Why Avaya is Embracing WebRTC in a Big Way

WebRTC is on the cusp of fundamentally changing the way people interact with one another on the Web. What’s remarkable is that so few consumers have ever heard of it.

In the near future, you might be shopping for clothing online when you get a prompt asking if you’d like to video chat with a fashion consultant live. Or you’re buying airline tickets when your browser crashes, erasing the transaction. When you return to that webpage, you might get a prompt inviting you to call someone in customer service through your browser.

This week, a handful of Avayans will take the stage to talk about the promise (and perils) of WebRTC, at the WebRTC Conference & Expo in Santa Clara, Calif.

WebRTC is a new online standard being developed in tandem with HTML5. Its implications are far-reaching, said Val Matula, Avaya’s Senior Director of Multimedia Technologies, and one of the speakers at this week’s conference.

“It’s going to make voice and video much more common on the Internet,” Matula said. “You might say to yourself, ‘My goodness. Almost everyone has Skype today or Facetime. How could it be more common?’ … WebRTC makes it so easy to add your website that consumers will start to see it being used in all sorts of places.”

Researchers at Avaya are busy integrating the technology into the company’s existing suite of customer experience software, notably around online interactions.

Take for example, the ways WebRTC could improve an online store.

Web transactions are great when everything works according to plan. Consumers can log on 24 hours a day, browse their options, build an order and pay without ever interacting with a representative from the company.

What happens though, when a Web transaction fails? It’s estimated that 60- to 70 percent of consumers abandon their online shopping carts–a number of whom, no doubt, had a question about a product that an employee of the company could have answered.

Offering online customer service is one way companies could improve their shopping cart abandonment rates.

Matula predicts that once WebRTC becomes commonplace, consumers will demand interactive online customer experiences. That may prove a challenge for companies that require an enterprise-grade solution.

Software developers working with WebRTC are “going to find that they can get a demo or a simple application going very well,” Matula said. “But if they dig into the details, they’re going to want security, recording, compliance, etc. We’re going to see more people asking Avaya, ‘What do you have? Because I need the other things you can provide as well. I need your whole package in order to be successful.'”

Listen to my entire conversation with Dr. Matula below, and share your thoughts about WebRTC in the comments section. How do you see WebRTC impacting the enterprise?

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Meet Avaya’s Edison Award Gold Winner Blockchain Use Case

In less than two weeks, we are hosting Experience Avaya Asia-Pacific in Singapore, a city that ranks alongside the likes of Dubai and New York as a global business hub. As I get ready for this event, those two cities are very much top of mind for me right now—and it’s because of blockchain.

By now, just about everybody is aware of blockchain, which likely originated in the Asia-Pacific region, as part of the development of bitcoin. While bitcoin today seems to have gone through its bubble moment, blockchain is definitely here to stay.

Invented to serve one purpose, we’ve only just started figuring out what blockchain can do. In my world of technology and customer service, we would say we are developing “use cases.” Our job is to figure out how technologies can be used to solve a business problem, a social challenge and so on.

The inspiration to develop use cases can’t come from a single source—ideas come from everyone and everywhere. We have a team that picks up on those ideas and plays around with technology, putting the pieces together to create use cases to solve problems that are brought to us by our ecosystem or the customers we serve.

Our Winning Blockchain Use Case: Avaya Happiness Index

Inspired by the Dubai government’s drive to improve the citizen experience—and make it literally a happier place to be—our team, with our partners, looked at how blockchain can help track sentiment and enable organizations to respond more quickly to user trends.

We showed the Avaya Happiness Index on Blockchain to the world at GITEX in Dubai last year—and it was a huge hit. While plenty of companies are keen to use the word “blockchain” we didn’t present a concept, we delivered a blockchain use case. Real-time sentiment analysis may seem a very long way away from cryptocurrency, but we’ve demonstrated how this technology can enhance the citizen/customer experience. The value of bitcoin may rise and fall according to market demand, but the ability to make people happier? That is priceless.

I’m proud to say that the Avaya Happiness Index on Blockchain was a Gold winner for innovation at the world-renowned Edison Awards in New York this week, a milestone achievement for the Avaya team, and for our partners, Avanza Innovations and Sundown.ai. By combining our efforts we’ve created something of real value—a concept we call value co-creation.

When I meet with customers in Singapore this month, I will talk more about value co-creation. In today’s fast-moving digital world, it is no longer viable for technology companies like ours to create products and solutions and just push them out to market. Real value doesn’t come from a packaged solution; it comes from stakeholders working together and combining to create better outcomes. Avaya realized this several years ago, and we opened our platforms to make it easier and faster for customers, partners and suppliers to work with us. The end goal is to share the value creation process across our digital ecosystem so that the end result is magnified for all.

For me, it doesn’t matter so much who originated a technology. What matters is what we can do with it. The Avaya Happiness Index isn’t just a blockchain use case—it’s a proof point of Avaya’s business approach and cultural belief.

I’m looking forward to Experience Avaya Asia-Pacific in Singapore because I know that plenty of you share our belief. This event will give us the opportunity to come together and lay the groundwork for future collaboration. I can’t say where that will take us but maybe, it might just take some of us to New York next year for the Edison Awards 2019!

Please don’t feel you have to wait until we host an event near you. If you have an idea you want to discuss, please share it with me, or your local Avaya contact.

Innovation that Accounts for Increased Mobility

Today Avaya announced Avaya Mobile Experience, an innovative offer initially targeted at enterprise contact centers to help them expand the range of digital interactions for their customers, as well as to accelerate the velocity of their digital transformation. Personally, it is a special day for me as I’ve been driving towards this vision and offer for more than a couple of years. There is a strong development-minded and innovation-oriented team at Avaya delivering this new offer to the market.

With the Avaya Mobile Experience, we pose the question: Is there a way for enterprises to take advantage of the rising number of mobile phones—many of which are smart phones—being used to call into contact centers today, that creates a better experience for the customer and greater cost efficiencies for the enterprise?  The answer is a resounding, YES! And here’s how.

Unlike products Avaya has introduced into the marketplace such as Contact Center Elite or Avaya Aura Contact Center, Avaya Mobile Experience is different. It is different because it is not a product, rather it is a service.  The service is rendered from software that sits on the newly created Avaya Cellular Business Network . There are three main elements to this service:

  • Carrier-scale Mobile Core
  • Pay-as-you-go Mobile Network
  • Software assets that sit atop the mobile network

Given Avaya’s leadership and legacy in enterprise communications, we found a willing and energetic mobile partner. We partnered to source a carrier-scale Mobile Core and the pay-as-you-go Mobile Network. The Mobile Experience software that then sits atop the network was created in-house by Avaya. All together, these elements make up the Avaya Cellular Business Network.

How Does Avaya Mobile Experience work?

This pay-per-consumption service starts by first identifying whether a call destined for a number owned by the subscribing enterprise originated from a wireless network or not.

If it is from a wireline network—a landline phone—then it is treated like an ordinary inbound call attempt. However if the call is recognized by the Avaya Cellular Business Network to be from a cellular network, then we can provide special treatment and add contextual information about the call as pre-programmed by the enterprise.

An example of a special treatment the enterprise might offer is the ability to automatically move the mobile callers to a lower cost, more fit for purpose digital channel.  In this case the caller would be asked if they would like a smart phone web or app experience. If the answer is yes, then the caller will be sent a personalized (text) message containing a link to an app or webpage for them to click on and access the information they are calling about. At this point, with the customer now connected to the business via self-service text and web channels, the voice portion of the call terminates automatically. What would have been an expensive voice self-service interaction will be an inexpensive and more satisfying digital self-service interaction with Avaya Mobile Experience. This advances that enterprise’s digital transformation adoption.

If in the course of the digital interaction, the caller still wants to interact with a real person, then the web or app can escalate to real-time media be it voice, video, or screen share (or even co-browse with an agent) giving the customer a mobile, omnichannel experience.

Added Context for Better Customer Experiences

Likewise, when the mobile caller does not want to use the mobile web or an app, then they may be offered a segmentation menu via voice recognition. After selection, the caller will be routed to the contact center via a SIP trunk. However, unlike traditional carrier SIP services, with Avaya Mobile Experience the routing of the mobile customer will include added context that is encapsulated in a special SIP method, known as a MIME attachment.

Additionally by interacting with the cellular network the caller is using, Avaya Mobile Experience verifies the authenticity of the phone’s number and knows about the phone’s home geography. This increases the fidelity of that context. Geographic routes are more effective from the core as a result. Also caller-ID is far less likely to be spoofed. These benefits extend to contact centers universally irrespective of vendor technology.

The added context of the MIME attachment helps the contact center better service the customer. There is no restriction of how the context is consumed. The MIME attachment can be consumed by an SBC or SIP router and then used to influence CTI methods to add context to the call. A modern Avaya Contact Center, for example, might use a Breeze Snap-in for such a purpose.

The net effect is that the contact center can now better service the mobile caller. It helps propel the digital transformation of the contact center and the enterprise. Avaya already has many patents pending for this innovation, and the approach allows us to apply methods for other scenarios that will also reduce friction between the customer and businesses serving them.

Wait! There’s More!

We are also announcing an Identity as a Service solution. This service helps solve the ever-growing problem of ensuring that the person on the other end of the connection is exactly who you need them to be.

As with Avaya Mobile Experience, Identity as a Service also has a no friction adoption method that means consumption billing for what is used, no long term commitments, and a very easy and compelling pricing structure.   And we have other ideas that expand into the Unified Communication space and even payment facilitation. Whenever you wonder whether it truly is a new day at the newly public Avaya, just check out our innovations. We are here to reduce the friction of innovation and transformation.

Different Preferences, Same Expectations: Can Your CX Platform Handle it All?

When was the last time you as a customer used live chat to interact with a brand? How about a self-service option like IVR? Have you ever received an automated message with a discount, or perhaps an appointment reminder? Chances are, you’ve engaged in at least one of these forms of service at some point. In fact, I’m willing to bet you frequently use them. I do, too. That’s because we now live in a world where our first level of interaction is usually some sort of automation. This has thrown a wrench into the standard CX platform.

These service examples are just the tip of the iceberg. By the end of today, more than 3 million people will have chatted with Amazon Echo’s AI assistant, Alexa. Over 70 million people will have enjoyed listening to Spotify’s automated “Discover Weekly” playlist. U.S. sales of Google Home smart speakers increased by 40% in Q3 2017 alone, reaching 7 million units. In a very short amount of time, automation has evolved from static and human-operated to dynamic and autonomously learning.

Because of this growth, automation is now everywhere we are and in everything we do. It is proven to transform experiences and enhance the outcome of nearly every customer interaction. The ROI is there, too. For example, research has found that after customers start using Echo, their spending increases by 10%. Bottom line: businesses should be aggressively working to embed automation into their existing IT ecosystems.

But what about your traditional customers? Like I mentioned above, our first level of interaction is usually some sort of automation. Not always.

This makes me think of my father. He’s your typical 85-year-old customer who will never consume digital services. His modality of communication will always be voice, and that’s perfectly fine. But he still expects a personalized, end-to-end experience. For example, if he calls his healthcare provider with a question, he expects the organization to know who he is and to have his health records pulled up prior to that first “hello.”

And this brings us to an important point: it doesn’t matter how services are consumed, the experience must be the same. So, how can companies meet expectations across the board? First, they must gain an inherent understanding of each customer’s individual journey, whatever that looks like. Then they need to build technology that adapts to that. Let’s dig into this…

Context: The Crux of Next-Gen CX

When I say, “gain an inherent understanding of each customer’s individual journey,” what I really mean is gain a context-driven understanding. After all, every experience will differ depending on the circumstance. Here are two examples to show you what I mean:

  • A customer (let’s call her Becky) is in the car driving to JFK airport. She called your contact center about an hour ago and requested through IVR to be put into your automated callback system. Her place has been reached in the queue and now it’s time to reach out. However, your system shows she’s currently driving 70 mph on I-95 south. So, although she normally prefers video chat, you choose to connect via a traditional voice call instead.
  • Becky later vents on Twitter about poor service she received from the restaurant in her hotel. With the ability to bring social analytics to the agent desktop, the hotel can have its support team proactively reach out to let her know they noticed her post from five minutes ago expressing dissatisfaction and ask if there’s any way they can help make things right.

A True Next-Gen CX Platform

Regardless of whether customer preferences evolve, your CX platform must in order to drive real-time responsiveness, anticipatory engagement, and intelligent communication at the individual level.

So, what should this next-gen CX platform look like? This isn’t something that can be summed up in a nutshell, but I’ll take a stab: companies need a platform that provides the utmost flexibility for them to bring the right technologies together with the right modality of interactions in an open world (if you have time, I recommend reading this five-part series where I detail the core components of this next-gen platform).

The key here is to be agile and flexible enough to give each individual customer the choice to get what he or she wants, as well as respond to their needs quickly and efficiently. I’d like to focus on two things here:

  • The full integration of UC, contact center, and AI to begin immediately developing features and applications that meet different customer, organizational and vertical needs. Technology has evolved to the point where it no longer takes 10, 12 or 18 months to build a targeted, feature-rich release. A next-gen CX platform offers the necessary levels of agility, flexibility, scale, and openness companies need to very quickly develop these solutions. Or, they can release small footprints of incremental functionality within the platform. Companies can develop at their own paces, depending on their goals.
  • An open data model that rapidly integrates various information sources to present a full visualization of the customer journey. Companies must now bring an immense amount of information together to make smart, real-time decisions (something human beings are incapable of doing). This is where AI, machine learning, and contextual analytics come into play. This is how your contact center will be able to see that Becky tweeted about poor service five minutes ago, and that she engaged in three web chat sessions the week prior. The integration of AI with Becky’s smart vehicle enables you to see statistics like speed and traffic to maximize her service experience. An open data model enables organizations to truly capitalize on big data to make impactful, real-time decisions that transform the individual customer experience.

Note the emphasis on contextual analytics: real-time contextual analytics are needed to continually transform individual experiences as well as handle today’s large volume of different interactions (our Director of Customer and Team Engagement Laura Bassett does a great job breaking down contextual analytics vs. traditional analytics in this blog).

The future of customer experience will be supported by a next-gen digital platform that’s capable of seamlessly converging UC, contact center, and AI. Long gone are the days of proprietary schemes. Long live digital, automated, data-driven experiences!