Business communications have expanded to include video as an increasingly important option in eCommerce, not only because the technology and costs have improved significantly, but also because consumers/customers can exploit it’s use from their multi-modal, mobile smartphones and tablets. However, it is necessary to look at video conferencing in several ways, including:
1. Information delivery of video content
2. Real-time “you see what I see” information through a video camera (If a “picture is worth a thousand words,” is a video ”worth a thousand pictures?”)
3. Video chat or conferencing, where participants may or may not see the other parties “on camera,” but may still converse with voice and see video, data and documents
4. Any combination of the above
In light of the value of “collaborative” video conferencing as a replacement for physical face-to-face meetings, especially in vertical markets like healthcare and education, it is interesting to see Amazon’s use of video for its ambitious “Mayday” click-for-assistance button on its new Kindle HDX Android (News - Alert) tablet offering. Because, like all other tablets, the Kindle HDX has gotten more complex than its original role of an e-reader in terms of functional capabilities and simple user interfaces, end users now need more live assistance when first using the device’s features.
The problem is similar to that faced by Apple (News - Alert) iPhone and iPad customers, but Amazon is avoiding the need to make an appointment at a nearby Apple store for a Genius Bar meeting with customer assistance experts. While the Genius (News - Alert) staff is very good in helping in-store customers, especially if they can fix a technical problem or provide device add-ons, it is not a practical solution for most customers who are not able to come to the store. I happen to live within walking distance of the first Apple store established in Santa Monica, but it requires scheduling one-on-one assistance time, not on demand.
Amazon’s “Click-for-Assistance” Video Solution – The Mayday button
You can read one review about the Mayday user experience here. Note that it is not a full-blown videoconference, where both parties can see each other; only the agent is “on-camera.” However, the agent can have control access to the customer’s device and can perform any necessary actions directly for the customer. The main differences between Mayday and traditional contact center telephone interactions are:
- Customer can initiate contact immediately, without a phone call
- Requires Wi-Fi connectivity
- With this free, 24/7 service, response time is immediate, less than 30 seconds (Not sure if that kind of response will last forever)
- Agent can be seen and talked with on the Mayday box on the device screen
- Agent has option, with customer permission, to more easily take control of the customer’s device, after seeing the problem
The main differential benefit seems to be that the customer can see the Mayday agent, instead of just talking them. While this is certainly a nice feature, it doesn’t solve the basic problems involved with live assistance. Since talking is easier and faster than exchanging text messages, Mayday service is definitely a plus for the customer.
The big problem, however, is having enough staff available to handle the on-demand traffic, in real time. That has always been an issue with legacy call centers, but the fact that the agents must now be “on camera” will add to the staffing problem. Years ago, a major call center technology provider started promoting the idea of having agents “on camera,” but the need for such agents to be attractive, well groomed, well spoken, well skilled technically, with proper video camera lighting, meant that they would be very expensive and trained “actresses.” Coupled with the fact that video was then both difficult and expensive for consumer access, the idea didn’t go anywhere.
Now that user video devices and connections are more becoming more universal and cost efficient, video can be very useful for information exchange and “showing” someone what you are seeing, while also having a voice conversation. For the mobile and online “customer help desk” it can be an escalation “click-for assistance” option, to the “virtual agent” approach in simple, online self-service applications.
Where’s customer Mobile UC?
As more and more consumers become computer application (mobile app) users with smartphones and tablets, the need for both self-services and live assistance will continue to grow. The modes of interactions with live assistance have also increased, but should be UC-enabled for control by the individual customer, based on their personal situational needs. Multimodal smartphones and tablets can now provide such flexibility for contextual mobile customer services, as I described in an earlier post this year.
With Mayday, Amazon is showing that it can even “out-innovate” Apple’s dominant position in the industry when it comes to consumer needs. That may be one of the reasons that Apple has just shaken up its management team in this area, so the battle for consumers and their BYOD choices will continue.
Edited by Stefania Viscusi