Video calling is hardly news.  Products like Facetime for the iPhone have been around since 2011 and going back even further Microsoft Netmeeting provided video calling in 1998 - almost 20 years ago!

Until recently, the contact center industry has not made much effort to incorporate video calling.  There are a number of reasons for this delay.  Firstly, video calling creates significant bandwidth requirements - the bandwidth required for a good quality video call can be five to ten times more than a voice call.  Secondly, video calling software has been proprietary.  For example, you cannot talk from Skype to Facetime, or from Google to Whatsapp.  Standards exist for voice calling but not video calling, so understandably, contact centers have stuck with voice.

Bandwidth problems are being overcome.  Clever encoding of the video stream means that the bandwidth required for a video call is now less, and the ever-expanding Internet is bringing ever broader internet connections to call centres.  As for the challenge of differing systems being integrated; the rise of WebRTC has made this less complicated.  A simple web browser has become the means to send and receive a stream of video between two computers regardless of platform.

However, these have not been the only barriers to adoption.  There is also a cultural one. Many people are uncomfortable with video calls, for some it feels a bit too intrusive.  Others may feel a bit shy and they don't like to be caught on camera unawares.  This cultural challenge is unlikely to last long thanks to social media.  In particular, those that utilise video such as Snapchat have made us more comfortable with appearing on other people's screens.  For those who are still shy; there's no need for video to flow in both directions, it could just be the contact center agent that is visible to the customer, not vice versa.

Video calling is definitely coming and in some industries it is already here.  Industries such as healthcare and insurance have been quick to realise the benefits of seeing a video of the other party on a call.  For example, healthcare providers are using video to look at bodily afflictions and insurers to view dents in the paintwork of a car. It's easy to see other benefits too.  A friendly face appearing on the screen can help the caller establish stronger rapport with an agent, and also give that agent more credibility.  Providing visual cues in a call makes for much better communication between two parties.

In our next blog we will explore how video can help build up trust.


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