studying the jigsaw puzzle
WebRTC has emerged as an alternative customer service option to the IVR maze PHOTO: Liza

Think about the last time you tried to contact a customer service agent over the phone: The endless wait. The fun navigating the interactive voice response (IVR) system. And the possibility that your call could be randomly dropped at any time, which means you'd start the process all over again. 

Now, imagine being able to bypass that system to gain near-instant access to a customer service agent on a business’s website. This is what Web Real-Time Communications (WebRTC) aims to do. 

WebRTC is an open source technology that businesses can embed directly into their websites and mobile applications to (among other things) enhance the digital experience for their customers.

What Is WebRTC?

WebRTC is a client side communications engine, with an API that allows developers to access a device’s microphone and speakers. 

Using WebRTC, it’s possible to set up a communications channel with another client. There are many creative uses for WebRTC, but in customer-facing applications it’s most commonly used for live video, voice, text and data transfers.

Most major browsers have adopted WebRTC, meaning you can build a communications platform yourself using an API. However, you will need more than just an API to make WebRTC work. 

Keep in mind that if you choose to build your own WebRTC service from the ground up, your team will be responsible for monitoring and maintaining it: there's no WebRTC help desk to call when performance issues arise. Embedded real-time communications platforms are therefore needed to enable WebRTC to function properly on the Web. 

Where WebRTC Fits in the Digital Experience

The digital experience, at its core, is designed to support strong customer experiences. An effective digital experience strives to eliminate any and all barriers that a customer may encounter when using a website or mobile application.

Communication is a critical piece of the digital experience. A customer should never have to comb through a website looking for contact information, or navigate away from the website to find answers about a company or its services. 

This is where WebRTC comes in. 

WebRTC can help you provide a one-stop-shop where customers can chat with an agent in real-time, using a variety of media. Customers can also use WebRTC to exchange files with agents.

For example, an insurance customer may use a WebRTC-enabled portal to:

  • Speak with an agent about a claim
  • Move seamlessly from text to voice to video
  • Provide video or pictures of vehicular damage (with live feedback about what is needed for documentation purposes)
  • Transfer claim forms in real time
  • Share a screen with an agent while filling out forms
  • Book a follow up appointment with a reference number
  • Finalize the claim process

Delivering on the Promise of Context

One word that comes up frequently with WebRTC is context. Context in this case refers to the process of using customer data to drive high quality, real-time interactions. 

For example, an agent may have access to a customer’s complete history of purchases or interactions during a chat. Or, an agent may leverage third party data through a service like Facebook or Google. By using this data, an agent can gain a deeper understanding of who he or she is communicating with.

Remember that WebRTC is just one of the many tools that you can use to enhance the digital experience for your customers. It won’t solve all of your problems. But it's one way to make your business’s digital channels more open and accessible to your customers.

Do you have any experience using WebRTC? I want to hear about how you are using it to improve your digital channels. Let’s continue this conversation below.