CafeX Creates a 'KickStart' for Customer Engagement
Goal is to help non-programmers design, test, and implement engagement capabilities via an easy-to-use, intuitive application wizard.
Most of us are familiar with Kickstarter.com, a global crowdsourcing platform that helps raise money for creative ideas and products. The beauty of Kickstarter is that people can easily bring their ideas to a public forum and get feedback on whether others think the ideas have market value.
What if we had a Kickstarter for the communications marketplace that, instead of focusing on funding, provided an environment that allowed creative people who are not programmers to embed communications and collaboration into their applications?
About two months ago, I saw such a product -- coincidentally code-named "KickStart" -- at CafeX Communications. If you recall, CaféX provides customer engagement solutions, primarily for large organizations, through backend software and application programming interfaces (APIs) that developers can use to embed collaboration capabilities into mobile apps and Web pages (see related post, Engaging the Nomad). Companies usually surface these capabilities in help or call buttons on their websites or mobile apps. When a person needs to reach out to the organization, he or she can click to be put in contact with an agent or representative via voice, video, or chat. Communications and collaboration sessions can also include co-browsing.
CaféX has designed KickStart to reduce the time it takes a business team to get these new engagement capabilities designed, tested, and implemented. Large organizations typically task digital media teams with building apps and Web pages; however, these teams must answer to and support multiple business groups, and consequently face time constraints.
As an example, consider a large bank that may loan money for homes, cars, and businesses. Each of these different loan types has its own marketing and selling team, and each demands the digital media group to create apps and Web pages to support its efforts. As a consequence, implementing a simple rework in a customer engagement strategy may take six to nine months due to limited developer bandwidth and the cycles required for design, test, pilot, and rollout.
KickStart can significantly reduce this implementation time by making it possible for non-programming business analysts and customer interaction specialists to specify, implement, and test these capabilities with no coding required on the company's existing website.
How KickStart Works
The KickStart application requires CaféX's software platform, which can be located in a company's own data center or in the cloud. CaféX can also spin up the software in a virtual environment or provide a downloadable trial environment.
Once the platform is available, business analysts who get KickStart accounts can immediately begin designing engagement buttons, strategies, and behaviors with the help of the application's wizard. The KickStart wizard guides the business analyst through some initial steps in creating click-to-call/chat/video customer engagement interactions. For example, the analyst would need to specify which capabilities -- voice, video, chat, and co-browsing -- should be available to customers when they click on the engagement button. As illustrated in the figure below, the wizard allows the designer to choose which of these engagement channels a particular button will make available.
Completing this wizard is just the start of developing an interaction capability, however. Designers must then decide how to address a number of other issues that will affect the interaction. For example, they need to determine what should happen when someone with Internet Explorer, Safari, or other browser that does not support WebRTC navigates to a page on which an interaction button appears. Should the engagement button even be exposed in this case? If it is exposed, should the button offer to download an IE or Safari WebRTC plugin that will allow the multimedia engagement session to begin?
Figures 3 and 4 below show some of the controls allowing designers to specify the behavior of the engagement button with respect to various devices or browsers and whether the button should even display at all.
Designers are also able to choose among a variety of layouts for the engagement window that appears after a user presses or taps the help or call button. They can specify where branding should appear and the size of the video pane windows, for example. They can also specify numerous controls for the voice and video capabilities.
Once the designer is satisfied with the configuration, he or she can easily test how the button would look and how it would function on the company's website. No coding is required on the website for the test. When testing, the designer simply enters any URL into KickStart, and KickStart renders that page with the designer's customer engagement button appearing in the upper right-hand corner.
KickStart also allows the designer to surface an agent window, which enables the ability to test how the customer engagement button works on a website or in an app as well as how the interaction appears from an agent's or representative's perspective.
Once a customer engagement button is working as intended, the designer can simply hand the code KickStart creates to an app or Web developer for live deployment. Should a button or its associated capabilities need tweaking, the programmers have access to the entire CaféX API and can make the requisite changes.
Just as Kickstarter.com levels the playing field by allowing a source of capital for anyone, CaféX's KickStart democratizes the ability for companies and organizations to create compelling experiences for better customer engagement. It does this by allowing anyone to specify, create, and test complex real-time rich-media interactions.
The KickStart project provides an excellent example of how non-programmers can use complex APIs to create compelling functionality in apps and on Websites. KickStart provides default choices for how functionality should work based on CaféX's experience in implementing these kinds of interactions for large enterprises, and the designer does not have to start from scratch or learn by trial and error.
Because KickStart provides a test capability, business analysts can see, experience, and understand the impact of collaboration's use within applications. When using such an environment, business analysts don't have to go to the developers to see how engagement can work -- they do it on their own. And, once designers have perfected the engagement interactions, they can simply hand the code to a developer who can deploy it on a live system, compressing development time down to days or weeks.
I believe other real-time communications API platforms can be simplified through the use of graphical interfaces for non-programmers. Masergy's visual IVR, which I discussed in a November post, is another example. I believe this trend toward non-programmers doing complex tasks with real-time communications will only accelerate as creative companies create the interfaces that enable them.
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