Social Media in 911 – This Ain't Your Daddy's PSAP

E911 is quickly evolving the model of the 911 center answering phone calls to a new multi-channel multi-media communications center environment. Both personnel, and processes will have to be modified and adapted to meet the challenging needs this new evolution in communications technology will bring forward at a rapid pace.

This past week, I sat down with Guy Clinch, Avaya’s advocate for government solutions. And we chatted about social media’s new role in Public Safety, and how governments will need to adapt to this changing landscape.

You can now LISTEN to the MP3 Audio version of this Podcast


userpic-31-36x36.png We were having a conversation the other day where you brought up some interesting observations about new technologies changing the way that government interface with citizens during emergencies. Will you recap some of those for our audience?

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As in every industry it touches, digital technologies are changing how communications occur between citizens and their governments; day-to-day as well as during emergencies.
From air travel, to education, to retail sales, to the even digital conversions occurring in movie theaters, digital technologies fundamentally change the way information processing occurs.
The same will be true as Next Generation 9-1-1 introduces new forms of communications to the activities involved in emergency services.
As in these other industries, some of the changes are predictable and others not.
One area where we are already seeing an unexpected change is in the use of Social Media technologies by local governments.

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What are some of the examples?

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One way we see this is the rapid way in which local governments have embraced technologies like Facebook. The trend is so dramatic that a recent article in the online publication FutureGov asked, “Will Facebook profiles replace government web sites?”

FutureGov interviewed officials from Australia, Hong Kong, Malaysia and the Netherlands and the results indicated that government web sites could disappear into the ‘social cloud’.” The article asked, given the increasing desire of citizens to communicate through a social channel, “why bother having a web site at all?”
Recognizing how important this trend has become in the United States Facebook recently changed its standard user agreement as applied to state and local agencies.

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I can see how this can apply to day-to-day interactions between government and citizens, but isn’t communication during emergencies a much different thing?

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Absolutely, there is no question that when lives and property are on the line we need to be extremely careful.
But the fact is we have already seen cases all over the globe where citizens have used social networking to report emergencies.

As I mentioned above the impacts of social networking can be unexpected.
For instance I read in the December third edition of the Daily Press of Hampton Road Virginia, that, “two days before Hurricane Sandy brushed the Peninsula, the number of people who “liked” the Newport News Public School Facebook page grew by more than 800.” spokeswoman Michelle Price believes this increase was from people who wanted to stay on top of news about the storm.

We’ve known for quite some time how establishing a 3-1-1 system takes some of the burden away from the 9-1-1 system during mass emergencies. We’ve seen with Avaya customers including Miami-Dade County where in anticipation of Hurricane Andrew, the county effectively used their 3-1-1 center to proactively prepare the community.
Citizens contacted Miami-Dade 3-1-1 before the storm to learn where shelters were located, 3-1-1 was available during the storm for citizens to report less urgent emergencies and after the storm where to find things including fresh water and information such as how soon the power would return.

In the past many of these communications would have gone to 9-1-1, taking up resources that needed to be dedicated to more life threatening situations.

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I imagine the county mangers also found benefit from the information generated …

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Absolutely. By integrating the 3-1-1 system with Citizen Relationship Management, Workflow Optimization, Geographic Information Systems and other tools of government, Miami-Dade was able to have a comprehensive picture of how the storm had impacted the community.
This allowed county officials to react more effectively during the storm, expedite repairs after the storm and identify vulnerabilities that were subsequently addressed so the county is now better prepared for future events.

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So this idea of breaking down silos between the worlds of emergency and less-urgent communications between government and citizens has a track record of proving value.

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Yes and as we apply the multiplying force of digital technologies the synergies become even more dramatic.
It seems increasingly there’s an app for that. We’re seeing the development such things as CivicPlus’s Facebook and iPhone application, the Citizen Request Tracker application, OpenGovernment built SeeClickFix and home grown efforts including the highly successful, the City of Boston Citizens Connect application which I wrote about in a recent blog on Avaya.com
We’re seeing a dramatic trend towards breaking down more and more silos.

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We can see the positive opportunities, but what about the challenges? For instance, don’t these new technologies also carry costs and the liabilities such as needing to adopt new skillsets?

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That is all very true. There will be many challenges not the least of which is weeding through the chafe that comes with what will be massive volumes of new communications.

You and I have spoken many times about the concept of “Information Anarchy.” By that I mean the possibility that when so much information floods into government, especially in dramatic situations such as Hurricane Sandy, that it will be easy for government become overwhelmed.

The situation of T-M-I or too much information, is a real challenge.
For example, Google the exact term Hurricane Sandy and you will render more than 58 million entries.
During the event, Facebook saw a 21,962 percent increase in instances of the term “hurricane,” and Twitter registered over 400,000 mentions of “Sandy” in just one hour during the storm.
Equally eye opening, the Instagram tag #Sandy accumulated more than 484,600 photos, while the term #Frankenstorm garnered roughly 38,000.
6:49 Preceding the event cell phone carriers advised, “text don’t call once Hurricane Sandy hits,” because so much information was anticipated to flood public networks, they would be rendered ineffective.
So there is a critical need to apply new tools that will allow governments to manage through the deluge of information.

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Especially to weed out what will be important and actionable …

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Yes. We might think that we can follow the pattern of education programs that showed people how to dial 9-1-1 and in those communities where 3-1-1 exist, educating the difference between the two systems, but we know from vast that experience that people will be people.

Especially in time of crisis, we can’t expect everyone to act rationally and use one system for life threatening situation and another for less urgent. So new tools are required to avoid the anarchy of the information. The good news is that the foundations for such tools already exist.

At Avaya we are no strangers to these concepts. We have been dealing with these types of challenges throughout our history. Now allow me to be clear. I would never make the comparison between the lifesaving mission of the Public Safety Answering Point and the challenges faced by a commercial call center.

But that doesn’t mean there aren’t lesson to be learned from Avaya’s experiences serving those types of customers.
One of those fields of expertise is Avaya’s invention of multi-media in the contact center more than two decades ago.
Commercial organizations have been using Avaya technologies to process multiple mediums including text messaging, email, web services and other non-voice communications since the 1980s. So as multimedia becomes relevant to the PSAP, unlike many who have served only the traditionally insular world of 9-1-1, Avaya already has vast expertise over many years of experience.

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I can see how that will be valuable, but I still feel uncomfortable comparing the mission of the 9-1-1 center to that of the commercial world.

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Again, there is no comparison in the missions. Selling Duck Boots over the phone has no relevant comparisons to saving lives.

I’m just saying that lesson can be learned and technologies can be applied from the commercial world.
An example is volumes of communications.

Avaya technologies that provide errorless processing of hundreds of thousands of communications each hour by commercial customers on days such as Black Friday at Thanksgiving are relevant to the inevitable world that will be faced by government as NG9-1-1 becomes a reality.

Governments will need vendors who have seen the unexpected from the digital transformation in other industries and who have developed methodologies and skillsets to come up with solutions.

With Avaya you have a comprehensive package that includes a company who is providing critical communications in the majority of traditional 9-1-1 centers, as well as fail safe communications across the entire public safety communication chain of care.

This extends to Avaya customers in police, fire and emergency medical dispatch operations. Other examples include Healthcare and critical care institutions including Avaya providing mission critical communications to eight out of the top ten healthcare providers in the US.

As well Avaya has references for customers in emergency and non-emergency government communications from Miami-Dade, to New York City, to states, cities and towns across the country, to proving Avaya’s competence at sites of the management of dramatic emergencies including Galveston County Texas.
Avaya’s experts in critical communications are ready to help governments across the globe manage the challenges and opportunities that the digital revolution is bringing to government


Guy’s Podcast is Avaya Tech Talk and is available at http://AvayaTechTalk.com
and you can follow him on Twitter @glinch


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Thanks for stopping by and reading the Avaya CONNECTED Blog on E9-1-1, I value your opinions, so please feel free to comment below or if you prefer, you can email me privately.

Public comments, suggestions, corrections and loose change is all graciously accepted 😉
Until next week. . . dial carefully.

Be sure to follow me on Twitter @Fletch911

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Every Week is Customer Service Week for this Credit Union

It’s not easy for credit unions to compete these days. Many need to win against neighboring big banks, with nearby branches, billions in operating expenses, and national marketing campaigns. To compete against their larger banking competitors, the IT staff of one top 20 U.S. credit union with 500,000 members and fewer than 50 locations focuses on three strategies while being very mindful of the budget.

Three Strategies Ensure Credit Union’s Commitment to Superior Customer Service

“We’re very conscious of fees,” says the senior telecom and contact center engineer at the top-20 credit union. “When it comes to our credit union members, our motto is: ‘We never forget it’s your money!’”

Having a customer-centric culture during Customer Service Week (October 3-7) and beyond requires a persistent focus on providing a consistently strong contact center. To accomplish this day in and day out, choosing a partner with the same focus on proactive customer service goes a long way.

Not long ago, the credit union launched a new internet banking service, which resulted in a significant uptick in call volumes to the call center. Some members calling in were not hearing the correct recorded announcements.

To fix the problems like this, and minimize the impact to the customer, the credit union IT staff selected a managed services provider that offers 24/7 support for its service center, corporate headquarters, and disaster recovery location. Three strategies help the credit union maintain their customer centric culture:

  1. Resolve problems quickly:

    The managed service provider used its extensive toolbox of innovative diagnostics and expertise to trace the problem to a Local Access Carrier issue and an internal server not rebooted in 900 days. The remote technical support specialist found the root cause and quickly fixed the issue. “Usually when you open a ticket, you feel like the first tier person is going to be just a ticket-taker. I was expecting to wait,” added the engineer. “But the gentleman I spoke to was able to stay on the phone, get another engineer on the line, and stay on the whole time. Both engineers on this case were solid,” she adds, “but I was most impressed that the first support engineer who took the initial call didn’t just hand us off, he stayed engaged throughout the resolution process.”

  2. Don’t repeat the same mistakes:

    The software specialist flagged the server reboot issue and recommended rebooting at regular intervals along with a recent software patch to further promote stability in the credit union’s environment. Receiving proactive guidance on how to avoid the same problem in the future helped the credit union once again to deliver consistent strong customer service. “The fact that our partner is so open and willing to integrate with other vendors is huge for us,” said the engineer. “The platforms that were offered—and the support I get—are top notch.”

  3. Use automated diagnostics:

    The IT staff is small but very efficient. During the day, they focus on projects that will drive customer satisfaction and at night—they sleep! “We’ll get alarms on our system on occasion. When I get in in the morning, I can see that our managed services partner’s automated diagnostic systems have been in at night, testing things and resolving those alarms,” says the IT manager. “It’s nice that you don’t have to be woken up in the middle of the night for those little things. We focus on being very efficient, so that we can turn around and give our members better dividends and rates.”

How is your contact center running these days? What helps you keep the focus on your customer service? What emerging trends are you watching in 2017?

How Workforce Optimization Tools Positively Impact Your Business, Clients, and Bottom Line

Founded in 1962, Common has been delivering best-in-class accounts receivable management programs throughout Canada for decades. With an unwavering commitment to excellence, Common’s leadership team is always looking for new ways to deliver exceptional service to our clients.

In pursuit of this goal, Common has been a long-time user of Avaya IP Office™ with Avaya Contact Center Select. Common recently became a beta user of Avaya Workforce Optimization Select, an easy-to-implement, easy-to-use, security-oriented solution that gives contact center managers and representatives access to scalable and flexible tools. Tools include recording, quality management, call monitoring, coaching, e-learning, and full reporting services. Workforce Optimization Select has upped the ante when it comes to workforce optimization tools.

Common is currently using Workforce Optimization Select to record incoming and outgoing calls and capture desktop screens for 80 agents, and has a total of five agents dedicated to the Quality Management program. This has eliminated our previous manual quality assurance paper audit process, which was often cumbersome, unreliable and difficult to manage.

If you’re a medium-sized business and you want a workforce optimization solution that delivers enterprise-like workforce optimization capabilities at a price point that will not break your budget, then you should choose Avaya Workforce Optimization Select.

From Common’s standpoint, the minimal deployment costs and fast rollout—resulting in a quick return on investment—have made it easy to welcome Avaya Workforce Optimization Select into its business. Other benefits that Common is enjoying thanks to Workforce Optimization Select include:

  • 100% call recording reliability, real-time availability and uptime—empowering Common to quickly and easily review calls for dispute resolution, fraud prevention and more.
  • Adherence to PCI security and compliance standards, ensuring Common maintains call quality compliance with the five major financial regulations in Canada and two in the U.S.–supporting our long-term focus on regulatory compliance and business security.
  • The best in privacy and data security—no paper trails—via encryption, Secure HTTP, digital signatures, screen masking, system-level audit trails and protected access with user-level feature permission options.
  • The option for QA analysts and supervisors to view entire customer interactions from start to finish—with screen recordings—to gain a complete view and deep understanding of interactions when evaluating agent performance.
  • A significant time and cost savings by eliminating the management of QA via pen and paper—no administrative time is wasted scanning, copying or filing.

Workforce Optimization Select thinks about your bottom line too, delivering capabilities that allows businesses to develop the operational intelligence needed to improve agent performance and customer interactions. With low hardware and storage costs, flexible seat-based pricing, and minimal installation and training requirements, Workforce Optimization Select deploys quickly and easily, and lets customers preserve their investment over time.

With Workforce Optimization Select, we are now able to record 100% of our voice and agent desktop screen interactions and then use these recordings to isolate and improve agent performance as part of a quality management and coaching program. And, Common’s call center managers are excited about the audio quality and security of call recordings, and the agents are enjoying the intuitive interface.

Scott Wyatt, CISA, Common’s Programming and Support consultant who oversaw the Workforce Optimization Select beta deployment, says, “Common has been using Avaya solutions for a long time and hasn’t been disappointed yet. The Workforce Optimization Select call recordings are crisp and reliable, and by adding in QA, we have the perfect combination of solutions.

“Beyond that, the agent deployment was effortless and working with the team at Avaya has been an exceptional experience. From the IT to support to development, everyone provided excellent service without fail.”

Moving forward, Common plans to phase in additional aspects of Workforce Optimization Select—ensuring our staff and clients benefit from all the solution has to offer.

 

New Age, New Requirements, More Innovation: 3 Ways to Keep Up (Part 1)

When we talk about what has changed within the last 25 years in technology, communications and business, it feels only possible to scratch the surface.

25 years ago, the World Wide Web became publicly available. The first iPhone would be brought to market 16 years later, bringing to extinction dozens of devices that took decades to invent. If you really want to see the stark difference a quarter century can make, take a look at this Radio Shack ad from 1991: portable CD players, PCs, handheld cassette tape recorders … man, those were the days.

Today, we live in a new age filled with new business requirements—the greatest being to effectively keep up with today’s rapid pace of innovation. How rapid? The fact that it took 75 years for the telephone to reach 50 million users and Angry Birds just 35 days should say it all.

The bottom line is that today’s businesses are operating in a more complex and changing environment than ever before. People are interacting with one another in exciting new ways. New platforms are being created every day for customers to uniquely engage with the brands they love. Regardless of what industry you operate in, I can tell you right now that it has changed—and your company needs to substantially change if it wants to keep up.

So, where do you start? This series will explore three distinct ways that business is evolving in this new age of innovation and how leaders can stay ahead of the curve. Let’s start with what many businesses consider the beating heart of their CX strategy: the contact center.

The Call Center vs. The Contact Center

96% of businesses surveyed last year by Deloitte are expecting call center growth within the next two years in order to support new CX demands. At the same time, 85% view CX provided through the contact center as a competitive differentiator.

Customers today have greater autonomy and higher expectations than ever regarding their service experience. To keep up with these demands, we’ve been seeing call centers across the globe evolving into more comprehensive contact centers. The former depends on a single channel of communication to service customers: audio. In this environment, customers are required to dial an 800 number and navigate through an IVR. Usually they are transferred among multiple service reps and must repeat specific information or re-explain their inquiry or issue.

The latter offers customers a more 360-degree service approach, which promotes a multi-channel environment. In this environment, it’s not uncommon for a customer interaction to begin in one place and end in another. For example, a customer interaction may begin with a Web interface and elevate to live chat and then elevate to a live agent if the problem hasn’t been resolved. This can be taken even further by moving the interaction from a live agent to a co-browsing experience, where subject matter experts can show customers in a more interactive way how to handle problems or answer questions. Finally, this can elevate to a one- or two-way video conferencing experience, similar to what Amazon’s Kindle Fire “Mayday” button is intended for.

With the rapid adoption of advanced channels like video, chat and mobile, it’s not surprising that 72% of businesses plan to transform their call centers into new contact centers within the next two years.

The Key to Mastering New CX Demands

Leading technology will give you the contact center of your dreams, but the whistles and bells alone won’t get you anywhere. Winning companies understand the need to pair their technology with personal best practices in order to keep the customer experience contextual, relevant and consistent. In fact, 96% of business leaders believe that personalization is key for increasing revenue flow and improving long-term customer relationships.

So, what do we mean by “contextual information?” Imagine Rob has been visiting Tesla’s website contemplating investing in either a new Model S or Model X. In the past, he’s engaged in live chat (interacting with artificial intelligence) and has asked a few questions. Finally, he one day requests to be transferred to a live agent for further assistance.

At this stage, Tesla should have every piece of relevant, meaningful information about Rob in order to provide him with the most contextual and personalized experience possible. Once Rob is transferred the agent can say, “I noticed you’ve been hopping between the S and X models. Which one are you leaning towards?” If for any reason Rob needs to be transferred, the next agent he speaks with should pick up right where he and the last agent left off. This kind of engagement is game-changing.

There’s no doubt that contextual information combined with real-time analytics will drive the customer experience to new levels. Over the last 40 or 50 years, the market has evolved from basic call centers to multi-faceted contact centers that offer full transparency into customers’ preferences, behaviors and habits. Companies must embrace change within the contact center to ensure the heart of their CX strategy is pumping strong.

Coming up: Part 2 of this series explores the evolution of networking. Learn how business leaders can ensure their networking infrastructure—the backbone of their organization—stays up to par.