Customer service has undoubtedly been one of the major industry faculties to be affected by the era of online video, especially when it comes to video chatting face-to-face and making in-person or virtual exchanges. Online video has completely redefined customer service, and given the infinite back & forth scenarios between overworked operators and fed-up consumers, it’s no wonder that interactivity should play a key role in improving the employee-customer relationship.

When I first heard the phrase, “customer service,” in the 90s, I immediately thought of two things: 1) those secluded rooms in the back of department stores with the large counters and generic-dressed—typically female, at that time—employees asking you questions about your purchase, or 2) an endless barrage of elevator-music pouring from the phone speaker while my parents waited on hold for the “next available representative.” Unfortunately, that’s still the case today for a handful of big businesses, but it’s due for a facelift. Now, with e-commerce capabilities driving an entirely digital economy online, customer service has evolved and become something even greater and more efficient.

Not only are online video platforms opening up a face-to-face dialogue between operators and consumers, but they’re also introducing interactive elements into the tools themselves to give users a more beneficial, immersive customer experience. Take e-commerce again, for example: as an online shopper, you’re interested in a particular item but want the product’s features explained to you more in-depth before you make a purchase. The website offers a built-in HTML5 video assistant that permits you to communicate directly with a live operator via your device’s camera or webcam. You exchange pleasantries, and at the end, you actually make the transaction through the video tool itself instead of having to go back to the purchase screen. Sounds pretty ideal, right? It’s not science fiction—transactions like these are already taking place daily.

Forget robots or pre-recorded voiceovers; when you introduce live video to customer service, you re-engage consumers so that they actually want to ask for help if they have any questions about a product. In September 2013, Amazon introduced the Mayday live tech support feature to its Kindle tablet, which helped give way to the customer-service-by-live-video trend. One-click access to help via video chat has since become an increasingly common practice across a broad spectrum of industries, from banking to retail shopping to gaming & entertainment. Since introducing video chat functions into its customer support, game maker Activision Blizzard Inc. reported that calls have dropped to 3% while inquiries via social networks have soared to 70%.

Video isn’t setting out to replace all facets of customer service. There are still those who prefer phone help lines or e-mail inquiries, mostly for fear of privacy or security purposes. For Amazon’s Mayday, privacy is guaranteed since the support person can’t see out of your camera, but rather they can only see the content on your Kindle screen. It also allows you to mute your audio at any time if needed. With more web platforms & providers making the move from Flash to HTML5, similar virtual support functions can now be directly embedded into a website or channel for easier, more interactive assistance.

According to TeamSupport, the brain processes visual information 60,000 times faster than text, and I’m sure that I speak for almost everyone by saying that information definitely gets lost in translation over the phone. But that doesn’t mean everything has to be “live.” Even with video support services, pre-recorded content plays just as much a role in customer service as live streaming. For instance, if a representative helps a customer with a particular problem, they can record the on-screen processes of resolving the issue to use with future inquiries.

Customer service is no longer just a voice on the other end of the phone, or some automated service that people loathe and despise. Today’s customer service has a face—a “human” face—and consumers on a global scale are embracing this new sense of interaction. Customers are developing a greater trust in their favorite brands and familiarizing themselves with products through social, face-to-face interaction with brand representatives. It’s no longer a matter of “what,” but now with video, the “who” factor has become the new industry standard.

(Originally published via LinkedIn Pulse on August 19, 2015)

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Max Greenwood is the manager & director of social media for Tivi: Truly Interactive Video, a radical new online video platform incorporating interactivity into live and on-demand video content.

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