Is This the Future of Customer Service?

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Dell (Nasdaq: DELL  ) could soon take its "customer direct" model one step closer.

In a public post on Google's (Nasdaq: GOOG  ) Google+ social networking subdomain, CEO Michael Dell wondered whether customers would welcome something like Google's Hangouts group video chat platform as an option for tech support.

"I am thinking about hangouts for business," he posted on Sunday. "Would you like to be able to connect with your Dell service and sale teams via video directly from" 

If Dell did offer video support, it wouldn't be the first time the company has shrewdly capitalized on emerging Web technologies. The computer maker was making money on Twitter back in 2009, promoting clearance sales through its @DellOutlet account. Back then, few boardrooms even knew what Twitter was, or what they could gain from a simple tweet.

Video chat is becoming more common on the Web, from the notorious ChatRoulette to Google+ and a similar service from Facebook. Thus, why wouldn't Dell step up its game by putting a human face on its tech support? That might also help Dell counter its reputation for outsourcing computer queries to Bangalore call centers.

Free PC-to-PC videoconferencing could radically disrupt the support outsourcing industry. I'm not just talking about Infosys (Nasdaq: INFY  ) and Wipro (NYSE: WIT  ) in India. Even LivePerson (Nasdaq: LPSN  ) , the text-chat support specialist for many of the leading tech companies, e-tailers, and wireless carriers, could be threatened if cost-effective video chats gained popularity.

On the flip side, as much as someone may want to see the person at the other end of a support call, they may not really want anyone else to see them. Discussions of blown motherboards or orders for new servers don't necessarily need to take place face to face.

Could video chat change tech support as we know it? If Michael Dell wasn't just floating a trial balloon, we might find out soon enough.

Would video chat customer support interest you? Share your thoughts in the comment box below.

The Motley Fool owns shares of Microsoft and Google. Motley Fool newsletter services have recommended buying shares of Google, LivePerson, and Microsoft. Try any of our Foolish newsletter services free for 30 days. We Fools may not all hold the same opinions, but we all believe that considering a diverse range of insights makes us better investors. The Motley Fool has a disclosure policy.

Longtime Fool contributor Rick Munarriz has a Dell laptop and desktop, but other family members use them most often. He pecked this article out on an HP desktop. He does not own shares in any of the companies in this story. He is also part of the Rule Breakers newsletter research team, seeking out tomorrow's ultimate growth stocks a day early. The Fool has a disclosure policy.

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Help us keep this a respectfully Foolish area! This is a place for our readers to discuss, debate, and learn more about the Foolish investing topic you read about above. Help us keep it clean and safe. If you believe a comment is abusive or otherwise violates our Fool's Rules, please report it via the Report this Comment Report this Comment icon found on every comment.

  • Report this Comment On July 19, 2011, at 6:55 PM, neamakri wrote:

    It is a novel idea and adds a tiny bit of personal charm. As such, it could be a beneficial sales tool.

    HOWEVER, when I call for tech support, I need a competent, available technician. Video does not add to competence nor availability. In fact the conversations may take longer thus less availablity.

    LASTLY, video chat requires that my PC is already working quite well, which is NOT why I am calling for tech support. Oops, nobody thought of that, did they?

    Sorry, nice idea, but it adds no value to tech support.

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