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Will Zoom replace in-person customer service?

Video technology has proved invaluable during lockdown.

Diane Hall


Zoom call with coffee

With so many people working from home, business meetings, training and online events used video streaming platforms such as Zoom or Microsoft Teams when in-person interaction wasn’t possible.

Now that a lot of people have returned to their employer’s premises to work, this technology may not be as in-demand as it was a few months ago. However, it may have other uses going forward that could both streamline and add value to business communications.

Fears of a second wave and the government’s recent guidelines restricting people to gathering in groups of no more than six mean that we’re still not able to freely mingle in person wherever and whenever we want. It could be months and months before this changes and we get the upper hand against the coronavirus. 

Some meetings and interactions are undoubtedly better if carried out face to face, but in light of the new ‘Rule of Six’ regulations, could Zoom bridge the gap until we’re back to normal?

Already, plenty of doctors’ appointments have been carried out using video calling, and there could be an argument for retaining this, from an efficiency point of view, on a permanent basis. Allowing a visual element that communication via phone can’t provide makes it a useful alternative, second only to being physically present.

Rather than viewing video calls/services as a step back from person-to-person contact, consider it as a step up from live chat, phone calls and any other ‘faceless’ communication tool currently used. Video calling is a two-way stream—it’s not just the provider talking to consumers. Services where a human being would be called out in person to someone’s premises to diagnose or ‘check’ equipment/a situation could possibly be done via Zoom. How better to show the person at the other end of the internet line the equipment/problem in question by using a video camera than describing it over a telephone. Think of all the fuel expenses and commuting costs this could save.

And how much manpower and time would be saved if an actual person came on screen in supermarkets to understand why there’s an issue at the self-serve? They could verify age-related purchases via video call, enter the necessary authorisation code to allow the sale to go ahead, answer questions…they could do anything a store-based colleague could do. And they’d be available instantly—you would no longer have to wait until Maureen finishes chatting with Beryl about the menopause before she notices your till light flashing for assistance.

There’s no reason that working from home couldn’t apply to call centre staff—the technology exists. Rather than feeling like a number or someone on a customer conveyor belt, having a video chat with a member of staff may curb angry complaints (it’s more difficult to be angry with someone when you can see them and they can see you) and bring an extra dimension of customer care to everyday enquiries.

The advancement of technology within workplaces, customer access points and many other industries tends to evoke fear, as employees assume that computers will eventually replace them and take their job. Incorporating video calling at your customer touchpoints and within your customer service practices will not replace human beings but bring them closer to the people they’re helping, even if Covid-19 does its very best to ensure we keep our distance.

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