Over the past year, we’ve covered the accelerating trend around businesses embedding communications capabilities in existing web and business applications. Historically the communications layer of technology had been a walled garden and business application developers and managers didn’t have the know-how or desire to mess around with telephony or video….that was for the comms guys. This has changed rapidly over the last several years as business managers realize the benefits of embedding these capabilities directly into web pages, mobile apps, contact center applications or even CRM platforms, bringing advanced communications ever closer to the customer.
There are a number of businesses building SDKs on emerging standards like WebRTC and delivering development solutions designed to make this process simple and fast (like two lines of code fast). For many enterprises, however, it’s not as easy as just plugging comms into a business application and hoping everything works out. Companies, especially larger and enterprise-size companies, have a lot riding on an effort like this and they cannot afford to make a snap decision without assessing the potential ramifications. To learn more about what businesses should take into consideration, I caught up with Bruce Marler, the VP of Technical Sales at WebRTC market leader, CafeX.
According to Marler, even though solutions like their Live Assist Kickstart product allows businesses to answer a few questions on a wizard and get code that allows them to configure and test voice calling, video chat or co-browse embedded in their mobile and web apps within minutes, companies need to take the time to determine what that will really mean for their business. “As excited as they are by the promise of embedding communications into their apps, it is important that they take the time to think through what this will mean to the customer, the technology team and the business users,” says Marler.
Four Areas of Focus for Businesses Extending Apps With Communications Capabilities
To keep the conversation moving we focused on what companies would need to think through when extending an existing contact center application to allow for co-browsing between the agent and the customer. While the technology challenge sounds almost too reasonable (fill in a wizard, have code delivered, paste it into your apps), Marler says there are four areas that enterprises should be sure to address prior to executing. “There are potential ramifications to consider around how changes will impact existing applications and workflows, what deploying the application will mean to the development and IT team, what additional third-party applications and infrastructure will be impacted and, of course, security,” explained Marler.
Complexity of Embedding Communications in Existing Business Apps
While co-browsing capability almost seems like a standalone app that can be called upon by customers and agents when necessary, in a large enterprise things aren’t always that simple. “Remember, if you’re talking about a corporate customer service website supported by mobile apps you can have multiple teams working on the various aspects of that platform. There may be multiple business applications integrated with the system already and multiple types of users – both internal and external – interacting with the software,” says Marler. Thinking through the various touch points, which team members will interact with the system and which customers might get access to the co-browsing capability (is it only VIPs?) is critical.
It is also important to make sure there is feature parity across all the various platforms users may take advantage of. For example, if the product works great on the web, but provides a clunky experience on mobile, that may have ramifications for customers and agents and business processes may need to be addressed and modified up front.
Complexity of Deploying the Application
For the tech team, it is all about minimizing friction. They may want to deploy a proof of concept application with a small team, or they may want to roll out co-browsing quickly while assessing other deeper contact center integrations / extensions. They also will likely want the capability to customize or personalize any extension so that it meets all corporate branding and functionality requirements.
According to Marler, a solution like CafeX’s does a lot of heavy lifting on the back end to make a communications application function seamlessly, but the IT team is looking for the ability to personalize it, configure it and easily access the appropriate code for their platforms. “For the developers, it is important that the tool seem more like an application than just an SDK. Being able to configure it like a fully functional application and have the SDK automatically generate the necessary code for all platforms provides the development team the confidence to execute on communications applications even if they haven’t had a lot of experience.”
Embedding Communications Comes With Third Party Integration Considerations
With large companies, you’re not going to get past the first conversation without having a discussion about the various other applications and infrastructure already in place. If you start talking about co-browsing, you’d better be ready to talk about Cisco, Avaya or Genesys – or maybe all three – and how that solution is built to tie into and integrate with multiple enterprise-grade applications.
According to Marler, large enterprises have tens or hundreds of millions of dollars invested in existing technology infrastructure that needs to be taken into consideration. “You can’t just add a ‘neat little feature’ to an application without thinking through how it has to perform across the business.”
When it comes to interacting with customers there are always security considerations, especially around compliance (for example, if you’re co-browsing, you don’t want agents seeing financial information accidentally). These issues need to be defined and addressed up front.
Additionally, businesses should be looking for solutions that take advantage of end-to-end encryption and protocols like Websockets for secure data transmission across firewalls and within the enterprise network. “Security is priority one for every enterprise,” says Marler. “Having a bulletproof solution that answers all their questions is critical. With co-browsing, for example, if you can go beyond what companies are expecting by transmitting all shared data as transient, encrypted image data that are never stored locally, it takes away another layer of concern.”