Why Video Chat Matters in Customer Service
During the Covid pandemic, the whole world came into contact with video chat. It was a great relief in times of social distancing and allowed businesses to operate remotely.
The feature is now present in many apps of daily work and private life. It enables people to meet face to face while all they need is an internet connection and a device with a camera.
But the channel is also gaining steam in customer service, where it can save costs and add a personal touch. One reason is the low technical barrier, another is that video calls are already accepted in communication with friends and colleagues. Your customers know and trust the channel.
Even with ideal preconditions, however, launching and offering a video chat channel still has a few pitfalls to look out for. In customer service, it’s all about timing, context and the right application. This post will tell you everything you need to know to make video chat a great addition to your digital customer communication:
- The advantages of video chat in customer service
- Use cases: When video chat is most effective
- Do’s and don’ts of video chat
- When not to use video chat
- Protecting agents from video chat fatigue
- How to get started with video chat
The advantages of video chat in customer service
Cutting resolution time and costs
This may seem counterintuitive since in video chat, an agent can only serve one customer at a time. In text-based chats, the natural flow of the conversation creates pauses - like when the customer is typing and you have to wait for their answer. You can fill these waiting times by switching to another customer and coming back to the conversation later. Still, sometimes a video chat is more efficient and therefore cheaper.
The natural limitation of written communication is speed, for the simple reason that typing is slower than speaking. About three times as slow, according to Stanford research. That’s why at some point, chats with lots of text just take too long. And once that’s the case, concurrent chats take longer as well.
- Speaking is faster than typing
- Wordy chats with lots of typing are inefficient
- Video chat reduces the resolution time of such interactions
Here, video chat is the better choice. It allows you to share more information in a shorter time, which leads to a lower resolution time . Depending on the complexity of the issue, it can even beat the resolution time of two or three simultaneous chats.
Toss in the option to share the screen and the equation becomes even more clear. This common feature in video chat solutions adds another dimension of context. It forestalls guesswork when navigating customers through a website or software.
As said above, voice-based conversations allow you to cover more ground in a shorter time. That also makes it easier for customers to add questions and go into details they would omit in a chat.
Also, calls tend to feel like more of a commitment compared to chats. Customers want to hang up knowing that all their issues are solved, whereas they don’t mind coming back for another chat.
- Video calls reduce the number of touch points
- Customers can easily ask related questions
- Leads to more thorough resolution of issues
- Increases first contact resolution
This leads to a more thorough resolution of issues in calls and reduces the number of touch points. That's key because repeat requests are a major source of friction for service departments. A high first contact resolution rate, though, is a desirable customer service metric.
Improving customer satisfaction
Today’s customers don’t just want any channel, they want the most convenient channel in any given situation. It’s safe to say that website and mobile messaging offers customers a low-effort, high-comfort way to get in touch with companies. Calls complete the picture with their personal touch and immediacy.
However, calls can also be a nuisance if used as a standalone channel. Here, the infamous queue is the only way to keep customers at bay, and it’s a punishing experience for most of them.
Once customers are allowed to speak, there's little context. For example, when users are experiencing a problem on a website, they are forced to describe where they are and what they’re looking at. Only with words and without any media support, such as links, screenshots, screen sharing or conversation history.
- Phone inconvenient as standalone channel
- Calls most powerful if integrated into messaging channels
- Add personal touch, smart switching between text and voice, full media support
- Raises customer satisfaction
The true strength of calls emerges when they are integrated into a messaging solution – as video chats.
In private communication via messaging apps, when we’re tired of typing something out, we say “let me call you” and switch to a call, knowing what we discussed in text up to that moment. If voice doesn’t cut it, we say “let me show you” and turn on the camera or share our screen. All the while, we can still send a link or any media in the chat.
Used like this in customer service, video chat is at its most convenient and familiar. Consequently, a customer messaging solution such as Userlike with an integrated video chat feature is a great combination to raise customer satisfaction
Boosting brand trust
More personal interactions lead to stronger relationships, in private and in professional life. Establishing a personal relationship means trust. And between a company and its customer, trust means repeat business.
Frequent interactions add to that trust, and website chat is a great channel for that. But in written communication, you’re talking to a picture or avatar (at best) and can only convey your emotions via emoji. A video call offers real face-to-face expressions, a tone of voice – things humans rely on for taking a measure of one another.
- Face-to-face communication builds trust
- By boosting brand trust, video chat boosts business
Use cases in customer service
As described above, calls are most effective where text-based channels reach their limits. Let’s look at some examples of when this is the case.
Solving complex issues
We know that speaking is faster than typing. But also, showing is better than telling. It’s those two factors that make video chat perfect when there’s more to explain.
Another factor is the presence of tonality and facial expression. Written language is much more prone to miscommunication. It doesn’t offer context that tells us what our counterparts mean by what they say. This is felt especially in complex discussions.
In addition, complex topics often lead to a busy back-and-forth. To make sure our listeners can follow us and we can follow them, we use verbal cues and interposed questions. No problem in a voice-based interaction. In written language, you need to wait until the other side has sent off their message.
Lastly, the embedded function to share your screen comes in handy, too. When the counterpart is active via desktop, it’s the best way to show them around a site or user interface.
Example: Vodafone UK offers support via video chat to “navigate tricky tech issues” that before the pandemic would have been tackled face to face in their stores. This includes anything from connectivity issues to live demonstrations of devices and how-to sessions.
Providing personal support
Verbal and visual cues are also important in emotionally charged situations. Think high-cost purchases, high-stakes personal topics or a mix of both, like finances, legal or health issues. Or, quite the classic, when dealing with angry customers.
In such scenarios, chat, email and phone can feel too distant and impersonal. With a video chat you signal that you understand how serious the issue is to your customers. You’re willing to put in the time, to focus purely on them, and to show your face.
But that doesn't just apply when something needs fixing. You can also be more convincing in consulting on high-value purchase decisions, like for a new car.
Our goal is to ensure that your car shopping experience is safe and comfortable. Our Sales Staff is standing by to assist you virtually with all of your shopping needs through a Live Video Chat.Mercedes-Benz London
Face-to-face support creates an environment of trust, which becomes more important the higher the purchase value of the product or service gets.
Example: Swiss bank UBS offers video chat consultation to help their customers find the right mortgage. The purchase of land and property is a key moment in many people’s lives. The personal touch and flexibility of a video chat accommodates these needs perfectly.
Offering digital onboarding, training and product demos
If there’s a specific route customers need to take to accomplish a task with your software or product, written content, and especially self-service , has some compelling advantages: it puts customers in control and allows them to take each step at their own pace. It’s also available 24/7 and demands next to no resources once it’s set up.
But with more complex products and individual user journeys, such content gets wordy and unstructured. You know this from feature-rich software or sophisticated electronic devices.
This crucial period influences the longevity of a customer relationship, yet customers are often at a loss and don’t know where to start. Static content can only suggest and predict so many routes a customer might want to take. A direct video interaction, complemented by screen sharing where necessary, allows you to quickly adapt it. This lets your customers get an engaging start with your product.
Example: Planning a kitchen can be a daunting task. If you’ve ever been to an IKEA, you know there’s always a line at the counters in the kitchen section. IKEA Australia (and branches in other countries) uses video chat and screen sharing to offer the same service remotely. Customers can plan their kitchen from the comfort of their homes, and without queuing.
If you’ve got people that are yet to become customers, video chat is also an effective way to generate and qualify leads. This happens with product demos, digital tours or webinars. Besides your classic webcam and shared screen, you can hook up pretty much any video input device. You might even point a mobile camera at a product and give customers a real-time virtual tour while talking to them.
Do’s and don’ts in video chat customer service
If you’re convinced that video chat is for you, here are a few things to look out for in practice. Treat this as your daily routine for a consistently high video chat performance.
- Testing your equipment at beginning of the day
- Ensuring good lighting, straight angle, decent sound quality
- Cleaning up desktop and browser
- Introducing yourself at the start of a call
- Describing what you’re doing (even if it’s visible to customer)
- Offering browser-based solution with multichannel chat function, canned messages, a shared inbox and strong data privacy features – like Userlike
- Creating background noise
- Starting calls without prior notice
- Being late
- Talking with your body (as in: relying on customer to see and understand your gestures - rather work with voice, support with image)
- Multitasking (e.g. chatting with other customers while in a call)
- Making customers download an app (as opposed to a browser-based, embedded video chat channel)
When not to use video chat
As I said in the first part of this post, video chat is all about timing, context and the right application. Despite its many strengths, it has some disadvantages if used in the wrong places and situations. Here are some scenarios in which other channels are better suited.
...and less common, but very simple questions. Both are pretty easy to answer and don’t justify the hassle and intensity of a call.
What’s better: chat, using canned responses, chatbots , help section articles, FAQs.
Allowing your customers to start video chats with no prior interactions is not a good idea. Firstly, you don’t know what they’ll want to talk about and if it justifies the resources spent on a call. Secondly, a direct face-to-face meeting with a stranger may feel too intimate for them. Same goes for casual website visitors who are “just looking”.
What’s better: chat (see Userlike’s Website Messenger on the right) or email to assess the type of inquiry and make a first connection, then select the best channel.
Mass support and service peaks
Sometimes a customer service team is under such heat that it can’t afford the time and bandwidth of video chats – even if they’re the more efficient channel for an individual customer. Being available for many customers can then outweigh the aspiration to always offer the best possible channel.
What’s better: Use a solution that allows you to stay in control during service peaks. With Userlike, only agents can initiate a customer call and are automatically set to “away” when in a call, so they don’t receive new chats. This way, video calls can be used sensibly even at rush hour.
Protecting agents from video chat fatigue
Customer service can be taxing as it is and stress is common in this line of work. The intensity of video chats can add to that. Stanford researchers observed “Zoom fatigue” in remote work settings, but their reasoning suggests it can also be an issue in customer service. Let’s look at some triggers and solutions.
Too much close-up eye contact
We’re not used to uninterrupted eye contact with other people, let alone strangers. Also, in video chat faces are often much larger and closer than in normal face-to-face conversations.
Solution: Use video only where it adds value and go easy on full screen usage. Provide external keyboards to allow for some distance between agents and their screens.
A constant look in the mirror
Most video chat apps feature a little self-view screen that allows you to check how you appear to your conversation partners. That’s handy, but it’s also uncanny. You don’t normally watch yourself talking to people, making decisions and getting feedback. The constant comparison with other call participants makes things even worse.
Solution: Use the option to hide self-view, which e.g. Zoom has already implemented
Higher cognitive load
In video chats, there’s about as much going on as in a real-life conversation. You’re trying to convey and read expressions, give and receive cues. Because that’s much more effort through screens and cameras, it causes stress.
Solution: No-video cooldown periods for agents who have back-to-back video calls. Either replaced by chat-only phases or a restorative coffee break.
To learn more about taking care of your support agents, read our post on preventing customer service burnout.
How to get started with video chat
Video chat, and any real-time service channel for that matter, drives up costs if it’s not aligned with your overall support strategy. This is the case when video chat is used as a standalone channel, via apps like Meet, Zoom or Skype.
You have to send out invitations for appointments, making spontaneous interactions difficult. Customers have to switch between apps, possibly needing to download them. And both sides may be missing data and context of previous conversations. That’s why I recommend going with an integrated video chat solution.
We’ve collected the most important factors for the successful and meaningful use of video chat in customer service. These factors determine what features you should look for:
- all-in-one customer communication software that combines all channels in one place
- video call feature that’s integrated into chats to maintain context and select the right channel for every customer
- flexible call types (audio only, video, screen sharing) for agents and customers to accommodate any preference and level of intensity
- sophisticated agent availability management that factors in the video call feature (customizable chat slots, agents in calls don’t receive new chats
- full media support to send and receive images, documents or any other file while having a call
- advanced customer messaging features like macros, customer profiles, chat history and tracking for maximum efficiency and context at any moment
Userlike offers all of these features – and many more. Chat with visitors on your website as well as their favorite messaging apps and offer video calls directly from the chat. Check out our website and sign up for a free trial or contact us if you’d like to speak with our team.