Customer Loyalty is Dead

It’s a bold statement, I know, but I’ve been struggling with the idea that true loyalty can’t really exist in today’s digital world. Hang in with me for a moment.

My colleague was taking her 16-year-old son to open his first bank account (exciting!). Naturally, she chose to go where she and her husband have banked for over 19 years and enjoyed exceptional service. So what happened? When they arrived, the teller said the bank’s systems were down and suggested they come back the following day. So what did they do? They went to the bank across town whose systems were working and allowed the account to be opened that same day. That instant gratification that’s so expected and needed today trumped the more than 19 years of positive experiences and service she had enjoyed with her bank. So much for loyalty!

My children aren’t any different. They’ve been huge advocates of the Uber car service. They even got me hooked on it. Every experience has been seamless for all of us. So, imagine my surprise on a recent trip when my daughter pulled up Lyft to get us a “lift.” What did Uber do wrong? Absolutely nothing. They did everything right; it’s just that Lyft is the driving service du jour and it’s apparently way cooler … for the moment.

In both examples, the brand hop wasn’t about a series of shoddy customer interactions. A few decades ago, my colleague likely wouldn’t have switched banks so easily. What’s different today? Short of actually opening an account, banking can be done in your hand. Before tech, she likely would have waited until the next day simply to avoid having to drive across town to bank at different locations (those were the days when we had to walk into a building to make withdrawals and deposits). Convenience most certainly would have come into play and kept her loyal to her bank. In my daughter’s example, it was about easy access to another well-known choice. Technology, which is accelerating at rapid speed every day, has changed the game and has leveled the playing field for new companies to emerge and easily compete with well-established companies.

It’s About Customer Experiences

If we acknowledge that customer loyalty is a thing of the past, then what are we left with? Providing exciting, sought after and irresistible experiences—plural, not singular—to our customers. The types of experiences that make us salivate for more.

Let’s look at recent headlines. I think we all heard a collective groan during Apple’s latest launch event when the “wow” factor we wanted just wasn’t there. There isn’t any doubt that Apple has revolutionized technology in nearly every way; but it’s not enough. We expect Apple to continue to innovate and blow us away, especially given the hype attached to their launch events.

Last year when Apple introduced the first Apple Watch, the world took notice. It was new, sexy, innovative and a wearable that people actually wanted to wear (I’m looking at you, Google Glass). But just because Apple has the world’s best brand recognition and loyal user base doesn’t mean that the Watch wasn’t introduced with mixed reception. It’s a very polarizing product that’s still in its infancy. After all, breaking into a new product segment and expecting overnight success is something that every company dreams of, but very rarely ever achieves.

I recently viewed Samsung’s launch event where the company previewed the soon-to-be released Samsung S3. It’s a smartwatch and let me tell you, it’s beautiful. It looks like a watch, and its capabilities blow Apple out of the water. And get this … most any watch band will fit on the Samsung S3. That’s right. Samsung is catering to customers. The company knows that customers may want to personalize their watches so they give them that feature.

Conversely, Apple recently announced that we need wireless headphones or headphones with a lightning cable for the iPhone 7. How many companies can you name that make audio devices with a lightning connector? That’s a very niche market. Apple used to be about simplicity. The company’s motto was “it just works.” What’s simple about having to carry two sets of headphones or adapters? How will my new lightning headphones “just work” on my MacBook? Apple has begun to fail their customers and create negative experiences.

Admittedly, I don’t think Samsung will outperform Apple in sales of their watch or phones, but I do think they’re making a dent in Apple’s customer base. Little by little, other companies are taking away market share from Apple. This will continue until Apple steps up its innovation game and starts redelivering on customer experiences.

Creating Limitless Customer Experiences

What can we learn from Apple? We need to keep “experience” top of mind. Consider these stats:

  • The most important driver of brand loyalty for millennials is a great product at 77%, followed closely by brand recognition and trust at 69% (NewsCred). What I glean from this is that great products can be replaced by other great products pretty easily (case in point: Uber versus Lyft and Apple versus Samsung). Surprising to me is how important strong name recognition matters to millennials (cool rules!). So what’s hot today definitely drives purchasing decisions.

  • 46% of customers are more likely to switch service providers (across industries) than they were 10 years ago (Accenture).

  • 78% of consumers are not loyal to any one particular brand (Nielson).

My advice? Constantly innovate. Take chances. Don’t be afraid to fail. You don’t have to be first to market, but you must steadily outpace your competitors once you get there. Perhaps most importantly, take a good look at your own customer experiences in your daily life. What makes them great? Why are you likely to go back to a particular company to do business? Did they personalize your experiences? Did they consistently go above and beyond? Did they make you feel special? Was your interaction with them seamless and easy?

Sometimes small details are just as impactful when it comes to experiences. Take these golden nuggets and apply them accordingly. As we lay customer loyalty to rest, let’s bring to life experiences our customers have come to expect and so richly deserve.

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Transforming Online Meetings for Team Collaboration

I find it interesting how companies choose to measure team collaboration. Most use surveys, some productivity data, and others standard review processes. Yet team collaboration is about so much more than all of this. If you ask us, it’s about putting people first.

We mean this quite literally. It’s important to provide employees with a suite of face-to-face collaboration capabilities that enable dynamic, real-time team collaboration. Communication staples like voice and chat are surely important, along with the endless other tools teams use to connect and share information. Meeting via video, however, is arguably the best way to collaborate, build relationships, create momentum and build morale. Face-to-face collaboration may not always be needed, but companies will want to make sure they have the best tools in place for when it is.

When done right, online meetings enhance team collaboration in several ways. Consider the most basic of them all: a good part of communication is non-verbal. Being able to observe team members’ body language can help prevent miscommunication and connect across languages and cultures. The technology has also evolved to the point where teams can flexibly share data, documents and other project details via screen sharing or virtual whiteboards. All the while, there’s the opportunity to initiate private chat sessions between team members to discuss simultaneously.

The bottom line: online meetings enable authentic human interaction that delivers real value, time and cost savings, and better business outcomes.

Now, imagine being able to quickly implement an easy-to-use, cost-effective service that skips the capital investment and technical hassle of a traditional video solution. This is exactly what Avaya Equinox Meetings Online offers: a cloud-delivered application that allows users—both employees and outside contacts—to connect with their browsers (no plug-ins required) or mobile apps to effortlessly initiate and/or participate in online meetings. The service places priority back on people, which is where it belongs. Simple as that.

Don’t believe us? Read Nemertes Q4 2017 Enterprise Business Value Matrix for Unified Communications and Collaboration to see what they had to say. If you like what you see, or if you have any questions, please feel free to reach out to our team for more information via our webchat.

The Easy Button for IoT

I am sure that I don’t have to tell you how the Internet of Things (IoT) is revolutionizing our world. Stop by any electronics retailer and you will find smart TVs, smart lights, smart refrigerators, and smart thermostats. Open up the brochure for a new car and you will find more space dedicated to intelligent sensors than horsepower. Tour a modern manufacturing plant and you will quickly discover that nearly every machine used in production has been equipped with an IP address. From the consumer to the enterprise, IoT is the driving force of innovation.

Of course, there is a dark side to this revolutionary technology: It’s not all that easy. As a consumer, it’s not a big deal to have one smart dryer that sends a text message when your clothes are dry. It’s also pretty simple to have your refrigerator email you a photo of its contents. In these cases, it’s just you and your machine.

However, what if you had a thousand dryers and ten thousand refrigerators. Let’s take it further. What if you were American Airlines and your fleet of airplanes had five hundred thousand different sensors reporting information every second. Now, imagine that some devices reported data using Bluetooth while others used Zigbee, WiMAX, LTE, WiFi, and NFC. Want to make it even more challenging? These different sensors report data reading using SOAP, REST, WebSockets, and a myriad of proprietary protocols. It quickly becomes an engineering nightmare to collect, store, and take the appropriate actions on this constant stream of data.

One Bite at a Time

Question. How do you eat an elephant? Answer. One bite at a time.

As with an elephant, the best way to conquer the IoT problem is to break it down into bite-sized pieces. Instead of trying to directly deal with all those different sensors and their unique forms of communication, have those sensors talk to gateways that understand multiple IoT dialects. Those gateways could then normalize the data before sending it off to a central cloud repository. Next, wrap the IoT cloud with web services that allow for a consistent and uniform way to access IoT data. Finally, use those web services to create a suite of applications for data visualization, event processing, analytics, etc.

Now, instead of being inundated with terabytes of data that may or may not be important, you only see what you need to see and only when you need to see it. You also have a scalable platform that allows you to add new sensors without having to constantly redesign and redeploy your business applications.

At Arrow Systems Integration (ASI), an Avaya A.I.Connect partner, we call this distributed architecture of sensors, gateways, and cloud services Arrow Connect™.

Arrow Connect

Arrow Connect is a software architecture that connects any device over any protocol to any cloud. Designed and developed by Arrow with security, scale, flexibility, device management, multi-tenancy, hierarchy, open APIs, and extensibility as its core principles, Arrow Connect is helping customers across multiple industries bring their products to market faster.

The Arrow Connect software development kit (SDK) helps enterprises leverage the full capabilities of any device while an extensible software gateway allows developers to add support for protocols and sensors not currently supported by Arrow Connect.

The Arrow Connect cloud platform enables secure provisioning and management of all its devices. It runs on multiple public cloud platforms and seamlessly integrates with Microsoft Azure, IBM Watson Bluemix/Softlayer, Amazon Web Services, and private data center solutions.

Breeze and Zang Workflows

While support for RESTful web services is essential to being an open and secure cloud solution, this comes with a price and that price is complexity. Despite being an open standard understood by most software developers, the fact that you must be a developer to use web services confines them to a very select group of people.

In our quest to find every possible way to simplify IoT, ASI has partnered with Avaya to add support for Arrow Connect IoT devices, sensors, and gateways into Avaya Breeze and the Zang Workflow Designer. With both of these platforms, access to IoT data and Arrow Connect services becomes as simple as drag and drop and non-developers can create powerful IoT solutions in a matter of minutes. Better still, this simplification does not come at the cost of accuracy, reliability, speed, security, or scalability. The visual tasks embedded in these workflow tools employ the same Arrow Connect web services a skilled software developer would use. The difference is that there is no need to learn Java, .Net, Python, or any other programming language.

 

The Easy Button for IoT

With integrated workflow technology, you can quickly turn an idea on a whiteboard into a fully functional and easily deployable solution.

Next Steps

McKinsey recently said that “Any business that fails to invest heavily in the IoT in the next 10 years is unlikely to be able to remain competitive.” While these may seem like strong words, industry after industry has taken them to heart and the IoT revolution is everywhere. As I stated at the beginning of this article, IoT is becoming pervasive for both consumers and businesses.

The simplification, scalability, and security of IoT offered by Avaya and Arrow Systems Integration helps an enterprise to create the solutions it needs to enhance its business, grow its customer base, and stay competitive.

Andrew Prokop is the Director of Emerging Technologies at Arrow Systems Integration. Andrew is an active blogger and his widely-read blog, SIP Adventures, discusses every imaginable topic in the world of unified communications. Follow Andrew on Twitter at @ajprokop, and read his blog, SIP Adventures.

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.