What Engagement Means for the Midmarket

Large enterprises know Avaya well: We have a successful track record of designing, building and deploying the world’s most complex and customized communications solutions for the world’s best-known brands. In recent years, we’ve steadily taken those large products and virtualized them into standard modules for the midmarket, helping unlock value for the world’s fastest-growing companies.

Midmarket customers and large enterprises have the same goal–to improve engagement between team members and customers.

Whenever I speak at industry events, I often get asked two questions: “What does engagement mean for my business,” and “Why is Avaya investing in the midmarket?” I’d like to address those two questions today, so potential customers and partners can understand Avaya’s perspective on the challenges and opportunities presented by the midmarket—and the reason why we’re committed to serving this market segment.

What Does Engagement Mean For My Business?

Here at Avaya, we provide a comprehensive portfolio of solutions to drive simple, human-centric communication and collaboration deep into business processes, which ultimately helps create business value.

Traditionally, we have categorized our products under three umbrellas: Unified Communications, Contact Center and Networking (with a robust set of professional services to simplify planning, deployment, configuration and management of these products).

The problem is, these labels succeed at describing what our solutions do, not how, why or where they do it. These contextual questions get at the ways our solutions create business value and hone our customers’ competitive edge.

Technology has fundamentally changed the way we interact. Those changes are reflected at work, and with our customers. Avaya’s history has been centered around improving human connections, delighting customers and energizing employees.

This is the essence of engagement. Our solutions don’t just make it easy for an employee or customer to reach an expert or a salesperson; we enable a business outcome by making it easier for these potential communicators to access expertise and acquire goods and services.

We refer to this context-aware communication and collaboration as engagement—the active connection of team members and customers with the information, experts, and decision-makers they need to complete the task at hand.

Our Team and Customer Engagement solutions drive faster, more natural, and more focused communications and collaboration, and ultimately drive customer satisfaction and revenue.

Why is Avaya Investing in the Midmarket?

The midmarket (defined as companies with 100 to 2,000 employees) is the growth engine of the global economy, representing about a third of the world’s GDP, and growing twice as fast as large enterprise companies. Moving at this pace requires nimble, agile, aware processes and decision-making, enabled by the kind of Team and Customer Engagement solutions available from Avaya.

Midmarket companies often rely on consumer-grade cloud solutions to enable their communications and collaboration. While these solutions are easy to adopt and quick to initiate, they often lack the ability to integrate with business applications and processes, presenting threats to data security and communications privacy. Avaya CEO Kevin Kennedy explored this topic in his recent white paper, “The New Rules of Engagement: How to Succeed in 21st Century Business Communications,” where he cautioned business owners against launching siloed products with consumer-grade data protection in place.

For every widely-publicized corporate data breach, there are many others that are quietly handled outside of the public’s eye. Data breaches can be catastrophic for growing businesses, and Kennedy urged companies to take a closer look at how data is shared among applications, internally with team members, externally with partners and across the corporate network infrastructure.

Midmarket companies have a great deal to gain from adopting engagement solutions. Roughly half of midsize companies are moving toward a single, consolidated UC solution, and approximately a third consider ease-of-management and ease-of-integration as key purchase criteria. Avaya delivers secure, reliable, dependable and easy-to-manage engagement solutions that can be connected to business applications and processes via open standard APIs.

Decades of experiences have informed our R&D teams as they’ve developed solutions for the midmarket. Virtualizing these market-leading solutions ensures engagement can be deployed virtually anywhere.

Engagement is the future of business communications, and we believe we’re uniquely positioned to lead this market into the future. Midmarket companies have a tremendous amount at stake in adopting engagement solutions because they depend on nimble business decisions to compete and win. We’re committed to building the world’s best engagement solutions for the midmarket.

For more on the midmarket and engagement, read the recent white paper from Avaya CTO Laurent Philonenko, “The New Rules of Engagement for Midsize Businesses.”

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News & Solutions at ENGAGE 2018 Show Avaya is Back in the Fight!

Now back from last week’s Avaya ENGAGE 2018, our annual customer and partner event, we’re finding the energy of the conference continues to drive the cadence at Avaya. What a show! In my last blog I wrote about taking time for a bit of introspection—thoughts echoed by our CEO Jim Chirico during his ENGAGE keynote. One of his points really resonated with me: how you get up off the mat. All of us face challenges everyday—most of them are manageable but occasionally an event comes along that can really take the wind out of your sails. Jim pointed out that while we all get knocked down from time to time, what really matters is how you get up. How you carry yourself and how you get ready for the next challenge.

In 2018 Avaya is back up. We’ve got our gloves on and we’ve come out swinging! ENGAGE 2018 was a great opportunity for us to thank our customers and partners for their outstanding support over the past year and give them a taste of the new Avaya: poised, fit, and ready to win.

Our commitment to win was reflected in a number of key announcements from last week, but the headliner was the acquisition of Spoken Communications, a leading innovator in the Contact Center as a Service (CCaaS) market. The Spoken platform is based on the Avaya Aura® Platform and Avaya Aura® Call Center Elite, making it a perfect architecture for both Avaya omnichannel offerings, such as Avaya Oceana®, and its Unified Communications as a Service solution. But Spoken brings much more than a proven xCaaS capability to Avaya—the really exciting news is Spoken’s transformative real-time customer experience management applications built on conversational artificial intelligence (AI). A true innovator in AI, Spoken will be accelerating our “Think Avaya, Think Cloud” strategy with solutions that not only provide a clear path for customer migration, but offer improved efficiency, drive more intelligent responses, and gain deeper insight into customer sentiment and experience.

And there was more news at Avaya ENGAGE on the AI front: Avaya introduced Avaya AvaTM , a cloud, messaging-agnostic solution that offers new AI capabilities for social messaging integration and automation of digital interactions. An evolution from our Ava technologies offered for over eight years, Avaya AvaTM delivers AI 2.0 architecture including natural language processing and machine learning. And innovative analytics enables effortless customer engagement through social media and messaging platforms.

Last year we introduced the Avaya Oceana® Solution—our omnichannel context-driven contact center solution. Now we are thrilled to bring the Workspaces environment to our existing customers later this year. This modern agent desktop will take advantage of key elements such as context and customer journey and be made available to our existing customer base, enabling them to transform their CXs.

Avaya also unveiled compelling enhancements to its signature unified communications user experience, Avaya Equinox®. These include:

  • Enhancements to Avaya Equinox Meetings Online, a cloud-based meeting and conferencing service that can be deployed with or without an Avaya infrastructure. The economical, pay-as-you-go cloud model offers the same capabilities as an on-premises deployment, making it easy to take a hybrid approach and mix and match between the two.
  • The new Avaya Equinox Attendant, which enhances customer service and brings the power of unified communications to front-desk operators. We will extend Avaya Equinox to the IP Office platform—providing a single UC platform for all our customers.

Devices remain a key part of Avaya’s strategy to deliver a unique UC Experience Everywhere. Avaya has shipped over 100M phones to date and currently ships almost 10,000 new devices every day. For 2018, Avaya is expanding customer options for UC devices like never before. The Avaya Experience has evolved to be more modern, connected and personalized, and tailored to vertical specific needs such as hospitality and retail. Key additions include:

  • Launching Avaya’s new Essential Experience portfolio of industry leading phones for a state-of-the-art user experience that includes Bluetooth and WiFi connectivity.
  • Extending the Avaya Vantage Experience to include support for IP Office.
  • Announcing the new Avaya CU-360 Collaboration Unit, which provides easy set up and collaboration in huddle room spaces.

Providing our customers a bridge to the future is a key focus for Avaya this year—and this goal will drive a great deal of our activity. To start, Avaya has launched a number of new promotions:

  • Loyalty2gether: This exciting and bold offer provides all our loyal Communication Server 1000 customers with a path forward to either IP Office or Avaya Aura with full support for the surrounding applications like customer contact and messaging. It’s an opportunity to reinvent what communications, customer experience, and collaboration can mean to your business and to do so with an unprecedented level of experience and investment protection.
  • Oceana NOW: This program focuses on helping organizations evolve and transform their CXs.
  • Automate CC NOW: Through the use of automation capabilities, Avaya is helping organizations modernize for less.

These programs are a prime example of our focus to ensure no customer gets left behind.

ENGAGE 2018 was a very busy week of announcements, meetings and demonstrations, and the energy and enthusiasm of our customers kept us going and underlined our confidence that Avaya is back and ready to do battle. Continue to watch for updates and details on Avaya.com and let us know how the new Avaya can support your plans in 2018.

A Closer Look at MiFID II Recording Requirements

The Markets in Financial Instruments Directive II (MiFID II)—arguably the greatest reform to hit Europe’s financial industry—is finally in effect as of January 3, 2018. This EU legislation serves as a much-needed upgrade from the original MiFID, enacted in 2004, and addresses key issues that resulted from the 2008 global financial crisis.

The directive requires all national governments in the EU to adopt certain laws, which they are free to do in their own way should the resulting effect be the same. Financial services institutions—specifically investment firms, credit institutions and trading venues—are subject to MiFID II, including companies that are headquartered outside of the EU but do business there (for a more thorough overview, see this blog by industry analyst Sheila McGee-Smith).

Recording Regulations: Raising the Bar

Perhaps the greatest impact of MiFID II is the law’s tighter recording regulations. Under the 2004 MiFID directive, there was no mandatory requirement to record communications involving client orders. To ensure fairer, safer and more efficient financial markets, MiFID II now requires firms to record communications (both phone and electronic) for the following investment services:

  • Reception and transmission of orders
  • Execution of orders on behalf of clients
  • Dealing on own account (takes place when a firm puts its own trading books at risk)

The specific customer interactions that are required to be recorded in relation to investment services include:

  • Receipts of client orders
  • Transmissions of orders (both where the investment firm transmits and executes the order)
  • Conclusions of transactions when executing orders on behalf of clients
  • Conclusions of transactions when dealing on own account, regardless of whether a client is involved in the transaction

Important note: MiFID II covers all communications relating to activities intended to result in the conclusion of a transaction or the provision of client order services, even if they do not result in a financial transaction.

Communication of orders placed through channels other than voice—postal mail, faxes, emails, SMS, face-to-face conversations recorded using written minutes—must be stored in a durable medium.

Keep in mind a few rules that apply to this ‘durable medium’:

  • Records must be able to be replayed or copied
  • Records must be retained in a format that does not allow the original to be altered or deleted
  • Firms are required to ensure the quality, accuracy and completeness of all phone records and electronic communications
  • Records must be kept for a minimum of 5 years and, if requested by the National Competent Authority in a specific country, up to 7 years
  • Clients must be notified in advance of recording
  • Records must cover communications made with, sent from or received by equipment provided or permitted by the investment firm (privately-owned equipment used by employees or contractors is not prohibited)

Ensuring Compliancy with MiFID II Recording Regulations

If your business is involved in financial services in any way—even if it’s not your main focus (i.e. credit institutions performing investment activities, branches of third country firms)—you’ll need to investigate to understand whether this new legislation will affect you and, if so, what you need to do to comply.

We recommend a thorough review of compliance across all channels (including back office processes) to determine if they meet the new regulations. If not, you’ll need to deploy a workforce optimization (WFO) solution to demonstrate that policies, procedures and management oversight of the new recording and monitoring rules are in place. Here’s what you’ll need to consider in a WFO solution:

  • Continuous recording: This goes for all inbound and outbound voice and other electronic communications based on business rules. You need a WFO solution that will capture, search and retrieve calls, offer encryption for secure storage, and offer pause and resume capabilities.
  • Desktop screen capture: This is an undetectable back-end process that records desktop screen activity during each customer interaction. Supervisors and managers can use this both in the contact center and back office to view customer interactions from beginning to end via synchronized screen and call recordings.
  • Quality management monitoring: Identify and capture areas of non-compliance, while measuring how well employees are delivering services that align with customer experience expectations.
  • eLearning and coaching tools: Bring employees fully up to speed on regulatory changes and any new requirements, as well as correct any non-compliance behaviors.
  • Voice analytics: Proactively identify, measure and isolate areas of non-compliance by mining intelligence from large volumes of recorded calls.
  • Workforce management: Schedule employee compliance training while ensuring you have enough support personnel with the right skills to serve customers.

The greatest threat to reputability, revenue and customer experience is the thought that your technology is “good enough” to meet current needs. Your ability to innovate and grow are hinged on technology that meets the next-gen needs of today, tomorrow and beyond—something that only 24% of companies say their workforce optimization and recording systems achieve.

To complete a thorough review of your current MiFID II processes, connect with Avaya. For a deeper dive into MiFID II (including a few WFO features not mentioned above) download the white paper MiFID II: What Does it Mean for Your Organization?

Avaya ENGAGE 2018: Connected Experiences

Avaya ENGAGE 2018 is now only days away and the hard work of the last several months will soon be on display. Flights are booked, bags are packed, and the last few i’s are being dotted and t’s crossed on a lineup of keynotes and breakouts that, if we do say so ourselves, sets a new high mark for content at the International Avaya Users Group. 2017 was a year like no other for Avaya. We are invigorated by the opportunities of a new corporate structure and our re-emergence as a public company. Times like these often lead to a bit of introspection—a chance to take stock, think about what gets you out of bed in the morning and where you’re headed. For us, that introspection has led to some thoughts about what makes Avaya a great place to be in 2018 and what Avaya brings to our customers that no one else can.

Taking stock in the business world always begins with the customer and the experiences they receive from the people they do business with. Those experiences, more than anything else, will define the difference between success and failure. Experiences often vary widely, based on the industry, the product or service, or even the stage of the customer relationship. But one thing that doesn’t change is the fact that the customer sees a business as a single entity and expects to be treated appropriately at every interaction. They want personalized connections, not indifference. They want productive connections, not those that waste their time. They want connections to increase their satisfaction, not ones that diminish it.

To satisfy these demands businesses must perform two critical tasks: they must provide appropriate and flexible ways for connected experiences to occur, and they must enable those experiences across the enterprise. It’s no longer enough to provide your employees with the latest collaboration or mobility solutions. It’s no longer enough to make agents accessible by voice, text, video, email or chat. These solutions must work together. The customer sees a business as a single entity—and businesses must respond to the customer as a single entity.

At Avaya, our job is to connect experiences in ways that drive both the top and bottom line. Think about what customers need. Do they have the right options to connect with your business when and how they wish? Can they get the information they need from their couch, or the subway or the coffee shop? Can an employee get an answer to an urgent question from a colleague a thousand miles away? Or roll out new training to 5 or 5000 new employees? And how do you make all this work together so that everyone is creating the right connections for the customer?

Making those connections work is what we do at Avaya. Seamlessly, quickly, intelligently, intuitively and in ways that make a business capable of responding as a unified whole—not a collection of silos and disjointed applications and processes. No other company can rival Avaya’s expertise in creating enterprise and customer experiences. And no other company can bring these experiences together to create better cross-enterprise connections.

So now you know what gets us out of bed: the drive to create connected experiences that make our customers nimble, responsive, flexible, productive and able to put a single, positive face on all their connections. We’ve been doing it for about a hundred years. And we plan to do it for a hundred more.