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The Power of Visual Engagement: A Lesson from Data Science

Allan MacGowan By Allan MacGowan
April 13, 2016

These are sunny days for the business communications industry, with predictions of almost 20% compounded annual growth until 2020, according to a recent study by BCC Research. Trends such as cloud-based services, mobility, and omnichannel are leading the way as decision makers evaluate new engagement methods for workforce teaming and customer service.

This visual explains why we need to engage visually, whenever possible and appropriate.

Bandwidth of our senses

And yet adoption of many innovative and useful collaboration technologies is surprisingly slow. Less than 5% of organizations are using WebRTC, as Irwin Lazar, vice president and service director at Nemertes Research, recently noted based on the firm's 2015-2016 UC & Collaboration Benchmark. Video conferencing is still not quite mainstream, as Andrew Davis, co-founder of Wainhouse Research, suggested in a recent No Jitter post. And when was the last time you were given the option to co-browse a company's website with help from a service rep or launch a mobile video chat for more personalized care?

The usual suspect is lack of compelling business case. Costs to add new communication technologies are easy to measure; benefits from improved customer satisfaction and workforce effectiveness, it turns out, are much harder to quantify.

But the greatest barrier to adoption may be far more systemic. Here's a radical notion -- what if, collectively, we fail to recognize the power of visualization? Non-visual forms of communication, such as telephony, email and text, are so deeply ingrained in the fabric of enterprise collaboration that we tend to underestimate the value of visual methods. The ability to talk face-to-face, see, and interact with another person's screen or to use visual IVR rather than voice self-service are often viewed as peripheral luxuries, not essential for effective engagement.

One place to look for enlightenment is the big data industry. Data scientists understand the importance of visualization in communicating findings and results. This knowledge isn't merely based on intuition that "showing trumps telling," but is predicated on good science. In this short video by Udacity, the course instructor explains how the human brain processes visual information at about the speed of an Ethernet connection (1,250 megabytes per second). In comparison, auditory data is processed 100 times slower, at just 12.5 MB/s. This article on University of Pennsylvania School of Medicine research elaborates on the speed of visual perception, explaining the calculation of just how fast the eye tells the brain.

We need a mindset shift: Whenever possible and appropriate, engage visually. CafeX not only advocates this vision but goes a step further by insisting that the underlying user experience and workflow not be impeded. Visual collaboration should be real time within the context of business processes. It should be frictionless for users: available on their preferred endpoints, embedded within applications, requiring no extra downloads. And integration with existing IT communication and backend systems is a must.

Chime our latest collaboration product and winner of the 2016 Best of Enterprise Connect Award, exemplifies this vision of pervasive visual collaboration. CaféX Supervisor Assist applies the same visual emphasis to real-time agent coaching for call centers. Products like these are signs of the next wave of innovation designed to spur even greater growth in the enterprise collaboration market.

Read the Nemertes whitepaper, "Achieving the Promise of WebRTC for Pervasive Communications."