Avaya ENGAGE Latin America’s Theme: Shifting to the Intelligent Contact Center
by Ken Dulaney
My attendance at the recent Latin America Avaya ENGAGE conference held in Mexico City gave me a chance to revisit the company’s strategy and execution against that strategy to date. Attendance was solid with over 3,000 CEOs, CIOs, and partner companies attending—primarily from Mexico, but also from almost every country in the region.
Key among the announcements was the rebranding of many of Avaya’s products under Avaya Intelligent Xperiences, also known as Avaya IX. To this end, Avaya wants to focus on its strength in multiple deployment methods, integration, and services. This was welcome news because it both gives customers a vision of product cohesion as well as a growth path, no matter where they enter the Avaya solution sphere.
Cisco is also pursuing a similar brand consolidation, although not as extensive. I also saw this as a positive signal that the industry is finally moving away from the antiquated UC and UCC terms that have hampered customers building integrated solutions for the digital business age and is instead moving toward putting people at the center of collaboration and communications. Avaya also showed significant presence in the LATAM area.
Call Centers Deepen Technical Improvements But Lag In Process Improvements
Most readers would readily admit that one of the most pervasive annoyances of every day life are the myriad of robocalls that attack all of our phones. The FCC recently said they were making moves to reduce these calls, but remediation is a complex process due to the international origin of many of theses calls. Close behind on the annoyance scale are experiences we all have when contacting a call center. Whether it’s a call to your Internet/TV supplier or your bank, we all experience frustration with the process. It may be that we get asked the same information repetitively; or we get funneled into an endless IVR loop; or our call gets dropped with no call back; or the question we have requires more capability than the base agent has and they are told not to pass us on to a higher level.
Customers resort to pressing “0” repeatedly or shouting “agent” or “representative” until the system recognizes they had better direct the customer to a person. More often, by the time a customer gets to an agent they are angry, and the call may be setup to fail from the outset.
Avaya showed some interesting statistics that reinforce my observations from a few other angles. It stated 40% want human assistance to return a product, 45% want human assistance to file a complaint, and 56% of consumers require access to a specialist rather than a general customer services rep.
The basic problem lies in the vision by many organizations that call centers are cost centers. Shunting clients to the lowest cost option is often the goal.
Building the New Contact Center
If we look at a caller as the next opportunity to make another sale or even just a reference we should see a refocus on improving process for the customer. The stage was set for such improvements in a speech by Bruce Dickinson of the band Iron Maiden. A strange speaker you might suspect until you realize that Bruce not only played in the band but has also succeeded as an airline pilot and business entrepreneur.
Bruce’s message was that the term customer does not always mean a loyal consumer of a business’ products. Rather, he said that business must turn customers into fans, loyal as a result of the commitment to a strong relationship. The implied message was clear: we must move from a focus on ‘cost center’ to ‘opportunity center’ psychology to enable the future of contact center.
Industry Focus and The Intelligent Contact Center
To achieve this, Avaya has the opportunity to bring forth its experience in this area. One of the ideas I suggest is that it develop templates by industry. These templates would be given to customers as starter kits for building or revising call center process diagrams.
Avaya is also investing heavily in AI and the shift to the intelligent contact center (ICC). Intelligent contact centers leverage knowledge about the customer so that the process can be amended and problems can be recognized sooner and solved faster. As Betsy Burton has stated, we must bring in personalization and outside-in thinking. Today, call centers largely suffer from inside-out thinking but our recent Globe on the intelligent contact center discusses a future that is more about the customer.
It’s time to change the premise under which contact centers are designed. Customers (they are not yet fans) are frustrated by the process they must follow to get support. It is surprising that so many businesses have let this problem fester. Avaya has the knowledge to help its clients improve this as it and other major contact center providers have added AI to their existing processes. It now has an opportunity to package this knowledge and aggressively market the transition to intelligent contact centers.