WebRTC: Winning the Zero Moment of Truth

Most smartphone users check their phones 150 times a day. This behavior, as well as growing high-speed Internet penetration, have changed how consumers create shopping lists and purchase services.

The classic mental model for marketing considers three critical moments: stimulus (i.e. TV commercial), the first moment of truth (when the consumer is in front of the shelf), and the experience using the product or service.

Yet, today’s consumers know so much more before they reach the shelf. They can find incredible details online, make comparisons and purchase online. The process of browsing or digging, as well as the “explore and compare” stage has been defined by Google as the Zero Moment of Truth (ZMOT).

A study about ZMOT in Mexico–commissioned by Google in 2014 for products like appliances, traveling and banking services–revealed that 49% of consumers purchased their most recent airline ticket online and 41% of consumers who purchased offline have also made online purchases.

Some 25% of respondents argue that they did not purchase online because they required a salesperson’s assistance. It has been determined that additional value can be had by enabling real-time communications (voice and video) during that Zero Moment of Truth, generating real customer engagement. Customers can perceive additional value if the call also includes fluid context propagation from their Web session (name, customer ID, product(s) selected), preventing repeating all this information when the call is received by the agent.

This type of enhanced communication enables the utilization of previous customer navigation context to propose better offers tailored to the customer. The agent is transformed from being a customer service representative to a consulting salesperson who could handle customer objections and secure winning the Zero Moment of Truth.

There is an inversely proportional relationship between the effort required to establish the communication and the value perceived by the customer. Therefore, the goal of offering embedded real-time voice and video is that the customer is not required to install plugins, VPN clients or perform a setup to establish the video call, regardless of the endpoint device (PC, smartphone, or tablet).

For the company offering the product or service, it is critical to be able to route this call through the existing contact center infrastructure, reusing the current automatic call distribution systems, reporting platforms, call recording solutions, Workforce Management, and CRM desktop integrations.

Additionally, security is a big concern, since the contact is originated from the public Internet and attended by a customer service representative that is connected to a corporate network behind an enterprise firewall. New techniques and protocols are required to allow this real-time traffic to traverse firewalls according to the corporate security policies.

These types of communications are now possible as a result of the WebRTC (Web Real Time Communications) a specification evolution enabled by HTML5. WebRTC is not only a specification defined by the World Wide Web Consortium (W3C) and the Internet Engineering Task Force (IETF) but also an industry initiative sponsored by companies like Avaya and Google.

Avaya solutions enable customers to initiate free calls from their Web navigation session that are as simple as a click-to-call session. Enterprises could recognize additional benefit of reducing the use of 1-800 toll free services because the call uses the public Internet.

The solution–enabled by Avaya Engagement Development Platform and the Avaya WebRTC Snap-in–allows the user to translate this call to SIP to be routed to an Avaya Aura core, reusing existing contact center infrastructure and processes.

To further enhance the engagement, the Avaya Context Store Snap-in–an in-memory database–serves as a real-time repository for customer Web or mobile sessions and their successive interactions with customer service representatives. Avaya Context Store includes a secure REST API that allows other applications to be easily read or enrich the interaction context.

Context could persist in a traditional disk database to feed business intelligence applications and big data initiatives that exploit the data received by Context Store from the mobile or Web session and contact center interaction.

Last but not least, the latest version of the Avaya Session Border Controller includes the STUN/TURN protocols that enable the new NAT transversal techniques needed to support secure WebRTC communication.

WebRTC adoption is changing not only the customer experience but also the agent experience inside the contact center by enabling them to receive calls directly on their browser. That is the case of the Avaya Agent for Chrome solution, a combined effort between Avaya and Google to allow contact centers to rapidly deploy new agent positions where the agents will receive a call directly on their Chromebook using a WebRTC-enabled browser. This solution enables contact center operations to easily respond to unexpected traffic, seasonality, or home agents.

WebRTC is evolving quickly, which will enable innovative use cases to surface. At the same time, it is quite important to integrate WebRTC technologies with existing communication infrastructure. As evidenced by adapting to Voice-over-IP and SIP, Avaya has a proven track record with integrating new technologies into its existing infrastructure.

To learn more about WebRTC, Avaya Agent for Chrome and their powerful impact in your business, visit www.avaya.com.

Juan Pablo Gomez, Avaya

This article is a guest post from Juan Pablo Gomez, Consulting Systems Engineer at Avaya for the Caribbean and Latin America region. Juan Pablo has over 10 years of experience in design and contact center implementation. He has a Master’s Degree in Electronic Engineering and Telecommunications from the Los Andes University.

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3 Predictions about The Future of Customer Experience

Sometimes I know what the fictional Rip Van Winkle must have felt like when he woke up from his 20-year slumber. It seems like only yesterday that we in the communications world were marveling at the benefits of integrating voice and data. Now it’s all about the multi-touch customer experience and mobile everything. The speed at which communications in general—and customer engagement specifically—are advancing is nothing short of astonishing.

This prompted some thinking around what the next few years might bring. So we gathered insights from a variety of Avaya customers, visionaries within our own organization, and industry analysts to piece together a picture of what the future of customer experience will be in, for example, 2025. A few key themes emerged:

The nature of service will change. In the future, we won’t be talking about a device or media type. It will be all about what smarter consumers expect as outcomes—it starts with WHAT they want to do, followed by HOW they want to take action. It’s all about a customer being able to initiate contact in any number of ways and seamlessly move from one action to the next, in pursuit of resolution, knowing that a business will instantly know who they are, what they purchased (or anticipate what they want to purchase), what previous interactions they’ve had, what the outcomes of those interactions were, and then respond or, better yet, proactively address their needs. Everything is integrated at the point of interaction for the particular desired outcome at that moment.

And, it’s not just smarter consumers. Because the customer of tomorrow has done their own research, attempted to fix their own issues, etc. they require smarter, better equipped and, frankly, happier customer service agents and experts. To meet customers’ increasing expectations for fast, effortless and personal service, employees need to be empowered, be more knowledgeable, have the right tools, and—this is a bit subtler—better motivation. Increasingly, employees expect better work-life balance, more flexible scheduling, the latitude to work from home and the freedom to use their own devices. All of this—on both the consumer and agent side of the equation—means having seamless, adaptable, integrated, and responsive contact center infrastructure and applications. Organizations will be required to have an even smarter enterprise.

Extreme analytics will power customer experience. What is Extreme Analytics? It is analytics driven by context, supported by workflow automation, working with machine learning, and feeding artificial intelligence, just as a start. These are what will be needed to drive highly customized personal experiences. Natural language processing with analytics running in the background will make consumers feel that they are receiving a unique personalized experience, even though they may talk voice-to-voice or face-to-face with anyone from the company. No matter what means—digital or otherwise—the customer uses to initiate contact, the technology will be in place to translate, interpret, understand behaviors, anticipates needs, even if it’s a first contact between the customer and the business. If a customer chooses to visit a store or other location in person, there are still means by which—using GPS, geo-targeting, Internet of Things and other technologies—a highly personalized experience can be sculpted in real time. It will no longer be a digital interface alone. It will be about enabling interaction and personalization no matter where a customer wants to conduct business.

Loyalty is dead. As the post-digital world unfolds, the only loyalty customers will have is to whoever can make it easiest for them to do what they need to do. It will no longer be cognizant or mindful loyalty. Instead—whether it’s retail, banking, cab service, travel, prescription drugs, whatever—tomorrow’s consumers will certainly derive some level of comfort from knowing they’ve interacted with a business before, but that won’t be enough to keep them coming back. The next company that comes along and makes it faster, easier and (maybe, but maybe not) cheaper will get their business.

Here, extreme analytics come into play again. Driving in-the-moment loyalty will require customer segmentation that goes far beyond age groups and other demographics and customer profiles. It will include behavior analysis and an up-to-the-minute understanding of what a customer is doing (or anticipating next) so their experience can be personalized. It doesn’t matter that I fit into a certain age bracket or that I am a platinum customer of this financial institution or of that hotel chain. I have different “care abouts,” and a company needs to know those about me so they can create “anticipatory engagement.” The company anticipates what a customer will need, perhaps even from adjacent industry analysis, which drives knowledge of next best action, and drives proactive outreach—product and service offers that meet an expectation that is only now materializing.

Are these themes the things dreams are made of? Absolutely not. Consumer expectations are already headed in the direction suggested above, as are the technologies that are beginning to enable those capabilities. It’s only a matter of time, the future is now.

Curious to hear more about how we envision the Future of Customer Experience? How are customer expectations changing in your business? I’d love to hear from you.

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.

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.