Bringing video to the masses has long been the Holy Grail for the communications industry. The affordability, availability, and ease of use of tools and services like Apple’s Facetime, Skype (News - Alert), and YouTube have allowed that to happen.
But, for the most part, consumers have led the way on this front. Now, however, many businesses are leveraging these mass-market video tools, and others, to forge tighter bonds with their customers and to help close the deal with new prospects. The good news is that video is no longer a pie-in-the-sky concept. Not only is video a great way to expedite the resolution of trouble tickets, the technology to support it is now widely used and understood by customers.
“Despite a history of false starts, live video chat for eCommerce and customer support is now at the beginning of a viable adoption cycle,” Forrester (News - Alert) writes in a promotion for its 2014 study on the topic. “Early adopters — most notably Amazon — are plowing ahead. A handful of firms have been using B2C video chat for up to two years — some with very encouraging returns.”
Kai Petzelt, senior marketing and product management leader at SAP (News - Alert), breaks down enterprise video into two main segments – B2C and B2B. The first provides companies with an additional channel with which to communicate to end users, he says. For example, rental car company Hertz offers customers self-service video kiosks that enable renters to bypass lines to talk to an in-person Hertz representative. The B2B scenario, he said, allows people to video chat to make doing their jobs more efficient. For example, he said, a medical device manufacturer could build a video chat interface on its gear and users of that product could use it to interface with the manufacturer’s customer service department if they had questions about the operation of the device – not unlike what Amazon now does with its Kindle Mayday button. Or, Petzelt added, a business could use B2B video functionality internally; for example, a cable TV installation technician might leverage video chat to connect with headquarters to solve a problem.
Live Video for Customer Service
As Petzelt points out, video’s use in customer service is not yet mainstream. However, SAP is working with a WebRTC provider to integrate that company’s solution into SAP’s omnichannel customer service application. The integrated solution is slated to be commercially available in the second half of this year. Field service will be the first use case for this solution, according to Petzelt.
Talkdesk, a three-year-old call center-as-a-service company, is also working on bringing video into its solutions, COO Gadi Shamia says. Although the company does not yet have an offering on this front, it could have something to show in this vein as early as the third quarter.
“The company’s vision was always beyond voice,” Shamia says. “We see video as the next big thing for customer service and support. Video allows us to take the next step of bridging the world between agent and customer.”
However, Shamia adds, Talkdesk doesn’t think people want to be on video all the time. But there are moments in which verbal explanations can really be clarified with a visual, and if you could just click one button and go to video that would be ideal.
Video is not just a niche customer service application, however, it also extends to sales and commerce. B2C online commerce platforms tend to see a lot of abandoned shopping carts, Petzelt notes, but with video, companies can offer customers the ability to trigger a video interaction with an agent, who can help close the deal.
CEO Tom Engdahl of Net Power and Light, which offers a platform and API/SDK tools to allow companies to build and integrate face-to-face video and information sharing tools into application and websites, says that using video connections to provide a face-to-face conversation enhances the customer experience by giving customers real-time access to people who can assist them.
“In complex or complicated situations video is used to show the customer solution specialist the problem by using the camera to focus on a part, connection, or failed component,” Engdahl says. “The bottom line is that video is a state-of-the-art communication tool providing a personal and efficient access to experts willing to help solve a problem.”
When users activate the NPL CS-Spin function, the user device initiates a video chat session with a CS-Spin customer support agent. CS-Spin agents can see exactly what is on a customer's screen and can even use screen sharing to show consumers how to use a particular feature. Customers, however, remain in control. The connection is one way by default with two-way capabilities. Consumers can turn off screen sharing or mute the microphone so that they can enter passwords or have a local conversation without the expert listening.
“I believe we will see customer service move from an overhead expense item to a key element in customer satisfaction and relationship building leading to additional revenue and sales opportunities,” says NPL’s Engdahl. “Customer service will become a revenue generating component of an enlightened organization.”
Prepackaged Video for Customer Education
Video can be helpful not only in enabling customers to troubleshoot products they buy from a company, but also to better understand their bills for those products and services, says Greg Van den Heuvel, senior vice president of customer engagement solutions at Pitney Bowes.
That’s important because bills can lead to customer confusion, complaints – and sometimes even a customer jumping ship. These issues are especially prevalent in the communications service provider arena, where new customers sometimes experience what’s known as bill shock when they receive their first bill for a new plan.
When a customer goes into a wireless retail location to get a new phone, he or she might be so excited about the device that details about the service plan go in one ear and out the other. That could potentially lead to bill shock and a call coming into the wireless carrier’s contact center to complain or drop the plan.
But the wireless carrier can get ahead of that by presenting customers on new plans with personalized videos that greet them by name and visually guide them through the different line items of their bills. In fact, one large global wireless service provider has implemented just such a solution in collaboration with Pitney Bowes, which Van den Heuvel notes has a long history of expertise in the billing arena.
“Video is a natural way to explain the bill using multiple channels,” says Van den Heuvel.
Here’s how it works. When customers get a paper bill, it has a QR code on it. Customers that leverage the online payment option get a PURL, or personalized URL. Either way, that takes the customer to a personalized video within two seconds. That video welcomes the person, presents his or her first bill, and puts the bill on screen so the agent in the video can walk the customer through each feature of the bill.
Although the video is pre-recorded, Pitney Bowes refers to it as personalized interactive video because it greets the user by name, is selected from a library of clips to match the specific needs (in this case service plan and billing format) of the customer, and allows the customer to navigate to other online resources from the same interface.
This kind of solution not only addresses the trend of customers wanting to be able to interact with their suppliers via various channels – a trend that’s frequently referred to as omnichannel or multichannel customer service. It also delivers real results for a business, says Van den Heuvel.
For example, Van den Heuvel says the large wireless carrier that put this solution in place at its business in June of last year reports that 74 percent of its customers who watched the videos resolved their problems without a call to the call center; retention rates went up 30 percent; its Net Promoter Score went up 10 basis points; and 30 percent of those who viewed the video signed up for autopay.
The bill shock scenario is, of course, just one example of how video can be leveraged to improve customer service. Another example, says Van den Heuvel, is in collections. In fact, that’s something the telco noted above is working on with Pitney Bowes. It will involve the telco presenting customers that have been slow to pay their bills with a video noting that fact and presenting their options on how to address it. Video can also be used to explain insurance policies and bills, airline policies, and much more, he said.
“Down the road,” Van den Heuvel says, “I see video being a predominant channel.”
Video for Promotional Purposes
Marketing and advertising are obviously two other great use cases for video, which adds up to better results for the companies using it.
Open rates on emails that have subject lines noting they include video have a 55 percent higher click through rate than the average email, says Amy Hyde, director of technology alliances at Brightcove, and web pages with video are 53 times more likely to rank on the first page of Google (News - Alert) search results.
Harel Insurance Investments and Financial Services, which is Israel's largest insurance group, leveraged video technology from Idomoo and saw a 40 percent open rate for email, a 32 percent overall click through rate, almost no viewing drop-outs during the video, and a yearly 100 percent rise in e-statement signups. Meanwhile, Steimatzky, the oldest and largest bookstore chain in Israel, experienced an email open rate among club members of above 65 percent, and within two weeks of receiving the video, 15 percent of recipients completed a transaction in the store.
BT (News - Alert) also is incorporating personalized video capabilities. In this case it’s doing that as an add-on to its Cloud Contact portfolio of services, and using technology from Idomoo to make it happen. That will enable businesses to send short, individually tailored videos to millions of customers.
This spring BT was piloting the solution with some U.K. retail banks, which were using video in an effort to upsell customers, and they saw response rates increase by eight times as a result. Those pilots are now completed and a number of customers are now ready to start a production run, BT tells CUSTOMER.
Edited by Dominick Sorrentino