At Moveline, Web conferencing is central to business.
The tech startup, which recently moved from New York City to downtown Las Vegas, uses video to help customers find home movers. Rather than having to book an in-person estimate with a local company, or several, Moveline customers upload a video tour of their home, or give a live tour to a company representative using video chat. The company uses the footage to create an inventory of belongings and obtain three to five guaranteed prices from vetted companies.
Furthermore, Moveline uses video chat to guide customers through the moving process. “Move captains” take a hands-on approach to moving, from creating inventories to establishing contact between the customer and mover.
If clients have questions, they can reach their captain by email, phone, video chat, Twitter or instant messaging on the www.moveline.com site.
“Video chat is a core competency for our company,” Moveline co-founder Kelly Eidson said.
Eidson added that she prefers video conferencing to Web conferencing because it keeps participants in the conversation more engaged. Whereas on a phone call, a person would be walking around, doodling or doing laundry, during video chat, the callers are more accountable.
“When you’re looking at somebody’s face and when they can see what you’re doing during the meeting, everyone is more focused,” she said. “On a phone call, you’re not held to the same standard of engagement.”
That engagement translates to enhanced productivity.
Eidson says using video chats at Moveline has led to shorter meetings and richer conversation.
She uses Google Hangout, Skype, FaceTime and Join.me to conference with her remote engineers and traveling co-workers, and says each program has its strengths and weaknesses.
Eidson says she uses Google Hangout most because it’s easy to initiate a conversation and begin sharing links.
Moveline uses Hangout daily to discuss the status of various projects.
It’s free with a Google+ account, supports 10 people and has added features. Besides video chat, users can text chat, share links and screen share.
“It’s the most feature-rich of all the services that we use,” Eidson said.
But Hangout is not without a few drawbacks.
Eidson said it can be tricky to connect with someone who doesn’t use Hangout often. She’s run into the problem while helping customers or interviewing job candidates.
“For those cases, FaceTime and Skype are better,” she said.
Eidson likes FaceTime, available on Apple computer devices, because it can be used on mobile devices and rings all of a user’s registered devices simultaneously — from iPad to iPhone to their computer.
Eidson also likes that there’s no enrollment process. FaceTime comes ready to go once a device is set up, and is tied to a person’s email and phone number.
Eidson said it has the strongest connection of all the video chatting services she uses, but she wishes it would support more than two participating accounts.
Already well-known, Skype allows users to video- or voice chat, as well as screen share.
Sunny Clark, of A Complex Nerve freelance software development, uses Skype about once a week to connect with clients.
He uses the program, which is free but has to be installed onto a computer, to voice chat and screenshare.
For Clark, it’s less important that his client see his face, and more important that they’re seeing the same documents.
“It’s very popular and very comfortable,” Clark said.
Most people already know their way around it.
Sometimes, though, screen sharing is not enough. In those cases, he turns to Join.Me, which allows a user to take over another user’s screen.
“It’s the best way to explain software,” Clark said.
And, unlike Skype, the connection is more seamless. Users can skip the invitation process and get to the topic of conversation more quickly, Clark said.
Eidson uses Join.me for screen-sharing when she’s on a phone call, but wants to show someone what she’s doing.
Moveline has also used Join.me for user experience testing on their website.
“You can see what the software does, and what the customer expects it to do,” said Eidson, who said a lot can be gleaned about functionality from watching a customer navigate a website.
In all, Eidson’s found that cloud-based services are easier to use than desktop-based ones. Though she prefers Hangout, she usually leaves it to the people she’s speaking with to choose their most comfortable platform.
What really matters is the face-to-face communication.
“There are plenty of tools we can use and depend on,” she said. “It’s very difficult to replace the ability to see each other.”