Live Video Making Inroads in Customer Support

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NEW YORK -- Marketers who are just getting used to providing voice-over-Internet-protocol as a means of providing customer care should get ready for the next VOIP -- video-over-Internet-protocol -- according to some exhibitors at the Customer Relationship Management Solutions & Expo held here yesterday .

Although only a handful of e-commerce companies are using live video in their contact centers, primarily in business-to-business applications, more consumers will begin using the technology as they gain more bandwidth in their homes, some contact center operators said.

"Right now it's just a question of bandwidth for consumers," said Jim Rapp, vice president of eCom E-commerce Support Centers Inc., which operates a 900-seat multimedia contact center in Jacksonville, NC. "It's not a question of cost. These [video cameras] only cost about $50."

He said some businesses might be hesitant to provide the service now because the quality of transmission into consumers' homes might be poor if they are using traditional phone lines for Internet access. As more and more consumers access the Internet through DSL or cable lines, however, they will be able to support live video feeds from call centers where they will be able to see agents' faces, product demonstrations or other video materials.

"You can't duplicate a smile in a chat session, and sometimes that makes all the difference in the world," Rapp said.

Another contact center operator, Target, Salt Lake City, already is providing streaming-video customer service for several clients and was demonstrating its capabilities at the show. Some clients include Nortel Networks, and the National Marine Fisheries Service. Customers using the service can toggle quickly back forth from live text chat to live video-and-voice chat, allowing agents to stream in information in video format as needed to provide assistance or sales support.

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