December 28, 2015
Most everyone loves real time communication (RTC) as the next big thing for businesses to engage with customers, from the beginning sale to ongoing support. In fact, this is becoming increasingly evident with the momentum that has been gathering around WebRTC applications development and deployment in particular as its ease of multiple media interactions from within a browser without the need for plug-ins demonstrated in 2015. That said, it is the combination of RTC plus leveraging platform-as-a-service (PaaS) that is bringing the next evolution of communication with easier to use and more compelling customer engagement capabilities.
Customer engagement is not quite a cliché these days, but it is close. With a range of advertising and social media options, being able to have more intimate and flexible interactions with a customer at all parts of the business cycle is not simply required, but vital. Customers are using a wide range of media types, from email and instant messaging to voice and video, and expect businesses to have "all of the above" when it comes to communicating. And all of the above includes both stock web interactions and optimized interfaces on mobile devices.
RTC should start at the front-end of the sales cycle, enabling customers to communicate with contact center members to learn more about products, get virtual "demonstrations" via video and in real-time, and to provide a more intimate communications channel between customer and sales than stock email or IM. Voice can supplement text-based conversation while video can provide more illustration and a real face to an employee rather than just being a generic "voice on the phone."
Regardless of the product, providing support after the sale ensures customer satisfaction and builds loyalty. Support calls, when properly handled, also provide upsell and new sales opportunities to the existing customer base, but businesses need to be careful that presenting those opportunities don't become an annoyance for a customer trying to get a problem fixed.
Platform-as-a-service comes into play in streamlining how businesses can use RTC as a rich set of tools for customer interactive in an off-the-shelf fashion. Instead of having to build and maintain systems for IM, voice, and video, with the associated development time, capital cost, and ongoing support and maintenance, PaaS provides those tools in a built, ready-to-roll fashion through APIs and SDKs. A couple of lines of codes dropped into an existing webpage provide RTC in under 5 minutes, rather than the weeks and months it would take to build and test from scratch.
One of the sectors that is embracing RTC at a steady clip is health care. Providers are rolling out telemedicine clients at a steady clip, as it provides benefits for patients and doctors. Patients can get a virtual consult at home outside of regular office hours -- once upon a time, doctors made a thing called "house calls" -- to provide support for patients with existing conditions and determine if an issue is serious enough to merit a run into a physical location for further examination. Doctors can now serve more patients and are less likely to catch the latest version of the flu. Health care providers are happy because they can more effectively serve patients without the expense of ER and urgent care visits.
With PaaS solutions for RTC, any business can add real time communications services to more intimately engage with customers in a matter of days and weeks. Development time can be concentrated in making an effective application that needs the needs of businesses and customers, rather than spending time making nuts and bolts services. RTC PaaS companies provides those services in a pre-made fashion, meaning any business can get into RTC without having to worry about the complexities of implementing RTC services in their own data centers.
Edited by Peter Bernstein