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Improving Your Online Customer Service and Hence your Bottom Line Using WebRTC-based Real-time Communications


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WebRTC (Web Real-Time Communications) is a relatively new technology that provides Web browsers and applications with secure real-time communications capabilities.

It is being hailed as the single biggest disruptor to real-time communications since Voice over Internet Protocol (VoIP), the ability to make telephone calls over the Internet.

This white paper explores how WebRTC-based real-time communications on your Web properties can assist you improve your online customer service and thereby customer experience, customer loyalty and ultimately your bottom line.

It provides a non-technical overview of WebRTC and practical examples of how one can use WebRTC-based real-time communications across numerous industries to improve customer service.

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Improving Your Online Customer Service and Hence your Bottom Line Using WebRTC-based Real-time Communications

  1. 1. Improving Your Online Customer Service and Hence your Bottom Line Using WebRTC- based Real-time Communications October 2013 Authors: Nigel Sinclair Thomson, CEO, 1toGo Carlo Petrolo, Southern Europe, Middle East and Africa Manager, CommuniGate Systems This document was written in association with and with support from
  2. 2. 2 Contents Introduction 4 Why is an Online Presence so Important? 5 Why is Online User Experience so Important? 5 Why is Customer Service So Important? 7 Summary of the Research Referenced 8 What do we mean by ‘Real-time’ Communications? 8 What is WebRTC? 9 How does WebRTC Support Your Customer Service Efforts? 10 Some Examples of Using WebRTC to Improve Customer Service 12 How Does ‘Talk2Us’ from 1toGo Mobile Help You Improve Your Customer Service? 15 In Conclusion 16 About 1toGo Mobile 17
  3. 3. 3 About CommuniGate Systems 17 References 17
  4. 4. 4 Introduction Regardless of the size of your business, there are many reasons why you might have a presence on the Web, be it via a website, mobile application, social media site or blog. These include one or more of the following:  As a source of information for prospective customers  As a means to establish your credibility  As a standalone eCommerce site  As one of many channels which your customers can use to transact with you  As a portal from which your customers can download their accounts / statements or use to update their information. Whatever the reasons for your having an online presence, you provide your visitors or customers with an opportunity to form or change an impression of your business every time they interact with your site/s. It’s imperative that you provide your users with a positive experience during these so-called ‘moments of truth’. i This is not only because dissatisfied customers tell more people than satisfied customers ii but also because, as we shall discuss in this white paper, there is a well- established relationship between customer service, experience, loyalty and profits. This white paper commences by considering why you should have an online presence and how your user experience impacts customer loyalty and revenue not just online but also offline. It then explores the importance of customer service on user experience and how customer service can even be considered as a sales channel. We then provide a non-technical overview of the new technology WebRTC (Web Real-time Communications) and how it supports your customer service efforts. After looking at practical examples of how WebRTC-based real-time communications can be used across numerous industries to improve customer service, the paper concludes by introducing 1toGo’s ‘Talk2Us’ online real-time communications tools.
  5. 5. 5 Why is an Online Presence so Important? In a survey carried out across 32 different countries by Accenture, 71% of consumers said that after word-of-mouth, corporate websites were their preferred source of information on providers and brands prior to their making a purchase. iii Furthermore, almost half of those polled (44 %) said the information they found on these websites was important when they made their decision to purchase. It’s thus clear that if you don’t have an online presence, many of your potential customers will be doing business with competitiors of yours that do. Why is Online User Experience so Important? Once you’ve created a website or social media site, it’s not easy getting visitors to visit. It’s also not easy to get them to use the new mobile app you’ve developed, even though you’re so proud of it. But getting people to use these assets of yours is one thing. It’s even more difficult to convert them to customers. In spite of this, businesses are currently investing substantially more to get traffic to their websites than what they spend on converting visitors once they’ve arrived. iv Regardless of how you define ‘convert’ (this will depend on the type of site/s you have and the reasons for your having those sites), this imbalance in spending can compromise your user experience. Indeed, in a survey carried out by the Temkin Group, business leaders acknowledged that customer experience via their phone and in-person channels exceeded that of their online channels. v This difference was particularly large in the case of customer service help. User experience impacts customer loyalty In the same article referred to above, the Temkin Group identified 5 types of ‘online struggle’ (defined as “experiences that obstruct a user’s path to accomplishing her goals”). Reducing this struggle is important because struggle doesn’t just lead to one-time abandonment of shopping carts or channel shift. It can also lead to a permanent lack of confidence in your brand as well as visitors to your Web properties bad-mouthing your brand with friends and in social media.
  6. 6. 6 Furthermore, companies offering a better customer experience have more loyal customers who are more likely to purchase repeatedly and recommend to others. vi And long-term profits Customer loyalty is critical for businesses, particularly those that transact online. This is because customer acquisition costs in e-commerce are high and multiple purchases are required to turn a customer into a profitable customer. vii In addition, the longer their relationship with an online retailer, the more customers spent in a given period of time as a result of more frequent and larger purchases based on increased trust and cross-selling opportunities presented to them. Repeat customers also refer more people. The value of these referrals can be significant. To prevent loss of online sales Online sales accounted for approximately 9% of total retail sales in the US and 7.6% of total retail sales in Europe in 2012 viii (this varied from a high of 12.7% in the UK to a low of 1.6% in Italy) while online retail sales as a percentage of total retail sales are expected to reach 7% in both China ix and Australia x in 2013 Business believes it’s losing the equivalent of 24% of this online revenue due to bad user experience. xi To prevent loss of offline sales But businesses use multiple marketing and/or sales channels. Some of these channels may be online while others might be offline. As an example, customers might research online but purchase instore, order online and collect the item instore or order instore and have the item delivered to their residence. This online research / offline purchasing is resulting in the growth of Commerce 3.0 – the convergence of online and offline shopping. xii Forrester Research has estimated that by 2014, online research undertaken by consumers will influence 53% of combined online and offline retail sales in the US. xiii This is up from 42% in 2009. The reasons for the increasing popularity of ‘Web-influenced sales’ include purchasers being able to see the product they are purchasing before committing to the purchase and the removal of the need to pay for delivery charges or wait for purchases to be delivered. Regardless of the channels used in this multichannel approach, customers are increasingly demanding a seamless, integrated and consistent (‘Omnichannel’) experience across all channels.
  7. 7. 7 This is not something that can be ignored in developing regions of the world: in a survey undertaken by Capgemini, the expectations for a seamless experience across all channels by shoppers who have used technology during shopping was highest in developing markets. xiv This is ascribed to the lack of traditional retail infrastructure in these markets as well as shoppers in developing markets using the latest shopping techniques instead of traditional approaches to shopping. It’s thus imperative that you provide visitors to your online properties with the best possible experience, failing which you could lose substantial online and offline sales to your competitors. Why is Customer Service So Important? Customer service can impact customer loyalty and hence repeat purchases vii over a period of many years. xvi It impacts customer experience, loyalty and purchases In a survey carried out by Loudhouse on behalf of Liveperson at the end of 2012 xv , the main reasons for customers abandoning online purchases included a lack of information about the product, service or delivery; navigation difficulties and problems experienced with online customer service or support. Furthermore, more than 80% of those polled said they required assistance when online and just over half said they tried once or gave up immediately when looking for help before purchasing online. Similarly, just over 70% expected help to be available within 5 minutes while 31% expected help immediately. 48% said they would purchase elsewhere or abandon the purchase altogether if they weren’t assisted in the expected timeframe. The major drivers of a good online customer service experience xvi include quick resolution of issues, having an issue resolved in a single interaction, friendly customer service representatives and the ability to deal with the same representative if a follow-up interaction is required. Interestingly, it appears that customer service influences the purchasing decisions (positively when receiving good customer service and negatively when receiving bad customer service) of business-to-business (B2B) customers more than the purchasing decisions of business-to-consumer (B2C) customers. In addition, it appears that the speed at which a problem is handled has a bigger impact on the customer service experience than whether the outcome is that for which the customer hoped.
  8. 8. 8 It’s thus clear that customers are becoming inpatient and expect that their problems be resolved online in real-time or near real-time. Although customer service expectations rise every year and rise faster in emerging markets than in mature markets, iii many customers who changed their providers as a result of bad service believe that their providers could have done something to make them stay. It creates brand advocates But apart from directly influencing customer loyalty and repeat purchases, satisfied customers are also brand advocates. Indeed, 84% of respondents in one of the surveys referred to earlier in this paper believe that customer service can even be considered a sales channel. xi This is not surprising given the importance of ‘word-of-mouth’ marketing. Summary of the Research Referenced The research referred to above indicates that consumers place considerable importance on the information on corporate websites prior to making an online or offline purchase. Although the online customer experience offered by multichannel businesses might not be as good as that offered offline, customers are increasingly expecting a seamless, integrated and consistent (‘Omnichannel’) experience across all channels. Online customer experience is strongly influenced by online service. This in turn impacts customer loyalty and thereby not only once-off but also repeat purchases, online and offline, in both the B2B and B2C environments. While expectations for good customer experience and service are rising faster in emerging markets than in mature markets, customers everywhere are requiring that their problems be resolved online in real- time or near real-time. What do we mean by ‘Real-time’ Communications? When we refer to ‘real-time’ communications, we are referring to tools like website chat / instant messaging, voice calling / conferencing, video calling / conferencing, whiteboarding, screen sharing / co-browsing and file sharing.
  9. 9. 9 The use of these tools on their websites will enable businesses to improve their online customer service, assist customers overcome at least 4 of the ‘online struggles’ identified by Temkin and at the same time allow service representatives to suggest alternative purchases or up sell to visitors. What is WebRTC? WebRTC (Web Real-Time Communication) is a relatively new technology open sourced by Google in May 2011 and which provides Web browsers and applications with secure real-time communications capabilities. This allows users of websites, customer portals and mobile apps to communicate directly in real-time with contact centers and company employees while online (e.g. without leaving the website to make a phone call), in high definition (HD) voice and video where applicable, without having to download and install any plugins. WebRTC also provides telecoms operators with the opportunity to ‘Web- enable’ their back end infrastructure so that users can call traditional public telephone network numbers from their browsers. Unlike the traditional telecoms paradigm where telecoms operators provide services (usually on a ‘per minute billing’ basis) to users under service agreements, many of the users of these WebRTC-based tools might not have any prior relationship with the website owners providing the 'infrastructure' over which these communications take place. Although WebRTC was only available in Google Chrome in November 2012, 13% of video calls in the US (as well as 9% of video calls in Europe, 11% of video calls in Asia and 22% of video calls in Australasia) were being made over WebRTC by March 2013. xvii WebRTC is already available on 60% of desktop browsers (Google, Mozilla and Opera) as well as on Chrome and Firefox for Android. It will be available on almost 1 billion devices by the end of 2013 and on just under 4 billion devices by the end of 2016. At this point in time, there will be more than 1.5 billion active users. xviii WebRTC also allows website developers to develop voice applications that have nothing to do with telephony. Examples of such voice services include:  Interactions on the Web driven by voice and gestures  Voice enabled online authentication  Online translation engines  Voice enabled completion of online forms  Voice enabled virtual assistants
  10. 10. 10 WebRTC is being hailed as the single biggest disrupter to real-time communications since Voice over Internet Protocol (VoIP), the ability to make telephone calls over the Internet. How does WebRTC Support Your Customer Service Efforts? Let’s assume you’re a customer researching a product or service on a company’s website or transacting on a service providers' online self service portal or mobile application. You might require further information or assistance so you’d have to contact the organisation using email, an online form on the company’s website or other tools like social media networks. Once you’ve submitted the message, you then need to wait for a reply. If you require urgent feedback however, you have no option but to pick up a telephone and call the organisation or visit the nearest branch. Given you may be travelling or living away from home at the time of your query, having to dial a conventional telephone number might be inconvenient and expensive while visiting a branch could be impossible. Assuming you were able to phone your service provider, you would still have to spend time listening to a multi-level auto attendant / IVR in order to have your call routed to the appropriate service representative. Even though you had authenticated yourself online during your interaction with the company’s website or customer portal, if you were to call or visit a branch of the business, you’d be required to re-authenticate yourself using your ID/social security number, birth date, address etc. Furthermore, when you phone or visit a business, the telephone call or visit doesn't provide the person attending to your query with the context of the query (e.g. what page on the website or downloaded document you were viewing when your query arose). WebRTC makes your life so much easier! If the company you’re dealing with provided WebRTC-based real-time communications for its website visitors, you could initiate a live chat with the appropriate representative of the business based on the page of the website you’re currently visiting. This would eliminate the need for you to listen to an auto attendant / IVR.
  11. 11. 11 Thereafter, the representative might decide that it would be better to talk to you instead of text chat, so she could escalate the chat to a voice call. This call takes place via the Internet directly between you and her. Should she need to demonstrate or show something to you, she could then escalate the call to a video call. Alternatively, should she need to see what you were trying to do when your query arose, she could initiate a screen sharing / co-browsing session with you or share a document with you if this would facilitate the interaction. WebRTC also enables face recognition/head tracking for gesture-based controls e.g. if during a video call with the service representative she noticed that your face expressed unhappiness or irritation, she could follow up with you on the reason for this. Since all the above takes place online, you wouldn’t have to re- authenticate yourself if you had already done so when logging on to the website or portal. The benefits of WebRTC don’t however just extend to the customer. If the contact center application used by the agent or customer service representative supports WebRTC, the company will be able to bring new agents online or have them work from home simply by providing them with a computer and WebRTC compliant browser. But first a word of caution. Don’t try to force WebRTC to solve a problem that could have been solved more effectively using a different technology. WebRTC must provide customers with benefits they wouldn’t obtain using other technologies In order to encourage a customer to use WebRTC-based communications, the interaction needs to provide the customer with benefits over and above those she would obtain from using traditional communications methods, e.g.  Quicker setup of the communication (e.g. not having to download and install an application or plugin. This might not be as important if the customer has an ongoing relationship with the business as opposed to the interaction being once off)  Membership of a service not being a precondition to being able to communicate  The ability to source more information or resolve issues quicker (e.g. by being able to escalate a live chat or call to more useful modalities)  No need to re-authenticate after an initial authentication. To illustrate the above, assume that you’re an animal welfare agency wishing to launch a new service that enables lost pets to be returned to their owners.
  12. 12. 12 You envisage your service providing pets with tags containing QR codes. Quick Response (QR) codes are the two-dimensional barcodes you see on shop windows, advertisements and T-shirts. These codes link the physical with the virtual world since scanning such codes with your smartphone will open up the company’s Web property to which the QR code is linked, in your browser. These codes would link the pets to their own personal web pages on your agency’s website instead of providing the owners’ telephone numbers on the tags. Such web pages could include information to assist in identifying a pet without listing the address and contact details of the owner for security versions. The web page could instead contain a link which if clicked using a WebRTC-enabled browser would dial the telephone number, unknown to the finder, of the owner. If such a pet were lost, the finder could scan the pet’s QR code and after verifying the identity of the pet, call the owner’s telephone number. This might appear on the surface to be an ideal application for WebRTC. If however one evaluates this scenario against the checklist above, there are no incentives for the customer (the finder of the pet in this case) to use such a process to return the pet to its rightful owner. It would thus be more effective for an owner to just provide their phone number on the tag and have the finder just phone them by traditional telephony, even if this meant that the owner’s telephone number would be made public. Some Examples of Using WebRTC to Improve Customer Service In this next section, we provide you with some examples of how WebRTC can be used to improve customer service across a range of industries. Banking / financial services  Institutions like banks, insurers etc. can offer different communication tools to their customers based on their value to the business. As an example, a bank's high net worth clients might be given the facility to video chat with their relationship manager but other clients might be limited to voice calls or instant messaging with the contact center.  Allow customers at branches to communicate with product experts (who might be based at other branches or head office) via Web browser based kiosks.  Allow customers at branches to view and listen to information and infomercials via Web browser based kiosks or ‘audio spots’
  13. 13. 13 Healthcare  Allow single & multi-party video conferencing for help lines including voice transcription for hearing-impaired patients  Allow providers to consult with remote specialists or patients via single and multiparty voice and video conferences  Remote viewing of images e.g. radiology, microscopy  Disease management and home care monitoring  Remote live interactive demonstrations of procedures and the presenting of classes simultaneously to patients at multiple clinics  Hospitals and medical practices providing a directory of their doctors with click-to-call/make appointment from the hospital or medical practice website. Retailing  Retailers can announce ‘specials' and advertisements while a visitor/shopper is online  Allow customers at stores to view and listen to information and infomercials via Web browser based kiosks or ‘audio spots’  Shops can allow customers at home to see various departments of theirs and their suppliers as well as talk to staff going about their daily tasks in order to show aspects such as quality and cleanliness (e.g. butcheries, fishmongers, grocers, dairies). Education / training / coaching  Allow students to attend lectures/classes remotely  Where a subject being demonstrated is difficult or expensive to setup at a local educational institution such as a school, it can be demonstrated to multiple institutions simultaneously from a central location  Students in a study group can discuss an assignment with other students online on the same web page  Educational institutions such as crèches, schools, colleges and universities can provide live video feeds of their activities to parents and ex pupils/students  Fitness trainers can offer home based training via real-time video Legal  Remote expert witness testimony. Staff recruitment  Job applicants can be interviewed remotely by video.
  14. 14. 14 Realtors / real estate agents  Provide live virtual tours of properties to remote prospects  QR codes in newspaper advertisements or on advertising boards outside properties leading prospects to pages on their websites containing information and a widget to contact the agent for live help. Travel agents  Travel agents can show photos or videos of destinations to be visited during a tour to visitors to their website  Visitors to a travel agency website can discuss a tour package with other visitors to the same page Online or physical auctions  Sellers or auctioneering staff can show prospective bidders (those unable to attend in the case of physical auctions) the item the bidder is considering as well as its condition. Social media networks / communities  Allow free or low cost communications including voice and video calling between members. Dating websites  Allow daters to talk with or see potential dates without revealing their location and contact details. Support groups  Allow members who are unable to attend and participate physically to do so remotely. Churches / undertakers  Broadcast church and funeral services to congregation members or family and friends who are unable to attend a church or funeral service physically. Orchestras / bands  Allow remote fans wherever they might be in the world to view concerts or gigs live as well as interact with the orchestra or band members. Broadcasting  Allow remote fans to participate in interviews with film, music and sports stars  Viewers at home can ask questions of radio and TV station correspondents as well as participate in live TV shows We have no doubt that you’ll think of many more uses for WebRTC-based communications for customer service since you’re only limited by your imagination.
  15. 15. 15 How Does ‘Talk2Us’ from 1toGo Mobile Help You Improve Your Customer Service? 1toGo Mobile’s ‘Talk2Us’ service makes it easy for small and medium sized businesses to provide their customers with online real-time communications for their websites, social media sites, customer self-help portals and mobile apps. With less than 5 minutes downtime a month (99.99% availability), ‘Talk2Us’ is available when you need it to assist visitors on your website and thereby convert your prospects and do repeat business with your existing customers. We provide you with the code for widgets for your online properties and documents and within minutes you can communicate with your visitors using WebRTC-based online chat / instant messaging and high definition (HD) voice and video. Our Cloud-based infrastructure also makes it easy for you to escalate the calls to conferences sessions and other tools as well as route the calls internally. Apart from allowing you to communicate with your online visitors, we can also connect you to public telephone networks, thereby turning your Web browser into a phone. If you’re a larger business, 1toGo Enterprise will provide you with similar services tailored to meet your unique requirements. And if you’d prefer to host the services in your own private Cloud, our associate Zwana Unicom can provide you with the infrastructure and consulting services you need to get you up and running with the minimum of delay. You can access an online demo of 1toGo Mobile’s services by clicking here.
  16. 16. 16 In Conclusion By improving the online customer service you provide your customers and thereby the user experience, you are able to increase customer loyalty and thereby ongoing purchases both online and offline. This requires you to attend to and resolve customer queries online in real- time or near real-time. WebRTC is an exciting technology that has the potential to revolutionise online customer service by allowing businesses to communicate with their prospects and customers online in real-time. 1toGo Mobile makes it easy for you to provide your customers with WebRTC-based real-time communications for your websites, social media sites, customer self-help portals and mobile apps.
  17. 17. 17 About 1toGo Mobile 1toGo Mobile offers online real-time communications for customer service as well as unified communication and collaboration services to clients such as SMEs and SOHOs. 1toGo also offers solutions to larger businesses as well as verticals such as educational, healthcare and government institutions via its ‘1toGo Enterprise’ services. In addition to providing services to business users, 1toGo Mobile offers solutions to service providers such as telcos, mobile network operators (MNOs), mobile virtual network operators (MVNOs), Internet service providers (ISPs) and Webhosts as well as website designers and developers wishing to provide their clients with value added services in order to differentiate their services from those of their competitors. 1toGo Mobile is an associate of Zwana Unicom, Distributor for CommuniGate Systems’ carrier grade unified communications technology in Sub Saharan Africa and South Asia. About CommuniGate Systems CommuniGate Systems develops the world’s most efficient and secure Unified Communications technology, enabling businesses of any size to better connect and collaborate. An evolution of email, CommuniGate Pro provides unprecedented security to Internet Communications for Web and Mobile device users. The unique multi-threaded technology holds all known world records and has un-challenged performance delivering the best value to organizations that take security and efficiency seriously. Companies that depend upon CommuniGate Pro for their secure Unified Communications include; NASA, British Airways, SITA, US Missile and Space Command, Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory, Los Alamos National Laboratory, Lockheed Martin, DB Schenker, SNCF, along with more than 17,000 other businesses with more than 190 million end users.
  18. 18. 18 References i ‘Moments of truth’ is a term coined by Jan Carlson when he was turning around Scandinavian Airlines System (SAS) in the early 1980s) ii One (perhaps extreme) example of this is the popularity of the ‘United Breaks Guitars’ video ( that David Carroll put on YouTube after United Airlines broke his guitar en route from Halifax, Nova Scotia to Omaha, Nebraska in 2008. This video had received more than 13.5 million views at the time of writing this article. Another more recent example is Hasan Syed’s promoted tweets to British Airways’ more than 300 000 Twitter followers to vent his frustration at the loss of his father’s luggage during a flight from Chicago to Paris ( iii ‘2012 Global Consumer Pulse Research’, Accenture, November 2012 Research-Study-2012.pdf iv ‘92:1: Marketing’s dirty little statistic’, posting on Econsultancy’s blog by Geoff Galat, June 2011 v ‘Customer Struggle Undermines Online Confidence And Loyalty’, Temkin Group, December 2010 center/register.php?doc=customer-struggle vi ‘Our Data Once Again Shows that Better Customer Experience Yields Millions in Revenue Benefit’, Forrester, March 2012 our_data_once_again_shows_that_better_customer_experience_yields_millions_in_revenue _benefit vii ‘The Value of Online Customer Loyalty And how you can capture it’, Bain & Company, April 2000 viii ‘Online Retailing: Britain and Europe 2012’, Centre for Retail Research, ix ‘Online shopping clicking up’, China Daily, 20 August 2013 x ‘Online Shopping in Australia to account for nearly 10% of total retail sales by 2017’, Frost & Sullivan, 16 July 2013 xi ‘Reducing Online Customer Struggle’, IBM Tealeaf, August 2011 center/register.php?doc=reducing-customer-struggle xii ‘Commerce 3.0: Online Research, Offline Buying’, E-Commerce Times, August 2011
  19. 19. 19 xiii ‘Converging the Retail Experience to Connect with the Changing Shopper’, NCR/Retail TouchPoints, 2010 2010.pdf xiv ‘Digital Shopper Relevancy - Profiting from Your Customers' Desired All-Channel Experience’, Capgemini, July 2012 http://www.capgemini- _.pdf xv ‘The Connecting with Customers Report : A global in-depth study of the online customer experience’, LivePerson, January 2013 port_UK.pdf xvi ‘Customer Service and Business Results’, Dimensional Research, April 2013 ss_Results.pdf xvii ‘WebRTC Stats’ xviii ‘Disruptive Analysis WebRTC Q2 Update: Forecasts upgraded & New Companies/Use- Cases’, Disruptive Analysis, June 2013