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Exploring Amazon's Mayday: Visual Customer Service Options

Visual sharing is a natural way for people to communicate. Amazon's launch of the Mayday button on its new Kindle has brought a great deal of attention to how visual sharing can be applied to customer service interactions and unified communications platforms. Many experts have hailed Mayday as the future of customer service, raising the bar for all other businesses.

For companies looking to replicate features similar to Amazon's Mayday, it's important to understand the different ways a visual customer service experience can be achieved, along with the risks and benefits of each.

Option 1: Video interaction between customer and agent
This is a two-way video sharing experience. It closely mirrors an in-person experience, as both parties are viewing each other and conversing "face to face."

Pros: Video serves as a very personal way of communicating, well suited for a smaller company or a business group serving a specific customer segment. Because the agent's view is of the customer and not of the customer's computer or mobile screen, the risks of data and information security are low.

Cons: The privacy and security concerns inherent in this approach are many and are quite serious. Opening up a video channel between online customers and contact center agents requires a great deal of thought concerning procedures and safety, as well as technology, staffing, training, and infrastructure. It is also arguable that, in this scenario, relying solely on video without any screen-sharing or co-browsing component (Option 3) will provide little value in terms of efficiently resolving a question or issue.

Option 2: Video feed shows the agent to a customer
In this approach, a customer sees a video feed of the agent assisting him, but the agent cannot see the customer.

Pros: The procedure and safety concerns of Option 1 are limited to only the agent side in this scenario, making it slightly more attainable. The experience of seeing the customer service agent speaking and listening may have a positive effect, with customers feeling understood and confident that the company cares about their issues.

Cons: The agent-via-video approach still requires significant investment in technology infrastructure and procedural changes. In many cases, the act of video chatting may in fact end up distracting the customer and agent from reaching a resolution, slowing down call times instead of making the interaction more efficient.

Some consumers are quite keen to experiment with the Mayday video feature, with its instant gratification and potential for amusement. Without building in a screen sharing or co-browsing component similar to Mayday, the video-only interaction will not enable efficient resolution to questions or problems.

Option 3: Customer and agent view the same data/materials
In this scenario, there is no video feed or interaction, but rather the customer and agent are co-browsing, placing the purpose of the interaction front-and-center and putting the agent and customer on the same page -- literally.

Amazon utilizes this approach simultaneously with its agent-via-video feed to allow the agent to see and control the customer's Kindle screen while conversing on audio and video.

Pros: The attention of both the agent and the customer is on the issue at hand. There is nothing distracting from the process of resolving the issue, whether that is by showing the customer where to click to find or do something, walking through a form or application together, selecting a product, or troubleshooting an issue. Because co-browsing is a SaaS solution, there is no technology investment and minimal agent required, and it brings up none of the significant staffing and environmental concerns of Options 1 or 2.

Cons: Security and customer privacy concerns abound when considering the ability to see a customer's computer or mobile device screen during a customer service interaction. This concern can be addressed with data masking capabilities, enabling companies to block anything from an agent's view that is not necessary to see in order to reach a call resolution.

For example, some companies may allow agents to see only the corporate website, a handful of third-party partner or government websites, and the customer's PDF reader in order to walk through documents together. This can be further drilled down to block specific pages from the websites chosen, and can even include blocking fields on an individual web form, such as credit card numbers.

Amazon's Mayday feature is quite innovative, and the customer service technology industry will certainly be watching to see how consumers will receive instant video and screen sharing experiences. As companies consider how this advancement will influence their own customer service strategies, I suspect that we'll see rapid adoption high-value, low-risk customer service tools.