How WebRTC Will Affect the Contact Center

By Paul Adams

The conversation volume around WebRTC has spiked in recent months, reflecting interest in how the World Wide Web Consortium’s (W3C) emerging standard enables communications for voice, video, and Unified Communications (UC) services using only a browser. WebRTC, while still in early stages, simplifies real-time communications beyond the confines of the enterprise to any customer, partner, or supplier with a WebRTC-enabled browser.

A recent Dialogic survey of service providers and application developers strongly hints that WebRTC’s influence is poised to generate a high level of interest among service providers and application developers. Approximately 87 percent of survey respondents stated that WebRTC would have a significant impact on their product road maps, which then would theoretically influence an enterprise’s WebRTC adoption plans. The survey respondents also ranked contact centers among the top applications that would be most affected by WebRTC.

In fact, it is communications between an enterprise and its customers – the primary role of a contact center – that many predict will be one of the earliest and most substantive cases for WebRTC. The technology will make it possible for a customer to initiate voice and video calls with a business using nothing more than a Web browser, and then pass along contextual data related to the session. The result is a much more seamless and fulfilling interaction for both parties.

WebRTC represents a unifying component in the Internet communications experience since it allows people to conduct their entire interaction in a seamless manner within the Web browser. Looking beyond the contact center, WebRTC leads to a richer communications experience for any organization since it enables unified communications using a simple, universally available application: the browser.

While many potential WebRTC benefits for the contact center and an organization’s customers will have to prove themselves over time, there are a handful poised to have a tangible effect now.

Transform the Website Experience: The Dialogic survey indicated that respondents view the 100 percent browser-based experience of WebRTC to be its most disruptive aspect. For contact center communications, disruption occurs by enabling click-to-call capabilities that place a customer in touch with a business without the need to exit the browser. Given that many customers initiate the customer service process through a search engine query, click-to-call flows naturally into the process, as opposed to a customer having to shift their focus away from the browser page to dial the company via their telephone or even via a softphone on their PC.

Customers no longer need to request callbacks, transpose telephone numbers to their phone, or install a plugin or voice/video client on their computer. They simply click and talk.

Eliminate IVR Menus: Companies can embed links that connect the caller directly with the appropriate group, eliminating the need to walk customers through a series of IVR options to get them from the main menu to the particular group they want. Customers can visually select with whom they want to speak, as well as whether they want to have a voice call or a video call. This reduces frustration for the caller and costs for the business since there are no costs for the time the caller is navigating through an IVR menu. Extend the Value of Hosted Solutions: Enterprises will find immediate appeal in the ability of WebRTC technology to allow external users to connect with the company. However, as is the case with most disruptive technologies, WebRTC adoption in the enterprise will not occur overnight. Contact center managers, while willing to explore new technologies, are mindful of any risks that could disrupt operations. So the initial implementations in a contact center environment will most likely use WebRTC for the external caller and existing SIP or other endpoints within the enterprise.

Hosted solutions have always provided a scalable, cost-effective way to integrate different technologies within an enterprise – whether it is TDM and SIP or mobile endpoints, and now WebRTC endpoints. In the case of WebRTC, a service provider-hosted solution can provide the bridge between the WebRTC session and the legacy endpoint.

Enable the Video Experience: WebRTC technology can broaden the adoption of video calling, since it simplifies the experience for the user. Most laptops and mobile devices have cameras integrated with the browser. Because the WebRTC standards support high-definition video, video calling will be simple to use and of high quality.

While contact centers have been slow to enable video in their operations, WebRTC technology may drive higher demand for video-based interactions. As noted, deployment will likely occur in a mixed environment in the near term, where a user with a browser can join a video call with another user that has a SIP-based video endpoint.

Boost Unified Communications: Dialogic’s survey respondents indicate that Unified Communications is the market segment that will experience the greatest impact from WebRTC. While voice and video will dominate early real-world applications, the next logical step is to tap the data channel that is available via WebRTC for file transfer, messaging and presence, Web conferencing, and collaboration.

WebRTC offers the opportunity to deliver a true UC-enabled contact center, allowing customers to interact with a business in a simple, rich manner, all from within browsers. This will help to increase customer satisfaction and lower IT and support costs throughout the enterprise.

Summary: Just as the browser transformed the way people access the Internet, WebRTC is poised to transform how people interact over the Internet by extending the benefits of Unified Communications beyond the boundaries of the enterprise. This is highly relevant to organizations operating contact centers and is shaping the role technology will play in their customer service strategy going forward.

Paul Adams is the director of product management at BroadSoft, a provider of software and services that enables mobile, fixed-line, and cable service providers to offer Unified Communications over their IP network.

[From Connection Magazine November 2013]

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