Simplifying customer service

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WebRTC, an emerging Web standard that allows users to communicate with each other by voice and video through a Web or mobile browser, promises to bring massive disruption to the unified communications (UC) landscape as it matures.

The open source standard is meant to offer secure, real-time communications via any browser with no need for plug-ins, potentially simplifying communications with customers and improving productivity for organisations.

Market researcher ABI forecasts there will be around 4.7 billion mobile devices using WebRTC by 2018, even though heavyweights Apple and Microsoft have yet to commit to supporting the protocol. WebRTC is already supported in its pre-standardised form in the Google Chrome and Mozilla Firefox browsers.

According to ABI, support from major carriers such as AT&T and Telefonica, leading infrastructure providers like Alcatel-Lucent and Ericsson, and WebRTC application providers the likes of Teledini and NetDev will drive the technology forward over the next few years.

Most market observers agree that WebRTC will not replace enterprise-class UC or videoconferencing systems from the likes of Microsoft, Cisco, Lucent or Mitel anytime soon. For now, the technology isn't really robust enough to handle large-scale conference calls, for example, and organisations will be reluctant to leave behind hefty investments in their existing VOIP and video platforms.

Major promise

However, WebRTC promises to dramatically change customer service by allowing businesses to offer their customers click-to-call functionality straight from their Web sites. A customer browsing a Web site will be able to speak to an agent without downloading a plug-in or proprietary application, or picking up a phone. Because of the encryption capabilities associated with the protocol, it's secure enough for even financial services firms to use it for customer-facing interactions.

One major promise of WebRTC is that it could eventually allow enterprises to embed the mainstream communications platforms customers are using into their internal workflows and applications, says Wayne Speechly, communication and cloud executive at Internet Solutions.

For example, WebRTC might be useful in building corporate Web pages on social media platforms with integrated real-time communications with customers through voice, video and instant messaging. By embedding WebRTC into social platforms, companies could deal with queries and sales opportunities as they happen and in an environment in which the customer is comfortable.

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