Avaya Takes the Top Again in Gartner's Magic Quadrant for Contact Center Infrastructure

It’s a great honor to be recognized as a leader in your market for the year, and even more of one to get to say it 13 consecutive years in a row. We’re proud to announce that Avaya has been positioned in the Leader’s Quadrant in the Gartner Magic Quadrant for Contact Center Infrastructure for 2013, making the company the only entrant that has been listed in this section since the inception of the Magic Quadrant for Contact Center Infrastructure in 2001.

For those who may be unfamiliar with the report, the annual Gartner Leaders Quadrant covers vendors that provide equipment, software and services to operate contact centers for customer, employee and service support, including outbound telemarketing, helpdesks and other structured communications operations.

For the past 13 years, Avaya has focused on innovating its end-to-end contact center portfolio to deliver a holistic experience and assistance for consumers to streamline effort and effectiveness. Since the 2012 Magic Quadrant, we’ve added in new additions for Performance Management to help refine workforce management tools, not to mention other services like the new Avaya Customer Experience Virtualized Environment and Avaya Outbound Contact Express.

On the topic of leadership, last month we released the results of a customer effort survey that highlighted how the amount of work a customer exerts to obtain service affects business priorities of revenue and market growth, brand loyalty and operational margins. The survey reinforces our understanding that direct experience is one of the leading factors to a person’s impression of a brand, and that building an easy, effortless service experience is key to keeping customers satisfied.

The survey also revealed that the more effort a customer has to put in to obtain what they are looking for, the more damaging it is for brands. In fact, 66 percent of customers said they’re likely to leave a company after high effort experience. Services like Avaya’s Contact Center solutions provide a solution for brands to keep customers satisfied – going the extra mile for customer service. As technology continues to shift and consumers are increasingly becoming more mobile, we’re creating new ways to deliver these types of services to customers, thus helping companies improve their customer service.

Visit Gartner’s page to read more about the report, and how Avaya’s Contact Center stands out against the crowd. We are incredibly proud and can’t wait to continue innovating the best customer service possible. You can view our press release here.

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Student Hackers Take Avaya Aura Developer Platform To New Heights With Elevator Hack

A few weeks ago we gave you a sneak peek of a hackathon happening at Michigan State University that would be using our Avaya Aura Collaboration Environment. At the time, we were hopeful that one of the teams would choose to build an Avaya CE-powered app. We’re happy to report that one of the hackathon’s nine teams did, using our middleware to build software to improve on-campus elevator services.

Normally, students or staff who get stuck in an elevator on campus would pick up the phone inside the car to call a third-party answering service, which would re-route the call to the on-campus emergency contact center. That was expensive and slow.

Taking the Avaya Aura Collaboration Environment, the team – made up of Nick Kwiatkowski, Elizabeth Henderson, Troy Murray, and two students – came up with a solution that would bypass the third-party service, routing calls directly to the on-campus contact center. Using Avaya Aura CE’s capabilities, the team only had to write 100 lines of code to accomplish this.

“This service allows us to consolidate and save money – and use the existing Avaya services we already were using,” Kwiatkowski said in an email interview.

Other than the learning curve for one of the programming tools, the team described the hacking process as easy, as several people on their team were already proficient in Java.

Avaya Aura CE was “a lot easier to use than we expected,” Kwiatkowski wrote. “Coming from the Java world, we know how tough it can be (and in our previous experience using the TSAPI and DMCC APIs). This was a walk in the park. We are really excited to how this product continues to evolve and add additional features as time goes on.”

The team’s hack is now in its final stages of testing. Once ready, an Avaya number will be installed on all elevator phones and officially deployed around campus. Afterward, the team plans to make the code available on the Github open-source repository under an Apache license.

When asked whether they had other ideas for using the Avaya Aura CE, Kwiatkowski said,  “Lots. (We) just need more time to play with them.”

Does the Shoe Fit?

Many of us have supported the contact center industry for years as managers, directors, executives, contact center solution vendors — and yet have never spent a single day as an agent. Or, per the stereotype of work-at-home agents, we haven’t stepped into those proverbial bunny slippers.

Two industry articles prompted this line of thought. The first questioned whether a well-known communications provider runs their contact center like a sweatshop. The second article is captivatingly entitled “Witness the Death of Average Handle Time.”

What is it like to be a contact center agent? Perhaps we think of the advantages: they typically work an 8-hour day, whereas many of us work into the evening. If they’re home agents, their morning commute is from the coffeepot to the home office.

But think of the stress an agent faces. Nowadays many consumers get answers to their questions from web sites, industry forums, and discussion groups. People go to agents for the hard stuff — so almost every contact is a tough, out-of-the-norm type of inquiry. Many customers are angry or frustrated because they’ve exhausted other avenues, and perhaps bounced around in IVR hell before reaching an agent. Now, the agent is expected to resolve these difficult issues QUICKLY. And magically turn grouchy customers into happy advocates in three minutes or less!

Empathy aside, why do you care? Because traditional metrics such as Average Handle Time are putting both customers and agents into shoes that don’t fit.

Customers may not get resolution to their issues simply because the agent is pressured to end the call quickly. And if they hang up dissatisfied, their next contact may be with your competitor.

And the agents who juggled challenging inquiries all day, and were then chastised for exceeding the expected handle time? They’re probably going to be searching for a new job – and you’re going to be spending time and money hiring and training their replacements.

It’s time to ask whether the old shoes should be thrown out and replaced. And when you do, one place you can check out is Zappos, a company renowned for exemplary customer service and a loyal following. It’s a company who reputedly values customer satisfaction more than handle time according to “Delivering Happiness: A Path to Profits, Passion, and Purpose” a book written by CEO Tony Hsieh. When writing this blog, I called Zappos’ 1-800 number to see what an agent would tell me about how they are evaluated. I spoke with Megan, a cheerful young woman who obviously loves her job. Indeed, customer satisfaction is paramount. Megan’s favorite line is “We’re a customer service company that just happens to sell shoes.” Obviously the shoe fits – and profitably.

Is it time to reevaluate the metrics we use to evaluate agent performance? I think so.

The Chief Executive of Customer Experience Management is You

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When organizations first start looking into Customer Experience Management they soon discover it’s not just a new twist on traditional customer service delivered by a contact center. It’s a paradigm shift in which the contact center becomes a key player in a broader strategy. Whereas contact centers focus on one small part of the customer journey, Customer Experience Management focuses on every touch point across the entire enterprise.

Contact centers are data-driven operations that measure operational efficiency using metrics like cost per contact, occupancy rates, average wait times, and call completion rates. Customer Experience Management measures strategic value and profitability through customer satisfaction, retention and advocacy. It’s about unlocking the value of every customer by knowing what your customers experience and making sure you’re happy with that experience.

A Customer Experience Management strategy has an impact on the organization’s culture, processes, roles and technology. It relies on collaboration beyond the contact center. That means engaging all appropriate teams in resolving customer queries. It means sharing feedback and ideas to improve the customer experience through ever-improving processes, procedures and skills. You and everyone else in the organization are customer service representatives, even though you might never consider labeling yourself a “contact center agent.”

As you know, customers are empowered in ways they’ve never been before. With that in mind – Avaya is hosting a webinar series that will help you cut through the noise and identify what Customer Experience Management means to your business.

The first webinar will pivot around the strategic imperatives and tactical approaches that drive brand loyalty and higher customer lifetime value. Register now for “Five Essential Ways to Improve Your Customers’ Experience.” Join guest speakers, Raymond Pettitt, Managing Director at Barclays and Moira Dorsey, Vice President, Practice Leader-Customer Experience, Forrester Research, as well as Avaya’s own Brett Shockley, Senior Vice President and Chief Technology Officer, as they explore how some brands protect and grow their customer base by understanding customer expectations and behaviors, and delivering consistently great, high-return customer experiences.