Call center video best practices FAQ

Companies need to consider several issues before deploying video strategies in their call centers. Get expert advice on what to do -- and what to avoid.

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Both live video chat and prerecorded video are creating new ways for contact centers to provide service, and companies need to create new best practices that accommodate this channel.

 “Things are changing so fast right now,” said Fergus Griffin, vice president of Service Cloud marketing at Salesforce.com. “We think that the expectations are kicking up very quickly. Poor service is tolerated less and less.”

Industry analysts and customer service executives agree that video is fueling rapid change and suggest managers consider several call center best practices as they map out a video strategy and improve call center interactions. Read these frequently asked questions and answers to find out how.

How can live chat be used effectively?  

Live video chat is best used selectively rather than as an across-the-board strategy, because it can lead to time-consuming and therefore costly interactions, analysts said. Starwood Hotels & Resorts Worldwide Inc., for example, is currently supporting FaceTime, an iPhone application, for its top rung of customers, known as Starwood Preferred Guests. Customers have given the video chat high ratings since it debuted in January. The hotel giant hasn’t determined yet it if would make sense to move this live video chat capability beyond this group, according to Michael English, vice president of customer contact centers for Starwood. 

iRobot Corp., of Bedford, Mass., uses video technology extensively and relies on live chat for specific types of problems with its home robot line of products, such as those that involve a multi-step process, said Maryellen Abreu, director of global customer care of the home robots division. In these cases, customers are better served by interacting directly and being walked through a complex process.

When is live video chat likely to be a dud?  

Most routine queries will continue to be best served through traditional channels, noted Ken Landoline, principal analyst of unified communications and call centers at Current Analysis Inc. in Washington, D.C. “My sense is it will not catch on for transactional stuff, primarily because you don’t need it,” Landoline said. “Most people would say, ‘I don’t need to see my agent and I don’t want to be seen.’ ”

Who makes a good live-video agent?

Agent selection is challenging when it comes to live video because the person must not only be well-spoken but physically presentable and that can get into very subjective -- and potentially discriminatory -- territory. This can discourage some companies that do not want to get bogged down in “policies on things like agent grooming,” said Drew Kraus, a research vice president at Gartner Inc., in Stamford, Conn.

Starwood Hotels took an interesting approach to agent selection. When it first decided to add FaceTime to its customer service operations, it requested volunteers among the agent base to work on the pilot project. Some agents really wanted to work with the new technology, and because they wanted to succeed, they were personally motivated to present a good image for Starwood, English said.

“We had more than enough step forward,” for the pilot, English added. “They are still with us and they really enjoy it.”

What topics are best addressed in prerecorded video?

Experts say companies need to identify topics that would somehow be enhanced with a visual component. Is it something that is difficult to explain? Then chances are it lends itself to video. As Salesforce’s Griffin said, “Anyone can understand images rather than reading.” Manufacturers or retailers of consumer products and equipment are great candidates for using videos as demonstrations and tutorials.

When would prerecorded video not work?

Prerecorded videos could actually backfire in industries where personal conversations are critical for customers to feel they have been heard and have received appropriate service.

How do you respond to customer-created videos

In certain industry segments such as consumer electronics, companies are finding that customers are creating their own fix-it videos and posting them on YouTube or other public communities. This can pose a new customer service challenge. If a customer posts inaccurate information about the product, “the company will bear the brunt of the frustration, whether they gave out the information or not,” Gartner’s Kraus said.

A company shouldn’t try to control customer’s videos unless they are deliberately erroneous and created to defame the vendor. Companies might consider engaging in these communities while stressing their own branded videos as approved content in the community.

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