Avaya Launches E169 Media Station, Linking Smartphones and Tablets with Desk Phone

If your customers are like a lot of the ones I’ve been talking to, they’re finding that it makes sense to support their users (or a subset of their users) differently than they had in the past.

In the old days, we didn’t think twice about providing a hard phone (ie 96×1, 96xx, 46xx, etc) to every new employee that started. It was all simply part of the new hire onboarding package. But more and more employees are asking “Hey, why did you send me this phone? I’d rather just use my cell phone.”

In reality, they’re not saying they don’t want enterprise telephony. They’re simply saying that they don’t plan to be sitting at their desk every time they need to talk to someone. Avaya has certainly come up with some great SIP-based mobile applications for when the user is away from their desk. One-X Mobile SIP, Avaya Communicator for Android, and Flare Experience for iPad are just a few of the apps that let us be connected inside or outside your normal work environment.

But as great as these application are, you soon realize, “Hey, wait a minute. I do actually sit at my desk quite a bit. And I hate using my cell phone for those long calls at my desk. I’m burning through battery like crazy, and I want better voice quality than I’m getting from my cell phone. I guess I need a desk phone also.”

Or do you? What you really need is a way to augment your mobile device with the missing pieces that you so desperately need when sitting at your desk. This is where Avaya’s new E169 Media Station comes into play.

Avaya E169 Media Station

Let me just start out with how much I love this device. Normally, when I’m working from home, my standard practice is to plug my iPad/iPhone into USB power and pair up the E169 Media Station with my Jabra 510 speakerphone. (Side note, I’ve been installing these outlets in every strategic place in my house to make sure I’m always near USB power: http://www.amazon.com/gp/product/B00J3PMU4C)

The Jabra 510 is a great speakerphone, but offers no privacy, and tends to get annoying to anyone around me. The E169 Media Station solves all of this. It is a base station for just about any mobile device. It has docking capability for a mobile phone or a tablet. To be flexible, it ships with one micro USB, one 30-pin Apple connector, and one Lightning Apple connector. It also includes a variety of inserts to keep your device firmly situated and stable. This modular approach gives us the flexibility to adapt to future devices (as long as they’re ultimately USB connected, which everything is nowadays).

Its speakerphone sounds fantastic, rivaling that of my personal Bose Bluetooth Dock. Beamforming spatial audio, 4 dynamic echo-cancelling microphones, 6 high-performance speakers and a downward firing subwoofer make this the best-sounding SIP phone I’ve ever heard.

Avaya E169 Media Station

What’s interesting about Avaya’s approach on this is that there are two modes supported. The first uses the media station as the actual SIP phone. It functions with or without a mobile device docked. Its clean, simplistic, physical look is complimented with a “companion” app (available for iOS and Android) that lets you program every detail of the base station.

Administratively, we can determine how long the base station keeps the identity of the mobile device once it is removed from the base. I can set it to lose the identity immediately, keep it infinitely, or keep it for a specific amount of time following undocking. The other option is to simply use it as a Bluetooth audio device for the existing Avaya mobile apps.

There’s definitely advantages and disadvantages to each of these.

For example, the base station itself is very easy to use, switching back and forth between speaker and handset like you would expect. It is a generic SIP’ing 19 phone, with interoperability to many different SIP environments.

While these third-party SIP profiles are selectable, they are NOT yet supported by Avaya. But as an Avaya endpoint, it means that the E169 is NOT an Avaya AST (Advanced SIP Telephony) device. So, no feature buttons, advanced conferencing, etc. It subscribes to the Message-Summary feature set for MWI, but that’s about it. It does, however, support the same methodology for settings files and firmware upgrade files. As in, when the media station boots up, it looks on the HTTPSRVR server for a E1x9MSUpgrade.txt file that helps it get its firmware updates. That file then calls for a customized settings files named E169settings.txt. This is exactly how it works with existing Avaya IP phones. Avaya has full plans to add more advanced telephony functionality in future releases.

When using it as a Bluetooth base station for Avaya’s existing AST devices (such as Flare Experience for iPad, one-X Mobile SIP, and Avaya Communicator for Android), you do get a lot more features and tighter integration. BUT those apps currently don’t know how to talk to the other cool features of the E169 Media Station (Handset keypad, volume control, mute, MWI, etc). Avaya tells me that the future versions of the Avaya mobile apps will become Media Station-aware. With that, you will be able to use the cool advanced apps, but can leverage the hardware of the E169 directly, the same way the Avaya Media Station companion app does today.

I wish a couple of things were different.

I’ve already found a need for 4 USB ports. Right now, there are only 2, and with the handset using one of them, there’s only room for ONE docked device. So, while the E169 can physically dock a tablet and a phone, you can only use one at a time. This makes total sense from a user-interface perspective, but I actually would like to have both connected for charging purposes.

It also can only store a Bluetooth profile for one device at a time. So, having a Bluetooth link to your mobile device AND a Bluetooth headset doesn’t currently seem to be an option. There isn’t a traditional RJ11 headset jack. Headset support comes from USB or eventually the integrated 3.5mm mini stereo headset jack. The good news is that Avaya has already tested the USB integration to the Jabra 9460 and 9470 and offer full support there.

I’ve been using the E169 for a week now and have become a big fan. General availability comes July 7th. Avaya will release a smaller, “mid-range” version, called the E159, in August. The functionality introduced initially is really good. But the roadmap for future releases looks even better.

Bottom line, the E169 and the E159 are a great way for your customers’ telecom teams to stay relevant to how their end users want to communicate. BYOD is very real. Consumer-grade device mobility is very real. But enterprise-class communications is also still very real. Help your customers live the best of both worlds. Talk to them about Avaya’s new Media Stations.

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Winning the CX with Apps, Integrated Data Views, Custom Agent Desktops

An estimated $6 trillion in global revenue is up for grabs due to dissatisfied customers constantly switching providers, seeking a better customer experience—CX. From finance to retail to hospitality, it seems virtually every industry is grappling with above-average customer churn. Why? Technology has evolved to a point where there is now an inconceivable number of ways for customers to engage with brands, creating a communications environment that many companies simply aren’t set up to handle.

Think about it: if customers aren’t connecting with a brand using one of their three personal mobile devices, they’re leveraging a myriad of other channels and connected platforms to research, communicate and engage. Consider that 150 million emails and 2.4 million Google search queries were sent last year per minute. In that same 60 seconds, almost one million customers were logging into Facebook, and almost 350,000 new tweets were being posted. Over 50,000 apps were being downloaded per minute through the Apple App Store, and over 20 million messages were being sent via communication apps like WhatsApp.

If these statistics show us anything, it’s that experience is everything. The average consumer today uses a combination of the above channels to engage with his or her favorite brands. In fact, in 2014, over 40 % of customers were already using up to seven different service channels including live chat, email, social media, SMS and traditional phone.

The Entire Organization Contributes to the CX

In this next-generation communications environment, a series of unique interaction touch points are created to form a dynamic, inimitable customer journey, as Avaya’s Bernard Gutnick discusses in his blog “Customer Journey Maps Help Strengthen Relationships.” This journey extends across an entire organization, regardless of business line or function. It transcends the limitations of time and space. Conversations continue where they last left off and are routed to whoever is best fit to help, regardless of where that expert resides within the organization. As mentioned, however, many companies aren’t set up to handle this kind of environment from an architectural standpoint. Just consider companies in industries like government, where 71% of federal IT decision makers still use old operating systems to run important applications

Communications-Enabled Applications

To create this revolutionary environment, businesses must operate on open, agile infrastructure that enables them to build any communications-enabled application organization-wide. In today’s smart, digital world, companies need the speed and flexibility to design, build and run unique applications to meet constantly changing customer needs and business requirements. This open environment supports businesses with a contextual, 360-degree view of the customer journey—a view that seamlessly extends across all teams, processes and customer touch points to deliver unparalleled brand experiences.

These apps need to be easy for IT to create, deploy and manage, and they must be agile enough to serve multiple departments to improve ROI and TCO. Driven by the right tools and strategies, every employee must be empowered to do his or her job at maximum potential each day. As we’ve mentioned time and again, gaining a 360-degree view of the customer means serving both contact center and non-contact center environments within a company. This is exactly why best-in-class companies are 30% more likely to align their entire organization around the customer to ensure consistency and contextualization.

Integrated Data Views and Custom Agent Desktops

Here’s how this next-generation communications environment specifically works:

  • A full library of customer engagement capabilities for contact centers—plus team engagement APIs to build business apps for almost any computer environment (i.e., Mac, Windows, iOS, Android and Javascript)—enables businesses to continually reinvent the communications experience, thus reimagining CX possibilities and business outcomes. This is how any expert can be made available for any customer inquiry or issue regardless of their location within the organization.
  • Companies can build their own contact center apps, or embed specific functions into their existing apps, to customize the agent desktop for any unique customer configuration. This ability to instantly innovate customer communications enables organizations to anticipate and respond to the speed of the consumer. Keep in mind that virtually anyone should be able to oversee these customizations, be it the company’s development team, system integrators, or the provider’s professional services team.
  • To know where your customers want to go, you must first know where they’ve been. With CRM information directly integrated within its interface, a web-based application empowers agents with a single, integrated browser view. This enables employees to view all data—both historical and real-time—across every fathomable interaction channel. This means an agent seeing that a customer communicated with a chatbot twice over the last two days about a billing error, for example. Agents will never have to wonder what steps were taken prior to their interaction with a customer, and consumers will never have to repeat the same information or be transferred across multiple different agents. Also keep in mind that this move to a web-based application offers contact center operators more flexibility to leverage general purpose browsers on a range of computers such as Macs, PCs and Chromebooks. This not only eliminates the need to upgrade client apps, but allows companies to customize the layout of each contact center so that information matches the requirements of each individual operation.

As technology continually evolves, businesses will have no choice but to press forward if they wish to perform at the speed of the consumer. Experience is everything, and organizations need a new way to design, deliver and manage customer engagements. With customers now using more digital channels than ever to engage with the brands they love, it’s clear that customer-based business applications have won the war.

Interested in learning more or chatting about transforming your environment? We can help enable you to compete and win the hearts and minds of your employees and customers. Contact us. We’re here to help and would love to hear from you.

A totally new way to approach customers—and a million reasons to do so

Last month, Laurent Philonenko wrote about some of the exciting work being done with the Avaya Breeze™ Platform, noting that many of our 2016 DevConnect Excellence Award winners were making the creation of Avaya Snap-ins a center point of their strategies.

There is perhaps no better proof point for this than the efforts of Engelbart Software GmbH, our 2016 DevConnect Partner of the Year.

DevConnect business development manager Bill Petty recently sat down with Dirk Engelbart, founder and owner of Engelbart Software, as part of our new DevConnect 8-and-Out podcast series, and talked about their experiences with Avaya Breeze. Avaya Breeze represents “a totally new way to approach customers,” according to Dirk.

In the interview, Dirk speaks directly to the opportunities his company is able to pursue through Avaya Breeze, with “millions of use cases” solvable at his fingertips through Avaya Breeze. His examples, including a manufacturing-related solution to enable warehouse workers to reach suppliers by mapping part numbers via SAP integration, clearly demonstrate the power of this platform.

But most impressive is his story of delivering a deal-winning proof-of-concept implementation in less than two days. This isn’t just a mockup, or some fancy slideware that shows what could be done, but rather a demonstrable, tangible example of how it is actually implemented.

We’ve been hearing this speed-to-market feedback from Avaya customers and partners alike, as we’ve been running bootcamps and training programs on Avaya Breeze and related tools like Avaya Engagement Designer. Avaya Breeze simply makes it easy and quick to create solutions that, using more traditional CTI methods, would have taken weeks to months to complete.

So grab a cup of coffee/soda/tea, and have a listen to what Dirk has to say about Avaya Breeze and why Engelbart has shifted all of their development focus towards leveraging Avaya Breeze.

Why Healthcare Providers Need to Deliver Uber-Like Service

I have a confession to make: I’ve never used Uber. Personally, I like to order my taxis the old fashioned way – by calling the local service on my smartphone and paying via credit card. I know, so 2009.

But while seemingly all my friends are now Uber converts, I’ve yet to download the app, because I know it would be used once, or never, and then just sit on my phone. While there are now literally millions of apps available to us, not many of them actually get used. According to data from Nielsen, the average U.S. smartphone user accesses less than 30 apps per month, with 70 percent of total app usage coming from the top 200 apps.

So, which app would get my vote? A recent unfortunate event has made up my mind for me. The event was my son breaking his arm, and the dream app for me would be one that simplified my healthcare journey.

That dream healthcare smartphone app is yet to be created. After we rushed my son to the emergency room, we had to present his insurance card, answer questions about his previous medical history, any allergies to medication, list his emergency contacts and so on, all before he could be admitted to see a physician. By the time he did actually see a doctor, he was in so much pain his screams echoed through the hospital, and I was in tears.

Even worse, when we got to the operating room, the doctor went through the same list of questions. Fast forward another few hours and my son has now been transferred to a hospital room for two days of observation. With each doctor and nurse on duty, most of the questions asked before are asked again.

Now, if I had my dream app available, we would have clicked a single button to instantly talk to emergency responders, who could access my son’s up-to-date medical and healthcare profile. My phone could be geolocated and an ambulance dispatched, with skilled medical staff available who could relay information about my son’s condition to physicians while en route to the hospital. That information might prompt the hospital to make an emergency room available and prep the surgical team for an immediate operation–with the entire procedure being completed in a few hours, and questions restricted to immediate medical issues.

Admittedly, this is expecting a lot from one app: Uber doesn’t especially care about what happens to you once you reach your destination, after all. Is it too much to expect our healthcare providers to focus on providing a seamless experience for their users? The ordeal I suffered with my son recently was made worse because the hospital hadn’t done enough to ensure that I wasn’t frustrated as I progressed through the system, and to link its various points of contact… it lacked an omnichannel customer experience.

This seamless experience in healthcare is what each one of us should expect and healthcare providers should aspire to deliver. We take for granted that when we use Uber, we are going to get a reliable and safe journey that will get us to where we want to be. In the future, healthcare providers that don’t deliver the best possible experience to their customers are going to find themselves left behind by those providers who do.