Ready for the M2 Generation?

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This past week at the NENA 2013 conference and Expo in Charlotte North Carolina, the big topic was text to 911 becoming a reality as a follow on to the agreement signed by the four major wireless carriers, NENA, APCO and the FCC.

Although in the future, pictures, video and other forms of multimedia will find their way into the 911 center, it’s commonly agreed that the “low hanging fruit” is allowing text messaging to reach 911 centers directly by addressing the digits 911 as the destination, and the commitment is to deliver this by 2014.

In the past, there has been some hesitancy since text messaging is what is known as a store and forward technology that provides minimal levels of service guarantees. Although this is technically true, during times of natural disaster, such as experienced with super storm Sandy, the switched voice telecommunications infrastructure was out of service, although text messaging still managed to carry through much of the time.

This is caused the change in thinking within the industry, in that although text messaging does have its deficiencies, during times where all other means of communications become unavailable, text messaging may just be one of the last working means of communication able to reach public safety.

Of course the flip side of that story is text messaging being used by persons who are deaf, deaf blind, and hard of hearing as well as individuals with speech disabilities. For this group of folks, text messaging is a primary mechanism for communicating, as TTY machines are far too bulky to carry around, clumsy to operate with acoustic couplers or requiring a direct connection into a telephone line and even then, they often are meet with communications or technology failures at the PSAPs even though each center must maintain a working TTY.

Regardless of that, let’s assume that the industry will self right itself, solve many of these problems, and move forward with multimedia Next Generation 911 communications.

For a the bulk of us in the latter part of our careers, we seen Generation X, and Generation Y, but we are now faced with generation M2 or M squared. This generation is characterized by the lives of 8 to 18-year-olds today, their immersion in multimedia (M2) and communicating using new technologies never before available.

There will come a time when “calling someone” will become as antiquated as “dialing a phone” (remember those rotary phones with dials?) And a new phrase will crop up. “Hey! When you get to where you’re going, make sure you ‘COMM’ me and let me know that you got there okay.”

Once that becomes the average day-to-day communications method, emergency communications is going to have to rapidly adapt. The amount of additional data flooding an emergency center with each and every communication event will be overwhelming for an individual, and just as Run Recommendations are provided to call takers and dispatchers today based on unit availability and automatic vehicle location (AVL) positioning, I envision a futuristic heads-up display for the call taker.

In addition to the 260 characters or so that are available on ANI and ALI, personal medical record information, building information, data from smart building monitors in the way of temperature sensors and other information, will all be correlated for the call taker using Computer Assisted Automation.

Think of it as a “Run Recommendation” on steroids. It’s not an autonomous system that is taking control of the situation, it simply computer automation analyzing and modeling current and projected variables, and matching that against a pre-established database of potential outcomes. Based on these facts, and past history, the recommended action is this. What “this” is, is entirely up to your imagination and will be the prime category for the patent trolls.

So the moral of this week’s blog, is “NG911 is NOT coming; it’s already here.”


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Until next week. . . dial carefully.

Be sure to follow me on Twitter @Fletch911

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How Do You Create a Tech-Driven Guest Experience?

Hospitality, one of the world’s most prevalent and influential industries, is using tech-driven guest experiences to boost success. In addition to the usual business trips and family vacations, hotels are a staple for everything from weddings to global conferences to concerts and shows. At resorts, hotels, casinos and cruises, billions of people worldwide book reservations every year, each expecting a guest experience that goes above and beyond the norm.

Hospitality leaders are largely responsible for ensuring that experiences do in fact meet and exceed guest expectations. Nearly 90% of companies today compete solely on the basis of the customer experience, and that certainly includes hotel entities. The guest experience is everything—especially in a smart, digital world where consumers’ demand for speed, agility and quality are at an all-time high.

Guests are focusing less on room service and bell boys and more on 24×7 virtual concierges and personalized mobile travel guides, which proves that the tech-driven guest experience has arrived. In a recent Information Age article, Avaya UK Managing Director Steve Rafferty explores the transformative power of a mobile app for delivering a truly custom—even predictive—guest experience. In Rafferty’s much-needed discussion about the ever-evolving hospitality industry, he concludes that “technology, customized for the hospitality industry and backed by solid in-person service, can help hoteliers today to deliver the superior and personalized experiences their guests expect.”

This leaves just one question: how can hospitality leaders go about creating this tech-driven guest experience, specifically through infrastructure investments and/or upgrades?

Many organizations have proven that a next-gen guest experience is very possible to achieve. To better ensure guest safety, the Wynn Hotel in Las Vegas boasts video surveillance speeds that are up to 11 times faster than its competitors. The Rotana Group, an international hotel and entertainment chain, uses advanced contact center and IP solutions to enable secure and seamless communications across its properties worldwide, supporting a more 360-degree guest experience.

Three Ways to Create a Tech-Driven Guest Experience

So, as a leader or IT decision maker within the hospitality industry, how can you proactively address your guest’s needs with the right technology? Here are three significant ways a customer engagement platform can help drive the desired guest experience:

  1. Innovate at the first point of contact.

    There’s no denying that for most guests, the first point of contact is a hotel’s web site. A 2015 study conducted by Expedia found that consumers visit an average of 38 websites before booking a reservation. Overall, travelers tend to double the time they spend surfing the web the week before booking. Needless to say, there’s plenty of opportunity for hoteliers to elevate guests’ web experiences with the right technology.

    How? As opposed to offering guests a web form (or worse, a dreaded 800 number), you can offer guests live chat support via WebRTC. Of course, guests should also be able to easily escalate their live chat session to voice if needed—and from there to video chat or screen sharing for particularly complex reservations or issues. A customer engagement platform created on an open, extensible architecture lets you support this dynamic environment with the ability to create apps that customize and extend your call center. This can help you to create new points of differentiation, or change them as you see fit. So you can ensure a stellar guest experience from the first point of contact onward.

  2. Improve resource matching.

    Front desk workers must skillfully handle calls from families, school groups, business travelers, wedding planners, convention planners, language specialists, and more. With hotels becoming more dynamic by the minute, the need for improved resource matching is vital. This means ensuring callers can be quickly and intelligently routed to the right subject matter experts—regardless of where they reside within the organization—based on rich context, KPIs and organizational goals across all channels.

    An advanced customer engagement platform tracks guest conversations and consolidates customer data across all of these channels (i.e., web, mobile, contact center), creating a real-time data repository for hotel workers to track, collect and share relevant information across teams, processes and customer touch points. This ensures callers will always be paired with the best subject matter experts available. Additionally, this allows agents to focus on callers’ needs without having to ask for the same information multiple times (which, as we all know, is a huge customer frustration). Above all, the technology helps to deliver more consistent and meaningful experiences at the individual guest level.

  3. Enhance the mobile UX.

    Research shows that more than 75% of travelers consider their smartphones to be critical. Additionally, about 1 in 3 people use their smartphones more when they travel than they do at home. As Rafferty explained, mobility is a key way for hoteliers to capitalize on guests’ needs and deliver the experiences they’re looking for.

    There are many ways mobility can be strategically leveraged. For example:

    • Use Wi-Fi location services to recognize when guests arrive
    • Push notifications to alert guests of changes to their stays
    • Use mobile room key authentication, verses a swipe card, for added day-to-day convenience

Perhaps most importantly, hoteliers must offer guests a sophisticated and integrated mobile app experience. This experience should include such things as seamlessly integrated self service and callback options, something that a customer engagement platform easily supports.
Mobility is not only advantageous for usage with guests’ mobile phones—it also addresses a need for staff to be mobile. For example, as mentioned in the point above, callers must be routed to the right subject matter experts regardless of where they reside within the organization. Mobility helps ensure subject matter experts are accessible, wherever they happen to be located on the property, for handling both guest inquires as well as internal operations.

Technology is changing the hotel guest experience. There’s ample room for innovation within the industry, and there’s a way to efficiently, securely and flexibly enable guest experiences that continually exceed expectations. How does Avaya know for sure? Avaya supplied the technology that transformed the Wynn Hotel, the Rotana Group, and many other world-renowned hospitality organizations. A customer engagement platform built on open, extensible architecture gives you an open scope, meaning anything is possible in terms of the guest experiences you want to deliver.

Leveraging Big Data to Fine Tune Customer Experiences

Whether you realize it or not, big data is at the heart of practically everything we do today. Billboard companies, for example, are now leveraging eye tracking and traffic pattern analysis to gauge interest among drivers. Chances are one of those drivers owns a 4G-enabled vehicle that can track such things as performance and maintenance history. That person can also now record and analyze their utility usage via smart home solutions—anywhere, anytime. On a more critical level, doctors can now record and analyze patients’ heartbeats and breathing patterns to develop life-saving predictive algorithms.

In today’s smart, digital world, big data has opened the floodgates to never-before-seen possibilities. It has the power to course-correct potentially devastating outcomes, and it’s become a necessity for continually refining the customer experience. If you ask us, though, the best customer experiences today are supported by customer journey analytics.

The Need for Customer Journey Analytics

Customer journey analytics is a process that requires tracking and analyzing the way customers use a combination of available channels to interact with an organization. These channels range from human interaction (like speaking with a contact center agent) to fully automated interactions to assisted service (like live chat and co-browsing).

The need for customer journey analytics is simple: data solutions of the past simply won’t meet the next-generation customer needs of today and the future. Consider that just 10 years ago, channels like Web chat and social media were in their infancy (Facebook had only been around for two years). At the same time, the world’s first smartphone had only been on the market for one year. A lot has happened to transform the customer experience in a very short amount of time. As companies move forward in today’s age of rapid tech innovation, they must be armed with the right data strategy.

As mentioned, customers today use a vast number of channels and devices to interact with the brands they love. Each channel and device offers its own set of diverse scenarios for linking to other channels and devices, making no two customer experiences the same. Companies must be able to understand customers’ actions on any given channel or device in order to infer insights and create anticipatory engagement at the individual account level. For instance, why did one customer choose to purchase a product in a retail store verses online? Or, why did a customer end a live chat session before his or her inquiry was handled?

This level of understanding requires a comprehensive view of the data gathered from all channels and interactions that proceeded the moment in question. Customer journey analytics is a process designed to provide this comprehensive view and deliver deep benefits organization-wide—so much so that 60% of all large organizations are expected to develop customer journey mapping capabilities by 2018, according to Gartner.

Making Customer Journey Analytics Work for You

Companies need a data-driven customer approach to survive—and it needs to be effective to thrive. Many companies, however, struggle with taking their customer data and turning it into actionable results. In fact, a 2015 study conducted by PwC found that 43% of companies obtain little tangible benefit from their data, while 23% derive no benefit whatsoever.

To effectively apply your data, you must first determine what you wish to achieve with your data in the first place. In other words, what key objectives do you hope to achieve or improve upon by using big data (or specifically, customer journey analytics)?

Not sure? Here are four core initiatives to start you on a path to maximize your customer journey analysis efforts:

  1. Enable self-service.

    Self-service options—especially mobile—are rapidly increasing in popularity. Just consider that in 2015, Apple users downloaded over 51,000 mobile apps per minute. Also last year, 90% of customers used their smartphones in stores to make price comparisons, research specific products, and check online reviews.

    In today’s mobile-first world, businesses should leverage customer journey analytics to develop a sophisticated and integrated mobile experience—one that seamlessly integrates self service into their mobile app via visual, in-app self-service options. Conversely, this experience should offer customers callback options (either immediate or scheduled), as well as mobile chat (automated or agent-assisted) and video service. In addition to offering a stellar mobile UX, businesses should ensure backend capabilities that intelligently route customers to agents based on available context in order to drive relevant, meaningful interactions.

  2. Improve resource matching. We live in a world today where cars can park themselves and doctors can 3D print new organs, yet we still struggle with routing callers to the right subject matter experts. The time for next-generation routing is now, and it all starts with improved resource matching—specifically, attribute-based matching. This means matching customers with agents based on rich context, business KPIs, and organizational goals across all work items, channels, and resources to drive segmentation, increase prioritization, and determine the best course of action per customer.

    This also means choosing the right resources for each customer, regardless of where the resources reside within the organization. The right subject matter expert, for example, could be a contact center agent, a supervisor in your billing department, or your VP of sales. Customer journey analytics provides a 360-degree view of available resources organization-wide to support this level of attribute-based matching.

  3. Increase agent awareness. Not only is it important to collect the right information, but it must also be presented in a way that is visually understandable and easily accessible for agents. Imagine, for example, an agent being able to see where a customer has been on the company’s website over the last month, as well as that person’s live chat interactions last week. Imagine an agent being able to quickly see that a customer sent an email two days ago regarding a recent bill, or reached out via SMS because the company’s mobile app wasn’t working properly. Imagine if agents could gain this 360-degree, comprehensive view all in just one or two clicks of a mouse.

    Data is continuously generated in different ways, and is consumed by different people across different processes and applications. Having the right information at the right time empowers agents to focus on customers’ needs without having to ask for the same information multiple times (which, as we all know, is one of today’s greatest customer frustrations).

  4. Ensure continuous improvement.

    When it comes to big data, businesses can’t manage what they can’t measure. Therefore, it’s important that companies measure their data both in real-time and historically to help improve systems, processes, and applications over time. This is what will enable them to consistently deliver on key business objectives, operate within budget, and maximize every customer experience. Here are four key technologies for ensuring continuous improvement:

    • A data collector that can collect, standardize and normalize raw data across any data source so it can be used for enterprise-wide reporting and analytics.
    • A processing engine that can correlate, translate, calculate and publish normalized data into meaningful business measures.
    • A visual presentation platform that provides unified, real-time and historical reporting and analytics dashboards that can be used to visualize, analyze and explore key business measures.
    • Predictive analytics to discover new trends, apply changes based on insights, and continuously improve applications, workflows, self service and routing decisions.

So, how can you succeed with these four objectives to fine tune your customer experiences? That’s an entirely new discussion—however, we can tell you this: invest in a customer engagement platform that:

  • Provides a single view of customer interactions across all systems
  • Allows you to add data sources quickly
  • Can correlate data across both real-time and historical systems
  • Boasts an open and extensible reporting and analytics framework

Experience is everything. Learn How Avaya Oceana Works.

Quiz: Do You Know How to Choose the Right Support Services Provider?

All too often, we find that IT executives who are facing budget cuts buy unauthorized support services for their Avaya solutions. Doing so puts IT departments and their mission-critical networks at considerable risk. We’re raising awareness about the true value of having legitimate Avaya support services for your communications. We want to help IT managers learn that selecting the right support provider and service levels matters. Get started now by reading Support Services: Separating Fact from Fiction.

And take our True or False quiz:

  • All support service providers are the same.
  • Even if my current support option does not cover all, additional services can be bought for time and materials. It’s no big deal.
  • Third-Party Maintenance Providers (TPMs) can get access or entitlements to software patches, updates, or security advisories as needed.
  • My support services provider does not have automated diagnostics and auto-resolution capabilities. But, no worries. The team will still resolve my issues in a timely manner.
  • To keep costs down, TPMs rely on a network of vendors to support some sites.
  • I trust that my support provider is current with their manufacturer certification and methodologies. I don’t feel it’s necessary to periodically check.
  • Recovery capabilities from a catastrophic outage are offered by my provider. Protection for software or hardware not covered under contract might cost more, but it is a reasonable risk.
  • All equipment purchases, whether bought refurbished or slightly used, have worked out great so far. No complaints and we saved money.
  • I was notified about service support being discontinued with no “end of life” or “end of support” on any system, regardless of age. I did not have any other credible options.

Many IT managers operating in a harried world and reacting to the daily challenges of keeping their networks running at peak performance would undoubtedly answer “True” to at least one of the above. That’s where the problems start and re-evaluation is sorely needed.

It’s Time to Evaluate Your Options

As the end of the year approaches and budgets are being settled, now is the perfect time for many IT managers to take a second look to ensure that their systems remain at peak performance and to protect against unnecessary risks associated with unauthorized maintenance providers. Choosing the right support partner matters just as much as choosing the right products. Adjustments to meet growth will be needed. User needs will change. Disasters happen. How will you handle these challenges?

While selling support services, unauthorized maintenance providers are not certified, putting your network and systems at considerable risk and invalidating your warranties. To make the best choices, we suggest that Avaya customers consider the following key questions:

  • When did you last check to ensure that your services provider was current on training or certified on the products in your network?
  • Do you have access to Avaya support staff with technical expertise? Anytime, anyplace, from any device?
  • How often are you involved in resolving issues that your non-Avaya provider should be preventing or auto-resolving?
  • Do you have sufficient time to work on new projects or innovation?

All Services Are Not Equal

How much does downtime can an unplanned outage cost your company? On average, it’s $2700 per minute. Some TPMs state that their enhanced service level agreement is four hours to restore! The average cost of an hour of downtime is a staggering $163,674. Can you afford that?

It’s important to understand that unauthorized and third-party maintenance providers do NOT have access to time and material support, intellectual property, replacement parts, software patches, or certification. Unauthorized maintenance providers also do NOT have access to:

  • Avaya’s award-winning EXPERT SystemsSM automated diagnostic and proactive resolution platform
  • Avaya training for products, diagnostic tools and methodologies (e.g., EXPERT Systems, Avaya Knowledge Management, and Avaya SLA Mon™ technology)
  • Avaya Tier 3 support engineers
  • Avaya’s battle-tested Emergency Recovery team

What’s in Your Support Services?

Did you know that Avaya’s lifecycle policy is designed to protect our customers’ investments and support their mission-critical networks even after our products move from End of Manufacturer support? Did you know that Avaya now offers Remote Only Support (access to Intellectual Property and remote technical support through to Tier 3), and Indefinite Access (access to Intellectual Property)?

Because unauthorized maintenance providers claim to provide 20%-50% savings versus the standard for the same or better service, it is best to make an apples-to-apples comparison. The best support services companies offer world-class customer service, as demonstrated by Avaya’s third year in a row win of the NorthFace ScoreBoard Award, which is based on actual customer satisfaction scores.

Remote automated diagnostics and resolutions help repair potential problems quickly, saving time and reducing the risk of an outage. Focusing on proactive problem prevention, rapid issue resolution and continual solution optimization helps make effective use of time and communications resources in alignment with your organization’s strategic objectives.

Avaya support comes with the following benefits:

  • 73% more likely to avoid an outage
  • Auto-resolution of 93% of alarm-generated service requests without human intervention
  • Restoration of 90% of outages in less than two hours

So, as the end of year approaches, it’s time to look forward. Consider your best options to keep your systems running at their peak throughout 2017. And remember, the quality of the support you get matters…especially when you most need it.