Video has long had promise in the contact center by providing information-rich and personal face-to-face interactions between individuals. But it took the COVID-19 pandemic to bring video to the fore.
As the pandemic hopefully begins to subside, and it becomes safer for individuals to conduct their business and work in-person and in-office, what will be the picture for video in the contact center? And for what purposes, internal (employee) or external (customer) communications?
Contact Center Pipeline asked several leading industry participants to find out. They include Roe Jones, Director, Product Marketing, Genesys, Scott Kolman, Senior Vice President, Marketing, Five9, and Zack Taylor, Senior Director, Cisco Collaboration.
Have you seen growth in the use of video in the contact center?
Roe Jones: Absolutely. Video communication has been a staple for individuals around the world over the last 18 months, with no signs of slowing down. The global videoconferencing market is expected to grow from $9.2 billion in 2021 to $22.5 billion by 2026.
When it comes to external communications, the need for brands to be empathetic and value emotional intelligence is crucial when it comes to a positive customer experience (CX). Now more than ever, consumers want to be heard, and video communications gives them more control.
For example, take ContactBabel’s recent “US Customer Experience Decision-Makers’ Guide,” which surveyed hundreds of CX professionals and consumers on their thoughts tied to the current state of the CX industry.
Roughly 54% of business survey respondents believed that video agents could offer more personalization and empathy on the calls, with only 5% disagreeing. This is due to video’s ability to offer a visual connection between a brand and a consumer. As we look towards a hybrid future of remote and in-person work, we expect video to continue growing in importance and popularity.
Zack Taylor: We have seen an increased interest in video engagement over the past 18 months. Historically, video has been associated with vertical industries, such as healthcare for telemedicine. Now the general industry is showing increased interest in video adoption.
For what use cases?
Roe Jones: For internal employee communication there are a wide range of use cases, the top two being collaboration and training.
For collaboration, video helps employees work together more easily and seamlessly, especially when in-person work isn’t an option.
When it comes to training, video enables companies to navigate teaching valuable soft skills like empathy and human interaction. These are two skills that have been traditionally difficult for contact center training; a recent Genesys survey found only 9% of high-performing agents cited empathy and listening as their greatest strengths.
As companies look to help agents strengthen these skills many of them are increasingly looking to video. For example, Genesys recently introduced a new video training series, “Beyond CX,” which utilizes short, immersive eLearning courses in a Netflix-style format to help contact center leaders and agents learn the importance of empathy and listening.
Beyond CX presents a unique opportunity for agents to acquire the soft skills needed to create meaningful customer experiences that consumers have come to know and expect in today’s digital world.
For external communication, there are a wide range of use cases customers use video for. But the two main examples include issue resolution and emotional connection.
Many customers turn to video communication when wanting to provide additional context or explain an issue further, rather than leaving it up to interpretation via text or self-serve channels.
For example, Genesys utilizes Vidyo Engage, which provides content-sharing capabilities and which gives customers the option to begin video chats directly on web pages without downloads or plugins, including multi-party videoconferencing.
Beyond the accessibility video provides, consumer preference for video typically comes down to empathy: making sure a customer feels seen and heard.
For example, Genesys recently conducted a report focusing on “How the Pandemic Impacted Human Interactions” and found that 67% of consumers prefer an empathetic customer service experience to a speedy resolution. The face-to-face interaction that video offers helps to establish this emotional connection that consumers crave.
Scott Kolman: Adoption of video in the contact center is still in its infancy, as we see it occurring first for specific use cases.
In customer service, businesses and consumers can both benefit from being able to share visual information, such as how-to videos, photographs of damaged packages, and various types of documents.
Collaborating visually is often much faster and easier than trying to explain a problem to a contact center agent or describing the solution for a customer.
This can be extremely helpful in a variety of situations, such as when a customer needs to show an insurance claims agent the damage to their car after an accident or when a customer wants help assembling a product.
Additionally, retailers are seeing success with using video to create guided personal shopping experiences, particularly in countries with more stringent social distancing restrictions.
Adoption of video in the contact center is still in its infancy, as we see it occurring first for specific use cases.
Live video can also enhance customer conversations that are sensitive or complex, including medical and financial services interactions.
Video allows agents to read non-verbal clues to create a more emotional connection, express empathy, and build trust. For example, wealth managers often use video chat to provide clients the assurance of communicating about money matters face-to-face, alongside the convenience of engaging remotely.
As well, customer interactions that include video can be recorded to assess agent performance or use in training.
Quality assurance personnel can easily evaluate how agents performed and provide coaching points on ways to improve video engagement with customers. Sharing videos showcasing best practices that highlight effective techniques can teach agents new ways to optimize the CX.
Zack Taylor: The contact center is evolving rapidly, and customers are demanding myriad ways to connect and interact with brands: from phone calls to text messaging, email, the web, social media, and beyond.
During the last 18 months consumers have been exposed to more video interactions from their work-from-home experience. Video collaboration has experienced a high level of interest from many businesses, including contact centers, and shifting to a digital-first approach to the customer journey allows contact centers to provide and reshape agent and customer experiences.
Live video calls and chats offer the potential to create a more human experience: where agents and customers can take in non-verbal cues and form a better context for the engagements as compared with traditional phone-based or text-based chatbot conversations.
For contact center teams, video would help to create and maintain an inclusive and engaged workspace. For customers, video conversations with agents can be useful to address complex or sensitive issues in a more productive and faster manner.
What are the top drivers for video?
Zack Taylor: Over the past year the top three factors driving video adoption in the contact center have been the following:
1. Changing customer expectations. We are living in a multichannel world, where—similar to their consumer choices—customers expect to engage with businesses whenever and wherever on the platform of their choice, which increasingly includes video calls and chats.
2. Customers are demanding better experiences, which has generated a corresponding demand for technology to improve the connected customer journey.
3. Customers have also been exposed to video far more in the last year with remote and hybrid work experiences and they are more comfortable with video engagement.
What unique role does video play in the cast of channels?
Roe Jones: Video is unique since it’s a channel that has the ability to curate long-term, high-value relationships. Putting a face to a name helps build loyalty, trust, and security both internally and externally for companies.
Additionally, video presents opportunities to expand upon the customer’s initial inquiry, because it introduces organic ways to keep the conversation going by finding common ground, as opposed to generating a generic response.
For example, maybe a customer and an agent both went to the same university or have the same type of dog or support the same sports team. Almost two-thirds of individuals remember the impact of a story or common connection, as opposed to data or statistics from a conversation. As a result, video is unique in its ability to utilize the power of storytelling and connection.
Are there differences in the demographics of who is using video?
Scott Kolman: The 2021 Five9 Customer Service Index survey found that age plays a major role in preferences for video.
A full 70% of 18 to 29-year-old respondents are open to using video calls to interact with contact center agents, while 42% of 30 to 49-year-olds and 47% of 50 to 64-year-olds are open to it. The figure drops markedly after that; only 33% of respondents 65 and over indicated that they are interested in using video.
Organizations need to carefully identify the best use cases for using video for customer care. For example, some consumers may not want to interact on live video with agents for personal or security reasons. However, if they could access instructional videos or share videos of damaged merchandise this could help expedite resolving their issues.
Video has long been discussed and tried but has historically never gained much traction. What has changed to increase its use?
Roe Jones: Video has seen incredible growth due to the pandemic and its impact on brands’ ability to connect with customers.
As a result, many companies have worked to introduce new technologies and capabilities to meet consumers’ growing preference for video, both internally and externally.
For example, last year Genesys and Zoom partnered to help eliminate the frustration of switching between systems by providing seamless internal video communication across organizations, thus making it easier for teams to work together more efficiently.
Today, some consumers still prefer interacting virtually, as opposed to in-person communication based on convenience, and video has become an integral part of this.
Additionally, part of video’s growth in popularity has been due to the pandemic altering what exactly consumers look for when it comes to the CX.
Genesys’ report on “How the Pandemic Impacted Human Interactions” found that 88% percent of consumers want contact center agents that truly listen to them, while 86% percent value agents who truly understand their needs. Video provides an unmatched platform that puts the consumer in control and allows agents to listen and understand with ease.
Scott Kolman: A recent Salesforce study found that video-based customer support grew 42% from 2018 to 2020. That’s no coincidence.
A recent Salesforce study found that video-based customer support grew 42% from 2018 to 2020. That’s no coincidence.
During the pandemic, people of all ages and all geographies became more comfortable using Zoom and other videoconferencing technologies to interact with relatives, classmates, friends, church groups, book clubs, etc.
What’s also changing is that digital transformation and the shift to the cloud have been greatly accelerated by the need for organizations to operate remotely.
Remember, the majority of contact centers are still on-premise, but many organizations were able to make the transition to the cloud during the pandemic. Cloud technology provides the flexibility, agility, elasticity, and scalability to power modern customer engagement channels like video.
The business benefits of using video in customer service are also increasing its use in the contact center. Video provides the ability to resolve complex customer issues faster, increase first contact resolution, personalize conversations with customers, improve agent performance using video recordings, and it lowers customer engagement effort.
Video does so through a visually collaborative environment. One that allows for competitive differentiation by offering customers a unique way to interact with the business.
Zack Taylor: The COVID-19 pandemic significantly sped up digital transformation for many industries, including the contact center industry, in order to navigate the abrupt changes in business operations and customer engagement.
As a result, video has become a de facto communication stream for many businesses for both internal communications and increasing interest in customer engagement.
In addition, more widespread access to high-speed connectivity has also sped up business adoption of video collaboration tools, with advancements in wireless and wired networks making video meetings and meet ups easier and more reliable to do.
Cisco is optimizing bandwidth for its portfolio. For example, WebRTC adoption is increasing, which drives a more standard method of establishing video connections.
What are the challenges for video?
Roe Jones: There are a few challenges that come along with video, depending on your company and use case.
First, not every company has video integrated into their current contact center platform. A company can of course add this functionality, but it may not be as easy depending on its current mix of technology or what provider the company uses.
Second, the level of comfort and familiarity with video is not unanimous. Ovum recently ran a report that found roughly a third of sales professionals believe video will hinder sales opportunities as opposed to enhancing them.
Whether it’s utilizing legacy technology or being more comfortable without the visual aid, there is still a bit of a learning curve for certain employees.
There’s also a bit of disconnect regarding video’s benefits in the contact center. For example, only 23% of CX professionals in the US Customer Experience Decision-Makers’ Guide thought that video agents could reduce the premises costs (through working at home), with 32% disagreeing.
The same report found 59% of business respondents did not think their agents would welcome being on camera, while 57% believed the same about customers.
Finally, it can be more difficult to interpret nonverbal cues on video and, of course, not everyone has the same level of connectivity when it comes to their Wi-Fi.
Scott Kolman: While in the past bandwidth was a real or potential hurdle, consumer experience throughout the pandemic showed that those concerns were, for the most part, unfounded as we all communicated with one another over Zoom, Microsoft Teams, and other video collaboration technologies.
Video is not the universal answer in the contact center as in many instances it is not required. Yet there are clear use cases where video can aid in the resolution of a customer issue by providing the ability for the customer or agent to share key information.
The use of video can also aid in alleviating concerns a customer has, as they are able to see the person they are communicating with as they address a sensitive issue.
Zack Taylor: In today’s remote work environment, negative user experience is the main issue for video in the workspace. Poor video quality, sub-par audio quality, unreliable video streaming – all elements that make video calls or chats unproductive--and all of which bring back to reliable, high-speed, high-bandwidth connectivity (or a lack thereof).
What are the best practices to obtain the most benefit from video?
Roe Jones: It’s crucial for customers, and for agents who are remote or mobile, to find locations that have both a strong internet connection and limited distractions. It helps to have natural lighting or have access to proper lighting that doesn’t create shadows on your face.
For external best practices specifically, video dialog is meant to be conversational and interactive. Agents should always be aware of their facial expressions and how they present themselves. For example, agents should try to engage with the consumers whenever possible with physical cues such as nodding their heads and smiling.