Hiding in Plain Sight: A Modern Customer Communications Paradox

In this age of customer centricity and customer experience, many businesses face a growing conundrum: Customers are much more accessible through non-traditional channels, but at the same time, they are becoming less reachable through traditional channels. For businesses that still rely mainly on traditional outbound marketing approaches, it’s like customers are hiding – in plain sight!

Several factors are contributing to this trend:

  • Traditional land line usage is dropping precipitously each year.
  • “Do not call” and “do not disturb” legislation has given consumers a powerful way to filter calls, thus thwarting business telemarketing efforts.
  • Caller ID functionality now available on most phones is another filter for consumers and a barrier for businesses.
  • And, interestingly, consumers seem increasingly comfortable with simply not answering telephone calls from unknown – and even known – sources. This social/behavioral change is perhaps one of the biggest challenges for businesses engaged in any type of outbound calling.

Together, these factors will continue to be formidable obstacles for companies that continue with traditional outbound dialing as their primary way of reaching out and touching customers. “Right party contact” rates are likely to drop dramatically even with continual improvements to outbound dialing technology, such as increased dialing volume and better answering machine detection.

What is a possible solution to this paradox? You probably guessed it… instead of reaching out the “old fashioned way” with a phone call, how about texting or email? For example, a large mortgage broker we worked with was frustrated with the growing number of call attempts it took to reach fewer and fewer of their customers by phone. They changed strategy, and now send automated, personalized text messages to their customers.

Each message features a simple offer to help the customer lower his or her mortgage payments and asks the customer to text back if they would like more information. If “now” is not a good time, the customer can schedule a callback for later. This “opt in” approach not only helps the mortgage company schedule its resources more efficiently, but it also increases the number of successful attempts at contact.

Someone way smarter than me once said that doing the same thing over and over and expecting a different result is the definition of insanity. In business it could spell disaster. What are you seeing? It is time for you to make the jump to texting and email, as well? Reach out and let me know.

Learn more about this creative and impactful new approach to outbound marketing. Register now for Avaya GetSmart 2014 webinar taking place on January 14, 2014 – “The 360?Customer Experience.”

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Tom Hanson.pngThis is a guest blog entry by Tom Hanson, Director of Product Management for Automation Applications. His portfolio responsibilities include Avaya’s self-service solutions including Avaya Aura?Experience Portal (AAEP), Orchestration Designer (OD), Proactive Outreach Management (POM), Intelligent Customer Routing (ICR), and Proactive Contact.

Tom has 25 years of automation and contact center experience within engineering (where he helped extend the Conversant IVR system), Professional Services, and Product Management.

Tom’s focus has been on delivering exceptional customer experiences through automation and launched the Avaya Voice Portal product line to fulfill this vision in 2003. He managed much of the traditional IVR product line throughout the 2000’s and along the way defined Orchestration Designer, ICR, Proactive Outreach Manager as well as the next-generation Contact Center.

Tom has a BS in Mathematics and Computer Science and a MS in Computer Science from Colorado State University. He holds 9 domestic and international patents.

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Using AI in Contact Centers to Create Better Customer Engagement

I’ve been through quite a few technology trends in my career, and to say Artificial Intelligence (AI) is one of the hottest may be an understatement. If you have customers that are 55 and under you need a customer experience plan to address digital channel preferences and AI in contact centers now, before it’s too late.

Avaya recently announced Avaya Ava™, our cloud AI solution that supports your customers who use social media, chat and messaging channels to engage with you. To address the communication preferences of your customers, Ava interacts with social and messaging platforms by automating digital interactions through chat bot and Natural Language Processing (NLP) with sentiment analysis—in 34 languages! And Ava provides seamless hand off of the customer experience, with full context of the interaction, to an agent when and if one is required.

Why the Time for Avaya Ava is Now

To put things in perspective, if you do a quick search you can find that there are over five billion mobile device users globally, sending 22 billion text messages and over 60 billion social network messages per day. This makes it no surprise that Dimension Data found the 55 and under crowd prefers to engage with organizations through digital channels like social media, mobile applications and web chat. In fact, I’m often hearing stories about someone’s parent or grandparent over 55 who prefers to text rather than talk.

The real question is how do you serve your customers who are living on those mobile devices? The answer: Start with AI.

But why is AI so hot? Why start there? Because it eliminates the need for human interaction by adding intelligent automation? Or maybe it’s the ability to reduce siloed experiences? These are definitely true, but only part of the equation. AI is such a big deal because it also has significant potential to help drive revenue, reduce costs and increase CSAT. Everybody wins! And that is why you see market research predicting a CAGR of nearly 60% in the global AI market by 2025.

AI is Not All the Same—What You Should Look For

With all of the excitement around AI, it’s no doubt there’s a bit of “bandwagon jumping” going on. Imagine that I am a new customer of a large insurance company, and I tweet about frustrations with recent billing issues I am having. This could go one of two ways: Good or BAD.

Let’s say that this insurance company has a bot and social mining that recognized me as a frustrated customer. After an initial exchange with the bot it was determined that a live agent was needed, so after a lengthy hold, a voice connection is established with the agent. But the agent has no context explaining who I am and why we have been connected. How do you think this ends? Likely with a great opportunity for the competition.

Now, let’s look at how this scenario but be improved with a truly intelligent AI solution—one like Avaya Ava. My tweet and frustration sentiment is detected by the AI application and I am recognized as a relatively new customer, so it is known that I am in a critical phase for retention. I receive a response from the company’s bot, who understands who I am. We engage in a “conversation” to gather some additional details and validations for security purposes. Since it is determined that I already have a relationship with Jeff, the representative who set my account up, the bot sends me a link that connects me directly to Jeff. Jeff has all my information—the complete context of my interaction—and my billing issue is resolved in a matter of minutes. Happy customer! Retained customer!

This not-uncommon scenario highlights the need for a truly valuable AI solution—one that has the potential of delivering the business results you need—to meet a set of core capabilities:

  • Natural Language Processing (NLP) to understand written language
  • Machine Learning which “observes” human interactions learning to provide relevant, meaningful automated responses
  • Sentiment Analysis to assess emotion or attitude of a customer, either positive or negative, and assign a qualitative score to guide proper treatment
  • Chat bot for real-time automated services leveraging the aforementioned capabilities to be effective

What You Need to Know About Contact Center Automation

So, if you implement an AI solution with all of these capabilities you can completely automate your contact center, right? Well, not quite–at least not yet. Rather, you should look at AI to “humanize” the automated customer experience. Having a machine (bot) interact with me and understand my intent is leaps and bounds a better experience than what an IVR can offer, but the live agent experience is still paramount.

An AI solution should be fully integrated into the rest of your customer experience solution as part of the complete customer journey–one that allows the full context of an interaction to be visible to a live agent. This way, the agent becomes an extension of the automated experience, and in turn creates improved CSAT. And because the automated experience is always available with real-time and intelligent responses, you will be better aligned to your customers’ engagement preferences. This in turn will help drive down cost with increased self service and accelerate revenue opportunities due to a more personalized and “intelligent” experience.

We generated a lot of buzz about AI when we introduced Ava at our partner and customer conference last month. People are seeing the potential to build enviable customer experiences by better connecting with customers through social and messaging channels and by journey mapping customer interactions.

At Avaya we take a consultative approach to helping our customers meet their business objectives. To help you with AI for contact centers, we offer a Professional Services Discovery Workshop. Contact us to learn more.

News & Solutions at ENGAGE 2018 Show Avaya is Back in the Fight!

Now back from last week’s Avaya ENGAGE 2018, our annual customer and partner event, we’re finding the energy of the conference continues to drive the cadence at Avaya. What a show! In my last blog I wrote about taking time for a bit of introspection—thoughts echoed by our CEO Jim Chirico during his ENGAGE keynote. One of his points really resonated with me: how you get up off the mat. All of us face challenges everyday—most of them are manageable but occasionally an event comes along that can really take the wind out of your sails. Jim pointed out that while we all get knocked down from time to time, what really matters is how you get up. How you carry yourself and how you get ready for the next challenge.

In 2018 Avaya is back up. We’ve got our gloves on and we’ve come out swinging! ENGAGE 2018 was a great opportunity for us to thank our customers and partners for their outstanding support over the past year and give them a taste of the new Avaya: poised, fit, and ready to win.

Our commitment to win was reflected in a number of key announcements from last week, but the headliner was the acquisition of Spoken Communications, a leading innovator in the Contact Center as a Service (CCaaS) market. The Spoken platform is based on the Avaya Aura® Platform and Avaya Aura® Call Center Elite, making it a perfect architecture for both Avaya omnichannel offerings, such as Avaya Oceana®, and its Unified Communications as a Service solution. But Spoken brings much more than a proven xCaaS capability to Avaya—the really exciting news is Spoken’s transformative real-time customer experience management applications built on conversational artificial intelligence (AI). A true innovator in AI, Spoken will be accelerating our “Think Avaya, Think Cloud” strategy with solutions that not only provide a clear path for customer migration, but offer improved efficiency, drive more intelligent responses, and gain deeper insight into customer sentiment and experience.

And there was more news at Avaya ENGAGE on the AI front: Avaya introduced Avaya AvaTM , a cloud, messaging-agnostic solution that offers new AI capabilities for social messaging integration and automation of digital interactions. An evolution from our Ava technologies offered for over eight years, Avaya AvaTM delivers AI 2.0 architecture including natural language processing and machine learning. And innovative analytics enables effortless customer engagement through social media and messaging platforms.

Last year we introduced the Avaya Oceana® Solution—our omnichannel context-driven contact center solution. Now we are thrilled to bring the Workspaces environment to our existing customers later this year. This modern agent desktop will take advantage of key elements such as context and customer journey and be made available to our existing customer base, enabling them to transform their CXs.

Avaya also unveiled compelling enhancements to its signature unified communications user experience, Avaya Equinox®. These include:

  • Enhancements to Avaya Equinox Meetings Online, a cloud-based meeting and conferencing service that can be deployed with or without an Avaya infrastructure. The economical, pay-as-you-go cloud model offers the same capabilities as an on-premises deployment, making it easy to take a hybrid approach and mix and match between the two.
  • The new Avaya Equinox Attendant, which enhances customer service and brings the power of unified communications to front-desk operators. We will extend Avaya Equinox to the IP Office platform—providing a single UC platform for all our customers.

Devices remain a key part of Avaya’s strategy to deliver a unique UC Experience Everywhere. Avaya has shipped over 100M phones to date and currently ships almost 10,000 new devices every day. For 2018, Avaya is expanding customer options for UC devices like never before. The Avaya Experience has evolved to be more modern, connected and personalized, and tailored to vertical specific needs such as hospitality and retail. Key additions include:

  • Launching Avaya’s new Essential Experience portfolio of industry leading phones for a state-of-the-art user experience that includes Bluetooth and WiFi connectivity.
  • Extending the Avaya Vantage Experience to include support for IP Office.
  • Announcing the new Avaya CU-360 Collaboration Unit, which provides easy set up and collaboration in huddle room spaces.

Providing our customers a bridge to the future is a key focus for Avaya this year—and this goal will drive a great deal of our activity. To start, Avaya has launched a number of new promotions:

  • Loyalty2gether: This exciting and bold offer provides all our loyal Communication Server 1000 customers with a path forward to either IP Office or Avaya Aura with full support for the surrounding applications like customer contact and messaging. It’s an opportunity to reinvent what communications, customer experience, and collaboration can mean to your business and to do so with an unprecedented level of experience and investment protection.
  • Oceana NOW: This program focuses on helping organizations evolve and transform their CXs.
  • Automate CC NOW: Through the use of automation capabilities, Avaya is helping organizations modernize for less.

These programs are a prime example of our focus to ensure no customer gets left behind.

ENGAGE 2018 was a very busy week of announcements, meetings and demonstrations, and the energy and enthusiasm of our customers kept us going and underlined our confidence that Avaya is back and ready to do battle. Continue to watch for updates and details on Avaya.com and let us know how the new Avaya can support your plans in 2018.

A Closer Look at MiFID II Recording Requirements

The Markets in Financial Instruments Directive II (MiFID II)—arguably the greatest reform to hit Europe’s financial industry—is finally in effect as of January 3, 2018. This EU legislation serves as a much-needed upgrade from the original MiFID, enacted in 2004, and addresses key issues that resulted from the 2008 global financial crisis.

The directive requires all national governments in the EU to adopt certain laws, which they are free to do in their own way should the resulting effect be the same. Financial services institutions—specifically investment firms, credit institutions and trading venues—are subject to MiFID II, including companies that are headquartered outside of the EU but do business there (for a more thorough overview, see this blog by industry analyst Sheila McGee-Smith).

Recording Regulations: Raising the Bar

Perhaps the greatest impact of MiFID II is the law’s tighter recording regulations. Under the 2004 MiFID directive, there was no mandatory requirement to record communications involving client orders. To ensure fairer, safer and more efficient financial markets, MiFID II now requires firms to record communications (both phone and electronic) for the following investment services:

  • Reception and transmission of orders
  • Execution of orders on behalf of clients
  • Dealing on own account (takes place when a firm puts its own trading books at risk)

The specific customer interactions that are required to be recorded in relation to investment services include:

  • Receipts of client orders
  • Transmissions of orders (both where the investment firm transmits and executes the order)
  • Conclusions of transactions when executing orders on behalf of clients
  • Conclusions of transactions when dealing on own account, regardless of whether a client is involved in the transaction

Important note: MiFID II covers all communications relating to activities intended to result in the conclusion of a transaction or the provision of client order services, even if they do not result in a financial transaction.

Communication of orders placed through channels other than voice—postal mail, faxes, emails, SMS, face-to-face conversations recorded using written minutes—must be stored in a durable medium.

Keep in mind a few rules that apply to this ‘durable medium’:

  • Records must be able to be replayed or copied
  • Records must be retained in a format that does not allow the original to be altered or deleted
  • Firms are required to ensure the quality, accuracy and completeness of all phone records and electronic communications
  • Records must be kept for a minimum of 5 years and, if requested by the National Competent Authority in a specific country, up to 7 years
  • Clients must be notified in advance of recording
  • Records must cover communications made with, sent from or received by equipment provided or permitted by the investment firm (privately-owned equipment used by employees or contractors is not prohibited)

Ensuring Compliancy with MiFID II Recording Regulations

If your business is involved in financial services in any way—even if it’s not your main focus (i.e. credit institutions performing investment activities, branches of third country firms)—you’ll need to investigate to understand whether this new legislation will affect you and, if so, what you need to do to comply.

We recommend a thorough review of compliance across all channels (including back office processes) to determine if they meet the new regulations. If not, you’ll need to deploy a workforce optimization (WFO) solution to demonstrate that policies, procedures and management oversight of the new recording and monitoring rules are in place. Here’s what you’ll need to consider in a WFO solution:

  • Continuous recording: This goes for all inbound and outbound voice and other electronic communications based on business rules. You need a WFO solution that will capture, search and retrieve calls, offer encryption for secure storage, and offer pause and resume capabilities.
  • Desktop screen capture: This is an undetectable back-end process that records desktop screen activity during each customer interaction. Supervisors and managers can use this both in the contact center and back office to view customer interactions from beginning to end via synchronized screen and call recordings.
  • Quality management monitoring: Identify and capture areas of non-compliance, while measuring how well employees are delivering services that align with customer experience expectations.
  • eLearning and coaching tools: Bring employees fully up to speed on regulatory changes and any new requirements, as well as correct any non-compliance behaviors.
  • Voice analytics: Proactively identify, measure and isolate areas of non-compliance by mining intelligence from large volumes of recorded calls.
  • Workforce management: Schedule employee compliance training while ensuring you have enough support personnel with the right skills to serve customers.

The greatest threat to reputability, revenue and customer experience is the thought that your technology is “good enough” to meet current needs. Your ability to innovate and grow are hinged on technology that meets the next-gen needs of today, tomorrow and beyond—something that only 24% of companies say their workforce optimization and recording systems achieve.

To complete a thorough review of your current MiFID II processes, connect with Avaya. For a deeper dive into MiFID II (including a few WFO features not mentioned above) download the white paper MiFID II: What Does it Mean for Your Organization?