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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Call it what you will: Multi-channel, Omnichannel—It isn’t about the Contact Center!

At this point, we know that most companies are competing exclusively on the customer experience (83%, according to Dimension Data). McKinsey Insights shows that effective customer journeys are impactful: increase revenue by up to 15%, boost customer satisfaction by up to 20%, and turn predictive insight into customers’ needs by up to 30%. The issue isn’t that companies fail to understand the importance of the customer experience (CX). The problem is that over half of companies today fail to grasp what is arguably the single most important driver of a successful CX strategy: organizational alignment.

This isn’t to say that companies aren’t taking the necessary steps to strengthen their CX strategies. Looking back five years ago, 92% of organizations were already working to integrate multiple interaction channels—call it multi-channel, omnichannel, digital transformation—to deliver more consistent, contextualized experiences. The needle is moving in the right direction. However, companies will find themselves in a stalemate if they limit the customer experience to the contact center.

Customer Experience is the Entire Brand Journey

That’s right, the customer experience is NOT about the contact center. In fact, it never was. The customer experience is instead about seamlessly supporting consumers across their entire brand journey regardless of where, when, how and with whom it happens. This means supporting not just one business area (i.e., the contact center), but the entire organization as one living, breathing entity. This means supporting not just one single interaction, but the entire experience a customer has with a company from start to—well, forever. After all, the customer journey never truly ends.

Are companies ready for this future of the customer experience? Perhaps not: 52% of companies currently don’t share customer intelligence outside of the contact center, according to Deloitte.

Executives are planning for not only contact channels to expand but most are expecting these interaction journeys to grow in complexity. It’s clear that a contact-center-only structure doesn’t cut it anymore. At today’s rate of growth and change, it’s easy to see how a CX strategy can miss the mark when the entire customer journey is being limited to the contact center. Imagine how much stronger a company would perform if it supported the customer experience as the natural enterprise-wide journey it is? A journey where interactions take place across multiple channels and devices, unfolding across multiple key areas of business (i.e., sales, HR, billing, marketing)?

Imagine, for instance, a hospital immediately routing an outpatient to the travel nurse who cared for him last week, although she is now on the road to her next location. Imagine a bank being able to automatically route a customer to a money management expert after seeing that the last five questions asked via live chat were about account spending. Imagine a salesperson knowing that a customer attended a webinar last week on a new product launch and had submitted three questions—all before picking up the phone. Imagine a retail store associate knowing you walked in and that you were searching online for formal attire.

Contextual Awareness is Critical

Today’s CX strategy is no longer about asking the right questions: it’s about having the right information at the right time to drive anticipatory engagement. It’s no longer about being able to resolve a customer issue quickly. It’s about building an authentic, organization-wide relationship based on contextual awareness. In short, this means companies being able to openly track, measure, and share customer data across all teams, processes, and customer touch points. This ability either makes or breaks the CX today.

So, are you near the breaking point? Consider that nearly 40% of executives say their agents’ top frustration is that they can’t access all of the information they need. Less than 25% of contact centers today enjoy full collaboration on process design with their entire enterprise. Connected customer journeys and the overall CX are now top areas of focus as most organizations support up to nine channel options. CX will encounter a dramatic shift of reimagined customer engagements that will be able to incorporate technologies such as artificial intelligence, IoT, analytics, and augmented reality and virtual reality.

The bottom line is this: organizations must support an enterprise-wide customer journey to support the future of the CX now! They must share contextual data inside and outside of the contact center, and they need seamless and immediate access to that data anytime, anywhere, under any given circumstance. Above all, organizations need the right architectural foundation to support this anytime, anywhere ecosystem—otherwise, even their best moves will always result in a draw.

2017 Avaya Customer Innovation Awards Honor Five Companies Leading the Way in Digital Transformation

Every year, Avaya and IAUG recognize a handful of customers who are innovators. These customers are recognized with Customer Innovation Awards. Last year’s award winners included a number of technology firms. This year’s five award winners, recognized on stage at Avaya Engage in Las Vegas, include three customers in the financial services sector, a leading global retailer, and a leader in the film production industry.

Each of these customers is benefiting from the latest Avaya solutions to meet business goals—whether the goals are growth, customer experience, cost management, or risk mitigation.

BECU

BECU, which began life 80 years ago as the Boeing Employee Credit Union, today is the fourth largest credit union in the US, with over $12 billion in assets and over a million credit union members. In 2016, BECU embarked on a digital transformation journey focused on the customer experience. BECU relies on Avaya Elite Multichannel running on an Avaya Pod Fx™ infrastructure.

BECU engineer Rick Webb says, “BECU is rapidly expanding and needed a technology partner that could support that expansion and keep our members happy. The Avaya Elite Multichannel infrastructure does just that, while providing increased flexibility and allowing BECU to better meet the expectations of our more than 1 million members.”

Green Shield Canada (GSC)

Green Shield Canada (GSC) is a one of the leading health and dental benefit carriers in Canada, with over 850 employees across seven locations. Starting last year, GSC is deploying the Avaya Equinox™ Experience and seeing strong results. Competing with larger players in its industry, GSC sees strong collaboration among its workforce as a key ingredient for success.

Jim Mastronardi, GSC Director for Enterprise Infrastructure says, “Green Shield Canada has over 850 employees across seven offices in Canada—from Montreal to Vancouver. We saw an opportunity to explore technology upgrades that would enhance company-wide communications and bring our teams across Canada closer together. With just a single training session, employees have hit the ground running with the Avaya Equinox tools. The video conferencing option has provided a solution to overbooked meeting rooms, and the instant messaging feature is already cutting down on the number of emails being sent.”

Scotiabank

Scotiabank prides itself on “being a technology company providing financial services.” As a long-time Avaya customer—and a beta customer for Avaya Oceana™ and Avaya Oceanalytics™—Scotiabank is on a digital transformation journey to better serve bank customers worldwide. Scotiabank contact centers located in Canada and the Caribbean & Latin America region have benefited from a next-gen centralized architecture leveraging the latest Avaya solutions to better serve customers.

Scotiabank has already developed and deployed Avaya Oceana and Avaya Breeze™ apps, and continues to innovate in an ongoing drive to improve customer service and meet customer needs in a competitive market. The success of Scotiabank’s transformation program has enabled the bank to move with greater agility, improved reliability, and speed to market. This has changed the framework for deployment from months/years to days/weeks while improving the overall ROI/TCO.

The Crossing Studios

The Crossing Studios is one of Vancouver’s largest and fastest growing full-service studios and production facilities for film. The firm caters to companies like Fox, Nickelodeon, Showtime, and Netflix. The Crossing Studios were unhappy with the stability and quality of the disparate systems previously in place across their seven studio locations. In 2016, The Crossing Studios deployed a Powered by Avaya IP Office solution offered by local provider Unity Connected Solutions.

Powered by Avaya IP Office has improved stability, reduced TCO and provided the advanced features that the business needs to serve a very demanding film industry client base, including high scale audio conferencing, extensive web collaboration, and rich multi-vendor HD video conferencing. CTO Mark Herrman says, “We needed something that would support our rapid growth, support our clients, and support our bottom line. Thanks to IP Office and the hosted cloud model, we’re able to keep pace with dynamic, fast-moving film productions, staying as flexible as our clients need us to be.” Estimated savings are in the six figures for the first year alone.

Walgreens

Walgreens is using custom Avaya Snap-ins to bring centralized contact center reporting capabilities to local branch sites, for compliance purposes and to help improve the overall customer experience. Avaya Professional Services were instrumental with the deployment, which relies on an Avaya Pod Fx infrastructure.

These companies are each leaders in their respective industries. As part of their digital transformation journeys, they recognize that when it comes to selecting a trusted technology advisor, “experience is everything.” #ExperienceAvaya.

My Thank You Note for the Best Christmas Gift of All

Every Christmas is special. But this Christmas was even more special, thanks to my experience with children young and old who eagerly awaited the arrival of Santa Claus and called the “NORAD Tracks Santa” hotline for info. The hotline has been following Santa’s December 24 travels and answering calls for 61 years—there’s a great story about how it all got started.

The NORAD—North American Aerospace Defense Command—Operations Center at Peterson Air Force Base in Colorado Springs, Colorado is a long-time client of Avaya Government Solutions. This year, NORAD invited Avaya employees to join its team of 1,500 hotline volunteers. I stepped right up.

Mike RundaThe hotline is part of a highly-sophisticated program to make certain Santa makes a successful journey. NORAD experts carefully monitor his travels and ensure his safety using radar, satellites, jets, and Santa Cams positioned in strategic locations worldwide. As a result, NORAD Tracks Santa volunteers have an insider’s view of Santa’s progress to share as he soars through the night sky.

Calls fielded by the hotline staff have grown steadily to an estimated 691,000 since Christmas 2009. In 2015, calls from all over the globe during a single 23-hour period set a new record of 141,000 calls, topping the 2014 record of 134,970.

To prepare for this year’s calls, about ten minutes ahead of shift we volunteers got a great training booklet, with a page full of how to start and end the conversations, and five pages of facts about Santa (weighs 290 at takeoff, 1,490 pounds when he lands due to intake of cookies around the globe).

Armed with the training booklet, lots of coffee and donuts, all donning Avaya red Santa hats and sweatshirts, the Avaya volunteers were ready to answer pressing calls coming from the U.S. and Canada, as well as Europe and South America. The call volume was intense. There was zero break between hanging up on one call and getting beeped to take the next. It’s all made possible by Avaya Customer Engagement technology, the leading contact center solution in the market (shameless company plug!).

Most of the questions were about when Santa would arrive in their towns, where was he now (we had a live radar board in each room showing what city he was over at that moment, great graphic display!). Most kids were surprised that they actually got to talk to a live person! The parents loved it when I would tell the kids that Santa could only drop off presents after everyone in the house was asleep. And I kept pushing to make sure they left food for the hungry reindeer pulling the sleigh (reindeer love carrots!).

Then there were the special calls that took my breath away.

  • There was one from a young man with autism. His mom stayed on the phone to help translate what he wanted to tell Santa he wanted for Christmas.
  • Another came from a young girl who said she hoped that I would get what I wanted for Christmas from Santa.
  • And finally a call from a much older woman (who I believe might have had a learning difference) telling me the three gifts she hoped that Santa would get her from the local Walmart—though she said she doubted that he would stop by tonight. So deeply touching. I wish I could have gotten her address and given her those simple gifts.

Sigh…a very moving experience, in many ways.

Offered a chance by NORAD, I would definitely volunteer again. The military on the base were extremely polite and so happy to see so many volunteers helping to cheer up someone’s Christmas, both young and old. I felt like I walked away having been the one blessed by all the smiles and laughs that were shared by the NORAD teams and all the folks on the calls. So thank you for what was perhaps the best Christmas gift of all.