Customer Service Through Live Video Chat Is Poised to Disrupt Outdated Call Centers

Live video chat could change the way call centers operate.

Modern call center companies have something to learn from the demise of silent film. Because it wasn’t just the audible dialogue that ruined the careers of silent movie stars once talkies arrived.

While it’s true that foreign accents, squeaky voices, and clumsy delivery brought about a swift end to many actors’ livelihoods, sound fundamentally changed acting itself. Performers that excelled in exaggerated expressions that made clear what was going on in a silent scene would look ridiculous doing so while speaking.

And so the actors, and movie makers, had to embrace a profound cultural change, or find a new career.

What lesson lies in there for call center operators?

Well, video calling is about is about to perform the same cultural disruption in reverse. The visual image is going to make every talk-only call center outdated. It’s adapt or die time.

Surviving Disruption

Some of those silent movie stars survived the transition to talkies and actually thrived in the new Hollywood. Greta Garbo, Joan Crawford, and John Barrymore went on to bigger and better things after switching to all-talking pictures.

So it is possible to maintain your core identity and transfer it to the new wave. Unfortunately for traditional call centers that means more than flicking on a webcam and making customer service operators comb their hair.

The hidden realities of call center life are about to be put on display for every customer to see. And if it doesn’t match up with the imagery and branding of a company’s public face there may be trouble ahead.

The Visual Customer Experience

Only 1 or 2% of call centers currently use video, so there’s a lot of change that’s going to have to ripple through the industry. As consistency is crucial to the customer experience, call centers are going to have to synchronize the appearance, as well as the performance, of staff.

At the most basic level, that means superficial change, like introducing common décor within call centers and staff uniforms or carefully-defined dress codes.

If a bricks-and-mortar makeover is too expensive a challenge, a lot of the visual stuff can be digitally enhanced with available video calling software that isolates the host from their background, obscures unwanted surroundings, or even places virtual makeup on a caller’s face, if you wanted to go that far.

The performance angle is a little more demanding, as it requires a radical change in conduct. All the hidden gestures, reactions, and general demeanor of staff are going to be on display for the first time–as will their interactions with colleagues–which places a whole new burden of responsibility on them.

If that hurdle can be overcome, which will take personal development sessions for existing workers as well as an entirely new hiring process, then using video within a call center actually offers some real advantages over the audio-only standard.

Advantages of a Visual Call Center

Just like adding dialogue to movies improved the overall cinema-going experience, so adding a human face to the call center service could improve the customer experience. Actually, as the approval rating of call centers is currently pretty low, just about anything would improve the experience.

And nothing improves the relationship between people like a smile. Adding a human face to the otherwise disembodied words of an audio call lends greater credibility and trustworthiness to customer service representatives.

It makes it easier to establish a relationship between customer and company by letting reps guide people visually, as they would in person. They could demonstrate a fix using an identical product while a customer watched, or share a screen and walk a customer through a technical process step by step.

Furthermore, advances in the availability of video calling services could go some way toward localizing a customer service through remote employees unchained from a physical call center altogether.

Abandoning the Call Center Altogether

The rise of cloud-based, software-as-a-service functionality means there’s little maintenance or management required to run a video calling service with telecommuting customer service reps.

Such as service would reduce the cost of housing a call center team, and maybe even decrease the outsourcing of such teams overseas. You could have individual staff scattered across the country, and maybe even geotarget callers to let your reps speak with local knowledge. If an airline lost your baggage on a domestic flight, wouldn’t you rather talk with someone in Atlanta, not Uttar Pradesh?

The training would be the same regardless of location, and the video masking apps mentioned above that can manipulate a caller’s background means there’s no need to mail out a company flag to every employee.

In fact, the entire customer service conversation could soon be projected into a computer generated location, where customer and rep are free to move about as full-body avatars, capable of interacting with a digital backdrop.

That’s perhaps one for the distant future, but it is an example of how radically the customer experience could be changed by embracing video calling.

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