Omni-channel, Schmomni-channel

The buzzword in Customer Service and Contact Centers over the past few years has been omni-channel. Omni-channel supposedly stands for a singular, high-quality personalized experience that a customer has with a brand that occurs regardless of where or what device the customer is using to get service. But in speaking with several industry analysts over the past week, we heard “omni-channel, schmomni-channel,” meaning the term isn’t as broadly understood as many would think. There is confusion and a very different definition by businesses around the world that use the term vs. how vendors use it!

Let’s think a little bit about the history of customer service. It started with phone calls. Then service evolved to “multi-channel,” which really ended up to be 1 or 2 channels, like email and chat, that a business would implement. These channels acted independently, and for 90% of businesses today, still do. The channels, organizations, and data are captured nicely and neatly, but IN SILOS! This is bad. Silos mean a disjointed experience for the customer, a critical asset to any company.

This reminds me of a personal experience I had with a financial services institution (not an Avaya customer by the way) after they changed a recurring payment without any notification, nor my approval. I only discovered what happened when I was notified of a late payment because the full amount had not been submitted. I called and they can’t tell me how or why this change was made because “only customer service, not billing, has access to that information.”

What I experienced happens all too often, and represents a major problem in customer service today. Customers have one experience on the web, a different one on the phone or in-person, and yet another on their mobile device. Ultimately this reflects poorly on the brand.

Almost every vendor of customer service technology has declared that their solution delivers an open, flexible, omni-channel experience, but in reality, it’s been a bit of a stretch. We haven’t connected all the piece parts to make it possible—all data sources (from all vendors) to one repository, in one view, with an agent and customer experience that provides the full perspective. Perhaps the obvious question is: why has it been a stretch? I think the answer has to do with square pegs and round holes.

So I hereby proclaim a better term: multi-touch, meaning multiple touch points. It’s a unified operation where data is shared, delivering a consistent brand experience across all touch points—phone, mobile web page, mobile app, desktop, social media, and in the branch. Multi-touch is all about differentiation in a highly competitive market.

Multi-touch also delivers a new frame of reference: for the customer, for the agent and for the business. But it’s a frame of reference that needs to build on our existing investments and knowledge—customers aren’t going to replace their devices, and businesses aren’t going to throw out their tested solutions. That means any solutions must be:

  • Bulletproof. Businesses will not put their critical customer contact capabilities in jeopardy—there is far too much at stake. So a multi-touch architecture needs to be proven reliable—if the foundation can’t handle voice at five 9s, the move to multi-touch is unlikely to be a smooth one.
  • Flexible. Multi-touch is a journey for most enterprises. They want to build, learn and grow, not take a swan dive off the high board. So a platform that allows migration at the enterprise’s pace with no disruption is essential.
  • Complete. Enterprises won’t turn to multi-touch on a dime, but they do need to know that they have a solution that will get them to the promised land: a solution that will truly change the way they offer customer service, not just at a surface level, but at a level that make that service a bona fide part of their brand.

Multi-touch delivers the same brand experience across all channels, consistently. A consistent experience is accomplished when different groups share information and data freely and in real time throughout the entire organization. It is no longer about taking information and building a routing rule, it is about taking the information and leveraging it to engage the best resources and up-to-date information to ensure the best customer experience—implement strategies not rules! In doing so, businesses are better able to adjust and make decisions faster, ultimately leading to a better customer experience.

At the upcoming IAUG, I’m excited about the announcements that will continue the conversation Avaya started at Enterprise Connect in March on how our solutions can help companies win the customer experience battle. I look forward to spending several days with our customers, listening to their needs, and getting their opinions on multi-touch solutions and the differences they can make for their businesses and the experiences they deliver to their customers.

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How Do You Create a Tech-Driven Guest Experience?

Hospitality, one of the world’s most prevalent and influential industries, is using tech-driven guest experiences to boost success. In addition to the usual business trips and family vacations, hotels are a staple for everything from weddings to global conferences to concerts and shows. At resorts, hotels, casinos and cruises, billions of people worldwide book reservations every year, each expecting a guest experience that goes above and beyond the norm.

Hospitality leaders are largely responsible for ensuring that experiences do in fact meet and exceed guest expectations. Nearly 90% of companies today compete solely on the basis of the customer experience, and that certainly includes hotel entities. The guest experience is everything—especially in a smart, digital world where consumers’ demand for speed, agility and quality are at an all-time high.

Guests are focusing less on room service and bell boys and more on 24×7 virtual concierges and personalized mobile travel guides, which proves that the tech-driven guest experience has arrived. In a recent Information Age article, Avaya UK Managing Director Steve Rafferty explores the transformative power of a mobile app for delivering a truly custom—even predictive—guest experience. In Rafferty’s much-needed discussion about the ever-evolving hospitality industry, he concludes that “technology, customized for the hospitality industry and backed by solid in-person service, can help hoteliers today to deliver the superior and personalized experiences their guests expect.”

This leaves just one question: how can hospitality leaders go about creating this tech-driven guest experience, specifically through infrastructure investments and/or upgrades?

Many organizations have proven that a next-gen guest experience is very possible to achieve. To better ensure guest safety, the Wynn Hotel in Las Vegas boasts video surveillance speeds that are up to 11 times faster than its competitors. The Rotana Group, an international hotel and entertainment chain, uses advanced contact center and IP solutions to enable secure and seamless communications across its properties worldwide, supporting a more 360-degree guest experience.

Three Ways to Create a Tech-Driven Guest Experience

So, as a leader or IT decision maker within the hospitality industry, how can you proactively address your guest’s needs with the right technology? Here are three significant ways a customer engagement platform can help drive the desired guest experience:

  1. Innovate at the first point of contact.

    There’s no denying that for most guests, the first point of contact is a hotel’s web site. A 2015 study conducted by Expedia found that consumers visit an average of 38 websites before booking a reservation. Overall, travelers tend to double the time they spend surfing the web the week before booking. Needless to say, there’s plenty of opportunity for hoteliers to elevate guests’ web experiences with the right technology.

    How? As opposed to offering guests a web form (or worse, a dreaded 800 number), you can offer guests live chat support via WebRTC. Of course, guests should also be able to easily escalate their live chat session to voice if needed—and from there to video chat or screen sharing for particularly complex reservations or issues. A customer engagement platform created on an open, extensible architecture lets you support this dynamic environment with the ability to create apps that customize and extend your call center. This can help you to create new points of differentiation, or change them as you see fit. So you can ensure a stellar guest experience from the first point of contact onward.

  2. Improve resource matching.

    Front desk workers must skillfully handle calls from families, school groups, business travelers, wedding planners, convention planners, language specialists, and more. With hotels becoming more dynamic by the minute, the need for improved resource matching is vital. This means ensuring callers can be quickly and intelligently routed to the right subject matter experts—regardless of where they reside within the organization—based on rich context, KPIs and organizational goals across all channels.

    An advanced customer engagement platform tracks guest conversations and consolidates customer data across all of these channels (i.e., web, mobile, contact center), creating a real-time data repository for hotel workers to track, collect and share relevant information across teams, processes and customer touch points. This ensures callers will always be paired with the best subject matter experts available. Additionally, this allows agents to focus on callers’ needs without having to ask for the same information multiple times (which, as we all know, is a huge customer frustration). Above all, the technology helps to deliver more consistent and meaningful experiences at the individual guest level.

  3. Enhance the mobile UX.

    Research shows that more than 75% of travelers consider their smartphones to be critical. Additionally, about 1 in 3 people use their smartphones more when they travel than they do at home. As Rafferty explained, mobility is a key way for hoteliers to capitalize on guests’ needs and deliver the experiences they’re looking for.

    There are many ways mobility can be strategically leveraged. For example:

    • Use Wi-Fi location services to recognize when guests arrive
    • Push notifications to alert guests of changes to their stays
    • Use mobile room key authentication, verses a swipe card, for added day-to-day convenience

Perhaps most importantly, hoteliers must offer guests a sophisticated and integrated mobile app experience. This experience should include such things as seamlessly integrated self service and callback options, something that a customer engagement platform easily supports.
Mobility is not only advantageous for usage with guests’ mobile phones—it also addresses a need for staff to be mobile. For example, as mentioned in the point above, callers must be routed to the right subject matter experts regardless of where they reside within the organization. Mobility helps ensure subject matter experts are accessible, wherever they happen to be located on the property, for handling both guest inquires as well as internal operations.

Technology is changing the hotel guest experience. There’s ample room for innovation within the industry, and there’s a way to efficiently, securely and flexibly enable guest experiences that continually exceed expectations. How does Avaya know for sure? Avaya supplied the technology that transformed the Wynn Hotel, the Rotana Group, and many other world-renowned hospitality organizations. A customer engagement platform built on open, extensible architecture gives you an open scope, meaning anything is possible in terms of the guest experiences you want to deliver.

Leveraging Big Data to Fine Tune Customer Experiences

Whether you realize it or not, big data is at the heart of practically everything we do today. Billboard companies, for example, are now leveraging eye tracking and traffic pattern analysis to gauge interest among drivers. Chances are one of those drivers owns a 4G-enabled vehicle that can track such things as performance and maintenance history. That person can also now record and analyze their utility usage via smart home solutions—anywhere, anytime. On a more critical level, doctors can now record and analyze patients’ heartbeats and breathing patterns to develop life-saving predictive algorithms.

In today’s smart, digital world, big data has opened the floodgates to never-before-seen possibilities. It has the power to course-correct potentially devastating outcomes, and it’s become a necessity for continually refining the customer experience. If you ask us, though, the best customer experiences today are supported by customer journey analytics.

The Need for Customer Journey Analytics

Customer journey analytics is a process that requires tracking and analyzing the way customers use a combination of available channels to interact with an organization. These channels range from human interaction (like speaking with a contact center agent) to fully automated interactions to assisted service (like live chat and co-browsing).

The need for customer journey analytics is simple: data solutions of the past simply won’t meet the next-generation customer needs of today and the future. Consider that just 10 years ago, channels like Web chat and social media were in their infancy (Facebook had only been around for two years). At the same time, the world’s first smartphone had only been on the market for one year. A lot has happened to transform the customer experience in a very short amount of time. As companies move forward in today’s age of rapid tech innovation, they must be armed with the right data strategy.

As mentioned, customers today use a vast number of channels and devices to interact with the brands they love. Each channel and device offers its own set of diverse scenarios for linking to other channels and devices, making no two customer experiences the same. Companies must be able to understand customers’ actions on any given channel or device in order to infer insights and create anticipatory engagement at the individual account level. For instance, why did one customer choose to purchase a product in a retail store verses online? Or, why did a customer end a live chat session before his or her inquiry was handled?

This level of understanding requires a comprehensive view of the data gathered from all channels and interactions that proceeded the moment in question. Customer journey analytics is a process designed to provide this comprehensive view and deliver deep benefits organization-wide—so much so that 60% of all large organizations are expected to develop customer journey mapping capabilities by 2018, according to Gartner.

Making Customer Journey Analytics Work for You

Companies need a data-driven customer approach to survive—and it needs to be effective to thrive. Many companies, however, struggle with taking their customer data and turning it into actionable results. In fact, a 2015 study conducted by PwC found that 43% of companies obtain little tangible benefit from their data, while 23% derive no benefit whatsoever.

To effectively apply your data, you must first determine what you wish to achieve with your data in the first place. In other words, what key objectives do you hope to achieve or improve upon by using big data (or specifically, customer journey analytics)?

Not sure? Here are four core initiatives to start you on a path to maximize your customer journey analysis efforts:

  1. Enable self-service.

    Self-service options—especially mobile—are rapidly increasing in popularity. Just consider that in 2015, Apple users downloaded over 51,000 mobile apps per minute. Also last year, 90% of customers used their smartphones in stores to make price comparisons, research specific products, and check online reviews.

    In today’s mobile-first world, businesses should leverage customer journey analytics to develop a sophisticated and integrated mobile experience—one that seamlessly integrates self service into their mobile app via visual, in-app self-service options. Conversely, this experience should offer customers callback options (either immediate or scheduled), as well as mobile chat (automated or agent-assisted) and video service. In addition to offering a stellar mobile UX, businesses should ensure backend capabilities that intelligently route customers to agents based on available context in order to drive relevant, meaningful interactions.

  2. Improve resource matching. We live in a world today where cars can park themselves and doctors can 3D print new organs, yet we still struggle with routing callers to the right subject matter experts. The time for next-generation routing is now, and it all starts with improved resource matching—specifically, attribute-based matching. This means matching customers with agents based on rich context, business KPIs, and organizational goals across all work items, channels, and resources to drive segmentation, increase prioritization, and determine the best course of action per customer.

    This also means choosing the right resources for each customer, regardless of where the resources reside within the organization. The right subject matter expert, for example, could be a contact center agent, a supervisor in your billing department, or your VP of sales. Customer journey analytics provides a 360-degree view of available resources organization-wide to support this level of attribute-based matching.

  3. Increase agent awareness. Not only is it important to collect the right information, but it must also be presented in a way that is visually understandable and easily accessible for agents. Imagine, for example, an agent being able to see where a customer has been on the company’s website over the last month, as well as that person’s live chat interactions last week. Imagine an agent being able to quickly see that a customer sent an email two days ago regarding a recent bill, or reached out via SMS because the company’s mobile app wasn’t working properly. Imagine if agents could gain this 360-degree, comprehensive view all in just one or two clicks of a mouse.

    Data is continuously generated in different ways, and is consumed by different people across different processes and applications. Having the right information at the right time empowers agents to focus on customers’ needs without having to ask for the same information multiple times (which, as we all know, is one of today’s greatest customer frustrations).

  4. Ensure continuous improvement.

    When it comes to big data, businesses can’t manage what they can’t measure. Therefore, it’s important that companies measure their data both in real-time and historically to help improve systems, processes, and applications over time. This is what will enable them to consistently deliver on key business objectives, operate within budget, and maximize every customer experience. Here are four key technologies for ensuring continuous improvement:

    • A data collector that can collect, standardize and normalize raw data across any data source so it can be used for enterprise-wide reporting and analytics.
    • A processing engine that can correlate, translate, calculate and publish normalized data into meaningful business measures.
    • A visual presentation platform that provides unified, real-time and historical reporting and analytics dashboards that can be used to visualize, analyze and explore key business measures.
    • Predictive analytics to discover new trends, apply changes based on insights, and continuously improve applications, workflows, self service and routing decisions.

So, how can you succeed with these four objectives to fine tune your customer experiences? That’s an entirely new discussion—however, we can tell you this: invest in a customer engagement platform that:

  • Provides a single view of customer interactions across all systems
  • Allows you to add data sources quickly
  • Can correlate data across both real-time and historical systems
  • Boasts an open and extensible reporting and analytics framework

Experience is everything. Learn How Avaya Oceana Works.

Quiz: Do You Know How to Choose the Right Support Services Provider?

All too often, we find that IT executives who are facing budget cuts buy unauthorized support services for their Avaya solutions. Doing so puts IT departments and their mission-critical networks at considerable risk. We’re raising awareness about the true value of having legitimate Avaya support services for your communications. We want to help IT managers learn that selecting the right support provider and service levels matters. Get started now by reading Support Services: Separating Fact from Fiction.

And take our True or False quiz:

  • All support service providers are the same.
  • Even if my current support option does not cover all, additional services can be bought for time and materials. It’s no big deal.
  • Third-Party Maintenance Providers (TPMs) can get access or entitlements to software patches, updates, or security advisories as needed.
  • My support services provider does not have automated diagnostics and auto-resolution capabilities. But, no worries. The team will still resolve my issues in a timely manner.
  • To keep costs down, TPMs rely on a network of vendors to support some sites.
  • I trust that my support provider is current with their manufacturer certification and methodologies. I don’t feel it’s necessary to periodically check.
  • Recovery capabilities from a catastrophic outage are offered by my provider. Protection for software or hardware not covered under contract might cost more, but it is a reasonable risk.
  • All equipment purchases, whether bought refurbished or slightly used, have worked out great so far. No complaints and we saved money.
  • I was notified about service support being discontinued with no “end of life” or “end of support” on any system, regardless of age. I did not have any other credible options.

Many IT managers operating in a harried world and reacting to the daily challenges of keeping their networks running at peak performance would undoubtedly answer “True” to at least one of the above. That’s where the problems start and re-evaluation is sorely needed.

It’s Time to Evaluate Your Options

As the end of the year approaches and budgets are being settled, now is the perfect time for many IT managers to take a second look to ensure that their systems remain at peak performance and to protect against unnecessary risks associated with unauthorized maintenance providers. Choosing the right support partner matters just as much as choosing the right products. Adjustments to meet growth will be needed. User needs will change. Disasters happen. How will you handle these challenges?

While selling support services, unauthorized maintenance providers are not certified, putting your network and systems at considerable risk and invalidating your warranties. To make the best choices, we suggest that Avaya customers consider the following key questions:

  • When did you last check to ensure that your services provider was current on training or certified on the products in your network?
  • Do you have access to Avaya support staff with technical expertise? Anytime, anyplace, from any device?
  • How often are you involved in resolving issues that your non-Avaya provider should be preventing or auto-resolving?
  • Do you have sufficient time to work on new projects or innovation?

All Services Are Not Equal

How much does downtime can an unplanned outage cost your company? On average, it’s $2700 per minute. Some TPMs state that their enhanced service level agreement is four hours to restore! The average cost of an hour of downtime is a staggering $163,674. Can you afford that?

It’s important to understand that unauthorized and third-party maintenance providers do NOT have access to time and material support, intellectual property, replacement parts, software patches, or certification. Unauthorized maintenance providers also do NOT have access to:

  • Avaya’s award-winning EXPERT SystemsSM automated diagnostic and proactive resolution platform
  • Avaya training for products, diagnostic tools and methodologies (e.g., EXPERT Systems, Avaya Knowledge Management, and Avaya SLA Mon™ technology)
  • Avaya Tier 3 support engineers
  • Avaya’s battle-tested Emergency Recovery team

What’s in Your Support Services?

Did you know that Avaya’s lifecycle policy is designed to protect our customers’ investments and support their mission-critical networks even after our products move from End of Manufacturer support? Did you know that Avaya now offers Remote Only Support (access to Intellectual Property and remote technical support through to Tier 3), and Indefinite Access (access to Intellectual Property)?

Because unauthorized maintenance providers claim to provide 20%-50% savings versus the standard for the same or better service, it is best to make an apples-to-apples comparison. The best support services companies offer world-class customer service, as demonstrated by Avaya’s third year in a row win of the NorthFace ScoreBoard Award, which is based on actual customer satisfaction scores.

Remote automated diagnostics and resolutions help repair potential problems quickly, saving time and reducing the risk of an outage. Focusing on proactive problem prevention, rapid issue resolution and continual solution optimization helps make effective use of time and communications resources in alignment with your organization’s strategic objectives.

Avaya support comes with the following benefits:

  • 73% more likely to avoid an outage
  • Auto-resolution of 93% of alarm-generated service requests without human intervention
  • Restoration of 90% of outages in less than two hours

So, as the end of year approaches, it’s time to look forward. Consider your best options to keep your systems running at their peak throughout 2017. And remember, the quality of the support you get matters…especially when you most need it.