WebRTC: Why Should Enterprises Care?
Improved customer service, opportunities to reduce costs, and ubiquitous collaboration will drive WebRTC adoption in the enterprise.
In the last several months, there's been a lot written about WebRTC, the technology that seemingly will do everything from remake the PSTN to solve world hunger. But even though we're at the high arch of the hype curve, enterprise IT leaders shouldn't turn away just because they've heard "this is the next big thing" so many times in the past. WebRTC offers real and tangible benefits in several different ways, even if obstacles to adoption remain.
I won't present yet another primer on WebRTC, except to reinforce the idea that WebRTC eliminates the need for dedicated applications for voice, video, and content sharing. By reducing the client to just a few snippets of HTML code that activates capabilities already resident in the web browser, WebRTC offers the ability for application developers to embed rich media communications and collaboration into any web application.
The most interesting opportunities for enterprises to leverage these capabilities largely fall into three areas--customer service, cost reduction, and ubiquitous collaboration.
Most current interest and initiatives among IT professionals that I speak with are focused around leveraging the ability of WebRTC to improve engagement with customers. By embedding "click-to-call" or "click-to-video" chat capabilities directly into a web site, companies can increase the ways they can engage with their customers.
I'll use myself as an example--recently I had to shop for a new washing machine. After spending a few hours looking up products on various vendor and retail web sites, I had a list of questions that I had compiled, covering topics like features, capabilities, and settings. I took these to my local retailer where I ran into a sales clerk who lacked specific knowledge of the model I was interested in purchasing. It's tough to blame him, there are dozens of different machines out there, all with an ever-increasing amount of complexity.
I thought about calling the manufacturer, but the thought of spending 15 minutes on hold after navigating through a maze of IVR options wasn't appealing. And with "click-to-chat" I'm never sure if I'm talking to a human or a bot.
Now, if vendors had WebRTC-enabled web sites, I could have clicked to call from within the page I was on, the agent answering the call could have seen exactly where I was, maybe even the other pages that I had visited. We could have established a video chat that the agent could have used to show me a video highlighting the features of the machines I was evaluating.
The opportunities to leverage WebRTC to improve customer service are endless--think telemedicine sessions with health care professionals, or providing high-wealth financial services clients with direct video conference access to their account manager. Which brings us to our next benefit....
Think about how much you are spending today to provide PSTN trunks for your contact center. Now think about how much you could possibly reduce that spend if a large percentage of those calls came in via the Internet using WebRTC-enabled browsers. Sure, you might have to add Internet bandwidth, but Internet bandwidth is typically cheaper than TDM or SIP trunks to the PSTN. This exact scenario is where I expect we'll see a lot of effort by integrators, analysts, and session border control companies to build cost models that demonstrate potential savings.
I see two distinct areas that fall under "ubiquitous collaboration:" Accessing the enterprise UC platform from any device at any location; and leveraging WebRTC to extend the features typically provided by UC platforms to any and all applications.
The first area is simple: WebRTC provides the mechanism to extend your voice and video platforms anywhere. We've already talked about extension to consumer, and another important use case is the ability to extend voice and video to partners, remote workers, and suppliers without the need to deal with issues related to client download/installation or the costs of cloud-based bridging services.
Perhaps more exciting is the opportunity to give CRM or ERP applications their own voice/video applications directly embedded into their web interfaces, without the need to interface with UC back-ends. Think about a team of people who live in a business process application all day who can chat, talk, or video chat with each other, without having to wait for IT to deliver end-to-end UC, or app developers to incorporate enterprise UC platforms into their applications. Again, here the opportunities are endless for application developers to extend rich communications and collaboration anywhere.
These are just a small sample of potential uses of WebRTC in the enterprise, but they are the areas that I think will see the most attention over the next two years. Make sure you are staying on top of your vendors' WebRTC roadmaps, and that you've begun to evaluate the impact WebRTC can have on customer service, cost, and collaboration.