A traveler has been sitting at the airport for four hours, waiting anxiously for his plane to show up, when the gate agents relay the bad news: his flight to Paris has been cancelled. Within seconds, the massive line takes shape. Dozens of fellow travelers hound the gate agents, each hoping and praying that they can get rebooked on another flight that night. Other travelers search for the terminal’s information desks or bank of rebooking phones, only to discover the same lines and chaos. It’s the nightmare of airport customer service—and it’s something we’ve all experienced at one time or another.
But what if it didn’t have to be this way? What if, upon hearing his flight was canceled, the traveler could instantly initiate a video chat with an airline agent simply by opening the mobile browser on his smartphone or visiting an interactive airport kiosk? With the touch of a button, he would be connected to a customer service representative who could share valuable information via video, such as a screen that lists rebooking options and an airport map that shows the traveler the location of his new gate.
This is the power of WebRTC. The technology is gaining steam, as evidenced by the recent announcement from Microsoft, a growing number of software development kits for iOS, and the demand we’ve seen at Dialogic for our WebRTC media server. At the same time, we have yet to see many mainstream application deployments, save for Amazon’s WebRTC-like Mayday service. The question now is which industries and which companies will pioneer the WebRTC revolution—and the travel and hospitality industries are both prime candidates.
Let’s fast-forward to what happens when our traveler finally touches down in Paris, and arrives at the apartment he booked through Airbnb, the short-term vacation rental service that’s disrupting the hospitality industry. He has some questions about the apartment when he arrives, such as how to work the television and alarm system. If WebRTC were enabled on the Airbnb app, he could simply open his app and initiate a call with his host. This would eliminate the need for Aibnb to share hosts’ personal contact information with guests, and would give hosts the ability to remotely communicate with guests via video. In the case of our traveler, his host could walk him through how to turn the television on via a WebRTC video call.
Traditional hotels could benefit from the use of WebRTC, as well. Let’s say our traveler had been interested in staying at a boutique hotel in Paris, but wanted more information about the room and neighborhood before he booked. Calling from his browser, he could initiate a video call with a hotel agent who could show him the available rooms and—while in the call—share a pre-recorded video about the best spots in the neighborhood. When the traveler arrives at the hotel late at night, he could connect with the concierge via his mobile browser from the comfort of his room or through a remotely manned kiosk in the lobby. During these calls, the concierge could show the traveler images and videos of various attractions, guide him through a virtual map of the public transportation system and even confirm a rental car booking.
As you can see, WebRTC can seriously improve the customer experience, which in turn boosts loyalty and affinity for airlines, hotels and travel businesses. But it also saves companies money and helps them gain intelligence about their own performance and customer behavior. By allowing agents and customers to visualize issues and avoid the usual interactive voice response (IVR) maze, WebRTC calling reduces the number of minutes agents need to spend on the phone, leading to reduced costs. It also allows hotels to offer virtual service to guests during off-hours, and eliminates the need for 24-hour on-the-ground staffing. Additionally, using sentiment analysis within WebRTC calls, customer service managers could determine which of their agents have the happiest-seeming customers—and whether that correlates to loyalty.
WebRTC allows rich interactions to be embedded into existing processes, and the result is simplified and streamlined communication. It’s only a matter of time before the hospitality and travel industries—which are so focused on customer service—begin to catch on in a major way. Discover more about what rich media processing and WebRTC can do for your company here, and don’t forget to tweet @Dialogic with your thoughts on which industries will lead the WebRTC revolution.