customer engagement frameworkWhen Apple announced the launch of the first generation iPhone in 2007, I was completely skeptical of the device’s usefulness and was utterly convinced that I would never use one. I was a late adopter of mobile phones to start with, turned off by the lack of an established etiquette around the use of these devices in the public sphere.

Too many people having too many phone conversations at too high a volume in restaurants actually made me dislike mobile phones. The iPhone was just a fancier version of those dreaded devices, so why would I ever want one? Clearly, I was trapped in my well established mental model of a phone.  It took several years until I realized that an iPhone was actually a portable computer with an onboard voice communications application to change my mind.

Now, like millions and millions of other people, I am rarely more than 3 feet from my beloved ‘magic glowing rectangle.’ In hindsight, I had both a failure of imagination of what could be, as well as an inability to see beyond the name and category of the device causing me to fail to grasp the device’s true nature. When Amazon recently announced the Kindle Fire HDX with free video-based customer care, I fear numerous contact center industry folks fell into the same trap I did with the initial iPhone. Customer service and contact center forums lit up with discussions about the pitfalls Amazon would face with its Mayday service, the 24×7 video support service. Some were focused on the scalability required to provide such service to millions of consumers, while others focused on the presumed cost of providing such a service, while yet another camp fretted about finding a sufficient pool of agents presentable enough to be on camera.

One post even pointed to the difficulty of providing scripts for agents who are always visible to the consumer. All of these issues are valid—and yet, they miss the point, just like I did with the iPhone. The Mayday service may well be untenable and eventually crash and burn, but it is a glimpse of what could be. The means by which people interact with each other have been changing at a breakneck pace and new variations on communications channels crop up constantly.

Companies have just really begun to recognize some of those changes, but they are still struggling with incorporating Facebook—a network that has been open to the public for more than seven years—into the fabric of their customer engagement strategies. Many companies still fail to see the ground shifting beneath their feet due to the complete immersion consumers have in a mobile and social world. Mayday, at a minimum, reflects a major brand trying to build a customer engagement framework in tune with the new zeitgeist. I believe we have to let go of the notion that we understand what Mayday is because we understand things like call deflection, average handle time and agent compliance.

We need to see Mayday as a prospective forerunner of new communications models we cannot totally understand yet. The iPhone turned out to not actually really be a phone. In the same way, Mayday may well turn out not to really be a video-based contact center tool. Here’s hoping!

To learn more I invite you to view  our webinar entitled: “webRTC – The Future of Real-time Customer Service” with special guest Vidya Nagarajan from Google.

What do you think? Comments welcome below!