I’ve had an abundance of inquiries recently on co-browsing — allowing a contact center representative to interact with a customer using the customer's web browser — so I wanted to share some thoughts on the topic here.

First, the cautionary tale: I believe it that co-browsing can potentially be a solution looking for a problem. For example, if you are looking for a solution to customers having difficulty understanding how to complete a form, it may be more cost-effective to do a page redesign or offer click-to-chat.

But that said, co-browsing — when implemented at the right time and place — can be an effective approach to escalated and personal support. Co-browsing can be used for many objectives including support, sales, product selection, and account management. The value proposition is that co-browsing can improve call handle times, support sales, enhance customer satisfaction, and — in some instances — be a teaching tool that deflects future telephone calls as customers learn how to perform tasks in a co-browsing setting.

Co-browsing can be an effective tool when it is offered at the right time to the right customer.  Here are a few key considerations for companies thinking about offering co-browsing:

  • There is consumer interest in the technology. According to the North American Technographics Customer Experience Online Survey, Q4 2009, 15% of US online consumers say they would be interested in using co-browsing as a customer service channel in the future. And before you ask — as I know some of you will! — there was no variation in the data by gender or age. In other words, interest was the same for men and women, and equal between Gen Y consumers and their grandparents.
  • Consumers will be concerned about security. I believe there is an intersection between security and frustration: Concerns about the former abate when the latter increases. I was recently in that intersection and co-browsing was the perfect solution when I had difficulty installing software for a new digital camera. Don't let frustration drive adoption. It is crucial to advise customers about the security features of co-browsing (i.e., their personal information is not visible to the contact center rep, that only they will have the ability to hit “submit,” etc.).
  •  Be prepared to experiment how co-browsing will impact your call center and its metrics. While some clients I’ve spoken with report that co-browsing has shortened their resolution times, others reported co-browsing sessions could be time-consuming. This often indicates that co-browsing is not being offered at the right time — for example, being offered when self-service or chat may suffice or when it is a lower-value interaction.
  • Select the most customer-friendly technology. From a customer experience perspective, consider if your customer will have to download an application or if the session can be offered via html on a web page.  Keep context in mind: You will need to offer co-browsing at the point your customer has an issue.