Re-Humanizing online interactions with customers is a feat customer service and sales professionals have been trying to accomplish since the Internet first entered the scene in the 1990’s. The challenge hasn’t been the availability of people – many organizations have customer service and sales teams dedicated to ensuring their online and omni-channel customers have as much support as possible.
The challenge has been in a lack of empathy. The ability for the customer service agents to literally “see through their customer’s eyes” resulting in a reduced time to understanding for the agent and ultimately a faster and better resolution to a customer support challenge or sales close or up-sell in a sales situation. Co-Browsing empowers a customer service or sales agent with the ability to “see” what their customer is doing and assist them in real-time.
There are many ways that Co-Browsing can be implemented, with different strengths and weaknesses to each. So, if you are set on improving your customer service and / or omni-channel sales processes with a Co-Browsing technology You Must ask the following questions so you can make an informed decision on which approach (1st Gen, 2nd Gen, NextGen) is best for you.
Before you deploy a Co-Browse solution in your organization, make sure you ask these important questions to avoid adoption, usability or security mishaps…
- Is additional software of any kind ever needed or downloaded?
- Does any process-able information ever leave the Host’s computer?
- Can sensitive information be redacted on the Host’s computer?
- Can the Host accidentally share other web tabs or even applications?
- Do the Host and Guest ever communicate with each other directly?
- Can the Guest take control of the Host’s browser tab?
- Can more than one Guest view the Host’s session?
- Is this hosted on a shared tenant platform?
- Is licensing seat-based or capacity based?
- Is this a co-browse point solution or a multi-faceted collaboration platform?
When interacting with users / customers of all kinds today (both consumer & business users), trust is imperative. If your user is asked to download an application, JAVA applet or complete a JAVA virtual machine update; doubt will set in and the result will be fewer Co-Browsing sessions – and ultimately fewer delighted customers. Additionally, even if the user is just prompted to change their security settings in their browser application, adoption by customers will be hindered. Anything that can be done to reduce fear and bolster customer confidence will be an advantage in getting customers to adopt this new way of communicating, and once they have a positive experience with your most valuable asset (your people), they will be more likely to both try it again and tell others about it as well.
With the recent increase in high profile corporate information breaches, any increased risk to the security of customer information has become a non-starter for many Co-Browsing point solutions. Many of the 2nd generation Co-Browsing technologies currently in the market are based on one of two technical approaches that “ship” the pre-rendered browser representation of the code – the DOM or Document Object Model – off of the Host’s computer to either the Guest viewer(s) or a server based browser to be independently rendered and the visual result shared with all participants. While these methods can have their performance benefits, they were originally designed for non-secure experiences and as such create a significant increase in the risk profile of user sessions using these methods for sharing.
While most commonly associated with government documents, redaction is a useful tool when there is protected information on a web page that needs to be shared – such as healthcare or financial related information. Redaction itself is a benefit for companies utilizing Co-Browsing, but to maintain the security profile of a standard user session, the redaction should occur in the Host’s browser tab (on their computer) and not on a server somewhere else – this way, secure information NEVER leaves the Host’s browser tab creating a potential security breach. In cases where redaction occurs off of the Host’ computer, security risk points are created that may risk both the trust of users and the approval of internal security personnel.
In original Peer-to-peer (P2P) communications system, the Host and Guest actually transmit data directly from one to the other – with a server-based traffic controller initiating and monitoring the connection. While this can be useful for one-to-one desktop sharing, it introduces both security and scale issues for Enterprise Co-Browsing. From a security point of view, when the Host and Guest communicate directly with each other the risk of one of the participants inserting malicious code into the data stream to the other is a clear and present danger. When a narrowcast broker is used to receive the transmission from the Host and send it on to the Guest viewer(s) – especially when that transmission is nothing more than a post rendered image of the Host’s browser tab, not only is the risk of malicious code eliminated, but significant scale can be achieved. For example, Hosting a session on an iPhone and sharing it with 1,000 Guest viewers. This is not feasible with a P2P model.
In a business or technical support context, group or alternating control is a very useful tool. A employee can “give” control over to their IT help desk agent to speed the time to resolution for a software or operating system issue. When the Host is not an employee and the equipment is not the property of the company things change. Consumer (and even outside business) users entering into a Co-Browsing session should maintain a clean control chain of custody between themselves and the website they are interacting with. When others can enter information or click in the Host’s browser tab, the control chain of custody is broken and all transactions conducted can be accused of being suspect. While the ability to “share” or “give” control is a mainstay of the 1st Gen and 2nd Gen Co-Browsing technologies – their roots in co-authoring and tech support create risk that many corporations are just not willing to accept.
Just like two heads are better than one, sometimes, three, four or five heads are the answer. This could be the case when escalating to a specialist and the original agent wants to seamlessly hand-off to the specialist before exiting the call or when a trusted advisor or loved one are needed when making a significant choice. Make sure your Co-Browsing solution can at least support 3 to 5 participants but optimally it should support n number of participants if needed – say 1,000 or even 100,000.
It is a common practice for SaaS services to use shared tenant based hosting to maximize their resource efficiency. And for small to medium sized businesses – this is completely acceptable. However for Enterprise clients, there are consequences of such a shared tenant model. 1. Upgrades (that can effect usability, features, processes, etc) are at the discretion of the SaaS provider and all tenants get the upgrade together without choice. 2. The data generated is commingled with other tenant data creating the potential for information security issues. 3. All tenants use shared storage, memory and processors – meaning if one tenant either consumes more resources than modeled or crashes the system; all tenants suffer. It is important for performance security and data segregation, that Enterprises get dedicated resources with the ability to influence their upgrade schedule and isolated data storage.
Seat licensing can be a good choice for small teams or departments, but for large teams or entire enterprises capacity based licensing provides the both the best scalability and flexibility as some providers include multi-site deployment in a capacity based service agreement.
In the beginning, Co-Browsing was more of a niche solution vs a mainstream technology. There are many possible reasons for this – limitations of 1st Gen & 2nd Gen technologies, lack of Enterprise compliant security or scalability, etc. Whatever the reason, niche point solutions were born out of this reality. And even the providers that had multiple capabilities, they were more a collection of cobbled together point solutions vs a coordinated platform. Breaking out of the pure web Co-Browsing arena to what Gartner calls the “Collaborative Customer Interface,” Enterprises should be looking for solutions that can provide Synchronous and Asynchronous sharing; Desktop, Phone & Tablet based web access points; but most importantly, the ability to leverage a common technology platform to include native mobile, voice and possibly grow to non standard platforms like in-tractor display or smart refrigerator. By embracing how the power of “Shared Experiences” can improve both customer service and the bottom line, a unified platform becomes even more critical.
Hopefully this post has helped to better arm you to explore, evaluate and implement a Co-Browsing solution for your company. As an additional aid, we are making our “Co-Browse Security Scorecard” available for FREE! Just complete the form below to receive it.