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Sometimes, a chat is not enough. Sometimes, three phone calls might not be enough. Sometimes, we need someone to take our hand and show us the process. Customer Success teams all over the world struggle with this realization on a daily basis, trying to find a solution that can deliver results before the customer gets frustrated, hangs up and never returns. For years, screenshots were the golden standard. Then along came screencasts and the light at the end of the tunnel became more visible. We now have at our disposal tools that make the job of support agents much easier: co-browsing and screen sharing. Like every evolving technology, they both have their pros and cons, and today we’re going to explore them in detail.
In this article...
We already mentioned the first important use case – Customer Support, Customer Success, and Customer Experience teams. They can reap the benefits of these technologies to address issues in real time, provide interactive demos to aid the sales process, and enhance onboarding procedures to increase engagement. One of the collateral effects of using screen sharing and co-browsing is also improved organizational efficiency, as they allow teams to do more with fewer resources.
Think about the time saved by not having to explain a complex process entirely over the phone – instead, you can now show your customers what to do while talking or chatting, thus reducing the amount of time needed to resolve the ticket.
Product managers can also use them to gain a better understanding of how users are interacting with a product in real time. For example, apart from using customer surveys and product analytics to monitor adoption, they can now hop on a quick call with early adopters of a feature and use co-browsing and screen sharing to pinpoint friction areas and opportunities for crafting the optimal user journey with precision.
Last but not least, engineers can be drawn into a support ticket to investigate complex bugs as they are happening which helps to save time replicating the issues. They can also assist in the product planning process with assessing feature requests during joint calls with product managers and customers.
Now, let’s dig into the details.
To put it simply, screen sharing is a technology that allows users to share their computer screen with others in real time. It allows users to view a video stream of the same content simultaneously, facilitating effective collaboration, training, and troubleshooting.
Screen sharing can be used in a variety of contexts: remote work, online education, customer support, software development, and team collaboration. It enables users to show their work to others, explain concepts, demonstrate software, and share presentations. This has become increasingly important as more and more people work from home or collaborate with remote teams.
Screen sharing works by transmitting the visual content displayed on one user’s computer screen to another user’s computer or mobile device over the internet. This is typically done through a specific 3rd party screen sharing software that often needs to be downloaded and used by all participants to allow the host to share their screen.
The viewers can then see everything that is displayed on the host’s screen in real time, and in some cases – annotate or point to certain areas on the screen (if the specific tool supports these features). Ubiquitous communication platforms like Google Meet, Zoom, and Microsoft Teams have built-in screen-sharing functionality.
As exciting as all of this sounds, it’s important to note that screen sharing does have its limitations, such as potential security risks connected to the need to download a specific third-party software (which may be infected), or accidentally exposing confidential information during the session (not all screen sharing tools offer the option to limit what’s being shared, for example specific browser tabs).
Co-browsing (collaborative browsing) is a technology that enables a support agent (one or more) and a user to browse the same web page or application simultaneously in real time. Unlike screen sharing though, co-browsing focuses specifically on web browsing and allows users to interact with the website or application as if they were sitting in front of the same computer.
Co-browsing is typically used in customer support, sales, and online communication as it enables more efficient collaboration. Support agents can use it to guide customers through a website, troubleshoot technical issues, fill out complex forms, or complete a purchase. Co-browsing can also be used for collaborative web development, where team members can work together to build, test, and debug web applications.
Co-browsing works by enabling a user to share their web browsing session (as opposed to a video stream in screen sharing) with another user, allowing them to see and interact with the same web page or application in real time. This can be done through a variety of co-browsing tools, which may involve installing a browser extension or embedding a code snippet into the web application.
See it in action:
A co-browser is often considered more secure than screen sharing because it only shares the web browsing session (only the tab where the user is active), rather than the entire computer screen. This, combined with data masking, reduces the risk of sharing sensitive or confidential information that may be displayed on other parts of the user’s screen.
Unlike screen sharing, co-browsing is also interactive because it allows both participants to scroll, click and type within the website or application as if they were physically present. This can be particularly useful for customer support, where the customer service agent can guide the customer through complex processes step-by-step.
The downsides of co-browsing include browser compatibility issues, as well as concerns about privacy and security (although to a lesser extent than with screen sharing).
Screen sharing and co-browsing might look (kind of) similar on the surface, but the underlying technology differs significantly.
Screen sharing is basically a video recording of the screen of the person who’s sharing which is then streamed in real time to the other users’ screens. As such, the quality might suffer if the internet connection is slow. It also limits the collaborative options available during the session – with screen sharing, users can sometimes use annotation and pointers but that’s about it. As mentioned above, to use screen sharing, users often need to download 3-rd party tools – or use specific communication platforms that support the feature.
Co-browsing, on the other hand, relies on code. During a co-browsing session, one user streams their entire web browsing session (raw user-based browser events, network data, exceptions and debug data, as well as the structure of the website: HTML + static resources) to the other user who can then interact with it just as if it were happening on their own computer. This allows for a better quality of the experience and is also better suited to lower bandwidth connections. Co-browsing tools may require the installation of a browser add-on, but more frequently they work with a custom snippet operating within the web application itself. This means that the user doesn’t need to download and install anything.
How about TeamViewer and AnyDesk? These tools offer a full live session within a 3rd party, downloadable software. What’s specific in these instances is that, unlike co-browsing which is limited to a specific web session, they can take over your entire user interface. While helpful in cases where IT specialists need to take control over your entire machine, this type of collaborative session poses considerably greater risks related to both privacy and security.
Now that we’ve covered the main differences between the two technologies, let’s compare them side by side so you can get a better understanding of which one will work better for you!
|Works without the installation of a 3rd party software (or a specific tool)||Yes (in most cases)||No|
|Control over what is being shared (specific web page or entire desktop)||Yes||Limited|
|Masking of sensitive data||Yes||No|
|Type of sharing||Code-based||Video-based|
|Sharing of entire desktop||No||Yes|
|Agent tools: highlighting, annotation, drawing||Yes||Limited|
|Agent and customer can interact with the page at the same time (scrolling, clicking, typing)||Yes||No|
|Session takeover (users can change agency over the session)||Yes||No|
|Can be used on non-web-based apps||No||Yes|
|High-quality visualizations||Yes||Depends on bandwidth|
|No network lag||Depends on bandwidth||Depends on bandwidth|
As you can see, co-browsing is definitely the superior decision in situations where customer success agents or engineers need more control over the user’s session. Screen sharing, while also a great way to improve the customer experience, might be a better choice only when dealing with team collaboration, or simpler tasks that don’t require session takeover.
We bet that you are already familiar with screen sharing and have used it countless times – but how about co-browsing? If you’d like to try it out, SessionStack’s forever free plan includes 10 co-browsing sessions so you can see the benefits of the technology first-hand. Installation is quick and easy (2 minutes tops!), with no impact on your product’s performance.
While screen sharing and co-browsing look similar on the surface, they differ in one critical aspect – the ability to collaborate on the same page in real time. Both tools have their pros and cons, but co-browsing can be transformational for customer support teams and product teams that need a way to better understand and assist their users in real time.
With customer sentiments forever changing in favor of faster communication and issue resolution, companies that choose to invest in co-browsing will see better adoption rates and increased engagement – if you don’t trust us, hear out what Bazaarvoice has to say 👉
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