Top 6 Communications Services Trends of 2015 – Midyear Review

In October 2014, we assembled a team of five service experts led by Mike Runda, Senior Vice President and President, Avaya Client Services, and asked them to predict services-related technology trends likely to emerge in 2015. Mike and the team came up with six key communications services trends.

Now, halfway through 2015, we’re taking a look back at those predictions to see where we’ve been and, most importantly, where we’re going.

Check out which trends are emerging, which trends have reached a key inflection point, and which are the most (positively) disruptive:

#1: The cloud takes shape.

Prediction: “The market is about five calendar quarters into an eight-quarter transformation, from a mindset that favored on premise, owned equipment, to one where executives think of cloud solutions first as they consider new and upgraded communications capabilities. The hosted cloud solution will need to drive a differentiated support services experience in which users can click from within the application to get timely help.”

Emerging:  While medium- to midsize businesses continue trending to public cloud and large enterprises continue to migrate to private cloud, the challenge for IT directors is dealing with a situation that has taken a 180-degree turn.

Two years ago, CEOs and CIOs were asking the question, “Why would we go to the cloud?” Those same CEOs and CIOs today manage their photos through iCloud and access team calendars through apps like Google Docs. Now more comfortable with the cloud, they’re asking, “Why not go cloud at the start?”

The answer is security. Although the typically lower-priced opex (often deployed as a subscription-based cloud service) model plays well with the CIOs and CFOs in the C-suite, cybersecurity concerns have led many decision-makers to take a step back and consider private cloud or hybrid solutions as the starting point.

Intrusions into corporate databases at Target, Sony, Home Depot and, just recently, the hacking of 22.1 million Federal employee records have led companies to think twice. Security issues, which have always been part of the cloud debate, are now center stage.

#2: Video support reaches an inflection point — if you snooze, you lose.

Prediction: “At the end of 2013, Amazon.com became the first company to offer one-way video customer support. In 2014, Avaya became the first company to offer both one-way and two-way video support options for customer engagement. Now, companies in many industry verticals are adopting—or at least piloting—some form of video. Businesses that haven’t begun to make the move to video will be challenged to catch up with their competitors.”

Key Inflection Point:  There is now enough data to prove that leveraging video improves interactions over phone, Web, text or any other form of special communications. Adding video to support provides a broader, more enriched experience.

Video is the only communication medium that enables support engineers to see the problem, rather than having it described to them. Many companies are choosing two-way video first because of the reward of quick resolution time. By no longer talking to a handset and instead talking “face-to-face” with a person, customers feel like they’re maximizing their service agreements.

#3: As omnichannel support matures, Web chat plays a pivotal role.

Prediction: “Even as video gains momentum as a high-touch channel (see Trend #2), companies will continue to use Web chat as the relatively low-expense way to initiate the customer experience from a website, to triage that experience, and to direct customers to the appropriate support channel and other support resources and tools.”

Emerging:  The emergence of Millennials in the workforce, and their preference for text-based communication, is leading to chat growth. This growth is only hastened by the benefits for employers. Since support engineers can handle multiple interactions at a time via chat, it’s an incredibly efficient medium.

While chat is pivotal to a well-rounded support strategy, the emphasis remains on empowering consumers to choose their method of communication. An award-winning dynamic network that offers many forms of communication, including chat, has led to quicker resolutions and more importantly, increased customer satisfaction scores for Avaya.

#4: Social media and crowdsourcing: Are you really engaging your customers?

Prediction: “It will be imperative to bridge the gap between simply monitoring social platforms for conversations about your company and doing something about them — i.e., capturing, routing and responding to those conversations within your contact center and/or broader enterprise, as well as encouraging customer-employee interaction through crowdsourcing, which is often carried out in private forums.”

Emerging: Online conversations are increasingly spreading out beyond the familiar boundaries of Facebook, Twitter and LinkedIn. Customer engagement tools not only help identify the conversation occurring in real-time, but offer up tools to respond, if needed. People, particularly Millennials, inherently trust the opinions of their friends, other consumers and brands (and probably in that order). Smart companies are offering tools to help users become experts and share their expertise. A great example are private forums where users are given a trust rating; information is rated on accuracy, and knowledge is shared among a technical community of interest.

#5: Support services transparency: Customers like what they see.

Prediction: “Mobility will be a growing factor, contributing to more seamless and transparent interactions that give customers instant access to rich information about their relationship with your company, your company’s products and services, and support tools and status.”

Positively Disruptive:  The rise of cloud and support services provides more transparency for enterprises and businesses into the support services they’ve been leveraging. Analytics show companies the number of incidents that may have occurred in their organization, support provider performance, and reveals how their hardware and software footprint is handling traffic. Leveraging this insight is increasing the need for IT departments to enhance their supplier management skills.

#6: The high-accountability support model emerges.

Prediction: “Individual support personnel will retain ownership of the customer experience and use techniques such as collaboration and ‘swarming’ to break down the barriers of the traditional “tiered” support organization. This approach will drive a better experience for customers and ultimately make for more efficient resource utilization in support organizations.”

Emerging:  This model can lead to reductions in incident resolution time and cost-per-incident, as well as improve customer and employee satisfaction scores, but the transformation to the high accountability model does require effort, as detailed in a recent blog outlining the implementation of four key steps .

Which trends are impacting your businesses? Are there trends that we missed? What trends do you see emerging in 2016 and beyond?

Follow me on Twitter @pat_patterson_v

 

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Different Preferences, Same Expectations: Can Your CX Platform Handle it All?

When was the last time you as a customer used live chat to interact with a brand? How about a self-service option like IVR? Have you ever received an automated message with a discount, or perhaps an appointment reminder? Chances are, you’ve engaged in at least one of these forms of service at some point. In fact, I’m willing to bet you frequently use them. I do, too. That’s because we now live in a world where our first level of interaction is usually some sort of automation. This has thrown a wrench into the standard CX platform.

These service examples are just the tip of the iceberg. By the end of today, more than 3 million people will have chatted with Amazon Echo’s AI assistant, Alexa. Over 70 million people will have enjoyed listening to Spotify’s automated “Discover Weekly” playlist. U.S. sales of Google Home smart speakers increased by 40% in Q3 2017 alone, reaching 7 million units. In a very short amount of time, automation has evolved from static and human-operated to dynamic and autonomously learning.

Because of this growth, automation is now everywhere we are and in everything we do. It is proven to transform experiences and enhance the outcome of nearly every customer interaction. The ROI is there, too. For example, research has found that after customers start using Echo, their spending increases by 10%. Bottom line: businesses should be aggressively working to embed automation into their existing IT ecosystems.

But what about your traditional customers? Like I mentioned above, our first level of interaction is usually some sort of automation. Not always.

This makes me think of my father. He’s your typical 85-year-old customer who will never consume digital services. His modality of communication will always be voice, and that’s perfectly fine. But he still expects a personalized, end-to-end experience. For example, if he calls his healthcare provider with a question, he expects the organization to know who he is and to have his health records pulled up prior to that first “hello.”

And this brings us to an important point: it doesn’t matter how services are consumed, the experience must be the same. So, how can companies meet expectations across the board? First, they must gain an inherent understanding of each customer’s individual journey, whatever that looks like. Then they need to build technology that adapts to that. Let’s dig into this…

Context: The Crux of Next-Gen CX

When I say, “gain an inherent understanding of each customer’s individual journey,” what I really mean is gain a context-driven understanding. After all, every experience will differ depending on the circumstance. Here are two examples to show you what I mean:

  • A customer (let’s call her Becky) is in the car driving to JFK airport. She called your contact center about an hour ago and requested through IVR to be put into your automated callback system. Her place has been reached in the queue and now it’s time to reach out. However, your system shows she’s currently driving 70 mph on I-95 south. So, although she normally prefers video chat, you choose to connect via a traditional voice call instead.
  • Becky later vents on Twitter about poor service she received from the restaurant in her hotel. With the ability to bring social analytics to the agent desktop, the hotel can have its support team proactively reach out to let her know they noticed her post from five minutes ago expressing dissatisfaction and ask if there’s any way they can help make things right.

A True Next-Gen CX Platform

Regardless of whether customer preferences evolve, your CX platform must in order to drive real-time responsiveness, anticipatory engagement, and intelligent communication at the individual level.

So, what should this next-gen CX platform look like? This isn’t something that can be summed up in a nutshell, but I’ll take a stab: companies need a platform that provides the utmost flexibility for them to bring the right technologies together with the right modality of interactions in an open world (if you have time, I recommend reading this five-part series where I detail the core components of this next-gen platform).

The key here is to be agile and flexible enough to give each individual customer the choice to get what he or she wants, as well as respond to their needs quickly and efficiently. I’d like to focus on two things here:

  • The full integration of UC, contact center, and AI to begin immediately developing features and applications that meet different customer, organizational and vertical needs. Technology has evolved to the point where it no longer takes 10, 12 or 18 months to build a targeted, feature-rich release. A next-gen CX platform offers the necessary levels of agility, flexibility, scale, and openness companies need to very quickly develop these solutions. Or, they can release small footprints of incremental functionality within the platform. Companies can develop at their own paces, depending on their goals.
  • An open data model that rapidly integrates various information sources to present a full visualization of the customer journey. Companies must now bring an immense amount of information together to make smart, real-time decisions (something human beings are incapable of doing). This is where AI, machine learning, and contextual analytics come into play. This is how your contact center will be able to see that Becky tweeted about poor service five minutes ago, and that she engaged in three web chat sessions the week prior. The integration of AI with Becky’s smart vehicle enables you to see statistics like speed and traffic to maximize her service experience. An open data model enables organizations to truly capitalize on big data to make impactful, real-time decisions that transform the individual customer experience.

Note the emphasis on contextual analytics: real-time contextual analytics are needed to continually transform individual experiences as well as handle today’s large volume of different interactions (our Director of Customer and Team Engagement Laura Bassett does a great job breaking down contextual analytics vs. traditional analytics in this blog).

The future of customer experience will be supported by a next-gen digital platform that’s capable of seamlessly converging UC, contact center, and AI. Long gone are the days of proprietary schemes. Long live digital, automated, data-driven experiences!

Avaya Solutions Connect People Across the World

During a recent vacation cruise, I found myself playing cards with a group of six strangers. As we got to know one another I was asked, “What do you do for work?” The question quickly became a discussion, and I’d like to share that conversation with you.

Who is Avaya?

A couple of people at the table knew of Avaya. One asked, “Doesn’t Avaya make phone systems?” Another asked, “I hear about cloud all the time. Are you guys doing cloud?”

While both of these questions are relevant and somewhat factual, both miss what makes Avaya special. In my opinion Avaya is a connection company. The whole reason Avaya exists is to connect people with people. In my experience, it really is that simple.

Avaya makes it easy to get work done by connecting teammates with other teammates, regardless of where they are, what device they have, and what network they’re connected to. At the same time, Avaya connects consumers who need help with the exact resource who can fix whatever is challenging them, helping to create lasting impressions and ongoing relationships.

More than 90% of Fortune 100 companies are running Avaya Solutions. I believe that each and every day almost every human being on the planet is impacted by Avaya solutions in one way or the other. Heck, thanks to the cruise line using Avaya solutions, everyone with me at the table had their cruise questions answered prior to boarding the ship.

This led to the most interesting part of the discussion. If people connect with people using Avaya, how do we make the world better? The answer lies in two areas, and we’re deeply invested in fixing both.

  1. Making it Easier to Work. While Avaya tools make it easier to connect with teammates wherever they are, there is still room for improvement in making it easier for you to actually get work done. People have so many tools and apps it’s confusing to know what to use when, and there are still a ton of manual steps to getting people together to work on projects. Using Artificial Intelligence, the Internet of Things, and Avaya Breeze we automate a lot of the manual stuff that makes work so frustrating, which means when something happens at work, you waste less time reacting and more time responding with a tool that’s built to be easy to use, puts everything you need at your fingertips, is always available, and is super secure.
  2. Making Customer Service Experiences Better. Avaya recognizes how frustrating customer service has become, and we’re helping companies fix it. Over the years, customer service was designed around the company’s needs not the consumer’s. Things like auto attendants, long hold times, and constantly repeating yourself are too common. Using Artificial Intelligence and our experienced consultants, we help businesses change both the technology and the business processes to create more magical experiences for consumers.
     

    For example, booking a cruise online can be super frustrating, especially if you get a discount code that doesn’t seem to work. The last thing you want to do is call customer service. But what if when you call, the auto attendant knows who you are and greets you by name. Instead of telling you what it can do, it knows you’re calling because of the trouble you had on the website. When you’re connected with an agent, they not only know why you’ve called but they already know how to fix the problem. Instead of wasting time trying to talk you through which fields to change, they ask to share your screen so they can show you how to use the discount. Avaya eliminates the frustration and replaces it with a near magical experience … all by improving the connection between you and the cruise ship company.

Simply put, Avaya solutions make the world a better place because we make connecting with the people you need easier, faster, more secure, and even slightly more magical than ever before.

Avaya IP Office Can Speed Your Journey to Communications in the Cloud

Let’s talk cloud—or, should I say, let’s talk in the cloud. Research shows that by 2020, 78% of small and midsize businesses will be fully adapted to the cloud—almost double that of 2014. One of the main drivers in this growth is the way we share and communicate. By bringing disparate communication channels together onto a common platform, companies stand to gain tremendous productivity and efficiency increases. But, for all the benefits, there’s no denying that moving to communications in the cloud can be challenging. Working with a trusted partner is critical to avoiding some of the common issues that can arise.

The Many Challenges That Can Cloud Your Journey

Like many SMBs, you may be facing limited IT budgets and capital, so cost-efficiency is paramount, which means no room for error in mapping out a cloud strategy.

Moving to communications in the cloud can also mean an increase in complex application environments, and the need for more scalability in line with application usage. You need to find a balance between purchasing and maintaining IT tools, vs. coping with legacy systems and aging infrastructure. Making this all the more complex is limited IT resources and the increasing cost of attracting/training/retaining IT staff.

That said, the benefits of making the move are considerable and well-documented, and approached correctly it’s a sound commercial decision, giving you:

  • A predictable expense model with subscription-based payment options—you only pay for what you use
  • Access to the latest technology with real-time monitoring, with management and analytics included in many solutions
  • More time for your IT staff to focus on more strategic initiatives
  • The ability to scale up or down as needed, on demand in response to your business peaks and troughs

So Where Do You Start?

The Avaya IP Office™ platform gets you to the hybrid cloud quickly, easily and cost-effectively. A powerful unified collaboration solution, IP Office has a simple migration capability that takes you from hardware, virtualisation, and cloud deployments, to a hybrid cloud. It unites all of your communication and collaboration solutions onto a universal platform.

Why Migrate to Avaya IP Office in the Cloud?

  • Common code base—no retraining of staff
  • Worldwide partner expertise
  • Investment protection
  • Reuse IP, digital, cordless and analog devices
  • Repurpose IP Office 500v2 as a gateway and failover
  • Cloud critical features: built-in, always on security and centralised management
  • Unique hybrid resilience—whether cloud-to-premise, or premise-to-cloud

Envision Your Migration With Avaya

Get in touch to discuss your own requirements, and together we can map out how IP Office can help transform your IT operations and put your communications in the cloud.