Avaya at GITEX 2017: See What You Can Make with the Latest Technology

One thing you can be sure of about Avaya at GITEX 2017 Technology Week: We will stand out from the crowd. We’ve been attending this Dubai-based mega-event since 2005 and every year we design our show presence from scratch, to provide fresh and unique info to our customers and partners who invest time in visiting us. Avaya will be at Stand Z-C20 in Za’abeel Hall, Dubai World Trade Center, October 8-12.

Often, this approach means we take technology in completely unexpected directions. We show solutions that reflect conversations with our industry-leading customers and our understanding of the pain points they experience in their businesses. These become what we call “use cases.” We take our communications portfolio and design solutions that meet our customers’ most pressing needs and, therefore, reflect real market demand. For us, our customers and partners, the conversation has moved on from being just about technology, and on to what you want to make with it.

For instance, the telecommunications industry is going through massive transformation and operators are looking for alternative revenue streams. Some of the leading players in Europe are defining the way forward here, coming up with new and innovative ways to expand horizontally into new ventures. They’re starting with their contact center operations, where they have accumulated customer data—the most valuable asset of any organization—and are looking at how new technologies can enhance the customer experience and add revenue.

At GITEX this year, we are very proud that two of the leading operators in Europe will be with us to demonstrate how we are helping them leverage automation, analytics and artificial intelligence to transform their business models. Avaya’s thought leadership, expertise and unparalleled ecosystem is helping these operators integrate AI into their businesses and head to new dimensions.

For those of us in Dubai, we can’t help but be inspired by the vision of the Smart Dubai team to make the city the world’s first blockchain-powered government. Our engineers and our leading partners are working to turn this vision into a reality, and Avaya will have a truly unique solution to present to the world, from GITEX.

Today, our Unified Communications and Contact Center solutions are being used by all sorts of customers, in all sorts of industry sectors, for usages that we hadn’t even imagined a few years ago—but that those customers did imagine, and we helped to make reality.

Technology has the power to transform—depending on what you want to make with it. By understanding what our customers want to do with our technology and helping them to achieve it, we’ve achieved our biggest transformation, one that we are happy to share with you at this year’s GITEX. If you visit our stand this year, you will see how we are working with partners and customers to go beyond the digital experience. We look forward to seeing you there.

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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!

Using AI in Contact Centers to Create Better Customer Engagement

I’ve been through quite a few technology trends in my career, and to say Artificial Intelligence (AI) is one of the hottest may be an understatement. If you have customers that are 55 and under you need a customer experience plan to address digital channel preferences and AI in contact centers now, before it’s too late.

Avaya recently announced Avaya Ava™, our cloud AI solution that supports your customers who use social media, chat and messaging channels to engage with you. To address the communication preferences of your customers, Ava interacts with social and messaging platforms by automating digital interactions through chat bot and Natural Language Processing (NLP) with sentiment analysis—in 34 languages! And Ava provides seamless hand off of the customer experience, with full context of the interaction, to an agent when and if one is required.

Why the Time for Avaya Ava is Now

To put things in perspective, if you do a quick search you can find that there are over five billion mobile device users globally, sending 22 billion text messages and over 60 billion social network messages per day. This makes it no surprise that Dimension Data found the 55 and under crowd prefers to engage with organizations through digital channels like social media, mobile applications and web chat. In fact, I’m often hearing stories about someone’s parent or grandparent over 55 who prefers to text rather than talk.

The real question is how do you serve your customers who are living on those mobile devices? The answer: Start with AI.

But why is AI so hot? Why start there? Because it eliminates the need for human interaction by adding intelligent automation? Or maybe it’s the ability to reduce siloed experiences? These are definitely true, but only part of the equation. AI is such a big deal because it also has significant potential to help drive revenue, reduce costs and increase CSAT. Everybody wins! And that is why you see market research predicting a CAGR of nearly 60% in the global AI market by 2025.

AI is Not All the Same—What You Should Look For

With all of the excitement around AI, it’s no doubt there’s a bit of “bandwagon jumping” going on. Imagine that I am a new customer of a large insurance company, and I tweet about frustrations with recent billing issues I am having. This could go one of two ways: Good or BAD.

Let’s say that this insurance company has a bot and social mining that recognized me as a frustrated customer. After an initial exchange with the bot it was determined that a live agent was needed, so after a lengthy hold, a voice connection is established with the agent. But the agent has no context explaining who I am and why we have been connected. How do you think this ends? Likely with a great opportunity for the competition.

Now, let’s look at how this scenario but be improved with a truly intelligent AI solution—one like Avaya Ava. My tweet and frustration sentiment is detected by the AI application and I am recognized as a relatively new customer, so it is known that I am in a critical phase for retention. I receive a response from the company’s bot, who understands who I am. We engage in a “conversation” to gather some additional details and validations for security purposes. Since it is determined that I already have a relationship with Jeff, the representative who set my account up, the bot sends me a link that connects me directly to Jeff. Jeff has all my information—the complete context of my interaction—and my billing issue is resolved in a matter of minutes. Happy customer! Retained customer!

This not-uncommon scenario highlights the need for a truly valuable AI solution—one that has the potential of delivering the business results you need—to meet a set of core capabilities:

  • Natural Language Processing (NLP) to understand written language
  • Machine Learning which “observes” human interactions learning to provide relevant, meaningful automated responses
  • Sentiment Analysis to assess emotion or attitude of a customer, either positive or negative, and assign a qualitative score to guide proper treatment
  • Chat bot for real-time automated services leveraging the aforementioned capabilities to be effective

What You Need to Know About Contact Center Automation

So, if you implement an AI solution with all of these capabilities you can completely automate your contact center, right? Well, not quite–at least not yet. Rather, you should look at AI to “humanize” the automated customer experience. Having a machine (bot) interact with me and understand my intent is leaps and bounds a better experience than what an IVR can offer, but the live agent experience is still paramount.

An AI solution should be fully integrated into the rest of your customer experience solution as part of the complete customer journey–one that allows the full context of an interaction to be visible to a live agent. This way, the agent becomes an extension of the automated experience, and in turn creates improved CSAT. And because the automated experience is always available with real-time and intelligent responses, you will be better aligned to your customers’ engagement preferences. This in turn will help drive down cost with increased self service and accelerate revenue opportunities due to a more personalized and “intelligent” experience.

We generated a lot of buzz about AI when we introduced Ava at our partner and customer conference last month. People are seeing the potential to build enviable customer experiences by better connecting with customers through social and messaging channels and by journey mapping customer interactions.

At Avaya we take a consultative approach to helping our customers meet their business objectives. To help you with AI for contact centers, we offer a Professional Services Discovery Workshop. Contact us to learn more.

10 Key CX Predictions for Success in 2018

New year. New goals. New CX Predictions. 40% of executives recently polled by Avaya rate their company’s customer experience as “poor” or “average,” and 93% say they’ll be focusing on improving customer experience in 2018. But how do they know where to start? To gain a better understanding, we must take a look at the past.

Eighteen months ago, we weren’t seeing interactive devices in our homes that responded to our every request (i.e. music, movie times, shopping lists, news,  and general information). This provides a tremendous capability beyond what we had even on our mobile devices, and it indicates something very important to watchful businesses: technology becomes real when it gets in the hands of the consumer.

This reminds me of a piece I once wrote about Tool vs. Toy, which explores the changing value of technology driven by users vs. investors. With that in mind, we analyzed key information—polled by our own teams of experts—and have emerged with 10 CX predictions companies can’t afford to ignore…

  1. Artificial Intelligence begins to take hold in CX…in the most basic ways.
    It doesn’t have to be big to be valuable! Think about the simple impact of chatting with natural language interaction. AI technologies like Siri, Google, Alexa and Bixby are all taking shape with different customer experience strategies. For example, Alexa (Lexbot) engages in continuous listening and data collection to endlessly refine and improve the user experience. Looking at the big picture, this data will be used to shape the way Amazon evolves its digital engagement efficiency. Other spoken bots will need to learn from this approach, and all platforms will need to unify chat and spoken AI to deliver more compelling and valuable customer experience.
     
    Overall, AI will allow more brands to focus on context and anticipatory engagement at the individual level to hone in on the customer segment of one. The goal will be to intuitively understand the nuances of each individual consumer as they inevitably change to deliver deeper levels of personalization.
     
  2. Connecting your digital experience is here and now.

    The simple blocking and tackling of connecting your Digital Experience with the rest of your customer service capabilities must still occur. If you don’t, you face the real and inevitable risk of falling behind (side note: too many companies are spending time catching up to where consumers already are). Yet, it’s important to note that brands are tackling different things than before. For instance, many will now skip things like email and go straight to bots (where AI and digital meet).
     
    The bottom line: Companies will need to begin the digital experience in the expected ways consumers dictate. Keeping up with these expectations requires an environment in which customer data can be seamlessly gathered and provided across teams, processes and touchpoints.
     

  3. IoT starts with the mobile app.
    Many brands will “ignore” IoT because they don’t have tech embedded on a “device” of sorts (like in a car or a refrigerator). Think smaller in 2018…specifically, mobile apps. These apps are essentially IoT in the pocket or purse of every consumer today. Start visualizing every consumer’s phone as an IoT device and your mobile app as the key to tapping into it.
     
    Consider the Apple Watch. At a glance, it’s a wearable that consumers purchase to unlock a suite of cool new features. Yet in reality, Apple was revolutionizing industries and changing lives. For example, the brand was allowing healthcare providers to put a device on patients’ wrists with a FDA-approved EKG. It was allowing hotels to deliver better value to guests with built-in room keys. We also see this with the Verizon mobile app, which functions as a sales app when used on the carrier’s Wi-Fi (in store, for example) and as a service app when not. This is just a taste of this “app evolution” and how it will change the game as apps become more IoT-defined.
     
    The bottom line: Once a technology is in the consumer space, users will naturally innovate on top of it to figure out how it can be best used to improve their lives and/or industry. 
     
  4. The race for (the right) customer engagement solution will intensify
    Our research shows that 96% of organizational spend in 2018 is earmarked for tech solutions, specifically related to engagement. Demand for customer engagement platforms will peak in 2018, forcing executives to comb through countless vendor solutions. Take a short cut by making sure the solutions you are considering provide the appropriate flexibility for future growth, and simplicity to implement even complex scenarios quickly.
     
    In other words, buy systems that provide you with broad options—not just point solutions.
     
    This means systems that go far beyond traditional contact center and UC; technology that reimagines communications and redefines business value as we know it. For example, communication-enablement for contextual engagement (using an open SDK to embed real-time communications like voice, video and chat directly into client-facing apps and to create an optimal agent experience). Or, flexible application integration using an open architecture platform (being able to integrate apps that are either ready-made from a trusted provider or existing within an App Store).
     
  5. The rise (and simplification) of customer journey mapping
    Our data shows that 70% of companies believe improving customer experience requires mapping out ‘desired state’ customer journeys. As a result, 60% of large enterprises in 2018 are expected to perform customer journey mapping  to gain a contextual view of the end-to-end experience. The question we have is: how can this be made simpler?
     
    Customer journey mapping is still a sensitive spot for most as only 1/3 of companies believe their data and analytics are differentiating. Everything is made simpler with a customer engagement platform built on open, extensible architecture.
     
    This kind of platform allows you to flexibly gather, collect, process and analyze real-time and historical data across virtually every channel (IM, co-browsing, SMS, phone, email, IoT) and device (phone, mobile/tablets, branch, desktop, kiosks) to gain a rich visualization of the customer journey enterprise-wide. This puts to bed the significant challenge of delivering consistent, contextual experiences regardless of where and when they begin, end and continue (and no matter how many people consumers communicate with).
     
  6. ‘High tech, high touch’ without coordination will put companies on thin ice

    Technology drives customer experience, but it won’t replace human interaction (consider industries like hospitality, where 93% of customers believe the value of personal service cannot be replaced). Therefore, a certain level of coordination will be needed in situations where human customer service becomes part of the digital experience.
     
    For example, building a more flexible communications infrastructure that allows for real-time human interaction to maintain a personal service feel. Or, bringing skills-based routing to the help desk and contact center to optimize resources and strengthen customer relationships. In 2018, major players will be defined by their understanding of this delicate balance. Those who fail to keep up will operate on thin ice.
     

  7. Security, Privacy and Accountability Pressures Spike
  8. New technology for e-commerce and communications has long brought with it new ways for those intent on criminal behavior to breach systems. Increased focus on solutions that protect and secure customer data and interactions starts in the contact center. 
     
    Consider the Markets in Financial Instruments Directive II (MiFID II), which became effective on January 3, 2018. This legislation requires the capture of all voice and non-voice communications intended to lead to execution of a financial trade. This applies to any firms who conduct business in the European Union (EU), creating global impact.
     
    Meanwhile, the EU GDPR (General Data Protection Regulation) becomes effective on May 25, 2018. If your business processes personal data in any way and operates in the EU, it will be affected by this new legislation.
     
    Today, 75% of business apps lack key capabilities to ensure EU GDPR compliance. These new requirements will force companies to change the way they process, store, and protect customers’ personal data. In 2018, enterprises will need to evaluate their policies, procedures and operations to ensure compliance with these new consumer privacy, data security and data control rules—and they’ll turn to new contact center technology as their first line of defense.
     

  9. Customers demand connections with purpose
    There are endless ways in which customers can now connect with brands, yet each connection should serve a purpose greater than itself. Companies need to see the close-up and the big picture of how they’re positioning their brand. This is what makes customer experience an actual experience.
     
    For example, instead of simply routing customers to agents based on KPIs, they can build customized learning algorithms that match customers with agents based on next-level variables like personality, emotion and relatability. Instead of only driving inbound experiences, they should offer proactive, intelligent communications across the end-to-end customer journey. Instead of just ‘serving customers,’ organizations should be working towards a higher purpose and defined experience vision.
     
  10. Blockchain becomes more than just technology
    Any company that handles transaction records should be eyeing blockchain if they’re not already. The technology is ideal for continually growing a list of financial records without exposing any confidential information. Yet blockchain has also grown to offer immense opportunity for customer experience.
     
    For example, real-time blockchain technology can be used to measure the customer experience of multiple departments. Companies can leverage blockchain to securely gather sentiment information across multiple sources—call centers, email, social media—to identify key trends and customer insights. In this way, blockchain has evolved from a security technology to a strategic weapon for business growth and competitiveness.
     
  11. Employee experience will legitimize with consumerization of work
    Employee disengagement has become nothing short of an epidemic. Companies must strategize long-term around employee experience to improve not only customer experience, but costs and operational efficiency (companies can capture an additional $13k to $26k of productivity per employee per year with better engagement).
     
    This calls for the consumerization of work, in which companies look beyond IT and devices towards workflow, behavior and rising expectations that mimic personalized, real-world apps like Snapchat and Instagram. 2018 will continue a massive shift in which enterprise software embodies consumer apps and, ultimately, reshapes the role of IT and the processes it manages.

In the end, our CX predictions are that 2018 will be about seamlessly delivering a breadth of capabilities in an ever-complex digital space, with a simple brand consumption approach that aligns with costs and customer value. No one said it would be easy, but we’re here to help.

You can hear more about these predictions by listening to our Get Smart session where I am joined by Val Matula, our lead for innovations applications, and Tim Gogal who leads Digital Transformation consulting team where we review these predictions more in-depth. 

As your organization prepares for 2018, Avaya can help you gauge customer experience readiness and implement award-winning solutions that complement your budget and existing business ecosystem. In the end, our goal simply is to help you with experience, expertise and solutions you can count on. We know you can make 2018 your organization’s best year yet.