Agents Anywhere: Avaya and Google Collaboration Brings New Flexibility to the Contact Center
Every day, hundreds of thousands of customer service agents get in their cars and drive to one of the estimated 66,000 contact centers in America.
For years, the contact center was largely a static entity—as an agent, you took calls at your desk, which were routed through expensive, physical hardware located onsite. Contact centers required significant investments in people, resources, hardware and software. Adding new agents took days, and opening up new contact centers took months.
The words “flexibility” and “contact centers” didn’t often appear in the same sentence.
Today, Avaya and Google are proud to announce Avaya Agent for Chrome, a Chromebook application designed for flexible contact centers.
How it Works
Avaya Agent for Chrome is a WebRTC-enabled interface that allows customer service agents to access Avaya’s leading contact center agent desktop through Chrome devices.
There’s no native software to download. Getting a new agent provisioned takes minutes, not days. The application connects to Avaya systems securely–either on premise or in the cloud–meaning customer service agents don’t have to physically sit in the same building anymore, nor do they have to install applications on home computers when working remotely.
Read: MeadWestvaco executive Barry Toole describes his experience with Avaya Agent for Chrome on the Google for Work blog.
Conceivably, a company using Avaya Agent for Chrome could mail a preconfigured Chromebook to a new contact center agent working anywhere in the world, and have that person taking calls later that day.
Avaya Agent for Chrome is currently available in three major configurations:
- For customer service agents working in a contact center, with an Avaya phone
- For customer service agents working remotely, using their own landline phone
- For customer service agents working remotely who want to take calls directly through their Chromebook
All three configurations are effortlessly interchangeable.
For example, a company might deploy Chromebooks to everyone working in a physical contact center, where customer service agents take calls using Avaya phones. An agent could take their Chromebook home, where they’d make Internet-enabled calls through the computer itself. If their Internet connection got slow, or otherwise unreliable, they could switch over to taking calls using their landline at home.
With agents moving effortlessly between locations, customer information follows. Contextual data—the customer’s name, account information and previous history—gets pushed to the agent through either a dedicated app, or Web browser window. Intelligent routing and other call controls are handled by Avaya hardware sitting in the middle, either on premise, or in the cloud.
These benefits are made possible because Open APIs and new, flexible programming kits—such as the Avaya Engagement Development Platform—make it easier to offer contextual data to customer service agents working remotely. Companies can roll out these new, open, flexible solutions without giving up important tools like call recording and analysis, performance metrics and automated alerts.
Agents Anywhere Engage Better
Flexible contact centers make good business sense. If a physical contact center goes down due to a natural disaster or storm, customer service agents can get back up-and-running from home.
Until now, flexibility in the contact center meant either sending agents home with laptops that replicated the enterprise IT environment in the home, or asking agents to install enterprise software on home computers.
Agents accessed the enterprise by using a combination of VPN access and special software. When issues arose, companies had to remotely troubleshoot VPN- or home computer problems on the fly.
It is difficult to establish enterprise-level controls over the types of software the employees could download and install on at-home systems, while providing agents with corporate-owned laptops can be expensive. Worse, laptops used at home return to the contact center riddled with viruses, adding cost and complexity to the equation.
In our minds, that’s one of the Chromebook’s most compelling enterprise differentiators—low cost, ease of management, all inside a secure environment.
Google’s Chrome Management Console allows IT departments to remotely set rules on which apps employees can download onto the computer.
With Avaya Agent for Chrome, there’s no native application software to download, no VPN exposure, and strict IT controls designed to improve enterprise security.
We’re excited about this collaboration with Google, not only for what it represents technically—Avaya’s first entirely virtual solution for the contact center—but for what it means for our customers: Flexible, extensible and manageable remote contact centers.
The Future of Intelligent Headsets: Avaya, Plantronics Expand Strategic Partnership
In the age of the Internet of Things (IOT), it’s all about intelligence: smartphones, smart watches … and, thanks to Avaya and Plantronics, smarter headsets.
The companies recently announced a co-development initiative that will accelerate intelligent interoperability. Though the pair has worked together for more than two decades, with this expanded, strategic partnership, they’ll focus on: 1) tightening integration between Plantronics headsets and Avaya software and apps, and 2) improving contextual intelligence to drive value for the customer.
The goal is simple: address the growing need for simplified communications in contact center and unified communications environments. Here’s how they’ll do it.
It Just Works
The first part of the equation is what Chris Brady, Plantronics’ senior director of strategic alliances, calls the “table stakes.”
When customers plug in Plantronics headsets, they expect them to work seamlessly and simply with Avaya technology. This partnership is a commitment to meeting and exceeding customers’ expectations for solutions that just work.
In a way, the announcement formalizes something Avaya and Plantronics have worked on since the start. The companies have collaborated to create compatible products for decades now. Historically, this started out as interoperability between Avaya desk phones and Plantronics headsets, then soft clients and headsets, and, now, web-based applications and headsets are at the forefront.
Case-in-point: one of the projects under their expanded partnership will ensure integration between select Plantronics headsets and Avaya’s Chrome-based contact center apps, including Avaya Agent for Chrome and Customer Engagement OnAvaya™ –Google Cloud Platform.
The most exciting part of the companies’ formal commitment to compatibility and integration is what it will enable … Avaya and Plantronics are teaming up to create another layer of contact center and unified communications intelligence, one in which new features and functionalities drive customer value. Brady hints at “unique, exciting and compelling things to come.”
In short, smart headsets are about to get even smarter.
Cue Contextual Intelligence
According to a 2014 market report from Futuresource Consulting, the global headphones market is rapidly increasing, and not expected to peak until 2017. This has a particularly significant impact on the enterprise.
“There’s a growing opportunity for businesses to leverage contextual intelligence in the enterprise,” Brady explained.
He points to a recent collaboration with Avaya – the Seamless Transfer Snap-In, part of the Avaya Engagement Assistant.
The solution combines Plantronics’ on-board sensor technology with the Avaya Engagement Development Platform middleware. Plantronics’ sensors can detect the headphones’ “wear state” and tell whether or not a user is wearing the headset and near a connected device. Combined with Avaya apps, this technology opens up “new avenues for workplace efficiency and streamlined workflows,” Brady noted.
Imagine driving into work, using your Plantronics headset for an audio conference. Then, once you’re at your workstation, the headset recognizes your proximity to your PC and automatically transfers the mobile audio call to a full video conference on your PC.
“We’re looking at technology that will provide richer, deeper value to the contact center too, capabilities that will allow for both real-time action and collectable analytics,” Brady added.
And this is just the beginning.
The New Era of Engagement – A Day in Life of an Online Shopper
At the recent Avaya Engages Silicon Valley event, Avaya announced a number of initiatives, including our new engagement strategy, and technologies such as Avaya Engagement Development Platform and Avaya Agent for Chrome.
I would like to share with you the story line for one of the demonstrations featured during the event, the Day in the Life of the Online Shopper. Following the demo, we received a lot of positive feedback on social media, since it featured many of the technologies announced at the event.
Imagine you are a shopper looking for a pair of bootcut jeans. If you had questions about the pants, you could go to the store and have an associate answer your questions, measure and fit you, and complete the transaction.
Now imagine taking that same scenario online. Retailers interested in replicating the high-touch customer experience equip their associates with video so they can help customers through the computer, answering your questions, sharing their screen and helping you complete your purchase.
That exact scenario can now be accomplished with Avaya Engagement Development Platform Snap-Ins like WebRTC, Work Assignment, Context Store, Real-Time Speech Analytics, and the new Avaya Agent for Chrome.
To see this solution in action, please contact your local Avaya representative to arrange a personal demo.
For a deeper dive into the Avaya Engagement Development Platform, read Mark Fletcher’s interview with Gary Barnett, Senior Vice President and General Manager of Engagement Solutions at Avaya.
Avaya + Google: The Who, How, and What of an Exciting Alliance
Yep, that’s right, two of the best, bringing you the best. Here’s the scoop on who, how and what:
Who. You may not have heard yet about the collaboration just announced between Avaya and Google, but it’s pretty big news for organizations using or considering Avaya Call Center solutions. We are jointly developing solutions to make technology adoption simple, to help you meet your business objectives for customer experience improvement and enhanced contact center efficiency, and to support top-line business growth initiatives.
How. We’re linking Avaya Aura® Call Center Elite with Chromebooks. This creates a potent combination of Avaya expertise in customer engagement and Google’s leadership in Web applications and simple, fast and secure device messaging, such as through Chrome devices. The result – Avaya Agent for Chrome – provides important contact center management efficiencies and fast, cost-effective access to a full suite of technologies needed for real-time customer response.
What. Avaya Agent for Chrome is a Chrome application that enables contact center agents to access Avaya Aura Call Center Elite from a Chromebook to manage voice calls. They can do it from anywhere, even without a desk phone. The Chrome application enables call handling and voice communication via WebRTC over a Chromebook with a headset, or calls can be sent to a landline or mobile device. Should the quality of a VoIP call degrade, the agent can manually switch the voice path to a landline or mobile connection. And, yes, of course you can screen pop valuable customer information for improved customer engagement and experience.
And it’s simple! Avaya Agent for Chrome eliminates the need to download a native client to individual agent endpoints. It can be deployed to address a variety of requirements such as seasonal capacity, mobility and technology refresh.
The Avaya Agent for Chrome solution is a fresh example of the Avaya and Google drive to lead the way in communications and collaboration for the 21st century. What impact could our solution have on your contact center? Let me hear from you.