08/26/2014 02:56 pm ET Updated Oct 26, 2014

3D: The Future of Customer Service

Social media and live chat have become incredibly important resources within the customer service industry as more consumers are turning to the Web for assistance than to the keypad on their phones. Still, achieving that feeling of "live support" on the Web isn't quite there yet and is what most brands and customer service professionals strive for. While still in its infancy, there are many opportunities to use video to create a more personal customer service experience. Thanks to new features like Amazon Mayday, which was announced last fall, live video support is on a path for rapid growth in the industry.

Believe it or not, 3D technology will play a significant role in the progression of video in customer service. Specifically with 3D cameras, which are capable of capturing 3-dimentional images and presenting content in entirely new ways. This is different than the 3D technology you might be familiar with - no red and blue glasses or images popping out at you from the television screen. It's more akin to the depth-sensing technology found in the Xbox Kinect, which allows people to interact with the content displayed on their screen.

3D cameras are coming to every laptop, tablet and smartphone and will replace the conventional cameras that exist in these devices. Using 3D cameras, customer service professionals can appear directly on the screen, overlaid on top of the customer's desktop (think of a green screen but without the need for the physical screen or editing), to actually guide them through the support process, rather than trying to talk them through it via text or phone. This makes the experience from the customer's perspective much more fluid and lightweight and more engaging than the traditional video-in-a-box.

The real magic though is in the types of interactions that are made possible by the introduction of such immersive customer support. Some online purchasing is too complex and clunky for an average consumer. With a live, on-screen agent available just a click away, 24/7, the online customer can be walked through a purchase that would have otherwise required an in-person interaction. A great example is buying eyewear, which typically requires trying on several different styles before deciding on the right glasses, often with the help of an in-store consultant. 3D cameras in laptops and tablets will enable the online shopper to fluidly and easily try different styles, virtually. In addition, the ability to interact with a consultant on-screen will enable the shopper to make their purchase more confidently and with an overall higher satisfaction in the end.

Banking is another great example of an industry in which the customer experience could benefit from 3D technology. Many banks are already evolving their automated teller machines (ATM) to video or virtual teller machines (VTM) to create more personalized interactions with remote bank tellers. With this transition, banks can use 3D technology to maximize screen real estate for the remote bank teller and eliminate any background distractions. Amazon's Mayday button would benefit from 3D technology as well. By leveraging background removal capabilities only possible with 3D cameras, Amazon could significantly enhance the user experience and provide more focus on the customer service agent.

The transition to 3D customer service is inevitable because there is so much experiential value-add that it can provide. That said, it could still take three to five years to proliferate. Currently, we're in the early stages due to the availability of 3D cameras, but the good news is that the hardware is getting smaller and cheaper. Over the next 18 months, 3D camera hardware distribution will grow significantly, starting with cameras embedded in PCs later this year. Fortunately, the infrastructure required to deploy 3D already exists because it's the same as live text and video chat. Additionally, multiple companies already offer cloud platforms for integrating video interaction into their customer service platforms (LivePerson, for example).

There is one primary challenge that companies will need to face as they begin incorporate video into their customer service strategy. Customer service agents will need to be prepared to be live and on-screen. Considering the impact 3D technology can have on customer service, this is a change management challenge that all organizations are going to have to address. It is an integral piece of humanizing the online customer service experience.