One of the unintended cultural remnants of the Covid-19 pandemic is a greater acceptance of video as an effective medium for communications. Stranded and homebound business people and consumers spent more than year on camera with applications such as Zoom, Microsoft Teams, Skype, GoToMeeting, and Cisco’s WebEx, to name a few. Now transit agencies across North America are looking to leverage a more widespread acceptance of video applications to enhance customer interactions.
Video conferencing is part of an Omni-channel approach to the passenger experience and research indicates a significant percentage of customers are ready to engage. A survey conducted by ContactBabel for Enghouse Interactive found that transit agencies are seeing an uptick in customers turning to web chats and social media interactions to contact their agencies while telephony contacts have dropped from 73 percent in 2012 to 66 percent in 2020. Web chats quadrupled and social media interactions sextupled during that same period.
Experts believe video customer agents are the wave of the future and a step towards more personalized, high-quality customer contact. A 2021 research report from Statista found that the telephone is still the channel customers prefer for handling customer service with 61 percent choosing that route. Fifteen percent preferred online chat, 12 percent chose email, and 12 percent opted for other digital channels.
Chris Richard, vice-president of contact centre operations at Agero, told CMSWire.com that the Omni-channel approach can greatly enhance customer value.
“The best way to create an Omni-channel call centre is to handle the bulk of the customer inquiries — those that represent the easiest, most straightforward requests — with digital automation, while still providing ‘traditional’ phone call options with agents for certain situations or customer preferences.”
Artificial intelligence, machine learning, and natural language processing are streamlining the call centre experience.
“When slightly more complex events arise — or when a customer would rather speak with a person for that more human connection — leaders in an Omni-channel call centre can still route customer requests directly to agents for necessary hands-on care,” said Richard. “In an Omni-channel environment, balancing automation with a more personal touch, building the appropriate infrastructure, and offering customers various communications options is key to handling any given transaction with the best tools and resources for that situation,” he added.
Gustavo Parés, director of Mexico’s NDS Cognitive Labs, says the Omni-channel approach allows a transit agency, or any organization, to integrate traditional ways to communicate with customers with newer technologies.
“One of the great advantages of Omni-channel is that it significantly improves the customer experience by offering an integrated, simple and effective communication space, which also teaches them that the brand they are contacting is always available to assist and facilitate any operation, from a simple query to updates on your order, ” Parés told Entrepreneur.com.
The ContactBabel report found that many transit properties see the use of video agents as a way to provide a more personalized, high-quality contact.
“The customer will be able to see to whom they are talking through a computer or mobile device, assuming the broadband requirements are met. The imminent widespread rollout of 5G will make the smartphone an even more powerful device, and we can expect that the high bandwidth available will encourage businesses to offer both real-time and recorded video as part of their customer communication mix,” the report states.
The report also addresses WebRTC (Web Real Time Communications), another technology coming into play. WebRTC is a free, open-source source project providing web browsers and mobile applications with real-time communication (RTC) via simple application programming interfaces (APIs). It allows audio and video communication to work inside web pages by allowing direct peer-to-peer communication, eliminating the need to install plugins or download native apps.
ContactBabel says deploying an Omni-channel system is foundational to building a resilient and flexible contact centre. The company says the return on investment is twofold:
First, an Omni-channel approach leads to higher First Call Resolution (FCR) rates, quicker resolutions, and a decrease in average hold times for other callers. When coupled with video access, the system is more responsive to customers.
Secondly, transit properties would see a long-term return on investment with enhanced customer engagement and a subsequent increase in brand loyalty and a more favorable public perception.
Enghouse Interactive’s Vidyo solution offers a secure and highly scalable video platform for customer engagement ideally suited for the transit industry.
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