For the past several years, WebRTC (Real Time Communications) has been widely touted as the next big thing in the contact center world. As 2015 unfolds, the reality is starting to catch up with the hype as innovative suppliers roll out real-world solutions. These include platforms that enable organizations to:
- Streamline the way they interact with customers by better blending their website and the contact center
- Reduce both customer effort and agent frustration
- Add video chat to their service repertoire
- Employ real-time data analysis to deliver targeted communications during seamless cross-channel interactions.
Market factors driving this progress include the continuing need of consumers to find easier, more effective ways to communicate with businesses and WebRTC’s growing acceptance as the next standard by major providers, including Firefox and Chrome. WebRTC provides a more reliable, easier to implement, and less complex infrastructure that can significantly improve the customer experience while enabling organizations of all sizes to offer the latest in client communication.
Multichannel cloud contact center provider 3CLogic recently unveiled a multi-stage WebRTC solution to expand the capabilities of its cloud product offering. “The market has come to a point of convergence and standardization where a cloud contact center solution for WebRTC protects our customers’ investments,” said Raj Sharma, President and COO of 3CLogic.
The company views the technology as an enhancement -- not a replacement--of the services they already provide. Existing and future enterprise clients will be able to seamlessly interoperate with any WebRTC originated calls or chats while still employing 3CLogic’s full suite of features, including ACD, CRM integration and IVR access. The most visible immediate benefit will be the ability to provide consumers with browser-based click-to-call and click-to-chat, enabling them to contact an organization from any Internet platform, PC, tablet, or mobile without relying on traditional telephony carriers. One company in the driver education market is already successfully conducting web chat via the 3CLogic WebRTC solution.
“It’s all part of the massive shift that the world of communication is currently undergoing as web providers begin to overtake telephony carriers as the preferred means of communication,” said Sharma. “The internet communicates with the contact center. Good VoIP solutions formerly required companies to download software on the agent’s desktop, but that will no longer be necessary. We’re betting that WebRTC solutions will only need a minimum of IT resources, and we’ll be onboarding customers without the need to go through IT.”
The 3CLogic solution will be rolled out in three phases. For the first, they’ve dropped in a quick gateway that converts WebRTC to session initiation protocol, while enabling clients to use other solutions that the company offers. The second phase makes the application completely invisible. If a client is using a CRM solution such as Salesforce, SugarCRM, or Microsoft Dynamics, WebRTC will run in the background. Customers will still be able to handle WebRTC calls coming in from WebRTC-enabled browsers. In the third phase of the offering, which is due to be implemented in Q3 of 2015, the gateway will no longer be needed as the application moves from an agent desktop and is run in the cloud along with the company's other software.
Global enterprise contact center provider Aspect Software has what they term as “a history of invention,” having been at the forefront of introducing ACDs, predictive dialers, unified architecture, and more. Aspect introduced an early adopter RTC platform in November, 2014, allowing businesses to directly embed audio-only or audio and video conversations and collaboration functionality within their website or mobile customer care apps.
“WebRTC is a shift in the strict process in how people formerly communicated with companies,” said Tobias Goebel, Director of Emerging Technologies at Aspect. “For 100 years, consumers were conditioned to pick up the phone and dial. Now, WebRTC allows them to exploit what smartphones really offer instead of merely using them for voice, which is their dumbest application. Instead of forcing people out of an app to and making them talk to IVRs, you can have a seamless escalation from self-service to live services. It has the potential to transform customer engagement into a personalized experience, while reducing telecommunication costs and improving customer satisfaction”
The underlying technology leverages the latest high-definition audio and Aspect’s Experience Continuity application captures user profile data and session activity, providing agents with historical and real-time context for each interaction. This enables seamless transition from one interaction channel to another without the need to repeat information. According to Goebel, perhaps the solution’s most significant differentiation feature is Aspect’s RTC Collaborate, which allows richer customer experiences. Consumers can benefit from agent remote control, co-browsing, on-screen drawing, video and much more without having to download any additional software.
Contacts are completely pre-qualified before being routed to the appropriate agent, reducing AHT (average handling time) and improving FCR (first contact resolution). The customer/agent interactions enabled by the RTC Platform improve customer satisfaction by giving customers direct access to contact center agents at the point and place where it’s needed – avoiding the IVR and adding the potential for a personalized experience with video. It also offers an improved agent experience via the ability to better build rapport. One example is improved prevention of cart abandonment, a common problem in b-to-c interaction, via ‘angel whispers,” a gentle online agent intervention during the purchase process asking if they have questions or need additional help to complete the transaction.
The Aspect RTC platform integrates with Aspect Unified IP and Aspect’s Zipwire cloud contact center platform, as well as with 3rd party contact center solutions such as Genesys and Cisco. By leveraging the SIP standard, it will be able to be integrated with any SIP-compliant real-time communications environment. The solution will be available on premise as well as in the cloud.
While 3Clogic and Aspect are focused on enterprise companies, cloud contact center software provider Vocalcom is looking more closely at the SMB market for its WebRTC Solution. Vocalcom is collaborating with Google to bring WebRTC to contact centers looking for functionality at a lower price, claiming to enable them to reduce their total cost of ownership by as much as 50%.
The Vocalcom WebRTC solution offers a cloud contact center requiring zero on-premise hardware, software, or telephony infrastructure. This allows contact center agents to use the Vocalcom cloud contact center solution agent desktop on Chromebooks through WebRTC-enabled interfaces. The solution puts the customer record in a single window with the most critical and recent information in a clear view right up front. Since agents have access to all of the customer’s interaction history across all channels in one place, they can easily search for more details. Customers can also initiate contact with a company representative or customer service agent directly from a company website without a need for installing an additional third-party application.
“Via Chromebook, companies can take advantage of an easy-to-use, cheap-to-buy, thin client solution,” said Wendell Black, General Manager of Vocalcom North America. “We’re providing different solution sets to different sectors of the marketplace. Some enterprises with Windows-based desktop operations might not be nimble enough to rapidly adopt our solution, but ultimately we think thought leaders in this segment will see the long-term advantage.”
Vocalcom sees the main differentiating factor as their WebRTC Solution’s integration with their full suite. “Self-service features, the contact center, social and mobile have never been intimately connected,” said Black. “By introducing more accessible WebRTC, Vocalcom will help to enable video everywhere, on any device, from smartphones to tablets, laptops, and PCs, which has the potential to add a new degree of comfort and trust to the whole customer experience. Video will drive a change in corporate culture”
The Affordable Care Act a/k/a Obamacare is inspiring healthcare providers to use WebRTC video to provide better service to patients. Some companies are now allowing patients to consult with dermatologists via video to get advice on their skin problems. Other video applications include consultations with remote mortgage lending experts via kiosks in banks or with fashion specialists in on-location retail sites or on the retailer’s website.
While WebRTC can make customer interactions with contact center agents easier than ever, companies would be best advised to thoroughly evaluate any solution before they implement it. Contact center technology testing specialist IQ Services is currently the only provider that has the means to generate voice, data and video traffic to ensure WebRTC contact center interactions work as intended.
The company, a pioneer in providing managed contact center quality assurance managed testing services, conducts StressTest load and performance testing for WebRTC interactions. They create thousands of concurrent interactions that access a system to assess the performance of WebRTC implementation under varying traffic levels, enabling a company to adjust and calibrate its technologies to efficiently deliver the desired customer experience. In addition, IQ Services’ HeartBeat availability and performance monitoring service can initiate unique WebRTC interactions on a 24/7 basis. A company can select the time intervals it deems appropriate to confirm that customer-facing systems really are available and performing as intended.
“It seems like everybody and their brother has been building WebRTC applications,” said Russ Zilles, CEO of IQ Services. “But the market will be condensing and only the serious players will be in it for the long run. Not many businesses are testing yet, but we’re the only company with the WebRTC toolset to help them make sure that it’s working. One of the key questions we encounter is ‘how do you scale WebRTC?’ It’s OK on a point-to-point basis, but we have worked with a conference company which is finding it difficult to use when they have more than four simultaneous users.”
Companies need to determine capacity – how many users will be involved, how much bandwidth is being allotted and how the STUN and TURN servers employed in delivering WebRTC can handle expected loads. Signaling is also an issue, since there are no standards defined at this point (Zilles believes that such standards will emerge) and the signaling of one solution is thus often not the same as another. Another issue for contact centers is how many sessions can be handled at once. “If a center has 200 agents, can it actually support 200 simultaneous WebRTC sessions?” said Zilles.
Testing WebRTC is more involved than it is for voice applications because of the level of customization required for each implementation. “Data makes the difference,” noted Zilles. “Companies which can best utilize data from users’ web sessions and analyze it to determine what individual customers are looking for can use this intelligence to generate the right questions for their agents to ask in WebRTC interactions.”
“Only 1.5% of the contact center market is currently being tested,” said Zilles. IQ Services has been talking to larger companies and ultimately feels that ROI will grow as its thought leadership in testing WebRTC solutions is acknowledged.
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