By Sean Drummy
The digital marketplace is rapidly adopting live engagement technologies to connect with customers in powerful ways. As this wave of live engagement continues to crest, the positive impact of these technologies paints an increasingly convincing picture. Customers spend more, have better experiences, and keep coming back when you demonstrate your company is comprised of people who want to help and are good at what they do.
But connecting, and staying connected, with your customers is not a side project for a small web development team, nor is it as simple as a plug-and-play install. To truly harness the power of live engagement whether for e-commerce or customer care, companies are tasked with providing a holistic platform that gives your customers the option to reach you where, when, and how they wish.
The task should not be taken lightly. Incorporating live engagement as a key piece of your strategy and executing on that vision will bring with it challenges both technical and business in nature. Customers want the ability to connect on any device from any piece of communication software. But they also demand security and privacy when they do it. All of this is a requirement before the live engagement even begins. Once your customer is connected to your company, managing their needs (whether for purchasing or support) and assembling business intelligence around your data needs to happen right then and there.
These hurdles are all surmountable. But when considering how you implement a live engagement solution, it’s important to keep in mind a number of key pieces of the puzzle.
Customers want to connect to your company from everywhere, with any piece of technology, and by the exact medium they choose (voice, video, text). If we unpack this situation a little more, we find the need to support live engagement across a multitude of browsers, operating systems, and devices.
While Chrome has a clear lead in the browser wars, tech staples like Safari, Firefox, Edge, and others have user bases far too large to ignore. Assuming just a handful of browsers to contend with, you’ve already got a significant challenge in front of you to continually support these applications as they evolve.
But, of course, browsers do not operate in a vacuum, they need to run on operating systems which in turn need devices to power them. And so, our once significant browser compatibility problem is then multiplied by having to contend with Windows versions, iOS releases, myriad Android variants and so on. Then we further have devices of every variety that run these OSes, and the design of devices even under the same umbrella (like Android) may differ significantly. The permutations are dizzying. And the tech debt any company takes on trying to support the ever-expanding tree of options consumers have today is daunting.
No company in their right mind will simply draw a line in the sand and say “We only want customers with Chrome browsers and Windows PCs interacting with us.” To cast a wide and deep net in the digital marketplace, the messy and diverse tech ecosystem needs to be accommodated and continually maintained or customers will quickly (and easily) look elsewhere.
Safe and Sound
If the challenge of compatibility across a vast expanse of technologies wasn’t daunting enough, the demand for security and privacy is just as great. Creating and enforcing data safeguards is an expensive and resource-intensive exercise, but the cost of failing to do this can be far greater. Encrypting interactions with customers, both when the data is transmitted and when it’s stored, is a must-have to shield customers from privacy threats. Instituting strong policies and enforcing them is also important. Customers want companies that they can trust, and that means that they can give you sensitive, private information and be confident that the information remains private.
For companies that serve companies across the globe, the data privacy laws vary significantly, as do your customers’ rights. Assuming that the laws do not change (although they certainly can), companies still have to grapple with significantly different security requirements from the US - to the EU - to China. Designing your own territory-specific data protection plans is simply not feasible for all but the highest tier of multi-national companies. Depending on your SaaS providers, especially with software where you interact with customers, is the clear choice.
Digital security doesn’t just apply to protecting your company and customers against malicious actors. Sometimes customers need protection even from themselves. Consider this scenario: a customer making a purchase during a live engagement accidentally sends their full credit card information to the live agent via text chat instead of entering it into their shopping cart checkout screen. This data is highly sensitive and subject to a stringent set of protection requirements. How do you want to handle this information? If the information remains in your live engagement system it is subject to legal compliance requirements like PCI. If your company does not want the burden of tracking financial information in their live engagement platform, then what is the best way to eliminate the information? Do you leave the data purging responsibility to the live agent? This will require very specific training and put pressure on your staff to catch small pieces of data across a large volume of engagements. Do you employ a programmatic data scrubber to make sure nothing sensitive remains on the books? If so, what are the legal requirements? How do you make sure you have a robust system to accomplish this?
These are big questions with significant technical and legal implications. For companies that do not have a fully staffed compliance and data security department, the best solution is to ensure that your live engagement platform has been thoroughly planned and solutioned for these scenarios. By ensuring your live engagement solution already has this handled, your company can continue to focus on the critical business objectives you set out to accomplish in the first place.
No single system is a panacea. There will always be applications that meet your needs much better than having one system that does everything but only in a mediocre way. This makes the ability to link your systems together of critical importance to get the full picture of how your business is operating. Many customers have a specific CRM system, robust issue tracking software for support, business intelligence tools that must be fed data, and many others – and this is all in addition to any live engagement solutions you have deployed. These systems can function independently but operating in this fashion severely limits their capabilities and usefulness. Clearly, integrating your tech stack so that your digital tools can communicate can unlock significant value and advantages.
But of course, with additional power comes additional responsibility. The aforementioned technical concerns of compatibility and security are not absent from system integrations. If anything, the challenges escalate as your digital ecosystem diversifies. A robust live engagement platform should be able to accommodate mission critical data flow bidirectionally.
On the data input side, your agents will need just-in-time insights about customers and issues to maximize the effectiveness of your engagement channels. Outside of the engagement, your live engagement platform needs to provide easy access for external systems so that important data points do not stay locked away and untapped. This should be done using industry-standard touchpoints such as RESTful APIs and programmatic data feeds. Once again, it is critical that companies who want to capture the full power of live engagement seriously consider these hurdles. What is needed is a platform that can not only excel at live engagement, but can also hook into your other systems.
A Platform Approach is Key
Vee24 provides a holistic live engagement platform that thoroughly addresses the common technical challenges detailed above. Our platform can accommodate customers coming in on any browser, operating system, or device and still provide a smooth, enjoyable engagement for your customers no matter their purpose for contacting you. Through our frequent release cycle, we stay on top of the continually changing technological landscape to ensure that our clients can welcome customers through the widest possible array of mobile and desktop technologies.
With infrastructure spread throughout the globe, our clients’ data security requirements stretch from the standard e-commerce shop to the stringently regulated environments of financial services and everything in between. No matter the privacy and security environment, we have continually worked alongside leaders in the live engagement space to strike the fine balance between safety and capability.
Our platform wasn’t just built to be easy to communicate with customers. Our web API and data feed features have been powerfully leveraged by clients to easily get data into and out of our platform. This has turned simple web analytics tools into powerful force multipliers, and CRM systems into high-impact revenue generators – all by leveraging the capabilities of live engagement.