Will video become a new norm for customer service?
by Simon Johnson, General Manager UK&I, Freshworks
With the majority of the UK population currently finding themselves working from home, many of us have established a new communication norm: video conferencing. Whether it’s conducting work meetings or catching up with friends and family in the evenings and at weekends, major players such as Microsoft Teams, Zoom, Skype and Google Hangouts are some of the technologies fostering face-to-face interaction, albeit through a camera. So, while this form of communication has temporarily become the go-to for many of us, will it continue to be in the future?
According to figures released in March, yes. Pre-COVID-19, the global video conferencing market was expected to nearly double over the next seven years, growing from $6.1 billion in 2019 to $11.56 billion by 2027. The technology isn’t new and has been a trend since the early days of Webex and GoToMeeting, but continued growth is being maintained by business leaders’ desire to improve productivity and reduce international travel. Video conferencing offers real-time, face-to-face interaction anytime, anywhere around the globe.
However – when it comes to customer service – ask most people to describe their typical interaction with a brand and they’ll likely give examples of telephone calls, emails, or maybe even text-based chat. Video doesn’t even come into the equation. But as consumers become more comfortable with video conferencing in their work and personal lives, will we see more businesses turning to video to provide customer support? All signs point towards “go”. Here are some of the reasons why I believe a video revolution in customer service will occur. The business benefits will be too irresistible to ignore.
Building customer loyalty and humanising customer support: Live video chat will represent a powerful evolution of live text chat and phone support. By providing video support, customers are more likely to feel that they are receiving undivided attention – and that they are important to the brand. This in turn will help drive customer loyalty, provide a more ‘human’ customer support experience, and ultimately enables the business to build deeper connections with its customers.
Efficient troubleshooting: Today, video tutorials are already an integral part of customer self-service. It is much easier and quicker to watch a video explaining how to solve any product issue, than it is through reading text or images. Furthermore, these guides can help build engagement and offer a personal touch across the customer life cycle.
However, while they are a great asset for solving common problems, it is not an efficient use of a business’ time to make a video guide for every single issue that could arise with a product or service.
Let’s take an internet service provider (ISP) as an example here. If your internet connection keeps cutting out and you need assistance, a tutorial video on how to reset your router or test your internet speed would be helpful. However, if this fails to solve the problem, it is likely that you will need to call your ISP and explain the issue over the phone. If it’s a technical issue, this can present a challenge for both the (let’s assume, non-technical) customer and the (technical) agent, and could likely result in the agent sending out a technician to solve, what could have been, a fairly straightforward fix.
Had this been a video call, the agent could have combined live video chat with a screen sharing tool – simultaneously reviewing the problem in real-time and testing solutions on-the-go. Not only would this have saved the ISP both time and money, it also enables agents to build a closer relationship with the customer, and the customer to get back online much sooner, with less hassle.
Scaling premium customer experience: While many large businesses may not have the infrastructure to efficiently run live video customer service just yet, it is likely that it will become a key solution for those that provide a premium service and want to differentiate by offering a more personalised and real time experience. It is a cost-effective way for companies, especially those who are looking to expand their customer bases and scale-up, to provide an ‘above-and-beyond’ service.
Laying the foundation for future technology: Of course, video isn’t the only innovation currently being explored in the domain of customer service. Applications of augmented reality (AR) and voice assistance (VA) are still on the horizon but could soon provide a wealth of opportunity to brands when it comes to sales and customer support. For example, in future, businesses could use AR-enabled devices to make agents appear in a customer’s own environment – making the interaction appear more human and natural – imagine a scenario where support literally appears beside you and shows you how to overcome the ‘blue screen of death’. We’re already seeing the huge benefits this technology can bring to customers – IKEA has had enormous success with its IKEA Place augmented reality app which helps shoppers visualise how the furniture will look inside their homes.
Investing in a video platform now will help companies keep pace with changing customer demands and enable them to use the learnings and infrastructure to deliver a superior support experience, once technology such as AR becomes more accessible for customer service.
Will it catch on?
The business benefits of using video conferencing for customer service are clear. However, for it to really catch on, it will have to be both more effective and more efficient than traditional support channels. Customers will always want to maintain the shortest route to an answer or solution, and they will likely sacrifice the human experience to get there. This doesn’t mean that humanising the customer support journey isn’t crucial, it is, and video conferencing has an important role to play in this. It will, however, need to be part of a wider omnichannel strategy, and used to augment, not replace, existing self-service support channels.