Video conferencing is slowly emerging in the retail banking sector as a way to meet growing customer expectations and combat declining foot traffic in branch locations. There are so many things customers can now do online that they don’t even need to go to a bank. Checking account balances, transferring money between accounts and even paying bills can be done with a few simple clicks on a bank’s website.

As a result, banks need to find new ways to interact with their customers. International financial research and consulting firm, Celent, recently released the report Video Banking: Lights, Camera, Transactions?, discussing how video solutions can be used along with the benefits they provide.

The most practical application is connecting customers to bank tellers and subject matter experts via video at lobbies, vestibules and even at home. Customers can ask questions about their finances, consult with a financial advisor or begin the loan application process with an online advisor. For example, instead of driving to the bank to fill out a mortgage application, a customer can meet face-to-face over video with a loan specialist who can answer questions and begin the application process.

Video banking not only provides increased customer interaction, it can provide significant cost benefit as well. Customers expect a lot from their banks and video conferencing allows banks to keep up with customer demand while reducing expensive branch investments. They can use video solutions to maintain strong customer relationships without having to staff subject matter experts at each retail location.

The Bank of Montreal has implemented Cisco videoconferencing workstations to serve as a customer assistance tool rather than a “do-it-yourself” system. The technology still has a few issues, but they are being worked out. For example, in some instances a customer may require paperwork and paper cannot be transferred through this system. However, the digital teller can help the customer obtain the necessary paperwork and provide instructions as to where it needs to be delivered.

Bank of America had a different idea for the technology and implemented ATM with Teller Assist. This allows customers to experience the convenience of an ATM but still be able to speak to a Bank of America teller in real time via video. These ATMs allow customers to cash checks for the exact amount and receive change, as well as receive cash withdrawals. Eventually, the ATM will allow customers to deposit checks with cash back, split a deposit into two or more accounts and make a credit card or loan payment. With the probable success of these implemented technologies, it won’t be long before other banks begin the process of changing to video banking.

These are just two examples of how banks are using video. Several other establishments have either deployed video solutions or are currently testing the viability. Eventually as technology advances, users will be able to take video banking mobile, and use video conferencing to talk to tellers and bankers through tablets and mobile devices. By using apps, texting, voice conversations and two-way video, banking can eventually go completely virtual. In fact, we might look back one day and say I remember when you actually had to go to the bank to cash a check!

The benefits of visual collaboration are expansive and cross just about every job function and industry. European retail giant Kingfisher recently sat down for a Cisco case study to discuss how collaboration technologies have helped overcome challenges in their supply chain,  improving profitability and shortening product development cycles.

One of the biggest challenges Kingfisher faced was how to connect direct sourcing suppliers located in Asia, with buyers and quality control teams located in Europe.  Not only was travel time consuming and expensive, the entire product design process was lengthy and cumbersome as people had to physically handle product prototypes, artwork or packaging before providing feedback.

As a result, Kingfisher decided to implement Cisco Telepresence systems in six locations across Europe and Asia. The business case was undeniable. It was calculated that 85% of products could be physically taken into one of these rooms which would help “take weeks, even months off of time to market, resulting in millions of pounds of additional revenue,” according to Richard Oats, Synergies Director at Kingfisher.

The results have been just as remarkable. Rapid and effective problem solving is accelerating products’ time to market, along with helping cut costs and increase revenues.  For example, a team in charge of developing a range of power tools is able to meet frequently and on very short notice to address any issues which keeps the project moving forward.  Additionally, Kingfish has been using video to standardize procurement practices by allowing buyers from all of the operating companies to collaborate with each other.

Watch the video below for more details on how video has helped improve Kingfish’s bottom line.

Video conferencing has drastically affected the way companies communicate and do business with one another. By switching to video conferencing, companies are saving time and money running their business. John Kolodziejski, Manager of Enterprise Telecommunications at BE Aerospace, talks about his experience with video conferencing, and the impact it has made on his company.

IVCi: Can you give us a brief overview of your video environment?
JK: We currently have 32 endpoints which are mainly Cisco C20s or C40s and in conference rooms or executive board rooms. All of our systems are dual displays so we can have a presentation on one screen and people on the other screen. We also have full Cisco infrastructure; TMS management system and gateways on the outside so we can get to external conferences. Our primary data center and corporate IT location is in Winston, North Carolina but we have systems in the Philippines, the US, England, Ireland, Germany, and the Netherlands.

IVCi: What were the business drivers that led you to implement video?
JK: Primarily to reduce travel costs, but it was also very important to be able to establish easy communication between our global sites. We need that instant face to face communication. We’re a huge engineering firm and have sites all over the world. For an engineer, it is more efficient to connect face to face with someone to talk about a part or a problem because they can have the physical part with them during the video call or explain the problem clearly. The clarity of communication is important. For our general managers to communicate with their remote sites, face to face interaction is much more effective than a phone call. When you’re on a phone call, you have a tendency to multitask.

IVCi: What has been the end user reaction to video?
JK: We have a wide range of acceptability. Some sites use it 40 hours a month, so almost a full week of usage, while others use it a couple of hours a month. Typically, if the executives don’t use it, the lower levels tend to not use it either and vice versa.

We try to work with site administrators to promote video conferencing more and some sites have tried to get the execs to jump on board. The Netherlands and Philippines were eager to use video and they use the daylights out of their systems. They’re talking to each other; engineers are sharing information and doing a lot of work. Our help desk also uses it a lot for training purposes.

IVCi: What was your favorite moment using video?
JK: Very early on in the adoption of video conferencing, a manufacturing site here needed to talk to a manufacturer in France about a problem they were having. Before video, our engineers would have had to fly over to France to meet with their engineers or vice versa, so you lose several days of productivity along with the cost of travel and other expenses. But with video conferencing, we set up a meeting and in three hours they had the problem resolved. They were able to see the part, draw up sketches, and they work it out. It would have been tens of thousands of dollars and cost significant production time had it not been for video conferencing.

IVCi: How has video grown within your organization and what does the future look like?
JK: It’s doubled since we first started the project in August of 2011. We started our initial project with endpoints for 15 sites and core infrastructure components. Since then we’ve grown to 32 sites and, as soon as we get our equipment shipped, we will be adding another site. Right now I’m adding almost a site a month.

We have probably 50 medium to large sites worldwide and we’re looking to put video in each site. Then we have a countless number of 2-3 man offices and customer embedded sites so eventually we’ll expand video there as well.

IVCi: Where do you see the most usage and opportunity for growth – room, desktop or mobile?
JK: Right now we use our rooms the most but we’re running out of sites to install video in so we’ll address desktop and mobile. We have experimented with Jabber and rolled out a test deployment about 6 months ago. The problem though, is that Jabber eats up bandwidth, and we need to keep the internal use of bandwidth available. Our engineers transfer huge files across our network and we need to keep bandwidth available for that, so we will have Jabber for desktop video but it will be an as-need basis.

IVCi: Do you have any advice for organizations implementing video for the first time?
JK: Pick a really good implementer, a good partner and don’t let cost be the driving factor of who you select. Good project management is key; it makes implementation a lot easier. From there, just make sure you really evaluate your needs and find what’s appropriate. Video conferencing is great but you have to really promote it with your users so you’re getting that return on investment.

“This call may be monitored for quality assurance.”

How many times have you heard that throughout your life? The reality is, as technology continues to change at a rapid pace, the way we communicate with our vendors and service provides is rather primitive. When the cable bill arrives with the wrong charges (surely that never happens!), one has to pick-up the phone only to wait on hold for twenty minutes to ultimately get a resolution. Or maybe a recent purchase for a child warrants some technical support; again a phone call and wait time must be endured. At the same time, it can be very difficult to explain a problem to a support agent by merely describing it.

For years, there has been talk about moving video technology into a business to consumer world. But, what does this mean? Simply, customers could connect to the very same contact center they call now, but speak to the appropriate agent via video. The advantages of this are significant! Suddenly, all customer service interactions would benefit from everything video conferencing has to offer. The agent can work with the customer and gain a better idea of their understanding of a particular topic. Second, the customer can point the camera at the item being discussed (extra parts to a new toy that don’t seem to have a use) and immediately give the agent better insight into the issue. Finally, video could put a more personal face on what can seem like a very impersonal interaction.

While video contact centers have been a topic of discussion for a while, why is now any different? There is a convergence of several key market and technology trends that could make this idea a reality.

The Proliferation of Video, Everywhere
Video is truly everywhere. Consumers are already accustomed to communicating with family and friends over video. Whether it is via a social network, Skype, or another service, video has truly gone main stream. At the same time, many people are used to going to work and using video as a tool to complete assigned projects and tasks.

Mobile Devices
The explosive growth of mobile devices, such as smart phones and tables, has put multiple video enabled devices into nearly everyone’s pockets. A user can grab their phone and make a video call just as easily as a voice call. These devices have not only helped make video ubiquitous, they have also made video far more accessible than ever imagined.

Advanced Contact Center Technology
Even though most customer service interactions have been limited to voice, the technology driving these connections is rather advanced. Many organizations had implemented technology that allows them to hire the most talented support agents and place them anywhere. In addition, these solutions are able to route calls intelligently to both an available agent and the most skilled agent for the issue at hand. Customers have become far savvier and do not accept being transferred multiple times. Technology has helped route customers to the right person at the right time.

WebRTC
WebRTC has been discussed many times on this blog and the technology is one of the main catalysts of the video contact center. If a user requires help, the desire to spend 15-20 minutes downloading an application to their computer or smartphone is nonexistent. With WebRTC, one click could immediately initiate a video call right in their browser. With no downloads needed, the customer would get near immediate access. Unfortunately, there is no technology that can eliminate wait times completely!

As all of these elements come together, the promise of the video contact center is very real. The ultimate question comes down to the customers themselves. Will they embrace this type of interaction and will they push the vendors they do business with to implement this technology? What do you think? Would you welcome the opportunity to get support via video?

Boeing’s much anticipated 787 Dreamliner encountered a laundry list of problems which eventually led to the grounding of many of the planes. There are several different theories as to what went wrong and Boeing could have done better. Many have to do with the decision to embrace outsourcing and overall lack of supply chain management.

In a recent Forbes article, Jonathan Salem Baskin is quoted “It didn’t help that the outsourcing plan included skipping the detailed blueprints the company would have normally prepared, and allowing vendors to come up with their own. Delivered components arrived with instructions and notes written in Chinese, Italian, and other languages.”

With the plethora of video conferencing and visual collaboration technologies available it’s surprising that Boeing had this many issues coordinating and communicating with their remote teams. While we can’t know for sure exactly what went wrong or what Boeing did or did not do; we can offer some suggestions as to how organizations can utilize collaboration solutions to their fullest extend and help ensure a seamless supply chain.

A UC solution is a must to connect internal team members assigned to the project. These solutions can even allow approved external team members, such as suppliers, to connect easily. Features such as instant messaging (IM), screen and document sharing, and video conferencing are key components to keeping the lines of communication open. For example, if a supplier has a quick question about the design, he can quickly IM a team member asking the question or if the person is available for a quick chat. Quick video conferences or even formal meetings with video and document sharing can help ensure consistency and reliability among suppliers.

For more crucial aspects of the manufacturing process, such as discussing blueprints and inspecting components, an immersive visual collaboration solution that includes Datapresence (ability to see multiple sources of data) is necessary. Simply showing a single document while the video participants are minimized on screen will not provide the collaboration experience necessary for such critical aspects of the manufacturing process.

Solutions like Oblong or Cyviz combine video conferencing with the ability to share multiple steams of data in real time creating a true collaboration environment. Team members would be able to see detailed designs and prototypes of the outsourced components in addition to the supplier’s team. Both teams would then be able to communicate, give and receive feedback, and discuss any potential issues. By repeating this process with all suppliers, the organization can help ensure consistency among components. They can also connect and facilitate collaboration between the supplier of Component A which connects into Component B from a separate supplier.

Supply chain management is one of the most complicated aspects of any organization as it relies heavily on communication and coordination between two or more parties. By underestimating the importance of communication, an organization can run into problems similar to the ones Boeing faced. On the other hand, by providing both internal and external (supplier) team members with the tools and opportunity to effectively communicate and collaborate and organization can successfully manage all aspects of its supply chain.