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?

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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.

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What are some of the examples?

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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.

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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?

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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.

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

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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.

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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.

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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 Avaya.com
We’re seeing a dramatic trend towards breaking down more and more silos.

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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?

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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.

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Especially to weed out what will be important and actionable …

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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.

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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.

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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 http://AvayaTechTalk.com
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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5 Ways to Become an Omnichannel Customer Experience Pro

Consider how much has changed over the last decade in terms of technology and the customer experience (CX). About 10 years ago, the first iPhone would be hitting the U.S. market soon. Social media platforms like Snapchat and Instagram wouldn’t be released until three or four years later. At the time, sophisticated interaction channels like social media, web chat and presence were available to enhance the CX. But, for the most part, businesses weren’t adopting them. And the concept of a platform that seamlessly integrated various channels and devices to deliver consistent, contextual, end-to-end experiences? Not so much.

Looking ahead, one can only imagine how technology will further drive the CX. Gartner’s Chief of Research, Daryl Plummer, seems to have an idea. By 2021, he predicts that:

  • 1 million consumers will be shopping in virtual reality
  • 30% of web browsing sessions will be done without a screen
  • 20% of all activities will involve at least one digital giant (i.e., Apple, Google, Facebook)

Companies are now competing in an era of endless customer touchpoints and possibilities. They’re tasked with matching today’s rapid pace of innovation and also constantly anticipating customers’ evolving needs. This has made the concept of an omnichannel customer experience integral for success. Research shows, however, that companies across the board are still struggling to get omnichannel right. A 2017 study of the retail industry, for example, found that 44% of companies struggle to provide a seamless, omnichannel customer experience. In industries like finance and utilities, this number can be as high as 90%.

At this point, organizations surely know that competitiveness and revenue are driven by an unparalleled omnichannel strategy. So why do we continue to see brands fraught with indecision? Why are so many still challenged in this area? It’s clear that one question remains: what does an effective omnichannel strategy really look like? The way we see it, and the data supports it, there are five ways companies can become omnichannel pros to deliver extraordinary customer experiences:

  1. Create a corporate culture: Arguably, successful transformation goes beyond technology. It is the enterprise’s approach to customer service, a customer culture so to speak. One that begins with understanding the customer journey and that ends with everyone across the business having a priority of exceeding expectations at every point on that journey. A strong corporate culture must be an organizational commitment from the top down.
  2. Eliminate channel silos: 60% of channels today are managed in silos, and nearly 40% of companies have no consistency in how their channels are configured. Most companies believe silo elimination is too difficult to accomplish, yet are still heavily investing in digital communication tools that require complete integration to deliver optimal value. It’s easy to see the problem here.
  3. Integrate systems and processes: The customer relationship is shaped by experiences across all lines of business. Therefore companies need a single view of the customer across all contact points, events, interactions and timelines. Currently, only 42% of companies share customer data organization-wide, and only 38% have integrated disparate systems. While contact center transformation is a must, an omnichannel customer experience should go beyond this one line of business. Consider, for instance, how various back-office applications can be leveraged to deliver truly personalized interactions.
  4. Move at customer speed: 30% of companies admit their service functions don’t meet user needs. Just how many are offering interaction channels that satisfy the needs of their target audience? Better yet, how many can easily and quickly build custom communication apps that meet exact customer needs and continually improve outcomes? When building an omnichannel strategy, application development is just as important as application integration. And customer behaviors change as quickly as a new social media app can emerge.
  5. Take action on data analytics: By “data analytics,” we mean customer journey analytics: data collected across all lines of business to support a powerful, real-time visualization of the customer journey. Almost 60% of companies agree that analytics improves the customer journey, yet 64% have no big data analysis capability that combines data from all knowledge sources (from across the entire enterprise, not just inside the contact center). Customer journey analytics enables organizations to quickly locate and alleviate problem hotspots that impact the CX (something that only 24% of companies today can do) and empowers them with an inherent understanding of how customers are using a combination of channels.

Ten years ago, the concept of an open, integrated, future-proof platform—one that was inherently secure and built to support customers’ continually evolving needs—was nearly inconceivable. Today, this kind of platform is a necessity thanks to technologies like IoT, AI and automation. These technologies have thrust enterprises into a smart, digital world of seemingly limitless CX capabilities … one that’s just getting started.

So, how will your organization measure up 10 years from now? Your level of success will be largely determined by your omnichannel abilities, starting with the contact center. To keep up and stay ahead, check out our conversation with Nancy Jamison Frost & Sullivan Principal Analyst and a new whitepaper “Are You Enabling Extraordinary Customer Journeys?” Take your Contact Center to the Next Level. We’d love to hear what you think.

Be Ready! Six Steps to Take Before a Natural Disaster Hits Your Communications

In what’s shaping up to be an unprecedented hurricane season for the U.S., Avaya wants to ensure that we all review our plans to keep communication systems running at peak performance and stabilized when disaster strikes. Keeping communication systems running often includes a great partner with a deep bench of experts who have experience in many complex situations. Particularly invaluable are battle-tested IT experts who can help rebuild and stabilize communications when disaster strikes. Avaya can engage in a proactive support dialogue to help you avoid complexity from the outset.

Before the Storm

Hurricanes like Harvey and Irma can be catastrophic to businesses. In 2012, Superstorm Sandy caused $65 billion in damage in the U.S., making it the second-costliest weather disaster in American history behind only Hurricane Katrina, according to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA). During the storm, 8,204,220 Americans and thousands of businesses lost power.

No matter the weather (and because the average cost of downtime is $2,700 per minute), it is best to avoid outages by knowing what is most likely to cause communication system outages. According to the research report The Essential Guide to Avoiding Networking Outages, power outages are the leading cause of communications outages. This white paper features an analysis of the top five causes of outages with the percentage of those outages that could potentially have been prevented had leading practices been followed. The top five causes of outages are:

  • Power outages – 74%
  • Lack of routine maintenance – 73%
  • Software bug – 69%
  • Hardware failure – 39%
  • Network issue – 35%

The analysis shows that outages can be avoided by using industry-leading outage prevention practices. Leveraging resources now and on an ongoing basis to determine if facilities can meet power demands and ward off problems is essential. Also, make sure to:

  • Schedule maintenance of systems to avoid what is the high percentage of remediable outages (73%) attributed to poor maintenance and underutilized upkeep.
  • Watch for telltale signs from equipment that a problem is approaching. Proactive health checks, disciplined system monitoring, and observed maintenance schedules can aid in hearing the signal, helping improve the reliability of communications assets.
  • Upgrade equipment approaching end of manufacturing support (EoMS), avoiding the fallout from the over-sweating of assets.
  • Verify system redundancy, system health checks, and failover strategies for critical systems.
  • Patch whenever possible to eliminate software bugs or software-related outages. Some choose to let others occupy the upgrade frontlines and endure potential rollout hiccups, then follow along at a safe interval. This strategy breaks down disastrously when an organization suffers an outage that would have been avoided with a fix that it voluntarily chose to postpone.
  • Draw a network diagram to isolate an outage, speed resolution by illustrating the relationships among pieces of equipment, and isolate that outage!

As a hurricane or other natural disaster approaches, try not to depend on local team members who could be facing challenges of their own at home. Instead, move team members to locations where they can work with clients. When assembling a team, pull from across the organization and leverage readouts at defined intervals.

Pre-Event Checklist

Follow these six steps to prepare before a hurricane—or other disasters—strike:

  1. Save translations before an emergency event impacts the site. This will help ensure that recent changes are not lost and speed restoration in the advent of damage to the system.
  2. Review safety procedures with all employees prior to the emergency event, if possible, and make certain to have an updated contact list to keep in touch.
  3. Secure back-up media so that translations won’t be lost or damaged, thereby delaying restoration of your service. Take a copy of back-ups and any other information off site.
  4. Print and store a current list configuration of key solutions. If a new system is necessary, this simple precaution will save time in starting the process.
  5. Consider powering your system down before the emergency event impacts the site. Electrical power surges both before and after an emergency event can pose the greatest threat to your system.
  6. Contemplate moving switch/applications if the site is located in an area that may be exposed to damage from the emergency.

Taking the above actions can limit risk and help ensure your communications systems make it through a challenging, tough time. Learn more at our Help Center. And if you do have an outage on your Avaya equipment, report it at Support.Avaya.com. Or call 800-242-2121.

In Digital Transformation, Initial Business Discovery is Key

We’ve all heard the saying: “If a tree falls in a forest and no one is around to hear it, does it make a sound?” Well, we’d like to put a new-age spin on this: “If an organization implements a digital transformation plan without a strategic plan, does it have an impact?”

The answer: No.

Here’s why this is so concerning: nearly 80% of businesses identified digital transformation as their top strategic priority last year, yet only a fraction have implemented an enterprise-wide digital strategy. Nearly half of CIOs plan to spend 50% or more of their time in digital activities by 2021, yet only 5% feel they’ve mastered digital to a point of competitive differentiation.

It is clear that businesses understand the importance of digital transformation, yet they’re struggling to go from vision to execution. They’re challenged with evolving from legacy hardware to a services-based ecosystem that supports digital drivers like cloud, mobile, big data analytics, and social.

In our experience, the reason for this is because an initial business discovery process was not sufficiently performed to put a strategic execution roadmap in place. Perhaps customer-specific strategies were not as well-defined as intended, or there was a misalignment between business outcomes and technology implementation. Digitization consists of many moving parts, technology, people, processes, etc., making it all too easy for companies to get stuck or lost in the process.

The Impact of Doing Digital Right

Without question, digitization represents massive customer experience, operational, and revenue opportunities. Seizing this opportunity, however, requires transitioning to a services-based approach that targets customer- and vertical-specific needs, especially those related to communications.

I recently spoke with Richard English, Avaya Professional Services Managing Director. English explained how enterprises can bridge a digital gap by engaging in a Discovery Workshop. As an undisputed leader of enterprise communications, Avaya helps countless organizations enhance their operational strategies and customer relationships through this innovative, one-day workshop. He explained how:

A successful discovery uncovers new revenue and CX opportunities by ensuring engagement with and incorporation of executive strategy and goals, operational status, technical assessment and potential economic value. Learning how collaboratively building and delivering a compelling digital business case/roadmap—leveraging Avaya’s knowledge and expertise with you and your business leaders—contributes to overall project success.

English said, “It’s easy to say, ‘Here’s where we’re at today in our current state, and here’s where we want to be in our future state’ … but you need to understand the level of effort [and] the level of cost required to achieve that future state.”

A digital roadmap must be created with an inherent understanding of customer, revenue, technical, people, processes and operational drivers. The initial business discovery process is vital for successfully executing digital transformation, making an exercise like a Discovery Workshop instrumental for organizations today.

Interested in not just creating but executing a successful digital transformation? Check out our eBook, Fundamentals of Digital Transformation. We’re here to help. Let’s make it happen together.