Winning on the Customer Service Battleground

Think back to the last time you had a truly magical customer service experience. For me, it was a recent trip to an airport car rental desk. Two dozen people stood in line as three agents behind the desk worked as quickly as they could to get people into cars. I was convinced I’d be standing in that line for at least the next 30 minutes, when someone encouraged me to try a freestanding video kiosk off to the side.

Within 30 seconds, I was face-to-face with an agent working in a video-enabled contact center. She went over my options, displaying available car models on the screen. She scanned my driver’s license and had me sign the rental agreement electronically. In less than 5 minutes, I was heading to my rental car.

Customer expectations have never been higher, and for good reason—we carry powerful computers in our pockets that allow us to share photos and video, individually- or group-text our friends and colleagues, check email, book reservations, buy tickets, compare prices, read crowdsourced reviews and connect instantly in ways unimaginable 10 years ago.

The companies winning today lead with great customer service. Amazon.com, Costco, Nordstrom, Netflix and Apple are well-known for their obsession with personalized, seamless customer service, while certain retailers and cable companies, which will remain unnamed, are known for impersonal, slow, frustrating or high-pressure customer experiences.

It’s no surprise that 89 percent of companies plan to compete primarily on customer service by 2016. Avaya is uniquely positioned to help businesses tackle this challenge—the company has led the Gartner Magic Quadrant for contact center infrastructure for the last 15 years in a row, and its customer engagement software solutions are currently in use by more than 5 million customer service agents worldwide. Avaya solutions are found inside 95 percent of the Fortune 500, inside the world’s 10 largest airlines and 9 out of 10 of the world’s largest banks.

At Enterprise Connect this week, Avaya will unveil its latest set of solutions to help companies compete more effectively on the customer service battleground.

Notably, the Avaya’s two flagship enterprise communications products—Avaya Aura 7 and Avaya Contact Center Elite 7—are now available in a completely virtual, software-only option. Now, deploying the industry’s best communications infrastructure is easier than ever, particularly if your company is migrating to the public, private or hybrid cloud.

Avaya Breeze (formerly known as the Avaya Engagement Development Platform) is an open technology platform that simplifies development of mobile-first, multi-platform communication applications. For some companies, that means it’ll be easier than ever to pull customer context out of existing information silos for greater personalization. For others, that will mean embedding communication capabilities into existing mobile apps, websites or internal workflows. Unlike competing platforms, Avaya Breeze apps can be built in hours or days, rather than weeks or months.

The company today is launching the Avaya Snapp Store, the first ecommerce marketplace for business communications applications.

Customers, partners and developers can find, purchase and download Snap-Ins—easily consumed, pre-built connectors, purpose-built application or  code—made on Avaya Breeze. Third party developers can quickly create, upload and sell their own Snap-Ins from the store. A number of Snap-ins, from Avaya and third-party developers, will be free while others will be offered on a monthly subscription or perpetual use basis.

“Now, Avaya delivers on the promise of open, mobile engagement with a platform that allows companies to easily design and embed applications into workflows via a powerful, simplified, software-defined architecture and infrastructure for communications,” said Gary E. Barnett, Senior Vice President and General Manager of Engagement Solutions at Avaya. “This game-changing technology is built for digital business where companies need the flexibility, speed and the freedom to easily create unique value for their customers. Avaya Breeze liberates them from the confines of monolithic, vendor-locked platforms.”

Thousands of developers, partners and customers have already attended early Avaya Breeze bootcamps, to learn how to design, build and test Avaya Snap-ins. These bootcamps have regularly been oversubscribed. Recent examples of Snap-ins include:

  • A cloud-based knowledge management platform is using Avaya Breeze to push relevant content to a customer’s smartphone to help solve an issue or speed a transaction.
  • An SMS messaging platform is using Avaya Breeze to more easily add messaging to Avaya-powered contact centers.
  • A collaboration-focused startup is using Avaya Breeze to help companies keep track of the increasingly multi-platform customer journey. Contact center agents use the startup’s platform to easily pick up the conversation exactly where they left off.
  • A voice security startup is using Avaya Breeze to help authenticate customers on voice calls in a fluid and unobtrusive way.

Finally, Avaya PodFx (formerly known as Avaya Collaboration Pod) places the company’s most powerful products—business communications, video conferencing and customer service—into a single rack that can be rolled into a cloud services provider, or into a company’s individual, on-premises data center. Avaya PodFx was designed with remote management and troubleshooting capabilities at its core.

In the past, companies used to think of digital transformation as a choice—a set of internal initiatives to modernize their communications infrastructure or invest in mobile, for example. Digital transformation is no longer a choice—it’s a reality being driven by the market. Customers want better experiences with their favorite brands.

Some 90 percent of customers say they regularly switch devices during a transaction journey—often starting with online self-service before trying online chat, voice, text, email, mobile app, video or social media. Ideally, every customer wants a nearly instant, personalized solution.

Seven out of 10 customers expect to be able to engage with companies over mobile—either inside the company’s app, through a mobile-optimized website or text messaging. More than half of customers say a bad mobile experience means they’d be less likely to engage with a company again.

“The competitive battleground has shifted, requiring a new type of solution and means to respond to digital customer behavior,” Barnett said. Customer expectations today will not wait for old contact center technology to get its act together. Speed is the new currency for business transformation – businesses need to understand, predict and respond to customer needs … Avaya is the only company that can rapidly elevate the customer end game without the disruption typical of massive technical change.”

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Avaya Aura® Platform—The Original Pragmatic Hybrid Cloud

In a recent InfoWorld post David Linthicum wrote of “an organic movement driven by rank-and-file enterprise IT people who simply want to solve their issues using the best technology and approach.” Linthicum called this the “pragmatic hybrid cloud.” Reading this from the perspective of someone with decades of experience in the enterprise communications market, my immediate reactions was, “Aha, he’s talking about the Avaya Aura® Platform.” He isn’t, but here I’ll explain why this thought struck me.

Linthicum writes, “What this movement has discovered is that you can combine the public cloud and modernize some of your legacy systems to be more cloudlike.” That is exactly what Avaya customers have been achieving in an evolutionary process spanning almost two decades. Long before the term cloud came into vogue, Avaya customers have been able to gain the benefits of the cloud paradigm while avoiding the need to comprehensively lift workloads to a public cloud provider and the need to wholesale forklift and abandon existing investments.

Today, many Avaya customers—including a large swath of the globe’s most notable organizations in industries ranging from financial services, to healthcare, to government, and many small and medium businesses—process their mission-critical workloads using a combination of premise-based solutions and both public and private cloud-served applications. It is a “pragmatic hybrid” approach that since the mid-2000s has provided these Avaya customers with unparalleled reliability, cost savings, and business agility.

The Avaya Aura Platform is the reason why. Avaya Aura had its genesis in a time tested methodology for allowing geographically distributed organizations to link islands of resources to gain economies of scale. Back in the day, to create either a contact center that followed the sun or a single enterprise communications solution that served the needs of a worldwide workface, expensive dedicated circuits were required. As IP Telephony evolved, companies began to use packet-switched technologies to more cost-effectively link together distant resources into single holistic systems. Rather than centralized in isolated locations, communications applications could now be seamlessly and cost-effectively shared across distances. This made new ways to organize communication assets and the work that depended upon those resources possible.

Avaya’s great insight was to take advantage of the session initiation protocol (SIP). Over time Avaya’s customers have “pragmatically” converted the networking connections of their existing standalone investments to create fabrics of SIP internetworked appliances. The Avaya Aura® Session Manager lets companies treat their owned assets as part of a private cloud and combine those resources with public cloud capabilities both from Avaya and from a growing ecosystem of additional providers. It is a strategy that has resulted in significant cost savings while unleashing new innovation.

Today the Avaya Aura Platform has moved far beyond simply a “pragmatic hybrid” for sharing resources. It has become a strategic tool for many organizations. It gives companies a flexibility and agility to adapt and reconfigure at the speed of business. Avaya Aura has also opened the doors to both internal Avaya inventions and new external development.

Avaya Breeze™ Platform is but the latest application development platform that takes advantage of Avaya Aura. Avaya, Avaya’s customers, and an industry of third-party companies are leveraging Breeze with their own creativity for solving business problems. Breeze allows the creation of unique ways to leverage the inherent capabilities of Avaya products in combination with cloud and third-party capabilities. Whether those assets reside in a private data center, on premises-based servers, or in public clouds, because of the Avaya Aura Platform, the only barriers to progress are the limits of human ingenuity.

Linthicum concluded that, the “pragmatic approach is very sensible. It makes the most of what you have, reducing the need for new resources and letting you transition to the cloud at a pace you can handle, both in terms of cost and time.” Your Path, Your Pace, Your Choice, where have I heard that before? Avaya circa 2004 maybe? Nice to see the industry finally following Avaya’s lead.

 

Zang Serves Up a Special Delivery for Your Mom this Mother’s Day

Mother’s Day is the one day in the U.S. when the most phone calls are made. According to this cool Mother’s Day Facts site, 122 million calls are made to mothers on Mother’s Day in the United States alone. Considering there are only 85 million mothers in the U.S., Mom must be pretty busy taking calls from her multiple children, and Dad must be busy making reservations at the favorite family restaurant (Mother’s Day remains the top holiday for dining out).

To help make sure Mom gets that special call on Mother’s Day, Zang today announced a Zang-built service for those who 1) are multiple time zones away from mom (ie: military, working or studying abroad), 2) just want to send another thoughtful gift to Mom to let her know she’s loved, or 3) frankly, for those who have a track record for forgetting (you know who you are). With the Zang Forget Me Not service, anyone can record a voicemail for their mom before Mother’s Day, designate the date & time the voicemail should be sent, then receive a text confirming the voicemail was delivered. The new service was created using  cloud-based Zang Comms platform as a service, which allows anyone to create communication applications and services just like Forget Me Not.

How does it work, you ask? Simple. First go to www.zang.io/callmom and complete four short steps:

1)  Enter your telephone phone number
2)  Enter recipient’s telephone number
3)  Pick the time you would like the recording to be delivered
4)  Zang Forget Me Not service will then call your phone number for you to record, review and approve your message for delivery.

 

Go ahead—give it a try! It’s just one more surprise you can give Mom this Mother’s Day.

Next time you visit Dubai, take a public transport

With happiness being a key focus in Dubai, government agencies are looking towards contributing to the goal of raising the quality of life of customers and ensuring public happiness. These agencies are quickly realizing that the key to delivering a better and more personalized experience is technology. Using the latest services and solutions paves the way to guaranteed customer retention and loyalty.

One of the leading organizations in the area of customer care, winning multiple awards for its contact centre operations including a Hamdan bin Mohammed Smart Government Award, is the Roads & Transport Authority (RTA).

The RTA has a wide remit including Dubai’s Metro, public buses, private road vehicle registration, traffic management and more, so it has a diverse customer base negotiating Dubai’s busy transport system, with a volume of customer enquiries to match. It therefore comes as no surprise that the RTA is investing in multiple channels of communications with its customers, to improve standards of service, increase efficiency and gain valuable feedback from its user. It is also looking to technology to help improve the quality of interactions with clients and to improve overall levels of customer satisfaction and engagement. It has utilized a number of different solutions to increase its outreach to customers, and over time the focus of these efforts has evolved, to include voice communications, smart apps and multi-channel engagement.

From projects and operational perspective, RTA has a big focus on alternative smart channels. It offers 173 smart services under nine apps, that can help customers complete their transactions with a click of the finger through the automation of the main services the authority provides. It is dedicated to opening up more channels of communication, with an omni-channel strategy, that includes delivering services through channels such as self-service kiosks. At present the RTA has deployed around 16 kiosks, which offer smart services to users in RTA service centres, and in future it plans to have around 100 kiosks all over the city. The Authority has a well-established customer care line, which handles enquiries across the range of its activities, running on Avaya contact centre solutions. In 2015, the centre handled over 2.5 million calls, with over 80% of calls responded to in 20 seconds, and 90% of issues resolved in one call.

To make this possible, last year the contact centre underwent a major technology refresh, to put in place the latest generation of solutions. With Avaya Aura, RTA is now using the most recent software to increase the efficiency of the contact centre. With the aim to deliver the best possible interaction experience to transport customers, Avaya aligned with RTA’s Customer Resource Management strategy to consolidate channels and mediums into RTA’s first, best-in-class contact center to host multi-channel interactions. Among the capabilities that the new technology has enabled is an advanced Interactive Voice Response (IVR) system, which has helped to improve operations by automatically handling some of the more common customer enquiries. On New Year’s Eve the centre received some 12,000 calls, with the IVR handling one third of all enquiries.

The RTA is a pioneering example of how technology can make the difference in delivering quality to customers through the creation of a seamless and hassle free experience. As we share the RTA’s vision in excelling in customer experiences to achieve happiness, my advice to you is that, next time you visit Dubai, remember to take a  public transport.