WebRTC Makes It Easy to Put Customer Service Video Chat on Your Website, But Proceed with Caution

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WebRTC and customer service video chat

The ancient Roman God Janus would have made a nice figurehead for one of the most disruptive forces in modern communications, WebRTC.

The guardian of exits and entrances, Janus was considered to represent beginnings, and was depicted as a two-headed deity capable of looking back into history and forward into the future.

It’s a near-perfect representation of what WebRTC and the accompanying browser-based video conferencing potential represents to businesses today. It can provide a direct, secure portal through which online customers can speak face-to-face to the people behind the products and services they use.

And it is the beginning of a DIY approach to video conferencing that could rapidly become cheaper and more accessible than current subscription and hardware-based solutions.

Billions of WebRTC Users Within 5 Years

WebRTC, or Web Real-Time Communication, is essentially an agreement by the major web browser companies–Google Chrome, Firefox, and Microsoft Edge among others–to employ standardized programming and communication protocols that can be used by anyone.

It’s like handing out a master key to the internet that lets developers and programmers use the major browsers to launch their own applications. Because everyone is speaking the same language, there’s no need for extra downloads and plugins to power video, audio, and video conferencing platforms.

Video calls can be accessed instantly the same way a YouTube video is instantly displayed on your screen without any need to download an app or subscribe to a commercial account.

It’s already being deployed in smartphone browsers as well as PCs, and it is estimated that by the year 2019 half of all internet users will use WebRTC apps in some way. That means 2.5 billion users accessing embedded WebRTC services across 6 billion devices.

Which is where Janus, Guardian of Gates, comes into play to let businesses speak directly to customers.

Customer Service Video Calling for All

Businesses want their customers to be able to speak to them with a minimum of fuss and technical guff. Amazon’s MayDay Button has been something of a high-water mark in instant video conferencing since it was introduced in 2013.

The Kindle support service is free, activated with a single click, available 24/7, and has a standard response time of 15 seconds or less.

And that’s exactly the kind of experience you can give your customers with a browser-based video link.

Because the service is available across most browsers you don’t need to worry about what video conferencing platform your customers prefer, you don’t have to raise suspicions by making them download any .EXE files, and you don’t have to send them away from your own website.

There are a number of VC platforms that offer guest use and account-free video chat rooms, but a WebRTC service can be embedded directly into a company web page and become as seamless as those YouTube videos I mentioned earlier.

And you don’t have to pay subscription fees, or install and maintain major hardware, like many commercial video conferencing platforms require. In fact, if you’re technically gifted you can create and install the service yourself by using the tools at webrtc.org, and dabbling around in some JavaScript.

Or you could just buy a video calling package from a company like the rather blandly titled intercom.com. But just make sure you know your limitations.

How to Deal with Customers Over a Video Call

There’s no point in pursuing an ‘anytime, anywhere’ video calling service on your website if you don’t have the people power to actually pull it off. Amazon can answer its video calls in 15 seconds because Amazon can afford a 24/7 sales team.

But overreaching by promising something you can’t manage can lead to long wait times for customers, causing frustration and some rather negative vibes. So clearly label your video link and perhaps only offer it when your staff are reliably on hand to help.

Another caveat is that WebRTC is still in its infancy, so the visuals and latency aren’t always at the standard of commercial applications. So proceed with caution: if you’re not able to provide fast, clear video communication to your customers you’re probably doing more harm than good.

And finally, as in all aspects of business, presentations counts. Think about what your customers are going to see when your customer service reps pop up on their laptop. And that’s not just personal appearance, but also the background and the retail items, multimedia displays, and shared documents you’ll need to have at hand to ensure the impression of a professional service.

WebRTC can give you the power of Janus, to open doors for your customers and create a whole new beginning for your business. But you’ll need to think it through to avoid becoming a high-tech casualty.

Image Source: Flickr CC User DaveBleasdale

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