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Call centers as social media hubs

John Dix | Jan. 28, 2014
Contact centers are changing rapidly with the arrival of cloud technology and the ability to interact with customers over new social channels, including Twitter. The transformation has implications for everything from how companies deal with customers to the role agents play and how internal groups are best organized. Network World Editor in Chief John Dix caught up with the CEO of LiveOps, Marty Beard, for his take on where we stand and where we're headed.

Web chat with an agent, for example, is incredibly popular. And Twitter has become a major way customers are asking for help or complaining about something or even celebrating something. Email is fairly consistent. SMS, somebody texting for help, is really popular, but not as much in North America. And Facebook posts are also pretty big, but nowhere near as active as Twitter. The fastest growing would be web chat and Twitter. 

Voice is never going away, but it really varies based on what somebody is looking for. If you want immediate help and demand to talk to somebody or it's a high-value item, you're going to want to talk to an agent. So almost every agent in a contact center is trained to handle voice as the starting point, and then you have a subset that can also respond on email, respond on Twitter, Facebook, text, etc. 

So we provide the stand-in technology for all that in the cloud. LiveOps was way out in front with the cloud, and we were really early on multichannel. And another major difference from the past is we charge per month, compared to the old approach where you had to buy all the gear with huge up-front costs and then hire a bunch of people to install it, etc.

Before we explore multichannel in more depth, explain how the only tool the agent needs is a browser.
That's where voice-over-the-browser comes in using the Web Real-Time Communications (WebRTC) standard. We have what we believe is the largest WebRTC implementation in the world, which is 500 agents handling voice purely through the browser.

So in practice if you're an agent, you go into a facility, put on your Plantronics headset, connect to your desktop, launch your browser, and that's it. There's no phone or additional hardware at all. And the interesting part is you can do more because it's literally just a data channel and you can generate a whole bunch of applications. If, say, a difficult question comes up. I know two experts so I can conference them in immediately. That's just a simple example.

So voice is starting to move into the browser. Google has been a big proponent of this and I personally believe that we will get to the day where there is literally no hardware being used, because the cost savings are so big and the application capability is so high that eventually more and more contact centers are going to move there. It will take time, but I've already seen it, used it, implemented it. It works, it's good. It will just keep moving.

Are there any quality issues?
There are if it's over the open Internet. Then you could have quality issues. But as we all know, that's gotten dramatically better. So it depends on your call center. Let's say you're doing relatively low-value items, primarily consumer. You might conclude that is fine. This level of quality and this level of SLA is fine. But if you want higher quality, then companies like Twilio are coming out with premium-class WebRTC, and that part is kind of a work-in-progress. But in 2014 you will absolutely see it, where the SLA in the quality is just as high. 

 

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