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“Video Chat” – the Wrong Name for a Contact Center Channel

Have you seen the 2016 Global Contact Centre Benchmarking Report Summary by Dimension Data? Almost one third of contact centers plan to deploy a “Video Chat” channel in the next 12 months.

I’ll offer my thoughts on this startling figure in the next blog post, but today I want to talk about terminology. This is what I want to share with you – the term “Video Chat” is completely inaccurate, and is now an obsolete name for this channel.

These days it’s not about “video” and it’s not about “chat”; it’s about Live Online Assistance. Now, let’s get into the details…

Where did the term “Video Chat” come from?

Way back in the 00’s the contact center industry adopted text chat technology, providing online assistance to website users. This software typically consists of a text box on the website for customers, and an operator console, which allows contact center agents to participate in the chat. There are a number of names given to this type of channel, such as “live help” and “live support”, but I believe the most useful ones are “live chat” and “web chat”. This is where the “chat” part of “video chat” comes from.

So, what about the “video” part of the term? If memory serves me correctly, the idea of “Video in Contact Centers” came about around 4 or 5 years ago, when several global leaders in communication solutions started placing bets on business video. At the same time, in May 2011, Google released an open-source project for browser-based communication called WebRTC.

As is often the case, software vendors decided to combine the two trends of the day and build products that offered both video chat and text chat. These attempts failed however, as they found that contact center agents were unable to handle simultaneous text chat with voice communications (some agents speak well but have poor writing skills, and vice-versa). It is from these efforts that the term “video chat” channel was born. However, as I said earlier…

… it’s not about “Video” and it’s not about “Chat”

There’s an awful lot of marketing material out there about body language and how using video increases trust and confidence. Nonsense. PURE video is still a solution looking for a problem (see the Dimension Data report).

It’s not just about the chat either – people rarely type something when they can just say it out loud (except in rare occasions when needing to send text such as IDs, emails, addresses, credit card numbers etc).

Introducing Live Online Support

It’s my humble opinion that the most important part of the “video chat” experience are web-collaboration features such as co-browsing, screen sharing, and remote control, as offered by RichCall video chat for Unified Contact Center Express (UCCX).
These features are used everyday in the following areas:

  • customer support
  • sales support
  • IT troubleshooting

Is it possible to use video chat without web-collaboration to improve FCR, reduce the abandonment rate, or minimize channel escalation? I’m not so sure.
However, I can quite easily envisage:

  • an agent guiding a visitor to a website through a complex registration process
  • a sales agent sending photos and videos of products to potential customers
  • a consultant providing technical support using app sharing and remote control

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