During the past month, Red Kite Community Housing has been experimenting with Facebook’s new live-streaming tool, ingeniously entitled Facebook Live. Okay, Facebook might have used up all of their creative juices for the actual technology and had none left when it came to naming their new status tool but aside from that, it’s very clever stuff indeed.
Having previously tried other streaming tools and getting quite into Periscope at one point, I was immediately looking for the little hook in Facebook Live that might set it apart from the others. Could it be the fact that most people now have a Facebook account and so don’t need to download anything new or sign into anything else? Well…yes, that’s probably it.
Or… maybe it’s the ability to limit your stream to a particular audience? This was one of the biggest hurdles we had to overcome with Periscope; the privacy settings were not really configurable enough for business use. Periscope is great if you want to be the next big live-streaming star and show the world and his wife what you had for lunch, how you ate it and how you washed up the dishes afterwards, but not so great if you want to have less public communication, related to a service that you offer a customer.
Because Facebook Live offers the ability to restrict streams between two Facebook accounts, that means, for example, one of our customers could live stream into us without any other customer seeing. Ah-ha, I hear you cry. That might be useful for repair issues! That’s what I said too. I even used the words Ah-ha.
I imagined one of our customers live streaming into us, showing us a repair issue that needed sorting, and we could then assess (via the live stream) what needed doing and raise the repair on our system. This would potentially remove the need for a member of staff to physically visit a home and have a look, saving time and money and offering a better service to our customers. Technology is clever, isn’t it?
However, when we mocked up a customer reporting a repair, we encountered some challenges. One of our technical officers pretended to be a customer (we called him Mrs Miggins for the sake of anonymity) and he live streamed in to one of our relationship specialists. His mock repair was related to his packet of broken biscuits, live from his desk. I know, exciting stuff. They were bourbon creams, in case you were wondering, but we don’t know the circumstances that led to them being damaged.
The technical officer we used is far from the most technological savvy member of staff, so observing him start the stream took a little while at first. When the stream was live, it took him some time to grasp what a live stream was; at one point, I think he was talking to the packet of biscuits on his desk.
Our relationship advisor was able to comment (by typing) back to him while he streamed, so this could be used to query various things about the repair. Did we get the biscuits repaired? No. The damage was too severe and unfortunately the entire packet had to be dunked and then destroyed.
Overall, our initial experiments have been mixed. Without doubt, live streaming has great potential for a wide variety of uses in our sector but one thing that our experiments showed is that the technology will only be useful and fully embraced if both customers and our staff can easily use it. The second thing is that if it becomes annoying or more difficult to use than traditional channels, customers will jump straight back on the phone and tell everybody how terrible live streaming is. Which it isn’t. It’s very clever. And efficient.
Looking to the future, where could live streaming take the housing sector? Probably the most prominent developing technologies for housing providers are the internet of things (IoT), dynamic mobile working and (always controversial) drone use.
Hang on to your socks, though, because they might be about to be blown off; how’s this for a scenario to end the article with?
Imagine a sensor on a customer’s roof that checks the roof for damage following heavy weather. If there are any issues that need assessing, it sends an iAlert to one of your fleet of drones. The drone then flies up to check the roof and (wait for it…) live streams video of the damaged roof to your repairs department, who then send someone out to fix it using their dynamic mobile working solution.
Okay, okay, calm down. There may be a few technical (and legal) issues to overcome in that scenario, but the future won’t build itself you know.
Adam Rigg is a new media and channel specialist at Red Kite Community Housing.