6 Developing Communications Services Trends to Watch in 2015

Is it 2015 already?? It is, if you are an IT manager in the final stages of budgeting and allocating. With a new year comes a new opportunity to begin again.

As always, we strive to help our clients begin again and plan ahead. We do this by anticipating what trends will soon be on the proverbial radar of our clients and the vendors that serve them.

In 2008, we decided to go one step further by convening a panel of experts, known by many as the “Avaya 5.” This year, our “Avaya 5” includes:

  • Mike Runda, senior vice president and president, Avaya Client Services. Mike oversees revenue, regional execution and global offers for Avaya’s holistic suite of support and managed services.
  • Linda Hartig, vice president, Avaya Global Support Services. Linda manages delivery operations on a global basis for Avaya Client Services.
  • Jenna Stanley, vice president, Avaya Cloud Services. Jenna leads the managed and hosted service delivery practice for Avaya Public and Private Cloud solutions.
  • Richard English, director, Avaya Strategic Consulting. Richard leads the company’s North American consulting teams, which deliver full lifecycle consulting engagements for global enterprise clients.
  • Stéphane Lamarre, senior director, Avaya SME Segment Marketing. Stéphane helps serve the needs of midmarket businesses — companies with between 200 and 2,000 employees.

The following is a summary of the Avaya six trends for 2015, identified by our panel and featured in our white paper, “Communications Services Trends for 2015 — Transformation Takes Hold.”

#6: The high-accountability support model emerges.

Individual support personnel will retain ownership of the customer experience and use techniques such as collaboration and “swarming” to break down the barriers of the traditional “tiered” support organization. This approach will drive a better experience for customers and ultimately make for more efficient resource utilization in support organizations.

#5: Support services transparency: Customers like what they see.

Mobility will be a growing factor, contributing to more seamless and transparent interactions that give customers instant access to rich information about their relationship with your company, your company’s products and services, and support tools and status.

#4: Social media and crowdsourcing: Are you really engaging your customers?

It will be imperative to bridge the gap between simply monitoring social platforms for conversations about your company and doing something about them — i.e., capturing, routing and responding to those conversations within your contact center and/or broader enterprise, as well as encouraging customer-employee interaction through crowdsourcing, which is often carried out in private forums.

#3: As omnichannel support matures, Web chat plays a pivotal role.

Even as video gains momentum as a high-touch channel (see Trend #2), companies will continue to use Web chat as the relatively low-expense way to initiate the customer experience from a website, to triage that experience, and to direct customers to the appropriate support channel and other support resources and tools.

#2: Video support reaches an inflection point — if you snooze, you lose.

At the end of 2013, Amazon.com became the first company to offer one-way video customer support. In 2014, Avaya became the first company to offer both one-way and two-way video support options for customer engagement. Now companies in many industry verticals are adopting—or at least piloting—some form of video. Businesses that haven’t begun to make the move to video will be challenged to catch up with their competitors.

#1: The cloud takes shape.

The market is about five calendar quarters into an eight-quarter transformation from a mindset that favored on-premise, owned equipment, to one where executives think of cloud solutions first as they consider new and upgraded communications capabilities. The hosted cloud solution will need to drive a differentiated support services experience in which users can click from within the application to get timely help.

So, what do you think? Let the debate begin… and welcome, 2015!

What trends will you be watching in 2015?

What trends did we miss?

Follow me on Twitter: @Pat_Patterson_V

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Drinking our own Champagne!

Thumbnail image for mrunda champagne.jpg

Here at Avaya we create some darn good solutions if I do say so myself, so I refuse to use that old “eating our own dog food” term which, by the way, originated based on a reference by Shakespeare back in the day. Personally, dog food isn’t how I see our solutions, so I officially hereby steal the “Drinking our own Champagne” term from one of my colleagues here at Avaya. He will remain anonymous at this time, but I invite him to contribute a blog at any time to tell everyone about drinking our own champagne! This week, however, I have decided that it’s a fine time to talk about how we here at Avaya are using our own solutions, or, drinking our own champagne. Allow me to introduce Mike Runda, our SVP and President of Avaya Client Services, who has driven a major transformation within our Global Support Services organization over the last year. Let’s hear what he has to say:

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The Transformation of Avaya Customer Service:

In Avaya Client Services, we are constantly looking for new ways to improve our ability to delight our customers, provide faster and better service, engage and challenge our employees and deliver business results. I’m happy to say that we’ve made some significant strides in all those metrics over the past year. It’s not necessarily simple to do, but I do believe that the principles are repeatable and I wanted to share the steps that moved the needle for our organization in a meaningful way.

There are a lot of small steps that lead you to a world-class, highly effective contact center operation – steps that enable you to improve both customer and employee satisfaction, while driving up efficiency and reducing operating costs significantly. By building a knowledge-centered support system, using new processes, aligning rewards to key metrics and your vision statement, and implementing automation tools now available in our next generation Avaya Contact Center solutions, the Avaya Client Services division has improved our Net Promoter Score by 38%, employee satisfaction by 12% and Time to Resolve by 17%. We’ve also reduced our backlog and costs by 56% and 27% respectively. All of these enabled a significant improvement in margin.

Sounds pretty terrific, right? Here’s what worked for us:

Work on new problems only: Start with your employees: develop a VISION where they work primarily on new customer problems rather than just repeating known solutions to customer inquiries over and over again. This transformation in vision invigorates your employee base to learn new troubleshooting skills, to look proactively at customer installations and configurations, to collaborate with teammates to solve complex issues, and to learn your service offerings and products at a deeper level. All of these contribute to a highly motivated customer support team.

Publish solutions: With your employees working on only new issues, you need to capture and PUBLISH immediately after generating and testing the solution to both your internal and external customers. Reward your agents based on the quality and ease of use of the solution…not just on how many articles they publish. This greatly improves the customer’s ability to get at known solutions rapidly and easily.

    Focus on EASE of engagement:

  • Conversational Automated Chat agents – here at Avaya, we have deployed a web-based conversational chat agent, Avaya Automated Chat, that actively converses with customers, and leverages an internal knowledge base to find known answers to their inquires using all the solutions the agents are generating and publishing each day.
  • Smooth hand offs and multiple customer options – if the automated chat agent, whom we call Ava, cannot find a known solution, she offers to have the correct agent (knowledge of product, industry, and customer) work on this potentially new problem. At the same time, the agent is delivered all the relevant information that has been captured about the customer environment, system, issue, and any other pertinent background customer information. The customer can then opt for any of the following:
    1. Chat with a live agent (while our automated agent stays on the line to whisper advice directly to the agent for effective troubleshooting and potential solutions),
    2. Speak with an agent (via our own web-based VoIP technology, “web talk”). In this case we also use our own Avaya Speech Analytics tools to ensure agent compliance and rapidly improve customer experience. Live Video with an agent (via Avaya’s web video technology), either one-way or two-way, without having to download any additional software on the customer’s device.
    3. Call back allows the customer to request a call back at a specific time to continue the troubleshooting process.
  • Secure connections and proactive monitoring: A key to resolving new issues faster, we have established real time connections to the customer’s systems for troubleshooting, event tracking, logging, etc. via our Secure Access Link (SAL) software. Our new Avaya Diagnostic Server software (via SAL) also provides real time network insights to our customers to help keep their networks running at peak efficiency and enable our support engineers to diagnose and resolve customer issues faster when they do occur.
  • Web support: We have recently invested heavily into the web as well, embedding easy to use buttons throughout our web site to enable faster customer service:

  • Total System Outage button: press for immediate routing to our Emergency Response team for system outages
  • Escalation button: to rapidly escalate service requests to the correct team management for resolution.
  • Web Talk / Web Video buttons: To speak directly with the correct agent that will be able to resolve the issue quickly.

    How’s it done? At the same time, our serviceability engineers and contact center agents have created almost 1,000 ‘how to’ videos that have received 280,000 views from customers and partners. Our support website (in addition to our YouTube channel) provides users an easy way to find these videos as they search for solutions. Customers can watch our experts go thru the steps needed to perform many of the common install, setup, configuration, and usage tasks common to using our products. Read Carl Knerr’s blog on how we built this video knowledgebase.

    Having a new vision of the work we do by enabling new processes and technology to provide customers with solutions in the manner in which they most want to receive them, as well as providing proactive monitoring tools and videos, has proven to be a game changer for the quality of support that Avaya Client Services provides our customers!

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    To close, I would like to thank Mike Runda for his contribution to this blog and his significant contribution to our business. If you would like to ask any questions feel free to post them here.

    And, come see both of us and many other Avaya executives and subject matter experts at our annual user group event, IAUG CONVERGE2013, next week in Orlando. You can meet Mike who will be presenting with our CEO Kevin Kennedy on the main stage, and I will be presenting “Evolution to Next Generation Customer Experience Management” Thursday June 6 at 8:30am. Hope to see you there!!

    With that… Cheers! (What’s in your champagne glass?)