How Ahead of the Curve is Your Network Provider?
Think about your smart device. Think of all of the apps and all of the tasks you can do on it. Now think about how a company would communicate fifteen years ago.
It’s amazing to consider the differences in an employee’s work life not too long ago. You were tethered to a desk phone to take your calls, and in the early 2000s the hottest new option incorporated into Apple iBooks (iBooks!) was a slot for a new thing called WiFi that had yet to explode and become a free service you could find anywhere including your neighborhood coffee shop and restaurant.
Nowadays? Communications is changing rapidly. In the era of the global business world, you’re taking a video conference call from your hotel and responding to emails while you’re in line at the grocery store. The way we consume our communications is evolving faster and faster with each new app and portable device. In this Unified Communications day and age, you have the ability to be incredibly agile because of all of the options IT can now provide.
How agile is your IT though? While IT leaders have spent billions on tech that improves flexibility within computing and application tiers, they often falter when it comes to simplifying existing communication and networking tiers. Today’s network lacks in agility, and more often than not, it is older and costing you. In 2013, the ZK Network Purchasing study revealed that 83 percent of IT budgets are used to maintain existing networks, nearly an 11 percent increase in five years. And they don’t necessarily play well with today’s hottest solutions, slowing employees and your business down.
It’s hard to simply replace an existing legacy network though. As complex as old technology may be, a company may not be in the market to completely overhaul their hardware. A recent white paper by ZK Research points to Avaya as being aware of this change in the needs of a company. Instead of looking to sell a product to replace network infrastructure, Avaya sells solutions to help streamline legacy networks so they can be tapped to take full advantage of the wide range of unified communications options available. For every one hardware endpoint sold, Avaya sells five to eight of their software solutions — tapping into a market that few IT leaders have invested in.
Avaya’s transformation, including its restructured approach to selling networking solutions, has positioned the company to put it ahead of the curve with market transitions. Research shows that Avaya’s midmarket revenue could potentially double due to an estimated increase in deal size paired with even a small market share gain. Other standout predictions suggest immense promise in Asia and overall growth.
Now think about your smart device again. Think about the fifteen years before and those chunky cell phones that couldn’t sync to your desk phone. How WiFi wasn’t there to connect you to the rest of the world that was beyond your cubicle and high-speed internet was something that was bits instead of megabits. Now think about fifteen years into the future. Because Avaya already is.
America’s 9-1-1 System: John Oliver Got it Right (Mostly)—9-1-1 Access still remains the most crucial step to emergency response
For those who may have missed HBO’s “Last Week Tonight with John Oliver” on this past Sunday night, there was a humorous but important segment featuring America’s 9-1-1 system. I had gotten a heads up on this earlier in the week, and was anxious, albeit fully expecting this to be the average story, poorly researched and full of inaccurate assumptions around 911.
Fortunately, I could not have been more wrong. I sat back, watching the segment go on for nearly 15 minutes—each second being more amazing than the last—sprinkled with just the right amount of humor to make the important points stand out. I have to commend Mr. Oliver, and his staff, who obviously did a great deal of homework on the topic. The level of detail, as well as the subtle references, proved that quite a bit of preparation went into this piece, and they had talked to the right people in the industry. While John formulated a ton of pertinent points, accurately describing the sad state of America’s overall 9-1-1 infrastructure, he focused on cellular location accuracy and challenges leading to how we got there. But in addition to this problem, a few other critical points were missed—starting with ‘access.’
For any current 911, or Next Generation 911 system, to function properly—access into the system is first required. Only then can any end-to-end functionality and benefit for citizens be expected.
Universal access to 911 means being able to reach emergency services from any device, at any time and from anywhere. It means that 911 works both with and without an access code in Multi-Line Telephone Systems (MLTS), as I have covered in Kari’s Law many times. Currently there are House and Senate Bills working their way through the legislative process, and in these, we make the point that access to 911 must be followed immediately by on-site notification that immediately establishes situational awareness—bringing the building aware of the fact that a particular station dialed 911, and most importantly, the location of where that particular device is in the building.
We are not asking for internal folks to answer those calls—they are likely not trained to do so—we want them to be aware the calls happened. Doors may need to be unlocked, elevators may need to be held, and life-saving assistance might be rendered while waiting for public safety to arrive. Such pre-arrival coordination can speed response considerably. Despite the fact that many building operators feel they should be answering their own 911 calls, this is generally not a good practice to follow. When you dial 911 or you dial another established emergency code in the building, the call needs to reach the proper public safety answer point (PSAP) and not be intercepted by someone who is not trained to respond properly.
Less than half of U.S. States have current legislation covering this, and only a small few have any penalty for non-compliance. This may radically change if the House of Representatives takes an important next step in ensuring access that will lead to increased public safety by voting on H.R. 4167, also known as “The Kari’s Law Act of 2015.” This Bill sat in committee for only a day before a unanimous vote and 24 Republican and Democratic sponsors brought this to the House floor for a full vote. As most of my readers already know, Kari’s Law was named for “Kari Dunn who was murdered in 2013 by her estranged husband in a Marshall motel room while her 9-year-old daughter tried unsuccessfully to dial 911…because the girl did not know that the motel phone system required dialing an extra 9 to reach an outside line.” After much work in Texas, Governor Greg Abbott enacted Kari’s Law as the first Bill he signed. A similar bill is expected to be signed by Tennessee Governor Bill Haslam sometime in the next month.
Federally, Kari’s Law in the bi-partisan H.R. 4167 Bill, with a companion S.2553 in the U.S. Senate, will accomplish the following:
- Amend the Communications Act of 1934 to require phone vendors and individual buildings to ensure people can connect directly with emergency services without having to press ‘1’ or ‘9’ first.
- Require outgoing ‘911’ calls connect directly to emergency services without local interference.
- Ensure that on-site personnel are notified that a ‘911’ call was made.
Why does this matter? It matters because countless Americans will finally have protection, confidence and necessary peace of mind that when a 9-1-1 call is made, there will be a first responder who will have the necessary information to reach the victim without the many issues raised by you, Mr. Oliver. It will mean that America’s network of phones, an invention created by Alexander Graham Bell in March 1876, who’s first call was actually an emergency call, when he called out to Watson after spilling acid on himself, will finally serve the interests of all Americans nationwide.
So what can Americans do? Call your Congressman NOW at (202) 225-3121 to express your support for H.R. 4167. Support for this initiative has never been so important.
Backstory: Zang Forget Me Not Service for Mother’s Day
On May 4, we announced the Zang Forget Me Not Service for Mother’s Day (press release, blog)—a free service through which people could schedule a voicemail to be delivered to their mother. Candidly, the idea was born out of a marketing meeting I, a PR manager at Avaya, attended on April 14 when thinking about what we could do to promote the simplicity, utility and virtually endless possibilities of Zang. And with Mother’s Day around the corner, the stars seemed to be aligning nicely to tie in the one day of the year that the most phone calls are made.
On April 20, I met with the head of Zang product management to run the idea by him. Much to my excitement, his response was, “Yes, that’s something that Zang can do.” Score! Now, it was just a matter of getting the project approved and resourced, which happened over the next few days. When everything was said and done, the development took all of two days, testing and UI “beautification” took another couple of days, and on Wednesday, May 4, the Zang Forget Me Not service was announced to the world.
With just 2 1/2 business days to promote the service, we hit our PR and social media goals and then some. Launching an internationally-available service during a time when several countries celebrated Mother’s Day was quite fortuitous (i.e.: U.S., Canada, India, China, Australia celebrated on May 8; Mexico celebrated on May 10). Interestingly, 55 % of the calls processed came from outside the U.S. –quite a revelation.
The Zang Forget Me Not service for Mother’s Day was a timely demonstration of the power and flexibility of Zang. The PR “stunt” provided a simple and easily understandable example for users to experience what all too often seem esoteric technical concepts. People, especially outsiders to our industry, struggle to understand what cloud, “as a Service” and other buzzwords really mean to their lives. With this easily applied concept, we brought home the realization that there are true productivity enhancing applications available to those who embrace new technologies.
Many of the questions and comments I’ve seen in response to the various blogs that featured Zang Forget Me Not are if we’ll make this available for Father’s Day? Stay tuned!
In the Digital Economy, the Human Touch Still Matters
According to Gartner, by year-end 2018, a customer digital assistant will recognize individuals by face and voice across channels and partners. Gartner predicts that the last mile for multichannel and exceptional customer experiences will mimic human conversations, with both listening and speaking, a sense of history, in-the-moment context, and the ability to respond, add to, and continue with a thought or purpose at multiple occasions and places over time.
The digital era has made it possible for many customer service functions to be automated, alluding to a possible future where customer service representatives could be replaced by robots. However, the human touch still has incredible value to the service experience. Customer service representatives (CSRs) have the deepest insight into customer likes and dislikes and are most likely the closest to the ground when it comes to customer sentiments—a variable that cannot be measured by robots. This is where companies need to move service reps from mere dispensing of services to customer engagement.
Today, communications must be centered on improving human connections, delighting customers, and energizing employees. This context-aware communication and collaboration is known as engagement—the active connection between team members and customers to the information, experts, and decision-makers they need to complete the task at hand. As the pace of business accelerates in the digital economy, employees need to have critical information at their fingertips at all times—making engagement experience more crucial than ever.
The true value of engagement is only realized when meaningful, communications-empowered connections among individuals, teams, contacts, and customers are formed. Supporting participation across time and space on any device, engagement will lead to better business outcomes; more productivity, loyalty, enthusiasm, customer satisfaction, and customer advocacy.
It’s no secret that loyal, returning customers have a higher customer lifetime value (CLV) than new ones. They spend more money and are more likely to recommend businesses to their friends and across social media. According to a SumAll survey, businesses with 40% repeat customers generated nearly 50% more revenue than similar businesses with only 10% percent repeat customers. And every time customers return, they become more valuable to the business.
Engaging Customers in the Digital Era
To drive engagement, businesses need simple, human-centric communication and collaboration built deep into business processes. Tight business application/process integration ensures customer data is always updated and CSRs have the latest knowledge about their customers—allowing businesses to provide more personalized customer service standards.
To truly empower the CSRs of the future, companies can, and need to, integrate all of their customer channels—web site, mobile apps, call centers, brick and mortar locations—to create a seamless experience, regardless of how the customer moves through the system. Whether the customers are on your web site, app, or service line, customers today expect brands to instantly recognize who they are, what they purchased, and where else they have engaged with the brand. An integrated service approach will not only eliminate time wasted gathering data you already have, it will also allow the rep to immediately focus on the customer’s needs, which directly impacts customer experience.
With Gartner predicting that 90% of companies will compete almost entirely on the basis of customer experience in 2016, there is no room for siloed business practices and protocols that get in the way of good customer service.
In a digital economy, human interactions will continue to play a crucial role in customer retention. CSRs need to be aided with the right tools and intelligence to deliver even more superior customer service that doesn’t just solve customer issues but also anticipates company needs to surge ahead of the competition.