Drinking our own Champagne!

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Here at Avaya we create some darn good solutions if I do say so myself, so I refuse to use that old “eating our own dog food” term which, by the way, originated based on a reference by Shakespeare back in the day. Personally, dog food isn’t how I see our solutions, so I officially hereby steal the “Drinking our own Champagne” term from one of my colleagues here at Avaya. He will remain anonymous at this time, but I invite him to contribute a blog at any time to tell everyone about drinking our own champagne! This week, however, I have decided that it’s a fine time to talk about how we here at Avaya are using our own solutions, or, drinking our own champagne. Allow me to introduce Mike Runda, our SVP and President of Avaya Client Services, who has driven a major transformation within our Global Support Services organization over the last year. Let’s hear what he has to say:


The Transformation of Avaya Customer Service:

In Avaya Client Services, we are constantly looking for new ways to improve our ability to delight our customers, provide faster and better service, engage and challenge our employees and deliver business results. I’m happy to say that we’ve made some significant strides in all those metrics over the past year. It’s not necessarily simple to do, but I do believe that the principles are repeatable and I wanted to share the steps that moved the needle for our organization in a meaningful way.

There are a lot of small steps that lead you to a world-class, highly effective contact center operation – steps that enable you to improve both customer and employee satisfaction, while driving up efficiency and reducing operating costs significantly. By building a knowledge-centered support system, using new processes, aligning rewards to key metrics and your vision statement, and implementing automation tools now available in our next generation Avaya Contact Center solutions, the Avaya Client Services division has improved our Net Promoter Score by 38%, employee satisfaction by 12% and Time to Resolve by 17%. We’ve also reduced our backlog and costs by 56% and 27% respectively. All of these enabled a significant improvement in margin.

Sounds pretty terrific, right? Here’s what worked for us:

Work on new problems only: Start with your employees: develop a VISION where they work primarily on new customer problems rather than just repeating known solutions to customer inquiries over and over again. This transformation in vision invigorates your employee base to learn new troubleshooting skills, to look proactively at customer installations and configurations, to collaborate with teammates to solve complex issues, and to learn your service offerings and products at a deeper level. All of these contribute to a highly motivated customer support team.

Publish solutions: With your employees working on only new issues, you need to capture and PUBLISH immediately after generating and testing the solution to both your internal and external customers. Reward your agents based on the quality and ease of use of the solution…not just on how many articles they publish. This greatly improves the customer’s ability to get at known solutions rapidly and easily.

    Focus on EASE of engagement:

  • Conversational Automated Chat agents – here at Avaya, we have deployed a web-based conversational chat agent, Avaya Automated Chat, that actively converses with customers, and leverages an internal knowledge base to find known answers to their inquires using all the solutions the agents are generating and publishing each day.
  • Smooth hand offs and multiple customer options – if the automated chat agent, whom we call Ava, cannot find a known solution, she offers to have the correct agent (knowledge of product, industry, and customer) work on this potentially new problem. At the same time, the agent is delivered all the relevant information that has been captured about the customer environment, system, issue, and any other pertinent background customer information. The customer can then opt for any of the following:
    1. Chat with a live agent (while our automated agent stays on the line to whisper advice directly to the agent for effective troubleshooting and potential solutions),
    2. Speak with an agent (via our own web-based VoIP technology, “web talk”). In this case we also use our own Avaya Speech Analytics tools to ensure agent compliance and rapidly improve customer experience. Live Video with an agent (via Avaya’s web video technology), either one-way or two-way, without having to download any additional software on the customer’s device.
    3. Call back allows the customer to request a call back at a specific time to continue the troubleshooting process.
  • Secure connections and proactive monitoring: A key to resolving new issues faster, we have established real time connections to the customer’s systems for troubleshooting, event tracking, logging, etc. via our Secure Access Link (SAL) software. Our new Avaya Diagnostic Server software (via SAL) also provides real time network insights to our customers to help keep their networks running at peak efficiency and enable our support engineers to diagnose and resolve customer issues faster when they do occur.
  • Web support: We have recently invested heavily into the web as well, embedding easy to use buttons throughout our web site to enable faster customer service:

  • Total System Outage button: press for immediate routing to our Emergency Response team for system outages
  • Escalation button: to rapidly escalate service requests to the correct team management for resolution.
  • Web Talk / Web Video buttons: To speak directly with the correct agent that will be able to resolve the issue quickly.

    How’s it done? At the same time, our serviceability engineers and contact center agents have created almost 1,000 ‘how to’ videos that have received 280,000 views from customers and partners. Our support website (in addition to our YouTube channel) provides users an easy way to find these videos as they search for solutions. Customers can watch our experts go thru the steps needed to perform many of the common install, setup, configuration, and usage tasks common to using our products. Read Carl Knerr’s blog on how we built this video knowledgebase.

    Having a new vision of the work we do by enabling new processes and technology to provide customers with solutions in the manner in which they most want to receive them, as well as providing proactive monitoring tools and videos, has proven to be a game changer for the quality of support that Avaya Client Services provides our customers!


    To close, I would like to thank Mike Runda for his contribution to this blog and his significant contribution to our business. If you would like to ask any questions feel free to post them here.

    And, come see both of us and many other Avaya executives and subject matter experts at our annual user group event, IAUG CONVERGE2013, next week in Orlando. You can meet Mike who will be presenting with our CEO Kevin Kennedy on the main stage, and I will be presenting “Evolution to Next Generation Customer Experience Management” Thursday June 6 at 8:30am. Hope to see you there!!

    With that… Cheers! (What’s in your champagne glass?)

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The Four Ways That Contact Centers Are Innovating

“The UC (Unified Communications) wave has passed; we’re back in control,” joked analyst Sheila McGee-Smith at the beginning of her Monday panel discussion on the state of the contact center market at Enterprise Connect 2013.

The comment, which referred to the large number of contact center talks scheduled for the annual conference in Orlando this year, drew appreciative laughter from the attendees, many of whom have been to one of McGee-Smith’s contact center talks at Enterprise Connect in the last 8 years.

The levity also belied the tough times in the contact center market (of which Avaya is one of the largest players). McGee-Smith cited figures from market research firm MZA, which showed that global revenue from contact center agent seats actually declined 8% in the first half of 2012 (the most recent figures available).

“You have to be a little concerned,” conceded Jonathan Koziol, President of Aspect Software. But executives on the panel, which also included Cisco, Avaya, Interactive Intelligence and Genesys, noted the many positives in the market. Contact centers themselves may not be growing, but the companies behind them are finding good reasons to invest in them, nevertheless.

“Companies are not just thinking about contact center, but customer experience overall,” said Avaya vice-president for contact centers, Mark De La Vega.

Or as Aspect’s Koziol put it: “The contact center has become more strategic than a mere cost center.”

About two-thirds of companies are looking to increase their use of analytics in contact centers, according to Dimension Data. That is one huge opportunity. But there are at least four others:

1) Multi-channel. McGee-Smith traces the move towards adding support beyond voice and e-mail to include Twitter, Facebook, web chat, text messages and more to around 2010.

While voice remains dominant, with nearly 99% of contact centers using it, smartly-managed, multi-channel contact centers can offer customers a menu of choices, many of which are faster and more effective for the consumer and cost the contact center less money than voice.

Voice is increasingly “not the first choice,” McGee-Smith said, citing surveys from Dimension Data showing 37% of enterprises are interested in social media. Avaya recently announced Avaya Aura Call Center Elite Multichannel.

2) Cloud. McGee-Smith said this had “exploded in importance,” with vendors such as Genesys, Interactive Intelligence and Avaya all recently announcing different flavors of cloud service. Avaya on Monday announced a managed private cloud contact center service for smaller companies called Avaya Communications Outsourcing Solutions Express. Avaya also announced earlier this month that it would begin offering an Automated Chat service through the cloud.

3) Mobile. According to McGee-Smith, the ‘purchase intent’ of a mobile customer encountered by a contact center agent is five times higher than that of  a customer logging in through a conventional PC. As a result, “every customer is doing mobile,” she said.

4) Video calls. Providing customer service through video is not new. Cisco senior director Chris Boting recalled being at a different vendor nearly 20 years ago that was selling a video-enabled contact center. The difference is the picture quality, and the huge population of consumers now itching to make video-based customer service calls thanks to the 300 million reported users of Microsoft Skype.

About 11% of companies are looking at video-enabling their contact centers,according to Dimension Data. Because the cost of bandwidth for video is not cheap, and its richness occasionally cumbersome for mundane customer service tasks, companies should consider offering video only as an “escalated” service,” said Avaya’s De La Vega. Some Avaya customers such as the Bank of Moscow place kiosks in its bank branches so that customers with questions while filling out a loan application can press a key to summon help from a remote contact center agent.