Stop Wasting Your Time on Hold and Use Webtext with Avaya Aura

You know that feeling.

It hits you when you hear, “We are experiencing exceptionally heavy call volumes … your call will be answered in …”

We’re trapped. There are a dozen other things we could be doing.

We try to multitask, but just as we turn to more productive thoughts the voice returns.

Our consciousness flashes back only to realize … “Wait, what did she say? Did I miss an important instruction that could have transported me from this telephonic purgatory?”

What if we were offered a better choice?

Related article: Text Messaging: The Uncharted Channel

What if our parole from telephone jail was issued and we could immediately move to a familiar and ubiquitous option allowing us to communicate with an agent right away?

Webtext with Avaya Aura to the Rescue

The answer comes in a new technology from Webtext, the 2014 Avaya Innovation Award winner.

Webtext Call Directed to Text™ (CDTT) allows Avaya customers who use Avaya Aura® Contact Center, Call Center Elite Multichannel and other Avaya customer service platforms to offer their customers the option to interact directly with an agent using SMS text messaging.

So often, all we need is a simple answer to one of a number of simple questions: “What time do you close?” “What is my reservation number?” “Where is the nearest authorised repair center?”

These are exactly the kind of questions that are best answered in text.

Think back to when our customer service journey started: Imagine if instead of the usual ordeal we were offered, “We are experiencing exceptionally heavy call volumes. If you’d like to interact immediately with an agent using SMS text messaging, say or press ‘one.’”

Try this Instead

What if almost instantly after opting-in, a text message was automatically delivered to your device? What if you could respond and be served immediately?

Then you urgent question is answered quickly and you’ve got the information you needed. Your valuable time should be respected, and you feel that your business is truly important.

Of course, for some issues, an actual conversation is required. Sometimes something that starts off seemingly simple requires more support.

In that case, the voice option always remains. A texting session can be escalated to the voice channel as simply as sending back a short phrase such as, “Speak to an Agent.”

We might ask, “If no one is available to take my call, how can I be served faster using text?”

The answer is that a voice call is a one-to-one experience. A call center agent can only speak effectively to one person at a time.

Text is different – on average, text-enabled agents can handle as many as eight times the number of text interactions as voice calls in the same period.

This means benefits to you, greater efficiency and lower costs for the business. Wins all around.

Now let’s stop talking and get texting using Webtext Call Direct to Text!

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Toll-Free Text: Let Your Customers’ Thumbs do the Talking

Technology is a lot like the music business. You can be on top of the charts one day and completely irrelevant the next. The public is very fickle, and you must either change with the times or risk falling into the dustbin with yesterday’s news.

How many of you have children between the ages of 14 and 30? If you do, you know that you don’t call them on their cell phones − you text them. In fact, I would venture to guess that voice is the least-used feature on a 20-something’s iPhone or Android device. And don’t get me started on voicemail. I can’t recall the last time any of my three boys ever bothered to listen to the messages I left for them. The best I will get is a text that reads, “Why did you call?” If I am lucky, one of them might put a smiley face at the end, but it doesn’t get any better than that.

You can’t blame them, though. Young people today grew up in a world where the onscreen keyboard was more prominent than the dial pad. They are so good at typing with their thumbs that many don’t even need to look at the screen while they text their 100 or so BFFs (Best Friends Forever) – all at the same time.

It’s more than simply chatting with their friends and family. They expect to take this propensity to type to all aspects of communication. In other words, they don’t want to call businesses with questions or customer support issues. They want to text them, and they will often make buying decisions based on who is willing to text them back.

A Black Eye

Unfortunately, some businesses have given text a bad name. Are you aware of “cramming”? Cramming was the very questionable business practice of charging exorbitantly high text rates that billed consumers millions of dollars for services they didn’t buy. Charges of up to $9.99 would mysteriously show up on monthly statements with no clear explanation as to why they were there.

Thankfully, the FCC stepped in and since January 2014, these premium text services have been prohibited by law. No longer can large telecommunications companies foist these charges on unsuspecting consumers.

Toll-Free Text

Direct-dial 800 numbers have been around since the mid-1960s and consumers have come to expect free calls day and night. This winning strategy essentially gives a company an “Open for Business” sign that extends across the country.

What do you do with this new generation of consumers who are ready, willing and able to spend money on products and services, but have no desire to call someone to buy them? You could, of course, ignore them, but that’s not much of a business strategy. Instead, you wholeheartedly embrace their communication choice and wrap that “Open for Business” sign around SMS texting.

This is where toll-free text comes in. Like those direct-dial 800 numbers, toll-free texting takes cost out of the connection equation and puts voice and text on an equal footing. Customers no longer have to worry about unknown or hidden fees and can choose how they want to transact their business.

Now, some of you might be sitting back and thinking to yourself, “I already get unlimited text. Why should I care?”

That’s true. Many of us are on plans that allow us to text until our thumbs turn blue, but I will venture to say that despite its name, toll-free isn’t the most exciting part about toll-free text. Rather, it’s the same reason why cost is less of an issue with toll-free 800 numbers than it once was.

It’s really all about branding. It’s about having an instantly identifiable way to communicate that differentiates a company from its competition. In other words, toll-free text is a marketing tool that extends a company’s brand all the way down to the chat window, by leveraging the investment they’ve made in their existing 800 numbers. Companies advertise one number, and consumers can use it how they wish. I like to think of it as one-stop shopping for the millennial generation.

From an interaction standpoint, toll-free text opens up a world of opportunities. While some text messages might end up on the PCs of live agents, a significant number can be processed programmatically, and simple questions such as “What are your hours on Sunday?” can be automatically handled by computers. Toll-free text also gives companies the ability to convert incoming text messages to outgoing email responses or even (shudder) telephone calls.

For Example

Of course, toll-free text without a delivery mechanism isn’t very useful. Thankfully, a number of carriers and communications companies are stepping up to the plate and providing a variety of attractive solutions. One such company is ATL Communications and their Textify offering. With Textify, text messages can be processed manually with customer service representatives or through automatic processing. Customers receive the level of service they require, and organizations are able to use SMS text messages as another branding tool.

ATL isn’t alone in providing toll-free text. IP carriers such as Twilio and Flowroute both offer exciting and flexible solutions, and I expect that many others will soon be delivering their own products.

Avaya Can Help

Having your customers send toll-free text messages doesn’t do you a lot of good unless you have ways to receive and process them. Thankfully, both Avaya Aura Contact Center and Avaya Aura Elite Multichannel equip contact center agents with the tools to do just that. Not only does this extend the reach of an enterprise’s customer service arm, but these solutions turn voice-only agents into multichannel, multimedia powerhouses.

Just Do It

History is littered with the remains of companies that have failed to adapt to the ever-changing needs and expectations of their customers. Toll-free text is simply another tool that recognizes that the old ways are not always the best ways. Relevance extends to products, and a company’s image.

Will toll-free text completely eliminate the need to speak to a real human being? Absolutely not. But when a large part of the population chooses a different way to “talk” to you, you listen … or risk having them “talk” to someone else.

Andrew Prokop is the Director of Vertical Industries at Arrow Systems Integration. Andrew is an active blogger and his widely-read blog, SIP Adventures, discusses every imaginable topic in the world of unified communications. Follow Andrew on Twitter at @ajprokop, and read his blog, SIP Adventures.

Chatting up more customers

I’ve written about conversations with Robin Foster before. As Avaya’s Practice Leader for ROI/TCO Analysis, she’s a great resource to help our customer and channel partners understand how to translate the implementation of UC and Contact Center technologies in to real financial benefit terms that any business leader should understand, even if the technology isn’t their focus.

As I mentioned in my overview to this item on the main Avaya Connected blog page, a recent white paper by Znode entitled “Reduce and Recapture Abandoned Carts with the Right Customer Experience” caught my eye, given the recent dialog Avaya has been leading with our customers around Customer Experience Management (CEM). Learn more about CEM from what my fellow bloggers have recently written here, here, here and here.

In their paper, Znode provides 10 tips for providing customers with relevant, personalized customer experiences via eCommerce websites. But zNode failed to address a major element. Namely, the linkage of the website back to a traditional contact center infrastructure, including personalized service via a live-agent interaction.

Robin Foster shared with me some great information on how Web Chat can directly impact top line revenue, pointing to a recent survey by the Aberdeen Group that compared web sales for companies using Web Chat against those that did not. The survey results, entitled “Live Chat Takes Center Stage in Best-in-Class Deployments of Sales and Marketing Rich Media Solutions,” should be motivation for any customer not yet offering Web Chat to deploy it.

Among the specific results from the survey:

  • Leads were better qualified: 52% of leads were accepted by sales when chat was used, compared to 46% without. Not only does this reduce the SG&A costs by eliminating time wasted by sales on unqualified leads, imagine just how much additional revenue you could generate from a simple 6% increase in qualified leads.
  • The Average Website Conversion rate was higher, with more customers on a site with Web Chat. Customers can ask the questions they need answered before they are willing to buy. What could be more personalized than that?
  • The shopping cart sizes were bigger – 1.8 times bigger! Not only does Web Chat give you the opportunity to overcome customer objections to a sales opportunity, it offers upsell opportunities at the same time.
  • Year over year customer retention and conversion rates increase when Web Chat is used. Web Chat helps maintain and increase a competitive edge. In fact, companies without Web Chat actually saw a decrease in YoY conversion rates vs. those that offered it. And while the differences may seem small (2.15% for Web Chat vs. 1.97 % YoY change for non-chat websites), over 3 years this could lead to as much as a 9% sales increase vs. the competitor.
  • Year over Year lead conversion ratio showed a 1.0% increase for Web Chat-enabled companies, versus a 0.1% conversion ratio for those that did not.

Clearly, Web Chat is a powerful tool. And it’s great for Avaya customers using Avaya Contact Center solutions, because Web Chat is a core component of the system capabilities. In fact, companies that want to integrate and customize their own Web Chat capability with their customer service or eCommerce website can turn to the DevConnect Program for tutorial to do just that for the Avaya Aura Contact Center product.

And what if you already have Web Chat? Well, introducing additional automated chat capabilities could allow you to make more chat offers to customers, without needing to add additional headcount. This helps boost qualified leads, sales and customer retention scores. But that’s for another discussion with Robin….

Avaya TechTalk 052: Interactive Northwest, Inc.

Now Playing: Avaya TechTalk 052: Interactive Northwest, Inc.

Listen and learn how government and other organizations can obtain the many values available from automated self-service, interactive response and computer telephony integration technologies.

In this new episode of Avaya Tech Talk I have the opportunity to interview Gary Van Gordon, vice president at Interactive Northwest, Inc. an Avaya DeveloperConnection program member. INI is a leading developer of innovative interactive voice response (IVR), computer telephony integration (CTI), and self-service applications for high-volume contact centers.

To listen or download: Please click here.

Please click the link just above to listen to Gary and I discuss the unique solutions that INI creates for government customers driving down costs and improving the citizen’s ability to access the resources of their government. Gary tells of how INI is focused on a managed process in terms of their deliverables. Using a project lifecycle concept they apply the appropriate processes to, “Keep their customers informed, keep their partners informed,” and their projects delivered with quality. This helps INI keep in sync with the customers’ expectations and deliver in-budget and on-time. “This is a cultural value at INI and always has been. As a result we build relationships that are enduring,” Gary says.

INI has done a multitude of deployments dealing with just about all aspects of government. Some examples include utility deployments for state governments, county government, cities and towns and applications for the US federal government in both the civilian and military markets. “We’ve done everything from air force bases to the Supreme Court,” Gary comments.

Examples of INI’s unique applications include:
• a complete suite of applications for military hospitals that provides information to meet the needs of healthcare workers and their clients;
• elections results reporting;
• lottery results;
• opinion polls;
• travel information services and 511 applications;
• voting site locators;
• child support enforcement;
• employment verification;
• license renewals; and
• more.

To experience just one of INI’s powerful applications please dial (360)570-2300. Doing so you may experience speaking to the automated Washington State Department of Transportation 511 system allowing drivers to get information on current weather, congestion and road conditions. Dial it up and select a route. I suggest you choose Route I5, Seattle to Everett and ask for upcoming travel impacts.

Gary continues discussing how applications are used to create efficiencies and generate cost savings. Local governments all the way up to the largest federal agencies benefit. Gary says, “We can definitely help agencies saving costs by making investments in self-service IVR applications.” These applications save, “Significant labor costs, are secure and provide great benefit,” he continued.

Gary gives a powerful example in the applications INI created for Burbank Water and Power. According to Gary, “The idea is to proactively contact their subscribers who are not paying their water bills in a timely fashion. We created an application that contacts those people and gives them an opportunity to use a ‘pay by phone’ application.”

Feedback from the city soon after deployment was that constituents were expressing delight with the application. The users found the reminder call that avoided later unpleasant actions helpful. A secondary benefit was the cost savings of not subsidizing the process of disconnecting water service of those who did not pay. It cost the city more to disconnect the water in a non-payment condition than what the city gained from restoral fees to turn the water back on. “It was actually a double win for the city,” says Gary.

Please take just six minutes to listen to this informative interview and learn more about Interactive Northwest, Inc. For more information about the applications that INI have created for governments of all levels you may also visit their website: please click here.

Thank you for your time.

Dear Listeners,

I’ll be honored if you chose to follow me on Twitter @gclinch, check out my professional profile on LinkedIn and subscribe to my podcasts on Apple iTunes and at :

Warmest regards,
Guy W. Clinch


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