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As you may already suspect, technology plays a prominent role in almost all aspects of people’s lives, according to Accenture’s 2020 Technology Vision report. And a big part of this digital focus is video.
Especially considering the disruption caused by the COVID-19 outbreak, video chat has become an indispensable component of business and customer service. What would we do if we couldn’t see our customers’ faces for months at a time? So much human connection that drives loyalty and satisfaction would be lost.
But, that’s not to say video should be used indiscriminately. For example, video may make some people uncomfortable because they’re putting additional effort into appearing tidy and professional – not a concern on voice calls or live chat, where your fellow callers can’t, for instance, take a screenshot at any time.
So, how do you transform your business to use video chat effectively and get ahead of its disadvantages? The first step is knowing the pros and cons and what they mean for your digital initiatives.
Video chat can undeniably provide you with a competitive advantage if you use it right. Here are three important benefits:
This is a big one. Audio is great, but actually being able to see the person you’re talking to allows for more trust and increases customer satisfaction. An interesting point in an article on Wistia is that we’re also hardwired to respond to faces, seeing them even when they’re not there (note how this church building looks like the face of a chicken, for example).
When it comes to business, video helps you build rapport with customers. You can see their facial expressions and body language and they can see yours. And that’s crucial because so much of our communication takes place nonverbally.
These more intimate interactions allow for personalized sales and support – offering a clearer window into how the customer is really feeling. For example, are they being hesitant when you describe your service’s benefits or are they enthusiastic? Do they understand what they need to do to resolve a support issue or are they having trouble getting it right?
It can also help placate any concerns or frustrations customers may have. Seeing a smile, a friendly face, or the comforting expression of a customer support agent could make all the difference to a customer’s mood.
Think about it: video is a way to see things without having to be there in person. If it works for meeting customers, it can work for choosing products, too.
Months into the pandemic, in many cases physical distancing measures have, in fact, made this mandatory. Stores are closed, or have a limit on the number of people who can enter at any given time. This situation gives retailers a headache, but some have realized video can save the day.
For example, the Canadian automotive dealership Dilawri uses the Acquire platform to connect with customers online. For those who want to see cars up close without having to visit the physical store, Dilawri reps conduct vehicle walkarounds via video.
And the good news is, this type of digital transformation can easily continue in the post-pandemic era. Many people could have reasons not to go to a physical location to buy, regardless of virus dangers. Dilawri’s David Boots, VP of Strategic Development says:
Remote interaction is part of a longer-term vision for us so we sought a solution with longevity. There is no point in throwing out the hard work that goes into bringing a solution to market if there is a long-term benefit to that solution.
Apart from the abstract ‘human touch’ we talked about above, there are also tangible benefits in video chatting with customers. Imagine the difficulty of explaining to a customer service rep exactly how damaged the package you received was or describing the discoloration of your new bed sheets using only words.
Video solves that service problem, even if customers didn’t realize it was something that needed solving in the first place.
That’s exactly what Furniture Retailer Dufresne tried (and succeeded) to do. Their repair technicians and their guests started using video chat for support operations.
Technicians normally had to do two on-site visits for repairs – one for inspection and the second for the actual repairs. But, by using video to inspect wear-and-tear issues, such as unlevel furniture or stains, they cut repair visits by 50 percent. This is how Dufresne managed to improve service speed and keep repair costs low.
The same approach can work for a variety of issues with products or services. Car breakdowns, damaged packages, scratches on mobile screens, and more, can all be handled (or at least assessed) faster via video.
Well, video isn’t evil of course, but it’s not a panacea either. Keeping the disadvantages in mind will help you address them more effectively. Here are three cons in video chat and what you can do about them:
A potential psychological negative is that many people don’t like constantly looking at themselves. In some cases, seeing their face in the top corner of their screen can cause stress, especially if they have a tendency to be self-critical.
For our fellow humans who have psychiatric disorders (e.g. body dysmorphia), video chatting may cause trauma, too, making the practice less accessible.
First, it might just require some getting-used-to. The more we get into the habit of seeing our own image, the easier it’ll be. And during the pandemic, many of us are getting more than enough practice.
Second, video should always be optional. If you see a customer is uncomfortable, there’s no need to force them to keep their camera on. It might be worth training agents to respond properly – for example, when the situation allows it, the agent can turn video chat into a cobrowsing session. Or, they can try subtly asking what the customer would prefer.
The cat that walks right over the keyboard, the other person’s partner in the background, the lighting, the messy room – you get the idea. None of these distractions exist in audio calls, but they can be a problem with video.
Once again, practice makes perfect. For salespeople or support agents, focusing on the customer and not on distractions is a professional skill that gets cultivated over time. Most skilled salespeople are able to tune out anything that isn’t relevant to the task at hand.
Other techniques involve dimming lighting in your screen or using sticky notes to cover up the distracting parts in the video.
For your customers’ sake, it’s worth making your own space as easy to look at as possible. Advise your team to choose a quiet spot without much movement, whether by animals or people.
(Well, animals might occasionally provide comic relief and help break the ice, so think about what makes the most sense on a video chat-by-video chat basis. Did you know you could even rent a goat for your zoom calls to lift your team’s spirits?).
Video is much more demanding in terms of bandwidth than other online communication methods. Maybe this is part of why team meetings that involve video take so much time to set up (15 percent of an hour-long meeting is wasted this way).
This can cause an issue when you’re servicing multiple locations. Your customers in New York may have better connections than customers in London or vice versa. So, video chatting will be easier with one group of customers, but harder with others. Sometimes, you may need to shut off video altogether to increase the quality of audio.
You can’t control the internet connection quality on the other side. But, you can still make sure you’re using good software to launch video chats. This helps keep video chatting fast and stable.
For example, Acquire’s platform is lightweight and ensures video calls are hassle-free. It doesn’t require any downloads (which can get difficult over poor connections) and agents can switch from video chat to live chat or audio calls when needed.
The way we see it, the benefits of video chat outweigh any disadvantages. Granted, if you decide to use video on a large scale, you may need to make adjustments to your office surroundings, train employees, and invest resources in the right tech.
But, these are all moves successful businesses are making anyway, during COVID-19 and beyond.