The Top 7 Communication Trends of 2014 (Mid-Year Scorecard)

The Summer Solstice has come and gone. We have reached the second half of 2014. Now makes for a particularly good time to take a 6-month review of our projected 2014 communications trends projected in December 2013 and more importantly, where we are going. While the predictions may have been made many months ago, it seems that all have taken on more urgency now.

As the economy continues to improve, we believe that most of the trends were right on target, with some accelerating faster. Supporting the growth of the seven service trends are three dynamic forces: the private cloud, demand for OpEx solutions and desire for the latest applications.

Let’s take a look at the 7 Trends scorecard of hits and misses:

#1: Businesses extend deeper into the cloud… hit!

In the first half of 2014, businesses extended deeper into the cloud, with a real acceleration in private cloud. As mentioned by Avaya CEO Kevin Kennedy, there has been a surge of 5-to-1 customer ratio of interest in private cloud solutions. The largest customers are now inclined to want private cloud because of all that it has to offer, particularly privacy and security. Relationships for private cloud are typically 3 to 5 years with a short onboarding period that used to make the public cloud the preferable option.

Customers requesting private or public cloud fall along the lines of security. Vertical market clients that are sensitive, such as healthcare (with HIPAA enforcement) and financial services (compliance with government regulations), are more likely to maintain their databases and systems in a private environment–sometimes onsite or in a data center.

Public cloud clients are typically smaller- to medium-sized businesses that do not want to invest in a private cloud environment. These clients tend to operate in industries that are more consumer-oriented and do not require as much security.

#2: Purse strings could be loosening… hit!

The whole economy has come out of the 2007-2009 market slowdown. We are seeing lots of IT organizations trying to recover what was lost in a short period of time. To overcome the technology gap made possible by years of dormancy, many are playing catch up with the cloud.

#3: Another major shift in IT focus – from products and services to outcomes… hit!

Leaders of IT organizations are shifting their model, with more focus on agents being effective than just having access and offering accretive value, just as we described in “Why IT Should Spend More Time Focusing on Passengers, and Less Time on the Locomotive.” By moving beyond the mundane functionality of managing daily patch releases, IT managers are serving as strategic sources tapped by the C-suite and marketing.

#4: Crowdsourcing emerges in the support services setting… hit again!

As the social media space continues to grow, companies are more likely to leverage the expertise of customer forums. Companies are now turning to their customers and user bases for crowdsourcing. Individuals are becoming sources that are trusted most, with only the best achieving “Expert” and “Super Genius” status.

#5: The midmarket will expect different treatment… hit!

As can be seen at Enterprise Connect and IAUG, mid-market companies are looking for solutions tailored to their businesses and their needs. Mid-market companies are not looking for scaled down or rebranded enterprise contact center solutions.

#6: Multimodal communications support reaches a tipping point… hit!

One of the more interesting trends is multi-modal, also known to many as omnichannel. Lots of vendors are racing for a multimodal environment to support clients by e-mail, knowledge-based articles, via voice over the Web or video. These are all great for customers, but it can become challenging to decide which channel is best to resolve a problem. For example, you can visually see that a cable should be in port four rather than having to describe it on the phone.

How do you make sure to choose or optimize the right channel while not overwhelming the customer? Ways to clearly identify the best communications channel are now paramount.

#7: The people you need when you need them… hit!

What’s interesting is that we were looking at this trend more than six months ago. More complex networks and IT solutions are requiring more than generalists to maintain and solve them. With fewer part-time IT people available, companies are having a difficult time quickly and easily finding resources to enable them to find the necessary experts in certain areas.

Companies are having mixed results getting tools and access to peer and dedicated resources. More time is being spent trying to get the necessary resources that leverage the right tools at the right time. Many are moving to off-site resources, no longer having to worry about having dedicated resources to deal with deployment of new applications and software.

So overall, we ended up going 7 for 7, which is much better than expected! Since we started in 2008, we have had a pretty good track record: 80% good, 20% languish.

What trends did we miss?

What do you expect to be hot in 2015?

Follow me on Twitter: @Pat_Patterson_V

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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.