on smart devices.)
For example, from a company’s web page we would immediately connect with the appropriate customer service representative who can solve our problem; with a sales person who can describe a product or service; from a medical practitioners web page (or app) we engage in a remote consultation; multiple partners in extended supply chains and operations are in constant communication via an intranet and web dashboard consoles (where AI driven algorithms call into a real time video conference the staff needed to resolve an issue); integral, on demand “in situ” communications are the norm. The list is endless.
This is an example of service cloud from Salesforce.com, which provides multiple touch points and customer problem resolution in all forms of media including live real time video via a SOS button.
Secure, business level communications for everyone, exclusively in your branded digital properties. No Zoom, no Skype, no “Contact Us” boxes which require you to write your comments or your complaint, and pray it does not disappear into a black hole. This would be marketing, sales, and customer service executive’s dream. And a dream of customers too!
Customer Service Key Takeaway 1: Make it Simple for the Customer to Communicate with the Right Person in Real Time
In other words, create omni-channel experiences, with service and revenue potential. It follows that companies must have a plan to use embedded real time communications in their web page, internet presence, and in unique apps making relevant contact and service resolution a simple one stop event – including issue resolution in the field or home via “I see what you see”.Don’t despair – it is possible...
Today, I am encouraged. A recent report, “Rise of Embedded Communications Report 2018”, authored by Real Time Communications Guru -Tsahi Levent-Levi, of BlogGeek.me (**), points to the strategic necessity to move to the next level of customer, employee and stakeholder interaction, and the accelerating adoption of embedded video (and chat, voice, and data).
Tsahi’s report states that 80 percent of companies believe that (embedded) video is important, or extremely important, in communicating with their customers. His global survey also shows that 80% of companies will add video to product applications in the next 24 months (65 per cent in <12 months).
Customer Service Key Takeaway 2: If You Fail to Ride the Embedded Real Time Communications Wave Now, You will be Left Behind
Tshai also points out that 60 per cent of companies are planning to release (web and mobile) apps, which includes the ability to directly communicate via any media of the customers’ choice (and switch between different media and data sources) within the next year. And a further 20 percent of companies plan to have caught up in the following years. By 2020, 80 percent of companies surveyed will have executed embedded real time communications.
Customer Service Takeaway 3: Building the Communications Platform Yourself is a Terrible Idea
Product, marketing, and customer service teams will create pressure on development teams to answer the call for the rapid development and deployment of global real time embedded communications, supporting omni channel services, delivered to customers wherever they are. But those customer-facing executives may meet delay and frustration.
Global, scalable, embedded real time communications is not simple, as many failed real time communications programs attest. The vast majority of (large and small) companies do not have the expertise in house to answer the call. Certainly, some can build sophisticated apps, but almost no one (except highly specialized and experienced internet communications and video teams) is equipped to create the cloud based, global real time video / voice infrastructures – delivered across the internet for low cost and versatility – that are required. Infrastructures that can scale and reach a diverse customer audience of hundreds of thousands, or even millions of customers effectively and efficiently and with 100 per cent reliability. These are really difficult to build.
Almost all the companies and professional developers interviewed admitted that the use of third party, hosted, Internet focused Communication platforms will be necessary. These platforms (known as CPaaS or Communications Platform as a Service) can be accessed simply and easily via APIs and SDKs (***) and developers can focus creating apps that embed real time communications in their web page, Internet presence, and in unique apps - which is where customer value is created.
Providing embedded video (with chat, voice, data, collaboration, etc.) via a Communications as a Service Platform (e.g. Temasys Skylink – see temasys.io) has the lowest upfront cost and fastest speed to market. The report indicates that CPaaS vendors are the top choice for developers who have to deliver video in product applications.
Customer Service Key Takeaway 4: The Small Guy Does Not Need to be Left Out
In my mind real time embedded communication functionality should be available to any business, any firm, any SME, or sole practitioner and at a cost and with ease-of-use that makes it ubiquitous. Communication that is an integral part of a webpage and Internet presence, and integrated in the business’s branded properties on the web - accessed by your laptop your computer your tablet or smartphone, is vital for a smart business. I am encouraged by a project being run by a small start up out of Estonia, where a team of developers at MyTalkPro are bringing together disparate technologies to provide turn key embedded communications for “the common man” – online teachers, small consulting companies, NGOs, lawyers offices, accountants, and remote government outstations. Look out for the results from mytalkpro.com in early 2019.
The Bottom Line
After a few years of promise, WebRTC and highly technical and creative work by skilled (internet and video) engineers, have provided easily accessible digital communication platforms that can now deliver secure, scalable, enterprise class omni-channel experiences to customers, employees, suppliers and stakeholders in businesses, organizations, and governments across the world. There is no longer a technical excuse for not providing the highest level of customer service from within your website, your app or your digital properties. Whatever your size!
(*) See https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=E8C8ouiXHHk - from 01:36 to 05:10 if you want to shortcut the full 40 minute video. Today, WebRTC capability is available on Chrome, Firefox, Safari, Opera, and Microsoft Edge browsers,
(**) The “Rise of Embedded Communications Report 2018” is authored by -Tsahi Levent-Levi, BlogGeek.me and managed and administered by Hanover Research and sponsored by Vidyo. Published October 2018
(***) APIs and SDKs – Application Program Interface and Software Development Kits – tools used by developers to access the functionality of other programs, systems, or platforms.