Sinch approached me for my opinion on their new whitepaper — research conducted in collaboration with One Poll to discover how consumer demand is shaping the future of video calling for enterprises.
The Truth About Video Calling
The whitepaper is chock full of interesting information and stats. While it fits mostly well with my own worldview, there were a few surprises for me in it. Before I get to that though, I’d like to explain my opinion. And to do that, I’ll start with something totally different – a Quora answer I bumped into recently. It dealt with laying off employees due to the adoption of SaaS platforms. Jason Lemkin’s answer boiled it down to this for me:
“Our product eliminated all those related jobs and positions. [...] But over time, as I met more customers, I learned that the headcount was rarely if ever reduced. Instead, it was either repurposed, or changed. Net headcount rarely went down.”
As I see it, video calling isn’t going to displace any jobs. Its purpose is to improve communication, and therefore, the performance of an enterprise. Video calling isn’t going to replace face-to-face meetings altogether either. And it isn’t going to kill the airline industry due to everyone making video calls instead of flying to business meetings. But it will reduce them, and displace what we use these face to face meetings for.
All of this comes at a time when we’re talking about unified communications, an industry in which I’m intimately familiar. Unified communications is all about systems that integrate and manage various communication tools – be it text, voice or video. Years back, I worked at a video conferencing vendor in this market. Well before WebRTC, CPaaS and cloud computing. Marketing video communication products was about going green or reducing flights. Today? It’s about productivity.
Video in unified communication is fine, but what’s even better is that video is coming to B2B and B2B2C. This means helping enterprises communicate with each other and with their customers. In this context, video assists in building trust (you get to see the person speaking with you), reducing average handling time, and increasing time to resolution (investing in video is usually coupled with adding context and with being able to “show” the problem). It also reduces travel time for both the business and the consumer (telemedicine and online consulting are good use cases for it).
Video Calling Shifts to Verticals
As we diverge from general purpose unified communications towards specialized use cases in the enterprise, we’ll find ourselves dealing with different verticals. In my own vendor listing and research for WebRTC, the leading market is consistently healthcare followed by education. This is why I found the verticals in the Sinch whitepaper so interesting:
Is your business currently using Video Calling (B2B or B2C) to communicate with customers?
Sorted by usage of video calling:
- Recruitment & HR
- Energy & Utilities
- Banking & Finance
- Transport & Logistics
- Teaching & Education
Healthcare and education are placed only 5th and 6th in the list.
Why is that? I can offer a few suggestions.
- My listing and research is about vendors offering technologies and less around who ends up adopting them. It’s more about suppliers than it is about enterprises. As such, my viewpoint is around what will come to market a few years down the road more than what is happening today
- Recruitment & HR is something that I’ve seen rising rapidly in the last year or two. I haven’t done any summaries or aggregated my data in over a year. This may well skew things towards the recruitment space. It also goes to show that growth in demand of video calling is happening in multiple verticals
- The other three verticals were never really distinct in my research. I usually placed them all in the bucket of contact centers, as that’s where the type of scenarios associated with them usually are. Probably a mistake on my part
A Matter of Supply and Demand
We’ve had video calling since the 70s, and yet, it hasn’t really caught on until quite recently.
Technology improvements and a shift to the cloud are probably the main drivers of growth for video calling today. They enable us to move our discussion from how to what. This leads us to thinking about supply and demand.
We’ve had a demand problem with video calling for a long time. A lot questioned the need for it, many stating that people won’t be comfortable showing themselves on camera.
Today, we each have at least two cameras on us at all times. You probably have one now in your pocket on your smartphone — that enables us to communicate using video calling from anywhere and at any time. Seth Godin has some pretty interesting insights about mirrors and camera shyness. Insights that are more relevant now in 2018 when:
- iPhones have FaceTime, supporting up to 32 participants
- Google Hangouts and Duo are available on every Android (and iOS)
- Facebook Messenger, WhatsApp and Instagram all offer video calling
Are people comfortable with video calling? They sure are.
Do they use it? Yes.
Are they (or will they be) expecting it to be available when communicating with businesses? Definitely.
It won’t be in every interaction. People are also calling businesses and texting them. But having video conversations as another alternative? Definitely. Providing differentiated services with it or launching totally new ones by video calling? Sure – why not.
Where Should You Start?
The whitepaper itself includes some useful recommendations. Ones that I see everyday when I help businesses with their technical architectures.
The first recommendation? Identify key use cases. There are many ways in which you can add video calling to your business. Each offers different benefits to your company and your customers. Think about these alternatives. Document them. Find out which ones are easier to implement and which ones are impossible today.
The other recommendations? I’ll let you check them out for yourselves – they are in the whitepaper 🙂
I am a developer by heart. Always have been. The thing is, I found out I love writing and looking at the bigger picture of product and strategy. I joined the world of consulting and entrepreneurship when WebRTC was announced.
At BlogGeek.me I help companies simplify communication technologies, creating elegant and effective solutions. I also serve as Co-founder and CEO of testRTC, a company focusing on testing and monitoring WebRTC applications.