The Digital Transformation Journey

An open, mobile platform environment and a cultural shift can help you deliver a seamless digital customer experience across every brand touchpoint.

Digital and mobile technologies have fundamentally changed how everyone does business. Whether it’s a Silicon Valley startup, a global manufacturing company or a local retail chain, thanks to the Internet and mobile devices, every company is becoming a technology company.

The expectations of customers have fundamentally changed. Customers today expect to engage with vendors and retail brands seamlessly across a variety of touchpoints, including social media, mobile applications, websites, traditional telephone, and face-to-face, on their terms. They expect that every touchpoint will be fully functional, whereby they can search for products, scan reviews, get support, provide feedback, and complete their purchase regardless of where they are in the buying process.

Few companies, however, have mastered the art of delivering this effortless and coherent customer experience across multiple channels. Indeed, a 2014 Economist Intelligence Unit survey shows that only about one-fifth of small-business leaders believe their company delivers a seamless omni-channel experience to their customers.

A 2015 report from Aberdeen shows that 96 percent of companies struggle to make effective use of customer data in their engagements. Digital transformation is complex, requiring massive change in underlying technology and business processes, along with a shift in corporate culture.

“A lot of people define the digital transformation as being about technology alone,” says Ray Wang, principal analyst at Constellation Research, a research and advisory firm focused on the transformative power of disruptive technology. “But what it is really about is the business model shift that allows you to change the way you engage with customers.”

Wang points to Uber as an excellent example. The peer-to-peer company changed the business model around ride services by integrating mobile apps, automated processes, and data analytics to more rapidly connect drivers with customers, track usage rates and align pricing with demand.

“They didn’t just add on a mobile tracker to schedule drivers more efficiently, they used a technology-enabled business model to disrupt the industry,” he says.

Of course, Uber had the benefit of starting fresh with no legacy systems, which gave them the opportunity to build an entirely cloud-based service leveraging customers’ mobile devices as their storefront. For companies with millions of dollars invested in legacy systems and those with rigid business processes, the transformation is a lot more complicated.

Open your minds

So, what do established companies using older technologies do to adapt? A good first step would be to deploy an open, mobile platform as a cloud service to help orchestrate existing on-premises systems and extend their services into a mobile paradigm.

One of the biggest challenges companies face in the digital transformation journey is that their data lives in multiple isolated systems that are not readily integrated. An open, mobile platform provides the freedom to develop orchestration across channels without worrying about integration issues, even if you are working with multiple vendors. As a result, data will become more easily accessible regardless of how it was collected and stored.

“The open-source model is the plumbing that enables the digital transformation,” says Jim Zemlin, director of the Linux Foundation, a nonprofit consortium supporting Linux developers and users. “It allows people to get the benefit of integrated capability faster and to connect all of your data sets underneath.” He encourages business leaders to look at modern computing architecture to determine how it can support the goal of transforming the business model and creating continuity across the user experience.

Another key component of that transformation is the integration of mobility into the customer experience. Mobile access has become the most important digital connection customers make with a brand as more of them do their brand assessment, shopping, purchase, and reviews via mobile devices.

According to a March 2014 Nielsen survey, more than 40 percent of consumers consider their mobile device to be the most important resource they have for making purchase decisions, with more than one-third of mobile shoppers turning to mobile exclusively.

That trend is only going to increase, according to Goldman Sachs, which estimates that m-commerce sales (sales made entirely via mobile devices) will hit $626 billion by 2018—roughly equivalent to all sales made via computer in 2013.

This should be a wake-up call for companies that have not yet invested the time or resources into building out their mobile customer experience. This includes apps that let customers engage with the brand, and mobile-enabled websites that make shopping a quick, easy, and branded experience. In addition, the customer experience becomes more contextual as companies can leverage information from the mobile device, such as securely identifying the customer and their location.

No more silos

In addition to investing in technology and open, mobile platforms, business leaders also need to address the cultural obstacles that stand in the way of digital transformation, says Alan Fuller, director of Full Works, a London-based cloud consultancy.

In most organizations, different departments “own” different customer touchpoints and the related data and are often unwilling to give up control.

“That is the fault of leadership,” Fuller says. Poor leaders enable guerilla IT–employees making rogue decisions about what technology to use and how to manage company data–and a corporate culture that supports secrecy and data ownership, rather than teamwork and shared goals. “You need enlightened leaders with a strategic vision if you are going to drive the culture change necessary to reinvent the way you do business.”

Fuller suggests building a road map for your digital transformation that includes where you are today, where you want to go and how aggressively you want to pursue getting there. Then identify which transitions are the highest priority to the business and what technology and process changes are necessary to make that happen. “Customer relationship management and social media monitoring are the obvious places to start,” he says, though he notes that every company is different.

Regardless of the projects you choose, be sure you understand the goals and who is responsible for implementing them, then set performance measures for success–e.g., improving customer engagement scores, lowering costs or increasing sales.

“You have to be able to measure the impact of the transformation to know whether it worked.”

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Finally… A Contact Center for the Digital Era

Imagine interacting with a company—any company—via your preferred method whenever you want, whether making a phone call, using online chat, sending an SMS, or messaging via Facebook. And, you end up having exactly the experience you were expecting. No not another bad experience. Rather an exceptionally pleasant and good experience, that surprisingly takes less time than you originally anticipated. Sounds too good to be true, doesn’t it?

The reality is that traditional business communications have failed to keep pace with consumer-focused technological devices. As a result, customers’ expectations—while very high—are rarely met when interacting with a business. Customers know what a good technology experience looks like, sounds like. The simplicity, built-in intelligence and sophistication of today’s devices and apps have taught customers that it’s not difficult to have a simple and tailored experience. It’s not difficult to teach a computer to know who you are, what you prefer, what you like to listen to, watch, read, how you like to interact. If it’s not difficult, then why are customer experiences with companies so predictably bad?

It’s time to break the mold. It’s time to start a new customer experience wave that makes customers happy about doing business with a company, excited that a company values their time and loyalty. Let’s give companies the freedom to be innovative, proactive, independent and capable of operating in real time to meet the demands and needs of their customers and agents without fail.

Unlike their traditional predecessors, today’s technological systems and capabilities have finally caught up with digital customer expectations. We have arrived at a point in time where the digital brain of a machine and the reasoning mind of a human are aligned closer than ever. Look at IBM Watson, Amazon Alexa.

Now, all that’s needed is similar thinking and innovation applied to business communications. What’s needed is the re-invention of the contact center for the digital era.

Enter Avaya Oceana™

Oceana is a departure from traditional business communications, just as the smart device was a departure from the basic, voice-only flip phone. This is a contact center for the digital era. Companies today don’t want to risk losing customers as a result of a bad experience. They can’t afford it. Companies want a single solution with best-in-class flexibility that gives them the ability to:

  • Drive adoption of self-service channels by seamlessly linking these into the contact center to deliver an omnichannel multi-touch experience.
  • Make agents more efficient and more effective by enabling them to handle multiple parallel interactions using an integrated multi-media desktop.
  • Reduce call times through utilizing contextual knowledge of prior and in-progress interactions to streamline customer interactions.
  • Drive higher customer satisfaction / NPS by tailoring the engagement experience to address their business’s unique/specific customer needs.
  • Rapidly optimize and continuously improve how they engage with their customers by leveraging their system’s flexibility, openness and integration capabilities.

In turn, customers get the experiences they know modern-day technology is capable of providing. The sophisticated yet simple and intelligent experiences they have grown accustomed to having with their smart devices, tablets, laptops, digital televisions and other smart appliances. This is Oceana.

Avaya Is the Innovative Leader for the Digital Era

When we made the decision and accepted the challenge to lead the industry in re-inventing the contact center, we did not enter into this without careful thought and consideration … of everything. Leaving no stone unturned, we diligently looked at what our customers and our competitors’ customers are working with today. We uncovered more cobbled together, Frankenstein-esque systems than I ever thought existed. The complexity of processes and user experiences that companies unintentionally created by not keeping up with technology upgrades was amazing. Holding on to these older technologies today when all of these digital capabilities are available is similar to keeping a shelf full of CDs for your music. Eventually you realize that making the choice to go digital can transform your world for the better.

What we also learned was that if we were going to re-invent the contact center for the digital era, we had to think differently because digital technology and digital customers require different thinking. We challenged each other daily to think differently. That’s been the biggest challenge all along for companies struggling through digital transformations. But as Avaya learned with our own transformation, once you make the hard decisions, start thinking differently and get to the other side of the transformation, a whole new world of opportunity becomes available to you.

As Oscar Goldman used to say during a time when human-to-machine technology was something only Hollywood could dream up, “Gentlemen, we can rebuild him. We have the technology.” The truth is we finally do have the technology. We can rebuild the contact center. This is no longer a futuristic endeavor, this is now. In fact, let me rephrase that: we have rebuilt the contact center.

This is Oceana. This is the contact center for the digital era. This is the start of something new, the start of something big.

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.

User-Defined Engagement is in Avaya’s DNA

User-defined engagement is our new mantra at Avaya. We dream it, innovate for it, develop it, live it. It is in our DNA. With more than 300,000 customers worldwide utilizing Avaya communications software, services and applications, we understand engagement better than most. We also know that in this new consumer-driven digital world, the customer should be the one to define their own digital experiences.

In this new Avaya video, I talk about what we mean by user-defined engagement and how we have transformed our portfolio to be able to innovate for today’s digital customer experience.

User-defined engagement is the new ideal for any software company to embrace. It’s about listening to the customer first, before we develop a solution. It’s a mind shift for any development organization, but an important shift to make. A one-size-fits-all approach with a few customizable pieces and parts is no longer acceptable. Customers are the users of the solution. They know better than anyone what problems the solution needs to solve.

At Avaya, we understand that “going digital” requires not only a commitment to user-defined engagement but also a commitment to an all-software development platform. Digital transformation requires us to continue to evolve and simplify our portfolio of solutions and services to prioritize the quality, speed, accuracy and security of every experience when engaging with or within an enterprise. We are seeing a melding of customer and team engagement solutions, which makes sense. After all, your employees might not all be your specific customers but they are someone’s customers. Likewise, many of your customers are likely someone else’s employees. Both groups expect to be able to use similar solutions that enable similar experiences with your enterprise.

With this commonality in mind, we are building all of our customer and team engagement solutions on the same platform, Avaya Breeze™. A middleware component, Breeze pulls together applications and acts as a developer platform for building new, turnkey applications. In fact, Breeze is our developer platform of choice inside Avaya. Everything we do for customer and team engagement applications and services is now based on Breeze, which brings me to the Avaya Oceana™ solution.

Finally, a true omnichannel customer experience solution for the digital age. Avaya Oceana is the only all-inclusive experience platform for today’s digital enterprise. Built with employees, agents, and customers in mind, Oceana represents the convergence of the contact center with the enterprise. With historical and real-time analytics, Oceana provides that full contextual experience across all channels, enabling the enterprise to be smarter, employees more productive, and customers simply happier.

Never before in the history of customer and team engagement has technology been so advanced, yet so simple to use. At Avaya, we like to say that we engineer out the complexity so the user experience is simple and intuitive. We are at a point when the enterprise and the contact center equally have the ability to exceed customer and employee expectations, while enabling new and innovative engagement opportunities for improved business outcomes. Oceana is the one solution that can make it all happen…easily.