Verizon May Have (Thankfully) Revolutionized Mobile Customer Service

Imagine the scenario: You're using your banking application on your smartphone and notice several fraudulent charges. First, you search within the app to find customer support but you can't seem to find a number. You close out the app, find the number on a web browser, make the call from your smartphone app, and then re-open the banking app. After an excruciatingly long hold time, you're connected with a helpdesk service representative. He or she asks you to provide several items to verify your identity and your account authenticity. But then, he or she can't see what's happening on your app's screen so you're forced to describe what it is you're seeing. After several back-and-forths, you're both finally, mercifully, on the same page. Your fraudulent charges have been flagged and you'll be issued a new credit card.

Most of us have been through this unbearable process. We've hoped for an easier way to connect with helpdesk professionals from within a smartphone app to ensure faster and more secure conversations. Thanks to Verizon Enterprise, a solution may now be on the way. With "Visual Interactive Calling," Verizon Enterprise's new product, when customers log into your app, they're able to initiate calls from directly within the app via the Web Real-Time Communication (WebRTC) standard. The call will be routed from Verizon to your company's call center, where an agent will be able to instantly access the caller's name, location, and whatever customer relationship management (CRM) data you've tied into your own back-end helpdesk app. More importantly, the agent will be able to view the caller's mobile device screen, and push content onto that screen to provide instantaneous and interactive support.

Here's how the aforementioned scenario will play out now—if your bank starts using Visual Interactive Calling: You're using your banking application on your smartphone and notice several fraudulent charges. You search within the app and find the Visual Interactive Calling button (in whatever manner your bank decides to label it within its app). You won't need to close out the app, find the number on a web browser, or make the call from your smartphone app. Rather, the Visual Interactive Calling button will let you start a call from whatever page you're on within the app.

You might still have to endure an excruciatingly long hold time, but you won't have to verify your identity or your account authenticity because your mobile device and your banking app credentials will have already fed that information to Verizon via a secure, anonymized token. Your rep will be able to see exactly what you're seeing on your app's screen. Your rep will be able to push a page of your most recent charges onto your mobile device screen. He or she will be able to ask you to click on the fraudulent charges. You'll tap each charge once, your fraudulent charges will be flagged, and you'll be issued a new credit card.

The Details on Visual Interactive Calling

Visual Interactive Calling is generally available to Verizon Enterprise and Verizon Voice-over-IP (VoIP) In-Bound Service customers. Verizon provides the software development kit (SDK) to its clients, which includes a set of application programming interfaces (APIs). Your company, if you have the development expertise required, can develop the functionality into your own Android and iOS apps, or you can work with Verizon's professional services team to develop the Visual Interactive Calling functionality and process it into your app.

Because Verizon intends for the solution to be used by large enterprises, including financial services companies, it's important to note that Verizon never has access to usernames or credentials. Customer data is sent to Verizon via the aforementioned anonymized token, which is then sent to your company's call center where the information can be decrypted for service rep use.

As of today, the tool doesn't offer any co-browsing elements, so agents can't take over a device and solve problems manually. The function is also voice-only, which means that chat and video elements have not been built into the system. However, because the WebRTC standard does support these communications formats, Verizon said it is considering them for subsequent product releases.

Tom Smith, Senior Manager of Customer Experience Innovation at Verizon, said he envisions the tool being used by any industry that has a high volume of customer service interactions. According to Smith, airlines, banks, car rental companies, hotels, and even e-commerce retailers would stand to benefit from such an implementation.

"We want to help enterprises interface with customers more effectively and efficiently," Smith said. "Customers want to interact with brands via mobile devices. We can turn voice calls into multimedia interactions. This gives our customers' users an easy way to transition from mobile self-service to the contact center, and it lets agents share visual content to improve customer assistance."

Although Smith declined to provide pricing details, he said Verizon clients would be charged a flat fee per transaction on top of the Verizon VoIP subscription rates.

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