Can visual engagement differentiate your customer care?

Barb Mosher Zinck Profile picture for user barb.mosher April 4, 2016
Each customer service experience contains a few make-or-break "crux points" where you can seal the relationship, or weaken it. Can visual engagement make a difference? Barb Mosher Zinck explores the issues with Thomas Martin of Glance Networks.

Thomas Martin, CEO of Glance Networks, knows a little bit about making customers happy and driving loyalty. You may think you know the answer: create great customer experiences. But what exactly is a great customer experience, particularly when it comes to providing service and support? Is it having a call center agent ready to help with the dial of a phone?

Is it having multiple channels available to solve issues including phone, chat, mobile, web and so on? Is it all about delighting and exceeding customer expectations? Is it rewards and incentives? Incentives such as a $400 VISA card for converting (something Verizon offered during his tenure there).

No, says Martin, it’s about helping them solve their problems quickly and easily.

Supporting key customer interactions

You’re not going to handhold every customer interaction point in the customer journey. You don’t do it with acquisitions, and you don’t in customer care. You don’t have to. Customers are more than happy to do the research and find answers themselves - this is the self-service model that customers expect and demand.

But what if there were key points in the customer journey that you could support better? What if you could provide more intuitive and humanized interactions, even in the self-service model? Martin says the research Glance has done over the past two/three years has shown them there are interaction points that still require a human touch. The difference is, customers expect it to be instantaneous, relevant and effortless for them.

The Glance team has traveled to customer locations, sat in contact centers, put on headsets and talked with groups of agents to understand why are customers calling and what are their challenges. Martin says they worked with companies to build out the right use cases, some of which are very simple, but hard to solve.

For example, Glance works with a large telco who decided to move their paper bills to electronic bills to save money. They moved the bill online; customers had to set up an account, create a username and password and set up bill pay. Still, though, most of the bill paying was done over the phone or by writing a check. The telco wanted to understand how they could shift their customers to electronic billing and pay more easily, helping to reduce costs and improve margins.

What’s the key interaction point? Martin indicates that the company touches a customer once a month when they pay their bill, and that one time is an opportunity to make an impression, introduce some new information or communicate something important. What if they could make that interaction point great? What if they could change the old models?

Being human in an online world

Martin says that Glance also works with a lot of innovative companies where everything they do is online. These companies realize the human component is out. But they also see the value of being online is ubiquity, so how can they extend the brand experience and have customers feel comfortable? How can they differentiate the experience in a way that drives loyalty? Martin thinks humanized interactions can be a differentiator, like a personalized assistant who can jump in and see where you are without asking 20 questions.

Look at it this way. You are in a store shopping, and a clerk comes up and asks what you are here for, even though you are clearly in the men’s section and Father’s Day is in two days, and you have this huge oversized sweater in your hands. This is kind what it’s like to get support online isn’t it? This wouldn’t happen in the physical world (or it shouldn’t), so how can you take that model online?

Enter visual engagement

Research firm Aberdeen defines visual engagement as:

A form of customer/company interaction enabled by any technology that helps organizations visually interact with current and future customers through digital channels. The technologies that provide this capability include video, screen sharing, co-browsing, and WebRTC.

It’s fine to talk about visual engagement, but it’s not that straightforward. As I noted earlier, Martin says this humanized contact needs to be instantaneous, relevant and effortless.

You are using visual engagement technology to personalize the online experience. Take it to the next level, where you help customers solve their problems without needing to ask a million questions, with knowing where they are at that moment and what they are trying to do.

The research firm notes that in a study of 215 organizations, 59% already use some kind of visual engagement technology that enables contact center agents and customers to have the same view at the same time. This shared view provides real-time context of a situation that provides both financial and operational benefits to an organization:


(From Aberdeen report: Visual Engagement: The ROI Customer Experience Excellence (free with registration)

First, having this instant visual contact can help reduce costs and grow revenues. It gives the agent immediate insight into the customer issue and can help decrease the amount of time it takes to deal with the call. This makes the customer happy and increases the agent’s productivity.

It improves operations regarding the customer effort score which is an indicator of customer wait and handle time (the longer both are, the more effort the customer must put in and the more frustrated they become).

The most successful companies that provide visual engagement are financial services, healthcare, high-tech SaaS, and hospitality (travel). Martin notes that there is good margin, good value, transactions are high, and the relationships are very valuable in these markets. In all these examples competition is high, so the value in improving interactions is critical.

You might think retail is a logical fit here for personalized online service, but Martin says the margins are thin, and consumers do much of the education needed on their own.

How Glance provides visual engagement

If you know Glance Networks, then you also know they sell a cloud-based solution called Panorama. Panorama is made up of three technologies merged: co-browse, screen sharing, and one-way agent video.

Co-browse allows an agent or person to see what’s in a customer’s browser. It’s a DOM-based solution that can identify web objects and put a security model on top. Security is important because there is likely information on a customer’s screen a support agent does not need access to such as social security numbers, credit card numbers, account numbers and so on. The business can control role based permissions and the masking of data for their application.

Martin says co-browse delivers a real effortless solution. The customer doesn’t have to do anything except click yes in a modal window (for legal compliance), and the agent can quickly launch a session.

Screen sharing allows the agent to portal out to another area of the web or go somewhere not on the website to show the customer something. Agent video allows the customer to see the agent while they are discussing a problem. Video can focus the conversation by de-escalating it. For example, a customer is upset, and something isn’t working in their application or on the website, so they call in. They see the agent, and there’s less desire to yell at a real-person, so it becomes simply focusing on solving the problem. Why not two-way video? Martin says that in Glance’s research, they discovered most customers don’t want to show themselves to the agent.

Panorama does not do proactive engagement. It doesn’t monitor, and it doesn’t have chat, email or click-to-call capabilities. Glance has started putting in complementary components, though, such as a modal window survey for the customer to get real-time customer effort score data. This data will help a company continue to tune their processes.

Panorama also integrates with other systems to support that relevant, contextualized view a personalized experience needs. For example, Glance has apps on Salesforce Exchange; it integrates with, Zendesk, SAP, LiveOps and Moxie.

Visual engagement as a channel

Martin believes that visual engagement is going to be a separate channel. He looks at what WebRTC is doing with unifying the online experience with voice and sees the same thing happening for visual. Think about mobile experiences and how important they are today - if you could unify mobile experiences and visual engagement, the opportunities are wide open.

Visual engagement isn’t just for customer care either. Use it for targeting (when it makes financial sense Martin adds), acquisition and onboarding, as well as servicing and upselling. Martin says companies have raced into the online world, but for all the great things it has brought it has also removed some the things we take for granted, like being able to see stuff, sensing and perceiving, the intuitive and human components.

For many organizations, visual engagement starts with saving money and improving customer support. But then they can think about how to take it to the next level and bring together the benefits of being online with the benefits of the instore experience. That’s where differentiation can really happen.

A few reasons to consider visual engagement processes and technology (from a Glance whitepaper):

  • Is most or all of your business online?
  • Do you have evolving standards that need to be explained?
  • Is your offering complex and you need to help explain things to customers?
  • Are you call and chat sessions too long and ineffective?

Final thoughts

I wrote about the idea of focusing on customer journeys, the ones with the highest value, and not the entire customer lifecycle. I said that the customer lifecycle is made up of a number of journeys.

But within each journey, there are key interactions. Martin called them a crux move (rock climbing term). He said you can spend all your time making the climb as easy as possible, but at some point there will be a portion of the climb that’s the hardest or harder than anything else. What do you do at the moment?

That’s your key interaction point that you need to focus on ensuring it meets the needs and expectations of the customer. If you can get them through that crux moment as effortlessly as possible, it’s a win. Maybe visual engagement technology is the right answer.

Image credit - Feature image - The Customer Service Target Market Support Assistance Concept © - Aberdeen screen shot contains link and credit above.

Disclosure - SAP and Salesforce are diginomica premier partners as of this writing.

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