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How is Co-Browsing Different From Screen Sharing?

With more and more employees working from home (and an increasing number of consumers staying at home), remote customer support tools have become even more critical to an organization's sustainability. From IT professionals troubleshooting technical issues to sales representatives demonstrating the features of a software program, remote support platforms are no longer optional — they are essential.

Two common methods for providing remote customer support are co-browsing and screen sharing. While these are similar technologies, each option has its own unique advantages and drawbacks when it comes to providing exceptional customer service. This article will answer the following questions related to these two tools:

  • What is co-browsing?
  • What is screen sharing?
  • How are they different from each other?
  • What are the pros and cons of each approach?
  • Which option is generally better for customer support?

Let's begin with a definition of co-browsing.

What is Co-Browsing?

Co-browsing, also known as collaborative browsing, is a method of synchronizing browser access across two or more devices to the same site or sites. In co-browsing, one user is in control of browsing, and the other user's interface automatically follows the lead of the administrator. For example, if the controlling user brings his mouse cursor over to click a link on the web page, the collaborative user's mouse cursor will also move over to that link.

What is Screen Sharing?

Screen sharing, as the name implies, involves one party allowing another party to access and control the screen of a particular device. Screen sharing is often referred to as "desktop sharing." This method of remote support is not limited to web browsing, but can also include assistance with regards to downloaded files, desktop applications, and other offline programs.

How are Co-Browsing and Screen Sharing Different from Each Other?

Co-browsing and screen sharing are very similar in design and functionality. However, they do differ from each other in a few significant points. For instance:

  • Co-browsing is primarily designed to allow a group of users to engage in synchronized activities, with one user at a time taking the lead. Screen sharing enables multiple users to simultaneously work on different tasks within the same page or application.
  • Co-browsing typically requires the addition of a browser plug-in. Screen sharing generally requires the installation of a 3rd party application across all associated devices.
  • Co-browsing activities are usually limited to specific web pages, or at least to the Internet. Screen sharing support allows for IT professionals or other agents to fully access the other party's desktop, including offline programs and files.

With these differences in mind, let's briefly discuss the pros and cons of each method.

The Pros & Cons of Co-Browsing

Pros:

  • Co-browsing is often highly suitable for remote demonstrations, since one user is in control of the browsing experience, and all other users are able to follow along without disrupting the process.
  • Co-browsing offers enhanced privacy and security compared to some screen sharing tools, since the remote support agent can only see the browser page in question.
  • Participants in co-browsing sessions don't have to download and install a 3rd party application that could potentially involve a security risk.
  • Control between participants can be passed back and forth depending on the nature of the session.

Cons:

  • Many co-browsing tools depend on streaming, which means a strong Internet connection on both ends is vital.
  • Co-browsing sessions are limited to online activities.
  • Communication between users may be clunky, since control has to be passed back and forth for multiple participants to show unresolved issues, or visually demonstrate the meaning of a question.

The Pros & Cons of Screen Sharing

Pros:

  • Screen sharing allows remote support specialists to solve a variety of issues on the spot, whether they involve online or offline applications.
  • Screen sharing is very effective for collaborations that require real-time interaction and feedback, since users can easily toggle between "view" and "show" modes in an instant.
  • Screen sharing sessions are often more time-effective than their co-browsing counterparts, since participants can easily switch screen control back and forth.
  • Screen sharing facilitates communication and learning by allowing participants to visually demonstrate issues they are having, or try out a program feature for themselves after the host's explanation and walk-through.

Cons:

  • Some 3rd party screen sharing applications come with the risk of spamming, or the introduction of malware into a computer system.
  • Cross-browser access to such 3rd party applications can also lead to session lag and other performance issues.

Why is Screen Sharing the Better Option for Customer Support?

While co-browsing offers several advantages, in most situations screen sharing is a more suitable technology in the realm of customer support. This is the case for several reasons. For example:

  • In order to resolve tickets, IT professionals and help desk agents must often access not just a customer's web browser, but also the customer's computer hard drive and offline files. Screen sharing allows for this capability.
  • Screen sharing is highly interactive — more so than co-browsing. While the host of a co-browsing session can easily demonstrate a program feature, or the flow of a certain process, the host of a screen sharing session has the additional option of letting the other user try to follow the steps just demonstrated for himself. This "hands on" approach will lead to a deeper comprehension of program/software features on the part of the customer, and higher satisfaction.
  • Many screen sharing tools allow the host user to record the entire session for future reference. This means that the remote support agent can later study his or her performance, and identify areas of opportunity for similar customer support activities.

Remote customer support is a growing sector, and will continue to trend upwards as technology advances, and the nature of the global workforce changes. Both co-browsing and screen sharing tools will become more popular over the next several years. Both of these methods have their unique benefits and disadvantages.

Nevertheless, in most customer support applications screen sharing is the preferred option. If you implement state of the art screen sharing solutions within your customer support processes, your agents are sure to be more productive — and your customers are sure to be happier.

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