Organizations tend to have a website group and a contact center group. But, in the future, it is very likely that many companies will move to integrate the two in an effort to deliver a better customer experience while at the same time lowering their costs. WebRTC is expected to be a linchpin in bringing all this together.
In the interview below Chris Vitek, president of WebRTC Strategies Inc. and a speaker at the upcoming WebRTC Conference & Expo in Atlanta, explains how and why, and what it all means for companies like yours.What’s your background?
Vitek: I’ve been working in the communications industry for the last 30 years. For the last 17 years I have been an independent consultant in the contact center and unified communications sectors. I currently am a member of the Board of Directors of the Society of Telecommunications Consultants and a member of the Society of Workforce Planning Professionals (News - Alert). Additionally, I am the editor of www.STCblog.com.
What is WebRTC?
Vitek: Web real-time communications is a new, open source communications standard that is sponsored by Google (News - Alert) with both the IETF and W3C. Specifically, it supports browser-to-browser communications via text, file transfer, audio or video without the need to download an app. It works on any device that supports a browser -- smartphone, tablet or PC.
Many people first visit a company website before reaching out to the same company’s contact center. Yet there is clearly a disconnect between website and contact center interactions today. How can WebRTC change that?
Vitek: By merging the web and telephony experience the context of a call to a contact center is greatly enhanced. Web browsing history, cookied data and information about the web page that was being viewed at the moment of connection can all be considered in framing the context of a call. IVR authentication and routing are not necessary for these calls.
WebRTC represents the opportunity to collaborate with customers in either the traditional web model or audio of video communications. This is the opportunity to enrich customer communications to make them more precise and anticipatory. Add to this the ability to use big data to formulate real-time marketing offers and talking points that support the customer’s needs. This approach can profoundly reduce mass media marketing spend and enhance customer loyalty by reducing customer effort.
One reason for the disconnect between contact centers and websites, I think, is that the contact center is a unique part of the enterprise run by a services team while the website tends to be managed by the marketing department. How can we overcome this divide?
Vitek: I do not think that this divide will be around for much longer. Marketing budgets in many enterprises dwarf that of the contact center operations. Once upper management understands that they can reduce marketing expenses by a greater amount than the contact center operations budget, these organizations will by pushed together very quickly. Currently, websites tend to map to data while contact center technologies tend to map to people. Creating a website mapping that is consistent for both will require the input of both the marketing and contact center operations.
Do company leaders understand the need to bridge that gap?
Vitek: Right now, no. But once these leaders realize the benefits, they will start the process. In most cases this will be a next year thing to do in terms of reorganization. There may be some task forces set up this year, but the traditional budget process for enterprises is a Q4 exercise. Look for this timing to influence most organizations. Further, look for capital expenses in these contact centers to be curtailed for the remainder of this year as a result of questions about the viability of existing contact center technology.
How do you suggest companies manage the transition that’s coming between contact centers and web environments?
Vitek: Given the right approach, the transition can be smooth with minimal risk. The reorganization of marketing and contact center staff should be fairly logical. Many of these folks will have the same responsibility, but with newer, more functional tools.
From a technology perspective, there are at least six enterprise contact center product manufacturers that have plans to introduce WebRTC products this year. Additionally, there are at least 11 different manufacturers of media servers that already offer WebRTC products or are a software release away. WebRTC products will be ubiquitous by Q3, 2013 (about the time the IETF RFC will be ratified). The key will be to figure out which product fits your customers’ needs the best.
In the future, should organizations treat all interactions coming from their websites and moving into their contact centers the same? If not, what are their options for identifying the most high-value interactions to make the most efficient use of company resources while getting the most value from customer interactions?
Vitek: No. WebRTC will allow for customized routing of every call. Further, not all calls will need to be supported by the traditional ACD/IVR infrastructure. In fact, many organizations may choose to completely eliminate IVR. The traditional algorithm of longest waiting agent gets the next call may also change. WebRTC supports an offer-answer technique of call distribution that works well in non-traditional, low traffic customer support operations. In these cases enhanced or expert support will trump the traditional high-volume screening and transferring that occurs in many contact centers.
At what stage are we in WebRTC feature availability and corporate adoption?
Vitek: I have engaged two Fortune 25 companies regarding WebRTC strategy and architecture. I have discussed this with at least one start-up operation that claims that half of the New York financial sector has active WebRTC projects under way. Further, AT&T, Telefonica (News - Alert) and one other carrier will have WebRTC product available in the network by June.
Is there’s just one thing organizations need to know about WebRTC and what it means to the future of their businesses, what is that one thing?
Vitek: WebRTC will be transformational, but the big transformations will not be built by the technology providers or even start-ups, but by intelligent business people who can harness the capability to transform their business and gain significant competitive advantage. In the early days of the web/browser, the early adopters that saw using the new techniques to reduce transactions cost were able to gain market share. The webification of telecommunications with WebRTC will create the same opportunity with richer interfaces that will extend well beyond traditional enterprise communications boundaries.
Edited by Stefania Viscusi