Every day, call centers walk a thin red line: balancing customer happiness with handle time. New technologies like live chat and advanced IVR solutions have helped call centers do this with drastically higher efficiency over the past decade. But as we shift into the second decade of the new millenium, it’s clear that the first generation of web-based support tools isn’t enough to satisfy customer demands. Many customers need a hands on experience that a chat or phone support solution has difficulty providing on its own.
Companies that care about customer happiness have started to react to changing customer demands using a new technology called co-browsing. You may not have heard of co-browsing before, but even if you have, you might think it is something that it’s not. This is because many customer support companies misuse the term co-browsing in order to check a box on the RFP questionnaire they send you.
Let’s talk about what co-browsing is, how it can be helpful to your business, and what to watch out for when a company supposedly selling “co-browsing” technology knocks on your door.
What co-browsing is
Co-browsing is web technology that allows a support agent to connect up to a customer’s browser window, see the customer’s web page and mouse cursor, and interact with the web page in real-time.
Co-browsing is like screensharing except that it’s limited explicitly to what’s in the browser. When a rep is co-browsing with a customer they can only see what’s on the web page itself, not the customer’s other open browser tabs, and not anything else on the customer’s computer.
Java-based co-browsing – as its name suggests – is based on the Java programming language. Typically a Java-based co-browsing solution comes in the form of an applet that a user can load onto their browser to start a co-browsing session.
Java-based solutions have a few benefits, but also a few key drawbacks.
– A Java-based solution is not limited to just the web page. Java-based co-browsing can actually let you view and control the entire computer, but they often artificially limit their solution to only show the browser. This is why many Java-based solutions are labeled as screensharing instead of co-browsing. If you need a solution that lets you look outside of the browser, this may mean that a Java-based solution is right for you.
– Java co-browsing also requires that the customer has Java installed on their computer. There are a large number of consumers that don’t have Java installed, or won’t have the most current version. This requires the rep to ask them to download and install Java which takes time and requires a computer restart. Furthermore, Java also does not have full device support – newer versions of Mac OS X block it.
– Java co-browsing also does not work on many mobile devices such as iPhone and iPad that don’t support Java applets.
Now that we have a good overview of real co-browsing, let’s explore the kinds of products that many companies label “cobrowsing” but are in fact something else.
The first source of confusion, whether genuine or not, are screen sharing applications that are branded as cobrowsing. To be clear, an application that has to be downloaded to the computer to start a session is not co-browsing. Even if it limits itself to the browser. It’s screensharing.
The second source of co-browsing confusion is a type of simple link sharing integrated into many support platforms. A lot of modern chat applications will display the URL of the page that a customer is on and provide simple commands that let you automatically redirect the customer to a new page on your website. However you can not see the actual web page that the customer is on, you cannot see what the customer is doing on that web page, and you cannot collaborate on the web page with the customer. This is just link sharing. Not co-browsing.
The differences between these imposter co-browsing features and true co-browsing applications are sometimes quite nuanced and subtle, but at other times are rather dramatic. It is important to understand the different options that exist out there in the marketplace before selecting a co-browsing vendor.