Customer Engagement: Get it by the Drink or the Gulp
AT&T and Masergy offer pay-for-use WebRTC APIs and services good for supporting engagement on customer-facing websites.
With easy-to-use functionality, simple deployment options, and compelling price points, the WebRTC API services introduced this year by AT&T and Masergy put these carriers in a position to advanced the state of the art on customer engagement.
As discussed in a previous No Jitter post, Masergy has focused initially on providing a development environment that allows companies to place one or more click-to-call buttons on their customer-facing websites to facilitate easy engagement. But this Virtual Automated Attendant (VAA) button can do much more than just trigger WebRTC calls; it also provides visual IVR so that customers can navigate to the people or groups they really want to reach.
You can see this for yourselves by navigating your Chrome or Firefox browser over to the Masergy Support page.
What makes this solution unique is the graphical user interface (GUI), which allows easy modification of the virtual IVR menu by people with no coding skills. This GUI also provides directory integration that allows the person creating or modifying the IVR logic to route WebRTC-based calls to individuals or groups within the company. This makes it extremely simple for any company to add virtual IVR along with WebRTC calling capabilities to its website. Doubly interesting is that the logic behind the virtual IVR/WebRTC can be modified without a programmer making coding changes to the webpage. Any modifications automatically appear immediately upon page refresh.
I believe this ability to control the functionality behind WebRTC-enabled customer engagement website buttons using a GUI will ultimately emerge as a trend among WebRTC API framework providers. It makes creation and control of the logic and functionality of these buttons so easy.
Behind the scenes is Genband's SPiDR gateway and Kandy service, which provide WebRTC-to-SIP gateway services and platform as a service for Masergy's use in provisioning VAA. Enterprise organizations deploying the Masergy service can use direct WebRTC-to-WebRTC or WebRTC-to-SIP routing so that calls can be taken natively in the browser or on a SIP telephone.
Masergy does not charge a monthly fee for this service. Rather, it bills for it on a per-minute basis, with the per-minute charge at well under one cent per minute.
Right now, the service is audio-only because browser vendors have not uniformly implemented WebRTC's video codecs. On the audio side of WebRTC, Google and Mozilla already have standardized and implemented the WebRTC audio codecs in Chrome and Firefox, and Microsoft will soon do so with its new Edge browser -- we hope.
AT&T's Enhanced WebRTC API is the other carrier service that has captured my attention. As discussed previously on No Jitter, AT&T has tightly integrated its WebRTC API with its wireline and wireless networks, and developers using the API can even get information on call states and use these in the application logic.
AT&T has designed this API to interface with its mobile network so that users of AT&T mobile devices can send and receive WebRTC calls. When a mobile user's outbound WebRTC-based call hits the PSTN, the caller ID displayed is the user's mobile phone number. Inbound calls to the mobile number are routed to the person's mobile device via the AT&T WebRTC mobile app.
Besides mobile integration, AT&T provides virtual numbers so companies can properly route inbound WebRTC calls. For example, if a user launches a WebRTC call by pressing on a webpage button, behind that button can be a phone number that becomes the caller ID if the call traverses the PSTN or a SIP telephony network. This enables call routing to the appropriate place in a call center application.
Plantronics has implemented this type of a scenario on its support page using the AT&T Enhanced WebRTC API. In this instance, when a user clicks on the "Call with Browser" button, the call passes through a PSTN gateway in AT&T's data center and enters Plantronics' call center as a standard PSTN call. Based on the caller ID, which is the virtual number associated with the website button, Plantronics knows where to route the call within its call center. This customer engagement scenario using WebRTC on the support site required no physical changes to Plantronics' contact center; the only changes were in routing based on the virtual numbers and on training agents how to handle calls that came in showing one of these virtual numbers (they needed to understand callers were on the website, using WebRTC as opposed to regular phones).
As Plantronics grows its WebRTC-enabled support site, surely it will add the ability to pass on user context as well as direct SIP integration with the contact center.
AT&T has created a compelling pricing model for its Enhanced WebRTC API: It charges a $99 annual access fee, which includes one million free audio or video calls of any duration. After the first million calls, each subsequent call is one cent for the call regardless of duration.
Overall, it is early days for WebRTC-enabled customer engagement. However, we are seeing tremendous innovation by companies that are offering WebRTC-based services and by end user companies deploying WebRTC-enabled customer engagement applications. The price points to deploy these solutions can be extremely compelling and the usage models make WebRTC much easier to deploy, particularly those emerging capabilities that provide graphical programming interfaces to browser buttons sporting WebRTC-based customer engagement features.
(Editor's Note: Look for demonstrations of these solutions at the WebRTC Conference-Within-a-Conference at Enterprise Connect 2016, coming March 7 to 10 in Orlando, Fla. Brent will be co-chairing the mini WebRTC conference along with Irwin Lazar, of Nemertes Research. Register now using the code NJPOST to receive $200 off the current conference price.