May 26, 2008

Videoconferencing allows people in any customer-facing industry, such as banking, to talk to each other even though they are miles apart. It's often more satisfactory for a customer who may be making a big decision to be able to see the person he or she is dealing with -- customers are likely to have more confidence in a person they can see than in one just on the phone because they can see body language.

Telepresence -- which is the high-end, life-size videoconferencing -- and high-definition (HD) videoconferencing can be used both internally and externally in banking. Internally, the technologies can be effectively used in training programs. With HD videoconferencing, employees in many locations can meet for training. In addition, desktop videoconferencing is a growing technology. In the future, desktop videoconferencing for all information workers will become common.

Banks also can use videoconferencing to help customers engage in transactions, such as applying for a mortgage, from their local branches even though a loan expert is physically not present in the bank. A bank can bring customers into a conference room at a local branch and then videoconference in experts at a remote location. This reduces expenses and eliminates lost productivity due to travel time.

Telepresence in specially designed rooms is expensive, but vendors are introducing less expensive, "adaptive" telepresence units that can be used in regular conference rooms. HD has brought improved picture quality, and Internet Protocol has improved the voice/video sync. It's now realistic for businesses to use videoconferencing or high-end telepresence for communications, training, negotiations, meetings and interviewing.

With telepresence from vendors such as HP (Palo Alto, Calif.), Tandberg (Lysaker, Norway], Cisco (San Jose, Calif.) and Polycom (Pleasanton, Calif.), it can seem as if you're actually in the same boardroom as colleagues who are at a remote location.