How Customer Service Tools are Going Mobile

A number of retailers are allowing their customers to download smartphone applications that connect them to their e-commerce websites, giving them the ability to search for and purchase products from virtually anywhere.

In order give customers a strong support system, many merchandisers offering mobile apps are implementing live help technology to provide assistance to those who have questions about items.

Taking a page from CRM 
Salesforce.com, one of the world’s signature providers of customer relationship management tools, recently debuted an application that connects customers to representatives with the touch of a button.

This tool has primarily been used by organizations offering services, as opposed to products. Typically, users customize the application so it connects certain customers with specific salespeople. CRM is all about creating familiarity and building relationships between buyers and sellers – a difficult endeavor for nationwide retailers catering to hundreds of thousands of customers a day.

Just because establishing an empathetic connection with a such a large number of consumers is arduous doesn’t mean companies should view the initiative as impossible. In many regards, people are relatively high maintenance when it comes to obtaining assistance. Equipping help center employees with rudimentary call handling technology isn’t a good tactic to employ.

Integrating the smartphone 
In the past, it was likely that a contact center utilized more advanced technology than customers. Today, the tables have turned, and consumers are more tech savvy than they were fifteen years ago. As a result, people commonly expect corporations generating millions of dollars in annual revenue to possess customer service tools that would make a smartphone appear obsolete.

According to Call Centre Helper contributor Neil Titcomb, a report conducted by British research firm Gensys discovered that only 20 percent of companies currently have a mobile consumer assistance application. Although cloud computing has made employing such technology possible, there are still a large number of consumers who cannot browse a Web page on a smartphone and correspond with a help desk employee simultaneously because many companies have failed to implement the appropriate software.

However, the companies that allow people to communicate with them in such a manner can employ mobile screen sharing, which allows a representative to help a caller navigate a website. One particular program powered by Genesys contains a contact icon that enables individuals to select their preferred method for speaking with an employee. Once customers make their choice, the representative receiving the inquiry is informed of what tool the callers are using before the connection is established.

“The agent will thus have a full overview of who the customer is and what they have been trying to achieve prior to the contact,” wrote Titcomb. “This process ensures that the customer communicates with the best agent available to resolve the concern, while the agent will have the necessary information to resolve that concern, and resolve it quickly.”

People interact with each other through multiple devices and communicative means. From a basic phone call to instant screen sharing, it’s imperative for companies to provide their employees with the necessary support software.

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This article originally appeared on the LiveLOOK blog, and is reprinted with permission.

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Five Things You Must Do to Shift Customer Experience in 2018

We all know that to drive competitiveness, you must shift customer experience—and that this is now more important than ever. But shift to what? How? When? I hear these questions all the time when meeting with customers in our Executive Briefing Centers, and at tradeshows and conferences. The industry is rallying around terms like “omnichannel,” “cloud,” and “analytics,” but the contact center is not a one-size-fits-all entity. You can’t instantly accomplish a great shift for your business simply by buying omnichannel for your contact center. Rather, it’s a delicate process that requires you to refresh and integrate systems together.

How to Shift Customer Experience

As executives and leaders in customer experience, we must be ready to make changes that can shift a contact center to deliver a better customer experience. Here are five things that Avaya recommends you do in 2018. These may seem obvious, but collectively they can yield true lifetime value results from customers:

  1. Understand Your Customer Journeys
    Rather than looking at countless different, individual interactions, choose to put your customer on a journey, one that rarely starts and stops with just one contact. Take an outside-in view by identifying several important customer journeys and customer preferences. Or, consider low CX scores that can be improved either through self-service assistance or by linking channels together with context (this helps to understand where the customer has been before).
  2. Listen to Your Feet on the Street
    While your customers’ feedback is essential, it is your frontline staff who will give you direct pointers. These individuals understand the necessary tools and training for reaching new levels of customer experience. Consider, for example, that 84% of global contact centers are adapting to meet the needs of next-gen millennial workers. Give your agents a sense of ownership and they will tell you where they can personalize and engage with customers on a greater level. Your agents could potentially sell more when they’re able to make customers feel great about their overall experience. The key is to arm agents with the right information on their desktops.
  3. Support Advanced Automation and Analytics
    According to Gartner, more than 50% of CIOs will have artificial intelligence as one of their top five investment priorities by 2020. AI will assist greatly in understanding the customer journey: augmented reality and bots can automate more processes over human-to-human interactions. Keep in mind, however, that humans are still needed. It’s just that advanced automation and analytics, when put in the right place, can lead to richer and more effective experiences between customers and representatives.
  4. Break Internal Silos
    Creating an orchestrated experience requires executives to look as a team at organizational processes. Take charge as the person who identifies and leads change across your entire organization. Departments working in silos—sales, marketing, service—all stop short when processes are not stitched together. Also keep in mind that your CRM systems and contact center processes must complement one another. They need to come together to drive better customer and business outcomes.
  5. Bridge The Gaps
    Now comes the fun stuff: ownership, budget and getting a project underway. This can be done either by way of proof of concept, or segmenting a certain group of interactions to begin changing processes. Take note of the before and after, and check-in with your customers on improvements (consider surveys or one-to-one outreach). Assess if there are new roles or skillsets needed to keep up with the change. Take it one step at a time and prove a return on investment against identified use cases before moving on.

You need to make a shift happen in 2018 to continually innovate customer experience and improve lifetime value. It will require some research and a few bold moves. I promise it will be a rewarding process if it is inclusive of input and bridges critical gaps.

So, where do you start? I encourage you to talk to Avaya about an assessment or visit one of our Executive Briefing Center sites. From initial strategizing to execution, Avaya can help you develop a solid customer experience plan that yields true lifetime value—we can even model a potential ROI or CLV based on your own estimates. Contact Avaya to learn more.

Bridging a Critical Gap, Avaya CRM Connector for Salesforce Transforms CX

When it comes to the customer experience (CX), things are still a bit complicated. Case in point: 89% of companies are believed to be competing based on the CX, yet research shows that almost half think the CX is too difficult. It starts to make sense, then, why 87% of customers think brands need to put more effort into providing consistent experiences.

It’s vital that companies get to the heart of this problem, and fast. Consider that in just three short years, the CX is expected to overtake price and product as the No. 1 key differentiator. In that same time, analysts predict that demand for an omnichannel experience will be amplified by the need for near-perfect execution.

What’s the reason for this disconnect? Despite best-laid plans, many companies still support a siloed operating model that hinders growth and performance. They have yet to integrate across all lines of business and third-party systems to deliver consistent, contextual customer experiences. In fact, 62% of systems today are not integrated, and 58% of interaction channels are still managed in silos.

It’s time to change the paradigm with the right technology foundation—one that flexibly yet securely integrates to address critical gaps in our smart, digital world. That’s why we’re so excited about the Avaya CRM Connector, designed specifically for Salesforce integration.

Avaya and Salesforce: The Best of Both Worlds

The Avaya CRM Connector enhances the relationship between Salesforce and the underlying foundation of the contact center. Built on our open application Avaya Breeze™ platform, this modular software enables users to seamlessly integrate with a range of Salesforce applications including Lightning, the company’s all-new framework for enterprise app development and improved user experience.

With this connector users can quickly and easily add new digital channels to:

  • Innovate customer touchpoints
  • Gain more context from each interaction
  • Drive anticipatory engagement at the individual account level

As an open application platform, Avaya Breeze even allows users to develop custom apps to meet specific CX and vertical needs. In healthcare, for example, this might mean a custom scheduling app for hospital staff. In hospitality, this could mean creating apps that offer personalized in-room help or recommendations.

Simpler integration means the ability to provide faster, more accurate and more personalized service, all while increasing agent productivity and reducing costs (McKinsey estimates cost reductions as high as 20%). The CRM Connector supports Avaya Call Center Elite and the Avaya Oceana™ Solution, and will soon have integration for Salesforce Multichannel API.

Here’s what you can expect from this game-changing alliance:

  • Currently Available: Avaya Integration for Classic Salesforce
    • Avaya Call Center Elite Integration (Voice): Enables use of Elite for voice control and routing in the Salesforce classic agent console.
    • Avaya Oceana Integration (Voice and Digital Channels): Users can leverage Salesforce screen pops/iframes via Avaya Oceana™ They can also use Avaya routing for all Avaya voice and digital channels, driven by Salesforce data.
  • Coming this Summer: Lightening Integration—We’ll be kicking things up a notch by enabling Elite voice and routing control, as well as Oceana channel and routing control, in Salesforce Lightning.
  • On the Horizon: AI and IoT Enablement—It just gets better. Soon, users will be able to leverage Einstein for recommended service actions to transform customer and agent experiences. Considering the substantial acceleration of IoT and AI for customer engagement, this ability to deliver proactive IoT- and AI-enabled service is critical.

The Future of the Customer Experience

Technology was voted as the greatest enabler to positively transform the CX over the last five years, yet over a quarter of organizations say their technology systems fail to meet current needs. This strategic alliance between Avaya, the No. 1 global provider of contact center services, and Salesforce, the No. 1 global CRM provider, brings enterprises one step closer to bridging this critical technology gap.

Companies today must redefine the way they operate. This means connecting people, systems, devices, processes and workflows in ways like never before. As the world shifts to a more open ecosystem, next-level integration is what will enable brands to create truly superior customer experiences and business outcomes.

What Our Predicted 2016 Trends Reveal About the Future of Business

At Avaya, we’re always looking forward. When creating a road map for the future of the company and the benefit of our customers, my team and I look ahead to anticipate the communications needs of tomorrow.

Last year, we predicted that midmarket companies would move to more cloud-based solutions; video would become a formidable channel; and Web chat would play an increasingly pivotal role in delivering omni-channel support. Do these trends sound familiar? These are all very real business conversations happening today. As we enter 2016, we couldn’t help but ask ourselves yet again, “What’s next?”

We thought long and hard about the trends that businesses should expect to see in 2016. Interesting conversations led us to an even more interesting question, “What do these projected trends say about the future of business?” We concluded that the world revolves around the customer now more than ever. As a result, when making purchasing decisions about communications tools and technologies, there needs to be a greater emphasis on customer use cases. Ask yourself, “What specific use cases am I solving for?”

We identified key trends to look for in 2016, and each says something really exciting about where the enterprise is heading:

More networks lean on Fabric

The increasing volume of data and bandwidth utilization from the burgeoning number of Internet of Things (IoT) sensors and “smart,” connected devices such as healthcare devices, home security systems and appliances, vending machines, check-out stands, etc. will drive traditional networks to the breaking point. Mesh topologies and Fabric-based technologies will become increasingly attractive as the answer for cost-effective solutions that can accommodate the capacity needed and flexibility required for the constant changes in network traffic. Decades of client server architectures are coming to an end.

Customer contact centers become more flexible and connected

Omni-channel access/pre-routing will gather momentum as smartphones become the interface of choice for customers. This means much more efficient handling of customer inquiries, leading to greater satisfaction, lower costs for balancing and distributing incoming customer communications over multiple locations, and easing IT operations for the business.

The percentage of people connecting to an enterprise will continue to be increasingly digitally dominated from browsers and mobile applications, which will drive specialized ways of serving those customers from the customer experience (CX) perspective. This dynamic will also drive customer relationship management (CRM) and marketing-oriented projects for the more innovative companies.

As customer satisfaction scores for video within the contact center outrank other channels, we will continue to see more video deployed as an option to increase customer engagement. Video capabilities enhance the ability to develop the personal relationship with a customer, establish trust more quickly and allow agents to better understand the customer’s need, which can lead to improved time to resolution.

Enterprise-grade WebRTC gains momentum

Enterprise-grade WebRTC conferencing from desktop and mobile browsers will speed the ability for participants to join common virtual areas without launching separate applications.

Automotive telecommunications will become a fast-growing customer contact center channel

With sensors and telematics systems becoming more common in automobiles today, information on vehicle usage and driver behavior is more readily-available, providing an opportunity for manufacturers, dealers and OEMs to forge closer relationships with customers, increase loyalty to their brand and increase margins. Specifically, sensor-based reporting on car maintenance and usage enables more convenient, proactive services for car owners, alerting them to upcoming maintenance, repairs or safety issues. Sensors and telematics also provide opportunities for tie-ins with insurers, such as safe driver discounts, not to mention access to a myriad of other services.

Further proliferation of wearable technology will drive customer satisfaction

Over the next four years, sales of wearables worldwide are predicted to increase almost eight-fold from last year. The explosion will make the most important device we carry – our smartphone – even more significant by expanding its role as our personal hub by serving as a proxy for our wearable tech.

But a less talked about, must-watch dynamic is the evolution of wearables in in the workplace, beyond the contact center. As headset and communications technologies continue to evolve, new wearable technologies hone in on special applications for workers who need hands-free access to information and communications capabilities. For example, a remote healthcare worker could use communications-enabled wearables to video call with city-based surgical teams when operating on a patient.

The “guest” experience in sports and hospitality gets connected and smart

Analytics for sports and entertainment will no longer be just about the athletic performance. Fan analytics − or the analysis of data collected from fans across several touchpoints − will help venues measure, optimize and monetize the fan experience.

And with Facebook’s release of Oculus, we can expect to watch the virtual reality scene play out for sports fans. The technology will provide the red button experience both in the stadium and at home. For example, using just a smartphone, fans could choose 50+ camera angles to watch the game from while still in their seat. This could include views from the goal, corner flag or the umpire’s hat, even the players’ shirts. The hotel room will be an extension of your home as – with your permission – it will know your context and provide all your usual connectivity.

Connected Government will become the new normal

Connected Government will emerge, embracing social media through multimedia communications. Text-to-911 will ramp up quickly, but fade just as fast, as citizens embrace total immersion in Face2Face911 through video and pictures from their broadband-enabled smart devices.

They try really hard, but messaging apps will not replace email

Email is a communication tool that by now is simply part of doing business worldwide. Unlike messaging apps, email has structure. There are subject lines, the ability to reply to one or many, the ability to categorize, create folders, and the list goes on. The basic structure is, for the most part, consistent between email providers. Furthermore, a Gmail user can email an Exchange user and so on. While messaging apps are trendy and fun to use socially, they are the newborns of the written communications world who have no organization skills and  a lot of growing up to do.

Hybrid/private clouds remain the business critical application workhorse for next 5 years  

Going to the cloud has many benefits, but it can lead to some new challenges that businesses need to consider. As solutions move from homogenous, monolithic technology to heterogeneous technology running on layers upon layers of cloud infrastructure, customers get increasingly concerned about cloud security and accountability for service delivery/support of the full solution. Customers will demand accountability and value from their “point” vendors, requiring strong relationships and mastery of the infrastructure implications, which includes the cloud applications, as well as the network and desktop/mobile devices that serve them.

Customer relationships rule for vendor differentiation, as support increasingly relies on self-service and self-healing systems   

The value-add of contracted support is becoming less visible as leading-edge vendors put more remediation and proactivity into tools and systems. As a result, vendors need to develop strategies and underlying system intelligence to improve customer experience with offers that help increase adoption and full value realization. Vendors will need to intentionally work to maintain the human factors of the service event to overcome the depersonalization that may result from increasingly technical solutions by implementing things such as relationship-based routing and service deliverables combined with high-satisfaction channels, most notably, video.