Four years ago I spoke to Matthias Murin, who was, at the time, Group Manager Customer Service at DocMorris, a Dutch online and mail-order pharmacy that provides medicines primarily to customers in Germany.
When I spoke to him, he told me how they had developed a “VideoBerater” (VideoCounsel) service, in partnership with Deutsche Telekom. They did so because they were finding that their traditional channels were not enabling them to provide the quality of service they wanted to provide to many of their chronically ill customers.
What they developed wasn’t a simple video chat solution but was augmented with facilities so that agents could share content like pictures of products, presentations regarding the correct application of certain drugs, product brochures among other things. All of which the customer could download at the end of the conversation so that they could use it for future reference.
At the time, I thought it was a fantastically innovative use of video technology that enabled a better and more empathetic remote service, particularly to chronically ill customers.
I also wondered why more companies were not doing more with video, particularly when it comes to delivering a better service to their customers.
Fast forward to 2020, and over the last few months, we have seen an explosion in the use of video.
In fact, Vonage found in a recent piece of research, that two-thirds of consumers worldwide are video chatting more now than they were just 7 months ago. Also, across the four continents and fourteen countries that their survey covered, they found that 55 percent of consumers have now used video to connect with businesses and service providers which was up from 44 percent in January of this year.
Now, much of that has been driven by necessity as we navigate our way through the effects of the global pandemic.
But, this shift has always been coming according to Matthew Barnett, Papa Bear at Bonjoro, a video messaging app that allows organizations to send quick, personal video messages directly to their customers, and has been facilitated by ongoing data, technology and telecom network improvements. So much so that he also believes that all the pandemic has done is accelerate the adoption of video.
That may be true.
But, as current conditions ease will the shift to video that we have seen over the last few months prove to be a fad or is it here to stay?
Jim Dicso, CEO at SundaySky, a leading platform for video-powered experiences, thinks it is definitely here to stay as video has proved itself useful particularly in both delivering engaging and personalized experiences as well as bridging the emerging empathy gap, between brands and their customers, that the pandemic has exposed.
He cites 1-800 Contacts as a great example of this. They experienced a massive rise in orders at the onset of the pandemic when many opticians were forced to close down their offices. To make sure that they built and maintained rich connections with both their new and existing customers they hired more call center employees and then sent individualized videos to customers that included the customer’s prescription by the doctor who reviewed their eye exam. These videos helped them reach their customers on a very personal level, and that helped them maintain an NPS score in the high 80s throughout the pandemic.
Barnett agrees and says that with response rates three times that of other mediums like email and chat, for example, and the ability to deliver empathetic personalization at scale video is only likely to loom larger in the portfolio of tools that brands have at their disposal to improve and enhance the experiences they deliver.
Andy Bird, Director of Product Management CCaaS at Lifesize, a video and audio telecommunications company, goes further and believes that, particularly in the contact center space, adding video capabilities to an agent’s toolkit could confer a significant advantage to the brands that do so. He goes on to say that “No other communication medium comes close in being able to provide the same level of personal connection, empathy, detail and customer service. Video enables agents to resolve calls more quickly and efficiently, positively impacting the customer experience, agent productivity and the brand’s bottom line”.
Interestingly, Bird’s comments are strikingly similar to Murin’s who reflected to me four years ago that they found the implementation of their video solution allowed them to both raise the level of service they provided to their customers and improve their efficiency in handling customer enquiries at the same time. He went on to say that they also found that the introduction of their VideoCounsel service proved to be a real competitive advantage.
So, it looks like synchronous and asynchronous video is here to stay. And, about time, I might add.
However, there is a risk that in some quarters video, like phone calls before them, could fall foul of being seen as an expensive channel, particularly in the contact center and support space. Its introduction could run counter to industry trends which are largely focusing on trying to reduce the cost to serve and increase levels of self-service.
The question will be how many brands and organizations will be able to look past the perceived expense and see the advantage.
This post was originally published on Forbes here.