Today there is a new open standard for real-time communications, and it has the potential to change the way we connect with businesses as email once did. WebRTC, an API definition authored by Google and now being drafted by the World Wide Web Consortium, allows for plugin-free, peer-to-peer audio, video, and data transfer between browsers.
For the non-technical, let’s walk through a use case: Last week, you ordered a shiny new tablet from an online store, and you open the box to find the screen is cracked! You DO NOT reach for your cell phone, dig for the customer support number on the website, dial it, wait in a phone tree for 30 minutes, answer verification questions along the way, reach an agent, give her your order number, then laboriously describe the crack in your screen.
Instead, you log in to your electronics store account and click on a “Problem with My Order” button. Right there in your browser, you are quickly connected by video call with a support agent who greets you by name. Because you were logged in to your account when you clicked to call, she knows you are a long-time customer and the exact SKU of the tablet that was shipped to you. What’s more, you lift up the tablet and show her the crack on the video call. In a matter of minutes, she has ordered you a replacement tablet.
Why WebRTC Represents Next-Generation Business Interaction
WebRTC makes these superior communications experiences possible. Why are they superior? Context. When you initiate communications via WebRTC (as simple as clicking a button), the data associated with who you are and what you’re doing — your context — can be delivered right along with the call. The call can then be routed to the right person who is equipped with the right information to help.
In a world of millions of applications to help us manage our lives, context-based communications seems like a logical improvement for any business and consumer. Why not start communicating right in the apps that we’re using, rather than exiting to make a call on the siloed phone network where your context, other than your caller ID, is lost?
There are financial drivers at play here too. With more efficient customer interactions and more data, businesses can optimize staffing and calling automation. But even further, businesses that leverage WebRTC in their applications can save on their phone bills and telephony system infrastructure.
So far, there are just a few examples of business applications that have leveraged WebRTC. The most well-known is perhaps Amazon’s MayDay. Smaller organizations in a variety of verticals are benefiting as well.
For example, Dobin Law Group in Florida recently implemented a WebRTC-based video calling solution on its website, enabling prospective clients to speak to a lawyer face-to-face with just one click. In addition to the richer calling experience, WebRTC also provides cost savings for both the firm and their clients, who can click-to-call long distance, even internationally, without racking up a phone bill.
In the nonprofit space in Seattle, The School of Life Project is providing a video journal kiosk for kids and teens through WebRTC by Blacc Spot Media. The project captures children’s views of themselves and their world annually as they grow, resulting in a healthier sense of self-awareness, identification with peers, and empowerment.
An Alabama-based company, RFMS, has leveraged WebRTC for seamless customer support. RFMS is a business management software provider to the floor covering industry. When the company added one-click call support to its help desk portal, it noticed improved customer satisfaction and is considering further WebRTC implementations.
WebRTC is also solving other problems, such as streaming from a device to a TV with Google’s Chromecast. But overall, WebRTC is still untapped. Let’s hope this open standard continues to proliferate so we can connect faster and get right down to business.
Rob Wolpov is a cofounder of OnSIP, which provides real-time communications services to over 25,000 businesses. Prior to OnSIP, Rob worked as a management consultant at IBM and a VP at LivePerson.