Is There Any Life Left in the Office?

Is there any life left in the office?

No, I’m not talking about a scene from a zombie film, with mobs of mutant creatures shuffling past banks of empty desks on the hunt for smartly-dressed executives. Scrub that image from your mind: I’m talking instead about the future of the office—does a physical office make sense anymore, in a world where remote work keeps getting better?

There’s been much discussion of late around how “work is something we do, not somewhere we go.” Many companies, including some of the world’s hippest brands, have begun to follow this precept.

I do agree with them, up to a certain point: You should be able to work from anywhere — home, office, coffee shop, garden, pub. OK, maybe the pub is just wishful thinking, but I believe that pretty much wherever you choose to work from, you can be as engaged as you would be in the office.

That said, I do think physical offices will continue to exist. In fact, I would argue that not only is there life left in the office, but that the office itself will undergo a reincarnation.

Work in the Year 2000

If you’re curious about the workplace of the future, simply compare the way we work today with the way we worked just 15 years ago.

In the year 2000, work was very much tied to the physical office. Your work computer was likely a PC tower; you made work-related calls over a desk phone and could only access your work email at the office. For the average person, once they left work for the day, that was it. There was no easy mechanism to continue working at home.

Today, work and non-work are more fluid. Most of us carry smartphones 24/7, and can easy check and respond to work email at the tap of a button. Work-related voice calls and IMs are automatically routed to our smartphones. Laptop computers allow us to take our entire work environment home or on the road. Ubiquitous broadband connections mean we can connect to video conferences pretty much anywhere.

And yet, though controversial, I firmly believe physical offices will never disappear completely. Instead, in a world where work is no longer tied to a physical location, co-working with your colleagues will become a choice with its own distinct merits, rather than a requirement.

Smart Offices are the Foundation for the Future

Imagine that office of the near future — the impact of intelligent, communications-enabled systems on the office will be profound.

Imagine a workspace that’s aware of you as an individual, whether you’re an employee, partner, customer or supplier. Imagine an office that recognizes who is entering the building, what physical access they require, what devices they have with them, and what information they might need.

This office will alert you when someone who might be useful to a project you’re working on enters the building; and could even automatically set up a meeting with that person. Just think about what this could do for employee engagement!

The truth is, the Internet of Things and our move toward Smart Buildings and Smart Cities is already here.

Take, for example, our intelligent lighting solution. Avaya is collaborating with other companies on a solution that leverages Ethernet cabling, Power over Ethernet and LED to make lighting one of the many “things” on an Internet of Things-enabled network. Sensors in this solution detect occupancy and vacancy and determine areas that need more or less lighting for the optimum user experience.

Advancements like these, and others, will make the office a more efficient and attractive option for employers and employees of the future, and thereby a place they’re more likely to invest in and choose to work from.

Given that sophisticated communications-enabled technologies empower businesses to reap the benefits of more productive, collaborative environments, I would wager that we won’t be seeing empty offices (or zombie-ridden ones) anytime in the near, or distant, future.

Want more? Click here: “Nemertes and Avaya Webinar: Work from Anywhere – Really!

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Has WhatsApp Video Missed a Trick?

In today’s mobile-led world, there is no doubt that messaging apps are becoming the preferred means to communicate with friends, family, and even work colleagues. So the announcement that WhatsApp Video is here has been met with mass excitement.

But while the ability to have WhatsApp video conversations with family and friends is a huge benefit—there really is nothing like seeing your loved ones live—it’s not so clear what effect this is going to have on the business community. Is Facebook presenting an offer that businesses can’t refuse? The short answer is no.

WhatsApp users are surpassing the 1 billion mark, that’s almost 15% of the world’s population that businesses could target. Today, many businesses are integrating social media platforms into their customer experience and this trend will soon be the norm. Businesses are striving to deliver seamless, contextual and pleasurable experiences for their customers—based on their favorite apps.

Key to driving this trend is how open these social apps are and how easy it is for businesses and the developer community to integrate them. That means not only with other social platforms but also with business applications that enterprises use such as the contact center, CRM system, and many others.

While WhatsApp is still closed, the most highly-used social apps in Asia are taking a different approach. WeChat in China and LINE in Japan—which are used by another 15% of the global population—have taken the “open innovation” path, and delivered a platform upon which businesses and developers can innovate new solutions and applications, and integrate with other software vendors.

We at Avaya have long decided to take the “open innovation” approach, where we’ve not only opened up our tool box for our partners and customers to innovate on, but we also partnered with growing social media apps, including LINE and WeChat, to find new ways for businesses to integrate within these channels.

So a large BPO in Japan can offer a fully integrated customer experience solution that gives a true edge in customer engagement. Taking this a bit further, when social media apps are open, and present a platform for innovation, transforming experiences to include virtual assistance, automated chatbots, and artificial intelligence becomes easy and fast and the competitive landscape becomes more exciting, dynamic and relevant.

Whatsapp had announced their intention to integrate into enterprise in August of this year, but as yet has not progressed very far. On the other hand, sister app Facebook Messenger has taken a leap ahead by not only integrating into the enterprise, but providing Chatbot integration for customer services as well.

The question is when will Mark Zuckerberg actually merge the two applications together, bring the best of all worlds under one App, and provide a phenomenal customer Omni-Channel experience linked into AI tools such as Speechbots (like Amelia), chatbots, and business intelligence tools at the same time?

Mr Zuckerburg we are waiting!

Building Innovation on Customer Feedback

When Ford wanted to reintroduce the Fiesta brand in the U.S. for the first time in more than a decade, executives decided they needed to do something out of the ordinary to make it a success. The idea they hit upon was to give consumers the chance to be chosen as one of 100 digital influencers, allowing them to test-drive a new Fiesta for six months. The campaign, the Fiesta Movement, was a huge success, increasing awareness of the new vehicle—and giving Ford invaluable feedback from real users, literally the word on the street.

Here in the Middle East, the biggest event that brings together technology vendors, partners, and their all-important customers is GITEX Technology Week, happening in October in Dubai. While GITEX is a great opportunity for vendors, including Avaya, to showcase our newest, most exciting, most innovative products and solutions, it is also a pretty tough spotlight. With the great and the good of the regional ICT industry in attendance, there’s not a lot of point in showing up with your latest bright, shiny product if you haven’t already engaged with customers year round to make sure it meets a real need.

I’m proud to say that when Avaya attended GITEX in 2014, we came prepared with a solution that did just that. Our video teller machine (VTM) solution meant Avaya was the only technology vendor to demonstrate a real evolution in the market, taking the ATM into a branch-like environment. We did so because our customers had already told us that they wanted to grow their presence and reach without incurring huge costs, and while building on their existing customer engagement solutions and assets (the teller machines, the contact centers, relationship agents, and so on). We listened and built the solution for that. Today, leading organizations in the region are deploying teller machines that have transformed the way they do business and are enabling them to reach more of their customers than ever before.

We didn’t rest on our laurels—throughout 2015, we continued our conversations with customers, listening to their feedback, studying their most pressing needs, brainstorming solutions and offering advice on resolving real business issues. With this integrated approach to customer service, Avaya showed up at GITEX last year ready to demonstrate real-world use cases of our technology, inviting key customers on to our stand to showcase innovative solutions that create unique digital experiences for consumers.

So what are we bringing for 2016? While I’m not going to reveal specific details just yet I can promise that once again, we’ve listened to our customers, and we will be demonstrating solutions that are not only exciting, innovative and cutting-edge but meet real-world needs. The solutions we are going to showcase at GITEX will certainly have a wow factor but, more importantly, they will map to the changing needs of the most important asset any organization has: their customers.

With consumer behavior in a constant mode of change, businesses everywhere are playing catch up in defining and resolving those customer needs. While we cannot claim that we completely understand and can define behavioral changes in every industry, we can confidently claim that our relationship with our customers across industries enables us to define trends and needs, and consequently, bring relevant solutions to market every year. I look forward to showing you what we have been building for GITEX this year–the word on the street is it’s pretty good!

 

New Age, New Requirements, More Innovation: 3 Ways to Keep Up (Part 1)

When we talk about what has changed within the last 25 years in technology, communications and business, it feels only possible to scratch the surface.

25 years ago, the World Wide Web became publicly available. The first iPhone would be brought to market 16 years later, bringing to extinction dozens of devices that took decades to invent. If you really want to see the stark difference a quarter century can make, take a look at this Radio Shack ad from 1991: portable CD players, PCs, handheld cassette tape recorders … man, those were the days.

Today, we live in a new age filled with new business requirements—the greatest being to effectively keep up with today’s rapid pace of innovation. How rapid? The fact that it took 75 years for the telephone to reach 50 million users and Angry Birds just 35 days should say it all.

The bottom line is that today’s businesses are operating in a more complex and changing environment than ever before. People are interacting with one another in exciting new ways. New platforms are being created every day for customers to uniquely engage with the brands they love. Regardless of what industry you operate in, I can tell you right now that it has changed—and your company needs to substantially change if it wants to keep up.

So, where do you start? This series will explore three distinct ways that business is evolving in this new age of innovation and how leaders can stay ahead of the curve. Let’s start with what many businesses consider the beating heart of their CX strategy: the contact center.

The Call Center vs. The Contact Center

96% of businesses surveyed last year by Deloitte are expecting call center growth within the next two years in order to support new CX demands. At the same time, 85% view CX provided through the contact center as a competitive differentiator.

Customers today have greater autonomy and higher expectations than ever regarding their service experience. To keep up with these demands, we’ve been seeing call centers across the globe evolving into more comprehensive contact centers. The former depends on a single channel of communication to service customers: audio. In this environment, customers are required to dial an 800 number and navigate through an IVR. Usually they are transferred among multiple service reps and must repeat specific information or re-explain their inquiry or issue.

The latter offers customers a more 360-degree service approach, which promotes a multi-channel environment. In this environment, it’s not uncommon for a customer interaction to begin in one place and end in another. For example, a customer interaction may begin with a Web interface and elevate to live chat and then elevate to a live agent if the problem hasn’t been resolved. This can be taken even further by moving the interaction from a live agent to a co-browsing experience, where subject matter experts can show customers in a more interactive way how to handle problems or answer questions. Finally, this can elevate to a one- or two-way video conferencing experience, similar to what Amazon’s Kindle Fire “Mayday” button is intended for.

With the rapid adoption of advanced channels like video, chat and mobile, it’s not surprising that 72% of businesses plan to transform their call centers into new contact centers within the next two years.

The Key to Mastering New CX Demands

Leading technology will give you the contact center of your dreams, but the whistles and bells alone won’t get you anywhere. Winning companies understand the need to pair their technology with personal best practices in order to keep the customer experience contextual, relevant and consistent. In fact, 96% of business leaders believe that personalization is key for increasing revenue flow and improving long-term customer relationships.

So, what do we mean by “contextual information?” Imagine Rob has been visiting Tesla’s website contemplating investing in either a new Model S or Model X. In the past, he’s engaged in live chat (interacting with artificial intelligence) and has asked a few questions. Finally, he one day requests to be transferred to a live agent for further assistance.

At this stage, Tesla should have every piece of relevant, meaningful information about Rob in order to provide him with the most contextual and personalized experience possible. Once Rob is transferred the agent can say, “I noticed you’ve been hopping between the S and X models. Which one are you leaning towards?” If for any reason Rob needs to be transferred, the next agent he speaks with should pick up right where he and the last agent left off. This kind of engagement is game-changing.

There’s no doubt that contextual information combined with real-time analytics will drive the customer experience to new levels. Over the last 40 or 50 years, the market has evolved from basic call centers to multi-faceted contact centers that offer full transparency into customers’ preferences, behaviors and habits. Companies must embrace change within the contact center to ensure the heart of their CX strategy is pumping strong.

Coming up: Part 2 of this series explores the evolution of networking. Learn how business leaders can ensure their networking infrastructure—the backbone of their organization—stays up to par.