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The Case for Video Customer Service: When Should Your Agents Show Their Faces?

by Ellen Muraskin

Do video calls have added value over audio-only calls in a customer service environment?

In 2018 we will start to see more businesses adopt video calling as part of their omni-channel customer service. Should yours be one of them?

Given that a) most laptops are equipped with cameras nowadays, b) even desktop computers typically sport add-on webcams, and c) most callers have video-ready bandwidth, this is not a decision that calls for capital investment. At least not for OnSIP queued-calling customers, for whom inbound video call distribution is a mere drop-down choice, along with voice-only. The right question is, is yours a business that should encourage callers to communicate with video as well as voice?

Where trust is important and hand-holding desirable

Judging by successful applications, we'd say yes, particularly where it's important to establish trust with your caller. That's why you see video being deployed in the areas of most concern to most people: health and money.

Virtual Doctor Visits

In healthcare, of course, there's an obvious need to be seen. Consider the Virtual Visits of United Healthcare, the insurance giant hosting a portal to its telemedicine-enabled, in-network providers at myuhc.com. For non-emergency conditions, virtual visits have a lot to recommend them: saving time and gas and avoiding waiting-room germs, for starters.

Such visits are covered by insurance and employ board-certified doctors, escribing medicines just as they do for in-person visits. While callers are typically placed in queue for the next available doctor, they can also ask to see the same person next time, or schedule a virtual visit.

TurboTax Live

Then there's money: If you're an accountant or a tax preparer, your clients might want to look you in the eyes. They might need some hand-holding. Intuit, the folks who bring you TurboTax tax prep software in a box or as a service, get this.

They have CPAs and enrolled agents at the ready to give filers a professional review before submitting. It's a one-way video session and brings the cost of the service to $149 (self-employed DIYers pay $89 as of this writing). Here, a parallel data stream can share desktops of spreadsheets and forms.

Varsity Tutors

Tutoring is another application that thrives on visible encouragement, empathy and trust. St. Louis-based Varsity Tutors uses one-on-one video, plus shared desktops and whiteboards, to help connect online learners to over 40,000 experts in more than 1,000 subjects.

The service started with a real-world back end, by matching learners to tutors who arrived in person. Today 60% of the business is online. Students can upload homework files into the document window for collaborative editing or drawing; they see their tutors’ faces in another pane.

The company’s web site features a video clip of students pinging their tutors via mobile app for last-minute reviews from the back seat of cars on the way to exams. The challenge for Varsity Tutors, of course, is fine-tuning their matching engine to ensure maximum availability of instant, on-demand tutors—now at 10% of their business—without paying for idle time. But Mark Zuckerberg is on board; Chan Zuckerberg Initiative is one of the Series C investors that pumped in an additional $50 million in late February.

In Brazil: SmartCare

Video visits also underpin a new service in Brazil that focuses on preventive health monitoring (glucose levels, blood pressure, etc.) and follow-up for seniors. Set up by the Brazilian health insurance giant Unimed, the SmartCare service serves 30,000 Brazilian elderly with human resources that would otherwise, says Unimed, serve 5,000.

In this case, the same "visiting" nurse always sees the same patient, promoting trust and compliance. In a parallel data session, diagnostic readings are sent to clinicians via digital devices shipped to patients' homes.

Where you'd like visible talent to serve multiple sites

On a smaller scale, inbound video calling can help small retail chains by fostering the kind of ongoing personal relationships that big box stores can't. In a hosted scenario, this can also pool your most personable talent at one location across every other location.

Just as with voice over IP, an inbound video call can easily be transferred to anyone in any store branch, letting one product expert or Spanish- or sign-language-speaking employee answer questions, and in Spanish or American Sign Language, for calls to any store. Even better, placing our sayso button on a website can invite Spanish-speaking callers to video call, routing straight to your separate individual or queue of Spanish-speaking agents.

Video also can add visual confirmation that a specified item is in stock, simply by transferring the video call to the warehouse. (As you'll see in any womens’ fitting room today, remote video chat already figures into many retail purchasing decisions!)

Stay Tuned

Do you think yours is a business built on trust (or at least visible proof that something is in stock)? In our next post, we'll show you how easy it is to set up an inbound video calling queue with a subset of your customer service people, and how to encourage customers and prospects to use it.

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