Q&A: How to Reclaim Tens of Thousands of Dollars from your Avaya Solutions

Craig Schnieder is the VP of Operations for VOX Network Solutions, a fast-growing San Francisco Bay Area-based Platinum partner of Avaya. I spoke to him about VOX, and his advice for customers to wring value out of undiscovered elements in their already-purchased Avaya solutions.

Craig Schnieder VOX Solutions

Craig Schnieder of VOX Network Solutions

Photo by Andres Larranaga/Avaya

Give me an overview of VOX.

Schnieder: Our background is around the heritage Nortel products. That’s the legacy of a lot of our resources and we’ve migrated that fully into the Avaya Red – going forward, Evolution – platforms today. Really, we don’t specialize in any one area, really. Our goal is to provide communications solutions across the portfolio to our customer base.

A lot of our customers are headquartered within the Western region, but we do have customers across the country and we have a global deployment strategy as well that we’ve been able to leverage for quite a few of our customers now across APAC and EMEA regions, too.


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What do you find the main thing that people are coming to you for?

Schnieder: Our real goal is to reframe that conversation from a technology conversation to a business one and talk about what the business issues are. We have a very specialized process that we call the VPOP program where we engage with the contact center stakeholders across the business, understand a little more about where process breakdowns exist within their company, and talk about generically how certain technology solutions can help address those breakdowns and provide a hard ROI breakdown for that.

I think the whole business model is changing with customers. Before, somebody built a box or a widget that did something and you went out and you peddled that widget to do whatever, but customers aren’t looking to buy widgets anymore. They’re looking for the total package. They’re looking for what we call solutions, which is this high-level, holistic view of what’s going on within the business and how we’re going to define and solve a specific business challenge.

Schnieder: Exactly. It’s not one product or one technology that is intended to address everyone’s problems these days. It’s a suite of applications. It’s a holistic approach to really addressing, finding out what the customer’s real needs are, and not trying to put a box in to address it.

What have you seen in the industry come forward that has really enabled you to change into this new business model? What has empowered you on the back end to do that?

Schnieder: Across the solution as Avaya moves into more of the software and application provider space, and out of a hardware solution, it really gives us a lot more flexibility in terms of what we’re offering our customers: flexibility in the deployment, whether you’re looking at a premise appliance model versus a hybrid, cloud-virtualized environments. We have a lot of flexibility now in how we deliver these solutions to our customers.

I want to talk about leveraging feature entitlements, moving forward.

Schnieder: One thing that we found walking into an existing customer base, we find that many times customers don’t fully understand the breadth of features that they have available to them, they’ve already purchased.

Right, stuff they already own and have in the closet, so to speak.

Schnieder: Exactly, and some of these are hidden entitlements within a certain feature level. Some of them are bundled within suite licensing bundles. And some of them are enhanced reporting capabilities that are underneath maintenance offerings as well. So one thing we really want our customers to look at is really understanding what those features are, what are available to them. Some of these are features that are very powerful, that have been within the Aura and Affinity product lines for many, many years. Things like EC500 and Meet Me Conferencing. Many customers might not even be aware these are features they are able to consume immediately. And many of these are not even requiring the purchase of a server or the engagement of a formal professional services implementation, engagement with a partner, with Avaya. Some of these, a savvy telecom engineer can open a book and take advantage of some of these applications within a couple of hours within their environment.

So your role is to enable or foster that to happen within your customer base?

Schnieder: Absolutely. We really want to make sure that while we’re talking to our customers about expanding and evolving and moving forward, that we make sure they have a full understanding of where they are at a baseline today, and that they’re able to fully leverage the investment they’ve already begun.

It’s interesting. It kind of relates to another topic that I’m very near and dear with, and that’s public safety solutions. There was a horrible death in Texas December 1st where a poor little girl watched her mother get killed in a hotel room, and didn’t know she needed to dial 9 for an outside line. And that prompted some meetings with the FCC and I put out a list of three simple things that could be turned on that people already own in their PBX: dialing 911 with or without an access code, turning on crisis alerts to know that the event happened, and then routing that call directly out to public safety. So it’s just another example of the power of the box, the power of the system that’s there that people bought and that wasn’t top of mind at the time. So it’s like, “Oh hey, look what’s laying in the closet here.”

Schnieder: Exactly. And that could take the form of everything from looking at least-cost routing using tail-end hop-off of remote gateways to a call center environment. Many customers we talked to today aren’t aware that Business Advocate is now an entitlement within your elite call center.

What does Business Advocate do?

Schnieder: Beyond the basic skills-based routing of Elite, Business Advocate provides for an additional, very advanced feature set: service level, prioritization within the call center, a host of new ways to approach and prioritize your VIP callers, treat your call center in slightly a different way instead of most idle agent.

That’s where the power of a call center really comes into play. We used to call them call centers, and then we started calling them contact centers, and now I hear them called interaction centers because that’s what it’s now really turning into because we’re looking at all this big data that’s available. But you have to be able to have the applications to deal with all that. Again, stuff that is built into the platforms that just need to be activated.

Schnieder: Exactly.

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