There is a lot of buzz and excitement about WebRTC at the moment. It potentially opens up new ways of communicating and exciting possibilities which we believe will be very important for the contact centre.
Before I go into the details of why we think it's important, it's worth doing a quick recap on what WebRTC is.
WebRTC is an API that is currently going through standardisation with the W3C to provide standard means of voice, video and peer-to-peer communication from a web browser without the need for plugins. There are currently competing versions of WebRTC; the strongest contender being implemented in Google Chrome and Firefox (detailed at http://www.webrtc.org/), with an alternative being presented by Microsoft, CU-RTC-Web. Apple has not yet made any public announcements about WebRTC.
If the promise of WebRTC is realised then we will have ubiquitous voice, video and data communication from any modern web browser easy accessible to all web developers.
What does this mean for the contact centre?
No one really has the answer to this yet as it will take time for WebRTC to really take off, experimentation to take place and the real innovation to occur. We may have a Cambrian Explosion of new communication methods and uses.
However, we can have a good guess at a couple of the more obvious ideas.
For customers, we are going to see a lot more blurring of communication methods for contact centres tied to websites. We are going to see a blending of the traditional click-to-call and web chat capabilities currently running on websites, with the ability to easily "upgrade" a web chat or co-browsing, to a voice call, to a video call, the display of video answers to FAQs and screen sharing as currently provided by Skype or Google Hangouts.
We also see that many websites will try and replace simply publishing their contact centre number on websites with enhanced click-to-call to capabilities. This will be done because they can capture web browsing history and pass this as metadata to the WebRTC voice call enabling better routing of the call when it hits the contact centre and richer information to the agent once the call is answered. This provides a unique ability to personalise voice calls that originate from a website.
Having ubiquitous and cheap (free) video calling also may finally deliver on the promise of video communications for contact centres as it removes the cost and availability issues from the caller. However this still has to overcome user acceptance hurdles, do you really want the agent to see you with your hair in a mess? For this reason it may well be one way video from the agent.
For these reasons we are following WebRTC closely, making sure we can support it when it becomes more widely available and experimenting with the best way to provide value to consumers. We'll give more ideas on what we are doing in a later blog post.