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Verizon Releases Tap-to-Talk SDK for Mobile Apps

If Verizon Enterprise Solutions has its way, the days of the siloed self-service mobile app will soon be behind us.

In a software-based service introduced today, Verizon Enterprise Solutions is enabling companies to allow consumers to connect with contact center agents in real time directly from their mobile apps. And, because those callers will have been pre-authenticated via the mobile app login process, agents, in turn, will be able to share the callers' personal content with them as needed to address their questions or concerns.

Consider a banking use case, suggested Tom Smith, senior manager of CX Innovation with Verizon Enterprise Solutions, during a briefing on the new Visual Interactive Calling service.

Suspicious that your credit card is being used fraudulently, you sign into your bank's mobile app and work through the menu choices to report a lost or stolen card. At this point, bank policy might require a conversation, and so the app would prompt you to tap a phone icon to initiate a live conversation with a fraud specialist. Or, perhaps you would simply feel more comfortable discussing your lost card rather than relying entirely on the self-service mechanism. Via the app, you would be able to initiate a call on your own, as well, Smith described.

In either case, you've never left the app, so your information comes along with that call. The agent answers knowing who you are and why you're calling, no need for authentication. And, because the agent can share content, a review of most recent charges need not be done verbally. Rather, the agent can push you a list of charges and ask you to tap on those that you want to dispute. The agent suspends payment on those charges while the bank investigates, and sends a confirmation of such to your device, Smith continued.

"Banks have told us that the number one reason they receive calls in the contact center is to verify transactions have taken place, so sending verification [of the transaction] to the device can eliminate follow-up calls," he noted.

The bank would have enabled that real-time communications via the app -- no need to use the phone's native dialer -- via a Visual Interactive Calling software development kit, Smith said. Either on its own or working with Verizon professional services, the bank would embed the SDK in its iOS and/or Android mobile app.

On the network side, the Visual Interactive Calling platform includes multiple servers, a WebRTC gateway, existing IP contact center and network elements, as well as enterprise components such as mobile resource and authentication servers and contact center infrastructure, Smith said. All of the consumer's proprietary and sensitive data remains within the enterprise domain, with content encrypted, so compliance doesn't become an issue, he added.

"We believe part of the value proposition here is that by showing users they won't be penalized for starting with self-service on mobile app, they'll start there," Smith said. Companies can improve their customer service processes and better serve today's mobile consumers while reducing contact center call volumes and boosting customer satisfaction.

While mobile banking is ripe for the addition of real-time communications, applications across other verticals would benefit as well. Airlines are Verizon Enterprise Solutions' other top targets, given the prevalence of mobile apps in that sector, as well. In this case, Visual Calling Interactive could provide travelers the ability to reach out to discuss complicated re-bookings and agents the ability to push out seat maps, for example, Smith said.

Secondary targets, where mobile app penetration isn't as high, include insurance, hospitality, car rental, retail, utility, and healthcare companies. In fact, the beta customer for Visual Interactive Calling fell within this secondary group -- in healthcare, Smith said. Although he couldn't provide specifics, he said the company aims to improve efficiencies in areas such as claims status, doctor search, and prescription renewal.

Consumers, mind you, would not know (nor likely care) that a Verizon service is behind the seamless move into an agent-assisted call. They don't have to be using Verizon cellular service -- in fact, they don't need to be using cell service at all. The functionality works over Wi-Fi, too, Smith said. And, he added, the SDK can be integrated into existing apps just as easily as new ones.

Visual Interactive Calling is available immediately for U.S.-based companies.

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