In a world of automated messages on phone-lines, soulless online forms and apps with all the charisma of a slice of toast, customers are still seeking that human connection that we all crave. The problem is, business transactions and services have become so frenetic that the connection between business and customer has become dehumanised.
Visual engagement is the practice of making your customer feel like you are in the room with them and guiding them through a variety of tasks such as data input, purchases or demos. This concept isn’t new as it extends to those fruitless telephone conversations with support teams or cryptic messages through online chat all of which end up with a breakdown in communication.
Support: Click on the blue icon.
Customer: There are two blue icons.
Support: Okay, you’re on the wrong page. Press the icon that looks like a bird.
Customer: I can’t see that.
Support: It’s in the top left of the screen.
Customer: That’s not a bird, looks more like a deckchair.
… And so on. We have all had such conversations where it seems like there is a wall between you and the expert. Solutions such as desktop sharing and co-browsing remove that barrier and allow support to see what the customer sees and to guide them with greater fluidity.
Co-browsing has become popular in the customer support sector because it allows support teams to collaboratively browse and make changes to an online programme or website while the customer can see what is happening. You may have already experienced something similar if you’ve joined a conference call and ‘shared screens’ with a third party. Co-browsing takes this a step further and allows support teams to make changes directly on a client’s website or browser.
The key difference between desktop sharing and co-browsing is access. Desktop sharing, for the most part, allows a third party to control your computer including settings, files and applications. Co-browsing, as you might have guessed, is limited to webpages and only the webpages that the customer allows.
This restriction means that the support team only sees what the customer wants them to see which provides peace of mind and, more importantly, privacy.
The co-browsing experience can be guided by customer support in a variety of ways from online chat to audio or even video. This ‘hands on’ approach greatly improves the effectiveness of technical support for the customer and minimises those prolonged and frustrating helpline calls.
How businesses are already using co-browsing
There are several ways that co-browsing can be implemented. From partial access by the support team, where they may only view and highlight the customer’s webpage, to full sharing of the browser so that the support team may control the browsing experience, the implementation is dependent on the use case scenario. Here are some examples:
- Banks have adopted the technology to assist customers to navigate their online accounts. The Customer service representative can show the user how to make transactions, applications for products and check balances, all from within a secure and private online environment.
- Online sales can become a more interactive experience. Rather than a website essentially being a static brochure, curated browsing with the assistance of sales personnel can begin to emulate the feel of real-world shopping with guidance from a real shop assistant.
- Another type of use in retail can be products such as holidays where the travel agent actively assembles a package with the customer whilst having the opportunity to up-sell products or provide deals on the fly.
7 benefits of the co-browsing solution
Now we get to the crux of this article where I tell you why this co-browsing thing is worth a second look. What follows is a list of seven benefits that you might consider as improvements to your current customer support strategy.
1. Decrease call handling time
There is a fable about several blind men trying to describe an elephant. Each of them are spaced around the noble beast and may only feel what is before them. “An elephant is like a tree” says one as he runs his fingers over the coarse skin of the creature’s leg. “No, it is like a snake.” declares another as he yanks on the elephant’s tail…
Technical support is very much like this, with each party seeing or doing something different. When technical support, for example, can hop onto someone else’s browser, visually demonstrate functions or highlight features, time is saved, frustration is removed, and productivity increased.
2. Faster solutions by support
It isn’t just the ease with which problems can be solved but also the speed. The ability to serve more customers per hour, for example, reduces wait times, manpower, and use of resources.
Similar to the previous point, if a member of the support team has direct access to the customers browsing space, either by guiding the customer or taking remote control, they can solve any problems that are presented efficiently.
3. Customer privacy
In a time where our lives are broken down into bits and bytes, privacy is paramount. Our data is our own and it is us that should decide just how it is used. Because co-browsing remains within the web browser, customers don’t have to worry about a breach of their wider system.
4. Little or no installation required
For the most part, the days where fickle software only ran on certain machines with specific components is in the past. With more advanced operating systems and established protocols most pieces of software run straight out of the box, no problem.
Though this might not seem that much of a benefit, the fact that there is little or no software for you to install on your system to allow co-browsing reduces the possibility of conflicts or issues with your existing system. Furthermore, your customers don’t need to install anything which increases their peace of mind and smooths out the whole experience.
5. Closing sales
If a customer comes onto your site, pokes around a little, perhaps puts something in their shopping cart and then stumbles at the crucial point of sale, there’s a chance they’ll go to a different business for an equivalent product.
Furthermore, many savvy shoppers will have several pages open at once to compare and evaluate all that is on offer.
By engaging with your customer in a one to one setting you can not only focus exclusively on your products, but you can help them to become a paying customer.
6. Tailored browsing
Customers like to feel special. They like to feel seen and understood, and though sites such as Amazon have algorithms that offer us items we might like, we also know it’s a computer doing it. Subsequently, the whole shopping experience is left feeling a little soulless and hollow.
Building on the previous benefit, it is possible to tailor your customers browsing experience; highlighting products of interest or special offers. This can decrease wasted browsing time for your customer, increase conversion rates by guiding them to what they are looking for and minimise your bounce rate.
7. Support customers with special needs
Depending on your business and who you appeal to, it is important to remember the wide variety of potential customers that come to your website. In such a wide demographic there will be people with different needs, from those who struggle with literacy to customers who are physically unable to easily control their device.
Whether it is because of inexperience with computers, impaired cognitive or motor skills or because they are sensory impaired, co-browsing provides a gateway for you as a business to assist them through your site and to verbally or textually talk with them. For the elderly and disabled co-browsing removes reliance on assistive technology or help from relatives and can provide a more independent and pleasurable shopping experience.
A range of options
So, I have discussed a few examples of the sorts of businesses that use co-browsing, but what is actually available to you as an SME?
There are many co-browsing solutions available to you, the only difference being your use case scenario and, of course, budget.
Rather than screen sharing where computers talk directly to one another, co-browsing is a little more complicated. With such a variety of web browsers out there such as Firefox, Edge and Safari, to name just a few, and the multitude of frameworks and scripts used by web developers, instant compatibility isn’t always assured.
Simple co-browsing solutions such as Upscope offer the basic means of controlling your customer’s web browser and audio interaction but doesn’t offer live chat or video, however, in most cases these may simply add clutter to the experience rather than adding functionality.
Due to the complexity of conversing with such an array of browsers, platforms or frameworks, it is usual for you, as the business, to download code to your system to make everything work. With Surfly code is not necessary, rather it generates a link for you and your customer to use. Of course, for some businesses this isn’t ideal as traffic will be passing through Surfly servers so there is an option to download the code to run the co-browsing experience direct from your own system.
Whilst these two solutions are good, for those with more spending power and need for more tools Acquire provides video and live chat as well as features designed for post sign up sales, which can help your customer to actually make a purchase. Acquire has other tools besides co-browsing solutions which might be overkill for most SMEs, but certainly worth considering if you’re looking for a stronger and more versatile engagement with your customers.
Co-browsing has the ability to humanise the online experience by providing natural communication. In a time when loneliness is on the rise, the simple act of verbally engaging with a customer can make the difference between a standard web session and an enjoyable one.
By reducing stress, increasing productivity and adding the human touch, co-browsing is reconnecting us with the way that we should give and receive assistance in the online world.
Oliver Kennett is an author and freelance copywriter living in Bristol. A graduate in both law and engineering, he enjoys exploring science, technology and social impact through his writing. As well as clients in the technology, tourism, legal and lifestyle sectors, he has written extensively for charity. In his spare time he writes short stories and novels for children and adults in the horror, sci-fi, fantasy and humour genres.Read full profile