Whether by desire or necessity, digital transformation took center stage for many businesses in 2020. The pandemic and ensuing lockdowns, restrictions, and the need to continue to serve customers forced business owners and decision-makers to rethink how they interact with customers, how to incorporate contactless models into their workflows and how to keep customers and employees connected and engaged with each other. The immediate response for most businesses was to seek out prebuilt collaboration tools or services to support the move to virtual interactions and continue to deliver services to customers. Prior to the pandemic, the most common type of interaction between most businesses and their customers was direct, face to face, with only a few businesses engaging with customers virtually via video. For these scattered virtual interactions and small internal meetings, the meeting experience delivered by a canned application was typically sufficient. The pandemic flipped the script: in many cases, business interactions moved almost completely to virtual channels, sometimes with little warning. This move to all-virtual interactions highlighted the limitations of meeting-centric tools. As workflows and business models become even slightly more complex or nuanced, the canned application experience can become a burden rather than an enabler. For example, meeting application vendors have a well-defined user experience (UX) and branding within the products and, as far as the end-user is concerned, the UX is set in stone. While a standard UX is a benefit for business user training and easy consumption of online meetings, it can be problematic for more unique use cases.
That is where programmable communications solutions, like the recently-launched Jitsi as a Service (JaaS) from 8×8, can take things to the next level. First, in terms of customization, a programmable solution enables businesses to tailor the video meeting experience to their exact needs by leveraging configuration templates, no-code designers, or more advanced coding through application programming interfaces (APIs). Customization can take many forms, ranging from the basic, such as branding the page with company logos and color schemes to advanced functionality, such as customizing the user experience to limit moderator controls, adjust passcode and lobby rules, and even decide ahead of time which participants are shown on-screen during the session. After the experience is tweaked to exactly match the particular use case or workflow, it is a simple matter of copying and pasting some lines of code onto the business’ mobile application or web site.
In addition, programmable solutions like JaaS open themselves up to entirely new pricing models. Most meeting applications and services follow a tiered per-user/month pricing scheme, requiring the business to pay for a set number of users, even if the service sits idle for most of the month. On the opposite end of the spectrum, pure consumption-based pricing for video services can create a level of uncertainty and occasional sticker shocks, with billing based on complex usage calculations of the total number of participants and the exact number of minutes each participant was online. In contrast to both, JaaS leverages a metric of monthly active users, with each user having unlimited minutes available. Combined with a freemium plan to get started, JaaS allows a small business to start digitizing its customer interactions, trying out different options and workflows, and only start paying for the service when it really starts leveraging it for useful work. Similarly, paying based only on the number of active participants opens up a realm of use-case possibilities, from simple 1:1 interactions to large-scale classrooms or performances.
Ultimately, a combination of high- and low-level customization and predictable, affordable pricing for programmable communications services enables a wide range of use cases for businesses of any size and vertical market, limited only by the imagination of the product and web teams. With only little technical knowledge, businesses can capitalize on a variety of opportunities:
- Pre-generated and persistent online meeting spaces that are ready and waiting when the need arises, for critical use cases such as emergency or rapid-response meetings, as well as to address specific needs, such as tiger-team meetings or weekly sales-team sessions.
- Customizable web links enabling professional services to create unique URLs for each customer or client to aid in both creating personalized sessions and ensuring precise client billing for online sessions.
- By embedding meeting capabilities within a business’ web site or application, a broad range of possible use cases can be enabled, including online concierge services for registered guests, online courses or tutoring sessions behind a registered paywall, or remote property walkthroughs for property management or realty, as well as any number of individualized online technical support interactions.
These are just a few of the many examples of what is possible by leveraging programmable communications instead of a prebuilt application or service. Programmable communications are no longer just for programmers. Today’s low-code/no-code design tools allow nearly anyone with a good idea to build a solution to streamline a workflow or even create a new growth opportunity for their business. It is incumbent on every organization to make collaboration tools work with their business model, not the other way around.