Video telephony – Contact Centres and enterprises should begin to ramp up

26 September 2011

By Paul Fick, Divisional Managing Director: Jasco Enterprise Communication

Video telephony is in our future. It combines video, audio and sometimes telestration (on-line drawing) and will utilise wireless, cellular and broadband devices and channels to enable face-to-face collaboration regardless of location. Are South African enterprises and contact centres ready and able to offer this, and do consumers and business users want it?

The short answer is: not yet, but it won’t be long now.

There’s video everywhere, more and cheaper broadband, and fast 3G. In the corporate arena, video conferencing and telepresence make a good business case for video telephony – face to face communication is desirable, improving the quality of interaction while cutting down on travel costs and time, enhancing both the businesses eco-footprint and staff productivity.

But it’s really consumers that will drive this wave of technology adoption.

There is a desire for ever richer interactions and experiences. Adding video to voice, along with the capability to share documents or even drawings during the interaction is no longer science fiction. Video enabled mobile phones and tablet PCs are just the end devices. Already any number of online corporate ‘meeting places’ offering full collaboration. It’s just a hop, skip and jump before consumers too are using these platforms.

Contact centres, which are increasingly the main touchpoint between business and consumers, need to be ready to cater to this need. Enterprises who are not already doing so, need to be leveraging this trend in-house for business, but also to make staff familiar and comfortable with the technology and this form of direct interaction.

How to get there? It will take some transitioning and change management.

From a technology point of view, video is just another communication channel that needs to be integrated and contact centres everywhere are now introducing Session Initiation Protocol (SIP) based technologies.

Increasingly, consumer devices are also SIP enabled and SIP functionality is being added into applications. What this means is that any communication silo (video, audio/voice, email, instant messaging) can be unified into a tailored ‘session’. But it’s really not about a technology interaction – is about customer interaction.

Training staff – by adoption of video telephony internal to the contact centre or enterprise – is a very important part of the equation. As the customer base changes, with younger, more tech savvy users becoming prime clients, their preferred communication needs must be accommodated. Right now, cost, demand and capability (bandwidth) constraints positions us at the ‘ready’ mark in South Africa. We need to ramp up to ‘steady’ because, as with so many other technologies of late, video telephony adoption rates could be surprising.

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