Voice Conversations - Show Me What You Are Talking About!

19 Apr 2014

With all the forms of text messaging, including email, SMS, social, IM, etc., one wonders what will happen to voice conversations over the telephone. Don't worry too much, because voice communication contacts are still efficient and important for person-to-person interactions. Whether done over the legacy PSTN, over VoIP connections, or with mobile devices, voice conversations will always be important and necessary. The only thing is that sometimes voice conversation alone is just not enough to do the job!

Let's face it, trying to describe a situation or an event is not always easy or accurate and is often more time consuming or confusing to the person trying to understand what is being described. So, talk alone is just not enough for faster and better understanding, and therefore traditional voice calls are also not adequate for better and efficient information exchange between people.

"A picture is worth a 1000 Words" - Is video worth a 1000 pictures?

Without trying to quantfy the benefits of sharing pictures or videos vs. just written or spoken words, we know that both can be much more informative in describing something. But, what has not been considered seriously before, is the value of also having the power of voice conversation dynamically combined with the visual information of pictures and videos.

Sure, we have always sent such information before or after a voice conversation, but with the power of unified communications (UC) and the use of multimodal devices, it really is time to close the information exchange gap for dynamic interactions between people who are not sitting together in the same room.

Verbal discussions are very useful for exchanging opinions and highlighting the importance of issues that are being discussed, but not that efficient for describing a specific problem. That is where showing a document, a graph, a picture, or a video clip will be much more effective and more time efficient than just spoken or texted words. In scheduled conference calls, such visual information is usually sent ahead of time to participants, so that they are better prepared to discuss things. However, with the ability to quickly include mobile participants wherever they are, the reference information to be discussed may well have to be exchanged in real time during the conversation.

What people really need to see during a business voice conversation

Zeus Kerravala, in a recent post on No Jitter about collaborative teamwork, decsribed the way people exchanged information as "Audio conferencing allows users to talk to one another. Video conferencing enables us to see each other, and Web conferencing allows workers to share information such as slides and Word documents."

The only thing I would disagree with in his description, is that video is primarily to "see each other." Seeing other participants in a conference call is nice but not always critical to the discussion. What is more important is to see a "problem," not just hear it described, and video may be the best way see what happened or is still happening. So, video conferencing really needs to be seen as an important option in business communications that delivers information about the problem, not just for watching people talk.

Video information can now be delivered over the Web along with voice (WebRTC), not just for "collaboration" by business users, but also as needed by consumers with their smartphones and tablets, as well as by customer assistance staff responding to a customer need. Amazon's "Mayday" button approach is somewhat limited because it uses video "one-way" to show only the customer service agent on camera, along with shared access to the customer's tablet screen. The more general case for customer assistance or any business discussion would allow every participant to show pictures or videos of what they are talking about.

Don't worry, the network technology is already here, and the personal endpoint devices are also available, so we just need to package things up properly for any type of user to exploit more easily an effectively when needed. UC flexibility will certainly be key to exchange all forms of information while talking about a problem.

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