Customer Experience

Verizon Aims to Help Firms Get Up Close and Personal With Customers

Verizon Enterprise Solutions on Friday released Visual Interactive Calling, a software development kit and platform in the Verizon network designed to enable banks, retailers, airlines, travel and hospitality companies, and other firms to communicate visually with their customers.

“The sweet spot for this solution is enterprises that have deep mobile app penetration into their customer base and those with complex interactions that users may need agent assistance with,” said Tom Smith, senior manager of customer experience innovation for Verizon.

Apps developed with this SDK will transition customers using a company’s self-service mobile app directly to a live agent.

This will maintain the security of the transaction and minimize the number of steps required. The customer’s confirmed identity and information about the reason for the call will be on the agent’s screen, and customers won’t have to log out of the mobile app and go through the process of connecting with a live agent over a standard interactive voice response system.

“This SDK is used to enhance the mobile app rather than replacing existing app development tools,” Smith told CRM Buyer. It “provides APIs and sample code that can be used by the app to interface with the Verizon platform and the enterprise.”

The Verizon platform performs authentication, translation, security, and call control functions.

Visual Interactive Calling is immediately available to companies based in the United States.

Visual Interactive Calling’s Impact

Visual Interactive Calling will help companies better cater to customers’ increasingly mobile habits.

Consumers in the United States spend more than five hours a day on their devices, according to recent research.

“Our enterprise clients need to adapt to the communications preferences of their own customers,” Smith noted. “So many of our clients … have adopted a mobile-first service strategy, and legacy contact center solutions aren’t optimizing the mobile user experience.”

Verizon’s Visual Interactive Calling product “enables them to compete against the rise in enterprise adoption of cloud-based contact center providers — and in particular, Amazon’s new Connect solution,” said Cindy Zhou, a principal analyst at Constellation Research.

One of the primary reasons for enterprises switching contact center software providers is for “platform ease, pricing, and integration with their existing CRM technology,” she told CRM Buyer. “I didn’t see any reference to external CRM integration in [Verizon’s] announcement.

Businesses would want to use the SDK to develop their own apps instead of leveraging Apple’s FaceTime and Google’s Duo apps, which “don’t offer the queuing, routing, and blending that’s needed for a best-practice call center,” said Holger Mueller, also a principal analyst at Constellation Research.

Blending “is key to having a high-value customer overtake lower-value customers in the queue,” he told CRM Buyer, “or getting the same agent to the same customer as last time.”

Not Your Daddy’s Visual IVR

Google received a patent for Visual IVR in 2005 from Nortel, which had submitted the design in 2000.

Visual IVR was seen as a blending of the mobile phone’s visual display with speech-enabled IVRs, as offered by DiaLogic and ChoiceView, and unveiled last year by Zappix.

“Verizon is certainly not the first in the space, as many CRM providers have introduced similar capabilities,” said Rebecca Wettemann, VP of research at Nucleus Research.

Further, Verizon is “seen as a telecoms provider, not a customer experience or CRM software provider,” she told CRM Buyer.

Visual Interactive Calling is “unlikely to drive new business,” Wettemann said, “as customers’ buying patterns and decision process in this space aren’t aligned with Verizon’s core expertise.”

However, “we don’t view [Visual Interactive Calling] as a visual IVR,” said Verizon’s Smith.

Visual IVR applications “typically start out with a phone call and are designed with the IVR experience as a baseline,” he said, but Verizon “[looked] at the types of interactions that are escalated from mobile app self-service to contact center agents, and is working with enterprises and consumers to figure out how to optimize the experience.”

Richard Adhikari

Richard Adhikari has been an ECT News Network reporter since 2008. His areas of focus include cybersecurity, mobile technologies, CRM, databases, software development, mainframe and mid-range computing, and application development. He has written and edited for numerous publications, including Information Week and Computerworld. He is the author of two books on client/server technology. Email Richard.

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