Do You Believe in Magic? Avaya’s Fix for Your Frustrating, Outdated CX

Stop me if you’ve had this customer experience before.

You have a problem. You’ve rebooted the device, made sure everything was plugged in, and done all of the “by the book” ways to fix your problem, yet the problem remains. You hunt through the manufacturer’s mobile app, use your “Google-Fu,” read through countless discussion forums, and the problem persists. Resigned to your fate, you then look up the customer service number1 and click dial.

Once the automated announcement starts playing, you begin mashing the zero key to bypass the auto attendant with more branches than a forest has trees.2 Finally, you’re put into queue waiting for an available agent. You are repeatedly told how important your call is, and after the third time you start to wonder how important it really is3. Finally connected with an agent, you explain your tale of woe. After dutifully outlining the steps you’ve taken to fix the issue before calling, and the super helpful agent knows EXACTLY what’s wrong, how to fix it, and right as they begin imparting this valuable knowledge to you … click. Your cell phone signal failed, and the call was dropped.

Do not pass go. Do not collect $200. You’ve been sent to customer service jail.

In a desperate attempt to reach the same agent, you immediately hit redial. You spend ten more minutes trying to convince yourself that this wait will be helpful, thinking maybe that agent jumped on another call but will be free when it’s your turn. The moment of truth arrives, your call is connected with an agent, at which moment you realize you’ve just played a game of chutes and ladders, and have landed on square sixteen which slides you all the way back to square one.

The super-helpful agent who knew exactly what the issue was and how to fix it is gone. Instead, you’ve been connected with a new agent who has no idea how to diagnose your problem or how to fix it. This agent can’t identify who you were speaking with before and doesn’t know what steps you’ve already tried. Forced to repeat everything, you wait while the agent attempts to find someone who can help you.

Imagine What We Can Do

This is an amazing time to be a consumer. We have information at our fingertips, regardless of location. Digital assistants literally answer our beck and call. Information is even becoming more personal, as wearable computers track our journeys and eliminate the need to dig into pockets to access information. We are more informed, empowered, and educated on the products and services that we rely and depend on, without interacting with a business brand or its ambassadors.

However, this empowerment does not mean we consumers don’t need help from time to time. When consumers choose to interact with a customer service organization, it’s mostly because attempts to resolve problems through self-service have been met with no success.4

This is the exact moment where consumers become the most frustrated. They fight through automated barriers that offer tools that don’t apply5, then wait for an agent, then revisit all of the steps that have been tried unsuccessfully.

Customer service organizations need some magic, which can be procured in one of two ways:

  • Option 1 – Hire a Chief Magical Officer
    While I’m sure such a CMO would be a fun addition to the company’s holiday party, this doesn’t seem practical.
  • Option 2 – Choose Avaya
    A much more practical option would be to connect with an Avaya account team or Avaya business partner. Avaya customer engagement solutions, dare I say, come with magic built-in!

Use Self-Service Where It Makes Sense

We know that consumers are more empowered than ever. When something breaks, they know to look at your website, mobile app, and other sources of self-service for tips on how to fix their problems. If they’ve called into your customer service organization, it’s because nothing has worked, so please, just pick up the phone! Poorly engineered voice self-service solutions are a barrier, not a help, to problem resolution.

The good news is that it doesn’t have to be this way. Avaya IP Office Contact Center and Avaya Contact Center Select enable businesses to embed communications options right into their mobile app or website. Self-service moves to a more appropriate forum (text-based communications), and if the issue is too complicated for self-service, a single click can connect the customer to the customer service organization. Streamline the process and eliminate hurdles in front of customers to deliver better results.

The Customer is Always Right

In today’s hyper-connected world, there are more options than ever to communicate. If a customer’s preferred method of communication is a chat app, why make them choose something else to reach customer service? I guarantee you this—if your business is not trying to blend into its customers’ communication preferences, your competitors are.

Avaya IP Office Contact Center and Avaya Contact Center Select solutions are full multi-touch customer engagement solutions. With a healthy dash of simplicity, businesses of any size can support voice, text, mail and faxes from their customers, all without requiring a million confusing apps on the agent’s desktop. Using the same distribution methods for handling all customer interactions, businesses can gain better insights into their customers, and use that context to provide more magical customer experiences.

Put Everything into the Proper Context

Allowing customers to communicate on their terms sets up the magic trick. In the event that a customer starts an interaction in one channel, such as web chat, but then decides to move to another channel, he shouldn’t slide back to square one in solving the issue. Instead, the customer’s previous interactions with the company should be right at an agent’s fingertips. The agent can then better understand why the customer has called in, what was done previously, and cut down on the customer’s frustration at repeating information.

Avaya IP Office Contact Center and Avaya Contact Center Select place the customer’s history front and center in the agent’s desktop application. Returning to my opening scenario, when the cellular signal failed and the customer dialed back into the queue, with Avaya the second agent could easily see who the customer was previously talking with, read notes left on the customer’s record, and consult with the original agent if necessary. Problems are solved, customers are happy, and what was a frustrating situation can be resolved…magically.

Why Stop There?

Contact Center solutions are typically built around agent utilization, not customer satisfaction. Typically, when a customer dials back into the queue within seconds of a previous call, it’s handled no differently than someone dialing in for the first time. The call is queued with little to no context, and then routed to a new agent—not because the original agent wasn’t available, but because it’s not their turn to take a call.

That’s dumb. Avaya IP Office Contact Center is smart.

Avaya IP Office Contact Center identifies the customer based on their caller ID, and identifies which agent the customer was last speaking with. If the original agent is available, Avaya IP Office Contact Center will reconnect the customer to the same agent … even if it’s not their turn to take a call. Customers are pleased that they have reached the same agent, their problems are resolved effortlessly, and they share that experience with their friends and family.

It’s so simple, it must be magic.

The Fun Footnotes
1Stop burying your customer service number 3-5 clicks from “Contact Us” on your website. Signed: a frustrated consumer.

2Seriously, self-service is light years easier in a mobile app, or via your website. If I’m calling, it’s because something is complicated. If your auto attendant has branches growing out of control, take out the virtual shears because it’s time for some pruning.

3A relic of the past, a result of lazy programming, and a punchline for amateur stand-up comics. Stop the insanity! Signed: a frustrated caller in queue.

4Another thing … if I call in to customer service because I’m having trouble with a single field on your website, please do not assume you need to hold my hand through the rest of the customer journey. It’s frustrating for the consumer, and wasteful for agent utilization.

5I know there are some folks out there who use voice self-service to do things (like check balances, etc.) But I’d bet the utilization is waning. I humbly suggest you offer self-service as an option when answering calls instead of presenting all of the ways your IVR/auto attendant can provide assistance.

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Kari’s Law: An Emotional Journey Leads to a Bittersweet Ending

Our long journey leading up to the presidential signing of Kari’s Law began well before the precious life of Kari Hunt tragically ended on Dec. 1, 2013. (Learn about Kari’s story.)

For me, it actually began in the spring of 2013 when I noticed a sign on my hotel door, which read: “In case of an emergency, dial 0 for the operator.” I remember thinking, “The operator isn’t trained to handle an emergency. I should be able to dial 9-1-1 from my room phone.”

Sadly, this occurrence wasn’t an anomaly. I found it to be a common bad practice adopted by too many hotels across the United States.

There’s no doubt their intentions were good. Hotels were looking to be proactive, and they wanted to expedite not delay emergency response times. To make matters worse, direct access to 9-1-1 from Multi Line Telephone System (MLTS) was flawed because guests couldn’t dial 9-1-1 directly. They needed to dial an extra 9 just to get an outside line. That proved to be a fatal flaw in Kari’s case because her 9-year-old daughter couldn’t get through to 9-1-1. MLTS legislation also didn’t exist or, if it did, it was limited to a handful of states, and much of that dealt with the reporting location. It didn’t address the issue of access and notification.

Throughout the year, I used social media to increase awareness and drive meaningful change. I spoke at conferences and even began a podcast series dedicated to this very topic.

Then one day in December 2013, everything changed. My Google Alerts for 9-1-1 came up with a petition that was raised by Hank Hunt after his daughter Kari was brutally murdered in her hotel room.

I reached out to Hank on Facebook and offered to help him in his cause. Having an innovative tech leader like Avaya backing me increased Hank’s confidence in my ability to help him bring about the changes he sought.

My previous experience immediately proved useful, and we were able to go straight to the top at the FCC. (I had served on the Emergency Access Advisory Committee under Chairman Julius Genechowski, who had just turned the agency over to Chairman Tom Wheeler. Talk about timing!)

Following a number of tweets and letters, including an Open Letter to the FCC Chairman Wheeler, we received a call from Commissioner Ajit Pai’s office and a meeting was scheduled for Jan. 10, 2014. That meeting turned into a 45-minute discussion on the issues, the fix, and the challenges we faced.

Over the next several months, Hank and I garnered the interest of legislators in cities and states across the country: Suffolk County in Long Island, the state of Illinois, Maryland, et al.

In Texas, Avaya participated in hearings, and offered our unique expertise. We introduced the idea of a “Waiver Clause,” which stated that a business could obtain an exemption if they showed financial hardship. With the exemption was the requirement to register the make and model number of the system. This uncovered many systems that were actually capable of being compliant, and eased the adoption of the new law.

More states followed embraced the legislation—it was a full-on domino effect—except at the federal level where every attempt to bring a bill to life stalled. But then in 2018, that changed too.

After an all-night session ending on Feb. 9 on what would have been Kari’s 36th birthday, the House of Representatives passed the Senate amendment of H.R. 582, and it was officially on the way to the president of the U.S. for signature.

We quietly celebrated, knowing Kari’s murder would not be in vain.

The cherry on the cake was being invited by Hank, Kari’s father, to witness the president sign the bill into law on Feb. 16, 2018. I was both humbled and honored, and invited my former colleague Avaya Sales Engineer Dan Wilson to enjoy the moment with us. Dan had worked tirelessly on this legislation, clocking 12 miles of walking in the Maryland House and Senate.

The West Wing is everything you’d imagine: intimidating, wonderful and a once-in-a-lifetime experience. It was a pleasure to not only stand beside Hank and witness the signing, but to also be in the company of people who supported our endeavor since day one: Ajit Pai, my good friend and now Chairman of the FCC, Congressman Louie Gohmert who introduced the bill, as well as other Congressional reps with interest in public safety. After reading a prepared statement, President Trump uncapped the ceremonial pen and placed it on the paper. As it started to move, we were overcome with emotion. To think, 50 years to the day, and quite nearly the minute, following the first ever 9-1-1 call, Kari’s Law had become the “Law of the Land.”

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.