Mayday is an interesting experiment. The new button that comes with Amazon’s new Kindle Fire HDX promises to connect users with customer support within 15 seconds of someone pressing the button—and give the customer this agent over video chat.
This is an innovative, interesting use of video chat in the contact center.
But it isn’t exactly the full contact center video chat it sounds like on first blush. The agent is on video, but the Kindle user is not. So when you’re lying in bed in your pajamas and need help with that Kindle, you don’t have to worry about having your hair brushed or even about having clothes on. This video chat limitation is a shrewd move for Amazon, ensuring that people will actually use the feature.
That’s because for all its promise, video chat has always been far less used than the technology might suggest. Video calling brings a whole new level of communication and substantially improves upon voice calling and chat when it comes to human to human interaction. But precisely because we’re human, video hasn’t taken root in the contact center largely because people have to be “presentable” to use it. And if you’re not and the other party knows you could be on video, there’s social pressure.
Last year, Land’s End launched video chat as a customer service option to much hype, only to quietly be discontinued because it “did not take off.” People are not really ready for video chat, even among my friends who talk with me on Skype (News - Alert). Talking to a stranger on video? Casually? Not gonna happen—or at least it doesn’t usually.
There’s the technological issue, too. Special software or plugins just makes it too complex for anyone over the age of 30 (and even too complex for some under 30, bless their hearts). But the technology issue will be solved with WebRTC, which lets any web browser initiate a video chat. At least once browsers uniformly support the standard.
So the technology issue is not a durable challenge, it just is a question of time.
But so is the human aversion to video in the contact center, too—in the long run. What really needs to happen is a generation of consumers who have grown up with ever-present video in our cities and on our phones. When my young daughter comes of age, having a video temporarily turned on her for a customer support issue will not be so scary. That’s because she’s had a video on her since she was a little child. Not video staring at her like I had, the Dad-taking-video-for-the-holidays type. But video that is always there, and therefore is casual and not asking for brushed hair.
When video becomes less threatening, we will see video widely used in the contact center. In the mean time, it is up to innovative companies such as Amazon. Even if Mayday does not take hold, Amazon has shown a new way to do video in the contact center. It has integrated it, it has made it easy—and it has taken the scariness out of video contact center support.
Perhaps this Amazon experiment will be a little piece of what gets us comfortable with video chat? At first it is chat without a camera on us... and then it slowly becomes two-way video.
Edited by Alisen Downey