October 4, 2016

Will stage fright hold back the development of video conferencing?

Satu Edelman

Senior Consultant, Tieto

I took part in my first video conference about ten years ago. Back then, the atmosphere was almost celebratory as the meeting was dominated by expensive equipment in locked rooms with few people who knew how to use it. The meeting room had to be booked well in advance of the meeting.

Nowadays, working by video link is as routine to me as using a coffee machine.  I can sit in meetings wherever I am and whenever it suits me and my colleagues. My colleagues located hundreds of kilometers away are now just two clicks away. Closer than the nearest coffee machine.

Video conferencing has become almost essential to modern business. It has made in-roads into sales, customer service, marketing, product and service design, and maintenance. The use cases are innumerable. Video conferencing enables personal contact between customers, colleagues and partners without major travel costs. It has led to cost savings and more efficient work. Despite all of its advantages, video conferencing is still in the early stages of its development cycle. 

The first experiences of video conferencing left behind a slight fear of using expensive equipment, stuttering video or patchy sound quality. Modern equipment has already addressed the most significant technical problems: you do not necessarily need anything more than a laptop or mobile phone to hold a meeting. All tablets and mobile phones have built-in cameras. Headsets with microphones are available for about 20 euros. So what is holding us back?

I think we are suffering from a kind of stage fright. People shy away from using video conferencing for purposes such as customer service on a large scale because there is a fear that the technology will fail them. Companies have forgotten that, in the search for an improved customer experience, the actual substance of customer interactions is the most important thing. Minor technical hiccups can be overlooked if the customer receives added value from the meeting. Despite this, the development has focused on fine-tuning the technical features down to the very last detail. Isn't it time to look outside the box and improve the diversity and quality of the content?

It is completely natural for the generation that is now entering adulthood to share things via video links. For some people, vlogging has become a full-time occupation.  For the youth of the 2010s, it is as natural to share their own lives and day-to-day activities as it was for children of the 1980s to read the Donald Duck comic that dropped through the letter box every Wednesday. To reach out to consumers of the vlog generation, we need to seek new use cases for video. Instead of waiting for customers to book a time for a video conference, we need to be able to offer services via video link whenever customers want them using whatever tool the customer has chosen. We also need to listen to customers to find out what types of service they expect to receive via video links.

Video conferencing is challenging us to rethink our business, as are other manifestations of digitalisation. Customers have the power to choose the time, channel and service. Can your company keep up with the competition?

In September 2016, Forrester published a report, Brief: Now You See Me — Video Chat Improves the Customer Experience, in which Nick Barber outlined the benefits of video conferencing to organisations. In my view, the report highlights how, in areas where technological barriers have fallen, the focus of development should now shift to streamlining processes and training people. I would be interested to know whether you have exploited the opportunities of video in your business. Get in touch and we can exchange thoughts over a cup of coffee.

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Customer Experience management

Tieto Industrial Experience – Connected Customer Service

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