Video….who cares what the customer wants.

About two weeks ago Abi Chandra one of our best engineers and also the star of the movie French Fries and Curry (available on Netflix now!) decided to do some video’s of our white boarding sessions.  These sessions were designed to assist partners and customers with understanding why architectures really do matter and why it is so important to get down into the actual systems being proposed to run a customers communications solutions rather than just accepting the marketing hype we see so often.  Typically these sessions are done in a face to face meeting with the opportunity for the customer to ask as many questions as they like and drive the conversation while we focus on four main themes (scalability, reliability, recovery and flexibility) as our foundation.  For these particular sessions, however, we decided to do them via video and I was surprised to find myself thinking about the discussions on Tim’s video in the contact center blog which almost entirely revolved around percieved customer demand for this type of service.

As I stood doing these sessions on video I realized that I was acting far different then when I am in person with a client.  My voice was softer, I was thinking way harder than usual and my performance was suffering.  The only explanation for this was the odd looking video camera staring back at me instead of a person I could really talk with.  Right then and there I realized that all this talk about customers ‘wanting video’ is completely irrelevant.  It does not matter what the consumer of video services wants.  The only thing that matters is what the provider wants to give no matter if that is an engineer like me doing a whiteboard session, a contact center agent or a support desk engineer providing services to a client.  If they don’t want to provide this as a service it just wont happen…period. 

Want proof?  Go ask your facilities folks what is the least used room in the building.  I’ll bet you a dollar it is the video conference room.  It’s not because video isn’t cool and it’s not because I wouldn’t want to see someone on the other side of the conversation.  It is however because I may be having a bad hair day, or maybe I want to doodle while the other person is talking or heck maybe I want them to think I’m older, younger, thinner or taller than I am.  In other words I like just talking with someone without having to worry about all these other aspects of a fake face to face meeting.

As I continued to think about this I couldn’t help but flashback to my early days here at Interactive when video was new and cool.  This was the type of video provided by the old chat engines like Microsoft Messenger and when a PC video camera would run you a fortune.  At the time I worked from home and I’ll be the first to admit I did my best work when I was wearing my favorite old t-shirt and probably hadn’t shaved in three days.  In other words I could truly focus on the task at hand but a video session would not exactly be appropriate.  Without fail whenever I’d have a couple days at home one of the sales folks down south would ping me over and over with "This person wants a video session" messages popping up on my PC.  I’d accept the video session and see him all dressed up but you couldn’t have bribed me to share video back.  In other words me as a provider of the service didn’t and don’t see the true value in using video.  Yeah, it was cool but having a video session wasn’t going to help me scope a call flow any better.  Are there going to be exceptions to this?  Absolutely!  Video can perform a key role for example in product design where engineers can show each other a beta product before they start manufacturing or for pushing precanned video out to customers as a response to a question.  However, I think we will be long way off before we see video truly coming into areas like the contact center.  Unless of course you happen to be a company building video phones or selling video products in which case you will have the joy of working from home and STILL having to dress up. 

What a downer.