In times of crisis, we need one another more than ever. We need to be able to share our fears, hopes, dreams, and passions; hear and feel heard; understand and be understood; see and feel seen. In short, we rely on one another for strength and a sense of purpose and belonging.
But what happens when we can’t meet? What happens when experts recommend that we physically avoid one another? How do we stay connected and stay sane?
Staying connected in difficult times
With thousands of people continuing to practice physical distancing in response to COVID-19, we’re turning to technology to bring us together in real-time. Tools that allow us to message, call and video chat have become lifelines in a time that would otherwise have been devastatingly lonely. They’ve also allowed millions of people around the world to extend their hands to one another virtually and form bonds of community and solidarity at a crucial turning point in our history.
While text-based communication like email, texting, social media, and chat apps perform vital communication functions, it’s the tools that allow us to hear one another’s voices and see one another’s faces that really make us feel more connected and less alone. Whether it’s for a quick chat, an online board game, a virtual first date, a work meeting or check-in, a remote doctor’s appointment, or a virtual happy hour, voice and video calling allows us to interact almost as we would face-to-face – and hold onto aspects of our normal lives in these extraordinary circumstances.
Why is video chat what we need?
Some 35% of employees report that using video conferencing in the workplace makes them feel more included and valued. This makes sense when considering the fact that researchers like Dr. Fiona Kerr have found that eye contact and physical connection increases the production of dopamine and inhibits the production cortisol – the stress hormone – which means that the simple act of interacting face to face and looking one another in the eye can calm one another down and build trust.
Now, you might be thinking that video chat is a far cry from in-person interaction. However, a recent study at Finland’s Tampere University found that video calls trigger the same type of psychophysiological responses as face-to-face eye contact.
This ability to develop trust quickly is critical to remote communication, particularly in stressful and unfamiliar situations. For instance, teams that are working together remotely for the first time need to build connections rapidly in order to work together effectively. Similarly, doctors that treat patients using telemedicine tools need to establish trust with their patient quickly.
Being able to hear one another’s tone and read one another’s facial expressions and body language can make a significant impact when it comes to interpreting intent accurately – which helps us to judge whether the person means us harm or can be trusted.
Without these non-verbal cues, so much is left open to interpretation and it can be easy to read an abrupt text or email as dismissive or cold, when the sender may simply have been distracted or in a rush.
Perhaps this is why people using Microsoft Teams for meetings are reportedly turning on the video function twice as often as before COVID-19.
Our voices, expressions, gestures, and other mannerisms play a huge role in communicating our feelings. This, in turn, builds deeper, more human relationships by revealing vulnerability and engendering empathy. Given how isolated and stressed many people are feeling right now, it’s no surprise that more and more people are turning to voice calls and video chat to bridge the gap between themselves and others.
Let’s look at a few staggering statistics about the unprecedented recent adoption of video chat:
- Video conferencing platform Zoom reported 200 million daily meeting participants in March, and 300 million daily meeting participants in April, compared to a daily average of 10 million in December 2019.
- Similarly, Microsoft has revealed that its video chat and calling app, Skype, saw a 70% increase in users and a 220% increase in Skype-to-Skype calling minutes between February and March 2020.
- Face-to-face social network app Houseparty downloads in Spain in March 2020 were 2,360 times the weekly average of Q4 of 2019.
- Microsoft Teams reported a new record of 2.7 billion meeting minutes in a single day on March 31st – a 200% increase from 900 million on March 16th.
Given how incredibly popular video chat has become in recent months, businesses would be wise to at least consider including in-app voice and video chat features into their products.
Why add video calls to your platform?
In addition to giving your customers another way to communicate and build communities around the things that matter to them, there are a number of other benefits to building voice and video calling functionality into your app or platform.
- Giving your users a way to easily communicate by voice or face-to-face in-app is a great way to build trust among users, which is important if your product is something like an online marketplace or concierge service. Moreover, the ability to quickly resolve questions face-to-face increases clarity and understanding and reduces the risk of miscommunication.
- Facilitating in-app communication that meets your users’ needs means they’ll spend more time in your app and have a more holistic, uninterrupted user experience – without needing to leave your app to use a different product.
- Face-to-face interaction is crucial for a number of roles to be performed remotely, including distance learning and telemedicine. Building video into your app with an API instead of using an external provider like Zoom makes it easier to ensure security and privacy compliance while offering your users a seamless, contextualized experience.
- Using in-app voice and video calls to connect with your customers sets the stage for superior customer service and support, building stronger relationships with your customers and fostering brand loyalty.
- You can embed contextual information – such as the product a user was viewing – into your call metadata and incoming call notification, which means that each call is contextualized, resulting in highly personalized, seamless interactions that genuinely make your users’ lives easier.
- In-app community building features encourage your users to form relationships within the context of your product, which has a number of advantages over building your brand community on someone else’s platform.
- Voice and video calls can streamline on-demand services by allowing users and service providers (e.g. shoppers) to communicate seamlessly without needing each other’s personal contact information.
- For products like dating apps, enabling users to call each other and video chat without sharing their private contact information can be a significant differentiator.
Getting started with in-app voice and video calling
We’re all going through a tough time; the least we can do is go through it together and be there for one another and for our customers – and help them to be there for each other. Voice and video calls are essential tools in any human connection “toolkit” in this day and age.
Will you add them to yours?