Social Media in 911 – This Ain't Your Daddy's PSAP

E911 is quickly evolving the model of the 911 center answering phone calls to a new multi-channel multi-media communications center environment. Both personnel, and processes will have to be modified and adapted to meet the challenging needs this new evolution in communications technology will bring forward at a rapid pace.

This past week, I sat down with Guy Clinch, Avaya’s advocate for government solutions. And we chatted about social media’s new role in Public Safety, and how governments will need to adapt to this changing landscape.

You can now LISTEN to the MP3 Audio version of this Podcast

userpic-31-36x36.png We were having a conversation the other day where you brought up some interesting observations about new technologies changing the way that government interface with citizens during emergencies. Will you recap some of those for our audience?

As in every industry it touches, digital technologies are changing how communications occur between citizens and their governments; day-to-day as well as during emergencies.
From air travel, to education, to retail sales, to the even digital conversions occurring in movie theaters, digital technologies fundamentally change the way information processing occurs.
The same will be true as Next Generation 9-1-1 introduces new forms of communications to the activities involved in emergency services.
As in these other industries, some of the changes are predictable and others not.
One area where we are already seeing an unexpected change is in the use of Social Media technologies by local governments.

What are some of the examples?

One way we see this is the rapid way in which local governments have embraced technologies like Facebook. The trend is so dramatic that a recent article in the online publication FutureGov asked, “Will Facebook profiles replace government web sites?”

FutureGov interviewed officials from Australia, Hong Kong, Malaysia and the Netherlands and the results indicated that government web sites could disappear into the ‘social cloud’.” The article asked, given the increasing desire of citizens to communicate through a social channel, “why bother having a web site at all?”
Recognizing how important this trend has become in the United States Facebook recently changed its standard user agreement as applied to state and local agencies.

I can see how this can apply to day-to-day interactions between government and citizens, but isn’t communication during emergencies a much different thing?

Absolutely, there is no question that when lives and property are on the line we need to be extremely careful.
But the fact is we have already seen cases all over the globe where citizens have used social networking to report emergencies.

As I mentioned above the impacts of social networking can be unexpected.
For instance I read in the December third edition of the Daily Press of Hampton Road Virginia, that, “two days before Hurricane Sandy brushed the Peninsula, the number of people who “liked” the Newport News Public School Facebook page grew by more than 800.” spokeswoman Michelle Price believes this increase was from people who wanted to stay on top of news about the storm.

We’ve known for quite some time how establishing a 3-1-1 system takes some of the burden away from the 9-1-1 system during mass emergencies. We’ve seen with Avaya customers including Miami-Dade County where in anticipation of Hurricane Andrew, the county effectively used their 3-1-1 center to proactively prepare the community.
Citizens contacted Miami-Dade 3-1-1 before the storm to learn where shelters were located, 3-1-1 was available during the storm for citizens to report less urgent emergencies and after the storm where to find things including fresh water and information such as how soon the power would return.

In the past many of these communications would have gone to 9-1-1, taking up resources that needed to be dedicated to more life threatening situations.

I imagine the county mangers also found benefit from the information generated …

Absolutely. By integrating the 3-1-1 system with Citizen Relationship Management, Workflow Optimization, Geographic Information Systems and other tools of government, Miami-Dade was able to have a comprehensive picture of how the storm had impacted the community.
This allowed county officials to react more effectively during the storm, expedite repairs after the storm and identify vulnerabilities that were subsequently addressed so the county is now better prepared for future events.

So this idea of breaking down silos between the worlds of emergency and less-urgent communications between government and citizens has a track record of proving value.

Yes and as we apply the multiplying force of digital technologies the synergies become even more dramatic.
It seems increasingly there’s an app for that. We’re seeing the development such things as CivicPlus’s Facebook and iPhone application, the Citizen Request Tracker application, OpenGovernment built SeeClickFix and home grown efforts including the highly successful, the City of Boston Citizens Connect application which I wrote about in a recent blog on
We’re seeing a dramatic trend towards breaking down more and more silos.

We can see the positive opportunities, but what about the challenges? For instance, don’t these new technologies also carry costs and the liabilities such as needing to adopt new skillsets?

That is all very true. There will be many challenges not the least of which is weeding through the chafe that comes with what will be massive volumes of new communications.

You and I have spoken many times about the concept of “Information Anarchy.” By that I mean the possibility that when so much information floods into government, especially in dramatic situations such as Hurricane Sandy, that it will be easy for government become overwhelmed.

The situation of T-M-I or too much information, is a real challenge.
For example, Google the exact term Hurricane Sandy and you will render more than 58 million entries.
During the event, Facebook saw a 21,962 percent increase in instances of the term “hurricane,” and Twitter registered over 400,000 mentions of “Sandy” in just one hour during the storm.
Equally eye opening, the Instagram tag #Sandy accumulated more than 484,600 photos, while the term #Frankenstorm garnered roughly 38,000.
6:49 Preceding the event cell phone carriers advised, “text don’t call once Hurricane Sandy hits,” because so much information was anticipated to flood public networks, they would be rendered ineffective.
So there is a critical need to apply new tools that will allow governments to manage through the deluge of information.

Especially to weed out what will be important and actionable …

Yes. We might think that we can follow the pattern of education programs that showed people how to dial 9-1-1 and in those communities where 3-1-1 exist, educating the difference between the two systems, but we know from vast that experience that people will be people.

Especially in time of crisis, we can’t expect everyone to act rationally and use one system for life threatening situation and another for less urgent. So new tools are required to avoid the anarchy of the information. The good news is that the foundations for such tools already exist.

At Avaya we are no strangers to these concepts. We have been dealing with these types of challenges throughout our history. Now allow me to be clear. I would never make the comparison between the lifesaving mission of the Public Safety Answering Point and the challenges faced by a commercial call center.

But that doesn’t mean there aren’t lesson to be learned from Avaya’s experiences serving those types of customers.
One of those fields of expertise is Avaya’s invention of multi-media in the contact center more than two decades ago.
Commercial organizations have been using Avaya technologies to process multiple mediums including text messaging, email, web services and other non-voice communications since the 1980s. So as multimedia becomes relevant to the PSAP, unlike many who have served only the traditionally insular world of 9-1-1, Avaya already has vast expertise over many years of experience.

I can see how that will be valuable, but I still feel uncomfortable comparing the mission of the 9-1-1 center to that of the commercial world.

Again, there is no comparison in the missions. Selling Duck Boots over the phone has no relevant comparisons to saving lives.

I’m just saying that lesson can be learned and technologies can be applied from the commercial world.
An example is volumes of communications.

Avaya technologies that provide errorless processing of hundreds of thousands of communications each hour by commercial customers on days such as Black Friday at Thanksgiving are relevant to the inevitable world that will be faced by government as NG9-1-1 becomes a reality.

Governments will need vendors who have seen the unexpected from the digital transformation in other industries and who have developed methodologies and skillsets to come up with solutions.

With Avaya you have a comprehensive package that includes a company who is providing critical communications in the majority of traditional 9-1-1 centers, as well as fail safe communications across the entire public safety communication chain of care.

This extends to Avaya customers in police, fire and emergency medical dispatch operations. Other examples include Healthcare and critical care institutions including Avaya providing mission critical communications to eight out of the top ten healthcare providers in the US.

As well Avaya has references for customers in emergency and non-emergency government communications from Miami-Dade, to New York City, to states, cities and towns across the country, to proving Avaya’s competence at sites of the management of dramatic emergencies including Galveston County Texas.
Avaya’s experts in critical communications are ready to help governments across the globe manage the challenges and opportunities that the digital revolution is bringing to government

Guy’s Podcast is Avaya Tech Talk and is available at
and you can follow him on Twitter @glinch

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Thanks for stopping by and reading the Avaya CONNECTED Blog on E9-1-1, I value your opinions, so please feel free to comment below or if you prefer, you can email me privately.

Public comments, suggestions, corrections and loose change is all graciously accepted 😉
Until next week. . . dial carefully.

Be sure to follow me on Twitter @Fletch911


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Winning the CX with Apps, Integrated Data Views, Custom Agent Desktops

An estimated $6 trillion in global revenue is up for grabs due to dissatisfied customers constantly switching providers, seeking a better customer experience—CX. From finance to retail to hospitality, it seems virtually every industry is grappling with above-average customer churn. Why? Technology has evolved to a point where there is now an inconceivable number of ways for customers to engage with brands, creating a communications environment that many companies simply aren’t set up to handle.

Think about it: if customers aren’t connecting with a brand using one of their three personal mobile devices, they’re leveraging a myriad of other channels and connected platforms to research, communicate and engage. Consider that 150 million emails and 2.4 million Google search queries were sent last year per minute. In that same 60 seconds, almost one million customers were logging into Facebook, and almost 350,000 new tweets were being posted. Over 50,000 apps were being downloaded per minute through the Apple App Store, and over 20 million messages were being sent via communication apps like WhatsApp.

If these statistics show us anything, it’s that experience is everything. The average consumer today uses a combination of the above channels to engage with his or her favorite brands. In fact, in 2014, over 40 % of customers were already using up to seven different service channels including live chat, email, social media, SMS and traditional phone.

The Entire Organization Contributes to the CX

In this next-generation communications environment, a series of unique interaction touch points are created to form a dynamic, inimitable customer journey, as Avaya’s Bernard Gutnick discusses in his blog “Customer Journey Maps Help Strengthen Relationships.” This journey extends across an entire organization, regardless of business line or function. It transcends the limitations of time and space. Conversations continue where they last left off and are routed to whoever is best fit to help, regardless of where that expert resides within the organization. As mentioned, however, many companies aren’t set up to handle this kind of environment from an architectural standpoint. Just consider companies in industries like government, where 71% of federal IT decision makers still use old operating systems to run important applications

Communications-Enabled Applications

To create this revolutionary environment, businesses must operate on open, agile infrastructure that enables them to build any communications-enabled application organization-wide. In today’s smart, digital world, companies need the speed and flexibility to design, build and run unique applications to meet constantly changing customer needs and business requirements. This open environment supports businesses with a contextual, 360-degree view of the customer journey—a view that seamlessly extends across all teams, processes and customer touch points to deliver unparalleled brand experiences.

These apps need to be easy for IT to create, deploy and manage, and they must be agile enough to serve multiple departments to improve ROI and TCO. Driven by the right tools and strategies, every employee must be empowered to do his or her job at maximum potential each day. As we’ve mentioned time and again, gaining a 360-degree view of the customer means serving both contact center and non-contact center environments within a company. This is exactly why best-in-class companies are 30% more likely to align their entire organization around the customer to ensure consistency and contextualization.

Integrated Data Views and Custom Agent Desktops

Here’s how this next-generation communications environment specifically works:

  • A full library of customer engagement capabilities for contact centers—plus team engagement APIs to build business apps for almost any computer environment (i.e., Mac, Windows, iOS, Android and Javascript)—enables businesses to continually reinvent the communications experience, thus reimagining CX possibilities and business outcomes. This is how any expert can be made available for any customer inquiry or issue regardless of their location within the organization.
  • Companies can build their own contact center apps, or embed specific functions into their existing apps, to customize the agent desktop for any unique customer configuration. This ability to instantly innovate customer communications enables organizations to anticipate and respond to the speed of the consumer. Keep in mind that virtually anyone should be able to oversee these customizations, be it the company’s development team, system integrators, or the provider’s professional services team.
  • To know where your customers want to go, you must first know where they’ve been. With CRM information directly integrated within its interface, a web-based application empowers agents with a single, integrated browser view. This enables employees to view all data—both historical and real-time—across every fathomable interaction channel. This means an agent seeing that a customer communicated with a chatbot twice over the last two days about a billing error, for example. Agents will never have to wonder what steps were taken prior to their interaction with a customer, and consumers will never have to repeat the same information or be transferred across multiple different agents. Also keep in mind that this move to a web-based application offers contact center operators more flexibility to leverage general purpose browsers on a range of computers such as Macs, PCs and Chromebooks. This not only eliminates the need to upgrade client apps, but allows companies to customize the layout of each contact center so that information matches the requirements of each individual operation.

As technology continually evolves, businesses will have no choice but to press forward if they wish to perform at the speed of the consumer. Experience is everything, and organizations need a new way to design, deliver and manage customer engagements. With customers now using more digital channels than ever to engage with the brands they love, it’s clear that customer-based business applications have won the war.

Interested in learning more or chatting about transforming your environment? We can help enable you to compete and win the hearts and minds of your employees and customers. Contact us. We’re here to help and would love to hear from you.

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.

Get out of the Queue: Drive Your CX with Attribute Matching

At this point, nearly every company is working overtime to realign around two simple words: customer experience (CX). So much so that nearly 90% of companies now compete solely on CX—a drastic increase from 36 % in 2010—and 50 % of consumer product investments are expected to be redirected to CX innovations—like attribute matching—by the end of this year.

But what exactly does the CX consist of, especially in today’s new world of digital business innovation? This next-generation CX is supported by several advanced technologies—big data analytics, omnichannel, automation—however, these investments are all aimed at driving one thing: contextualization.

The rise of contextualized service—the ability for companies to not only gain insightful information about their customers but also deliver information in a way that is relevant and meaningful to customers based on individual circumstances to improve their experience—has evolved the CX to a point where it looks virtually nothing like it did as recently as 10 years ago. Whereas consumers once primarily focused on the act of purchasing, driven by such things as product quality and price, they now focus on the richness of brand relationships, driven by the personal value that companies deliver throughout the customer journey. Just consider that 70% of buying experiences are now based on how customers feel they are being treated. This is the key factor that sets apart market leaders like Amazon, Trader Joe’s, and Apple from the competition.

According to Accenture, there is an estimated $6 trillion in global revenue up for grabs due to dissatisfied customers constantly switching providers. The ability for companies to offer contextualized service is vital for operating at the speed of the consumer and capturing more of this market share. There’s just one thing preventing companies from seizing this limitless potential: the traditional call queue.

Every customer is familiar with the call queue. This is the place where statements like, “Your call is important to us. Please continue to hold,” and “Let me transfer you to a specialized team who can help you with that” perpetually live. It’s where exhaustive efforts to route customers to the correct service rep become lost, or where consumers must repeat the same information to multiple agents across different teams. It’s the greatest barrier preventing companies from being more dynamically connected to their consumers, and one of the greatest reasons why customers reduce their commitment to a brand.

Driving Contextualization with Attribute Matching

In a world where customers demand a profound level of connection and transparency, organizations can no longer support a contact center environment in which calls are distributed among agents who are organized by function (i.e., sales, service, support). In today’s smart, digital world, companies must transform the traditional call center into an integrated, digital communications hub. This means moving away from a siloed, metric-driven queue and instead working to put customers in touch with the best organizational resource depending on their exact need or circumstance as immediately as possible. The most effective way to achieve this is to migrate from archaic infrastructure towards an integrated, agile, next-generation platform built on open communications architecture.

Open communications architecture allows organizations to seamlessly collect, track and share contextual data across various teams, processes, and customer touch points. This integrated environment supports a real-time data repository from which businesses can pull from to route customers based on needs beyond traditional characteristics (like language preference). Rather, the technology allows companies to build customized learning algorithms that drive anticipatory engagement, enabling them to match customers based on next-level variables like personality, emotion and relatability.

Imagine, for example, a hotel routing a customer directly to an IT staffer after seeing that the person tweeted about a poor in-room Wi-Fi connection. Imagine a bank being able to route a customer to a money management expert after seeing that the last five questions asked via live chat were about account spending. Imagine an athletic apparel company matching a customer with an agent who is an avid runner after noticing that the individual recently signed up for a 5K.

The future of the CX means creating and continually building a contextualized view of customers throughout their entire brand journey. It means going beyond customer service to establish unparalleled, organization-wide relationships. It means transforming peoples’ lives, verses simply answering questions. This is what companies must work to align themselves with. The good news is that technology has evolved to a point where they can now easily, effectively and cost-efficiently do so.

Interested in learning more or getting beyond the queue to Redefine Your Customer and Employee Experiences? Contact us. We’d love to hear from you.