The Four Key Performance Indicators of Customer Experience

You know customer service is important. Yes, you can compete on price and offer more features than your competitors. But to really build business, it all comes down to service. That’s what keeps customers coming back. Customer service is expensive, but losing customers and being forced to always attract new ones is even more costly.

If you agree with this—and most smart people business do—then you have probably realized something else: when it comes to costs, customer service can be a major sinkhole. You keep investing in creating a better customer experience, but your level of investment does not seem to bear any relationship to your outcomes.

How can this be? Why does investment in most business processes drive improved outcomes, but not in customer service?

A big part of the problem is that most businesses—even very small ones—take a fragmented, silo’ed approach to customer service and engagement. In fact, it’s almost inevitable that this is the case. Yes, delivering great customer service is a simple, straightforward idea. But getting a holistic view of how to really make it happen in your company? Not so simple. Today, most businesses have:

Multiple ways of delivering service, i.e. a web site, e-mail, social media as well as a traditional customer service center.
Various applications: pricing, order processing, scheduling.
Different people with different job functions, all pitching in.
The result is that customers can contact your business and get a different, inconsistent experience each and every time. Also everyone in the business looks at the customer service problem differently. The contact center manager is concerned with hold times or repeat calls. The customer service department is worried about complaints. Top management is worried about sales. Also, it’s easy to fall into the trap of measuring activities that really don’t have an impact on your business.

Where do you start? Boil things down to four key performance indicators (KPIs):

The level of customer satisfaction, interaction-by-interaction: Don’t make the mistake of thinking that you are meeting customer needs simply by being “multichannel.” It’s not about the channel. It’s about creating a great experience on every interaction, regardless of the channel. Start by looking at the interaction level and work up, rather than the channel level and working down. Look at metrics for the different communication channels to identify discrepancies.
Cost of the interaction: it’s always amazing to discover how few companies really track the cost of their interactions. Overall data is not enough. To make judgments about what’s delivering value, and what’s not, you need to know your level of investment.
Revenue produced through the interaction: Service is a cost center. It also generates revenue, either indirectly by creating the basis for repeat business or directly through upselling and cross-selling. Find out what revenue you are getting.
How well does each interaction comply with company and (if appropriate) industry or governmental policies: You have standards and values as an organization. In addition to what your customers say and the actual dollars and cents of revenues and costs, establish some metrics of how each interaction measures up to the standards that you have set, or that are established for your industry.
Your overall goal is to compile a set of indicators that in effect make up a scorecard. It’s your starting point to reverse the trend of higher costs and declining customer satisfaction and profitability.

Interested in learning more about the challenge of delivering great customer experience without sacrificing profitability, get the Avaya Contact Center Consumer Preference eBook at https://www.avaya.com/usa/registration/contact-center-consumer-preference-ebook-solutions-for-balancing-business-objectives-against-customer-demands/

What is SIP and Why It’s a Big Part of Your Future

You may have already heard of SIP. And if you haven’t, the chances are good you will very soon.

SIP is a communications protocol that is becoming extremely popular. How popular? Consider this: Infonetics (www.infonetics.com) reports that in 2011, telco companies saw their revenues from SIP-based services jump 128%. So, even if you are not yet thinking about how to use SIP in your business, the chances are good that one of your competitors is ahead of you.

Very simply, SIP—the initials stand for Session Initiation Protocol—radically simplifies communication between people, places, devices, applications and services. Just about anything that can be tagged with an IP address can be connected via SIP. It simplifies how quickly people can connect and collaborate. And it eliminates the need for a lot of phone lines and extra hardware. In fact, many Avaya customers have reported a return on investment (ROI) of 6–12 months by investing in SIP-based solutions. To get a quick sense of the savings you can gain by moving existing voice circuits to SIP, try the Avaya Flip to SIP calculator at http://avaya-news.com/sip/ipoffice

But what makes SIP so revolutionary is not simply its ability to save money. SIP changes how you think about using communications in your business. Here are six SIP scenarios. See if any apply to you:

You have multiple business locations. Each one must have a local phone number. But you want calls to those locations to get routed to a central service center where they can be more efficiently handled by people with the time and training. In the past, to get this kind of capability you might have had to rent 800 numbers and/or extra lines that sat unused most of the time. SIP gives you the best of both worlds: local presence and the cost efficiencies of centralization.
You have a mobile phone, several e-mail addresses, a bunch of landlines and a slew of IM contact names. You are tired of giving out all your contact information. With SIP you won’t have to: SIP establishes an “address of record”—an AOR—that provides a single, unifying identifier as your “public address.” People can reach you without having to know each of your unique device addresses or phone numbers.
You find it annoying to keep letting people know about your availability, i.e., “for the rest of the day, call me on my mobile.” Let SIP do this for you. SIP can make call-routing decisions for you by checking your calendar or seeing when you last checked your e-mail or used your mobile phone.
You are handling a conference call from your hotel room, but have to check out and want to keep the call going on your mobile. Or, you are on your mobile, but need to view a document and would like to transfer the conference call to your tablet. SIP makes all of that possible.
You operate a customer service operation using agents working from home. You want them to be able to serve customers using e-mail, instant messaging, Web chat, video, or a phone call. Rely on SIP to make it happen.
You use various programs in your business to keep track of sales, inventory, production scheduling, etc. When a problem arises, i.e., a shortage in a particular part, you would like to have a click-to-conference button on the program itself so you can quickly see who is available, initiate the call and share the application. SIP makes that possible. In fact, many applications using dynamic linked libraries (DLLs in Windows and shared libraries in Linux) are ready to be connected using SIP.
Right now, a lot of businesses are looking to SIP to save money by using a single IP pipe to their provider for voice calls and reducing or eliminating recurring network charges. But that’s really just the start. The current uptake in SIP services is an indicator of what the future holds: SIP is big.

Want to learn more. Avaya has prepared a great introduction that’s an easy read. Get the free download of SIP for Dummies at http://www1.avaya.com/pc/SIP_for_Dummies.pdf

2 Winning Options for Small and Midsize Businesses

Whether your business that has a handful of servers or hundreds of server racks, until fairly recently they were all managed the same way: server by server, one application to one server.

Virtualization has changed all of that. With virtualization, you can allocate applications across servers. You can more easily balance workloads across hardware and better adapt to peak usage and maintenance schedules. In the event of a hardware failure, applications can be quickly migrated to another server in the environment and resume operation. You don’t need redundant hardware—overall savings on hardware and management can be significant, which is why virtualization has been a dominant trend in IT for the last several years. 

But there has been one major holdout in the virtualization game: communications. You might have virtualized your other applications, but you kept your communications separate and apart.

That’s because, initially at least, virtualization software—solutions like VMWare’s vSphere and Citrix’s XenServer—could not adequately support real-time communications. They could handle non-real time applications (e.g., voicemail ) but for real time services like call control, conferencing and call center applications the quality was simply not there.

Now that’s changed. Enhancements to virtualization hypervisors have opened the door to fully virtualized unified communications platforms. This is a big deal, particularly for midsize companies.  In the past, midsize companies were forced to choose between single-server communications solutions designed for small companies or much larger, multi-server solutions designed for enterprises—in effect, having to under-buy or over-buy.

Now, through virtualization, the midsize company has a way to move into advanced communications and collaboration, without being forced to over-buy. Midsize companies can buy virtualized modules of unified communications services deployed in turnkey appliances with separate partitions for each service. They can select only the services that they need, and if their needs change, new modules can be activated on the appliance without additional hardware costs.

The Avaya Aura Solution for Midsize Enterprise (ME) is typical of the new unified communications solutions that take advantage of virtualization. It provides a centralized, enterprise-wide architecture for up  to 2400 users (up to 250 remote locations) with common management for all kinds of collaboration—mobile, voice, video, instant messaging and presence—and support for extended applications such as  Avaya Aura® Contact Center, Avaya Aura® Conferencing and AvayaLive™ Engage.

The complete base system is one server. Even with additional application servers for advanced applications, virtualization is a key reason why Avaya Aura ME is up to 16% less expensive per user compared to competitors (based on Avaya internal testing–measured at 400 users).

Faster and less costly than installing everything separately, the solution uses the Avaya System Platform application to simplify the installation and maintenance procedures. System Platform runs multiple Avaya Aura applications on a modified Citrix Xen hypervisor on a Linux platform.

Set-up is streamlined through the use of pre-defined templates (e.g., enter IP addresses once for all solutions) simplifying desktop management and speeding deployment. Overall, streamlined administration can result in 75% less time required for system maintenance.  Virtualization also means significantly less power and cooling required compared to traditional deployments.

Virtualization is not for everyone. That’s why Avaya also offers a non-virtualized solution: Avaya IP Office. On a single server platform, IP Office can grow from serving a handful of users to up to 1000 users at up to 32 locations. It’s designed to be easy-to-administer and deliver desktop communications capabilities right to a smartphone or tablet, including integrated e-mail and voice mail, instant messaging, presence and conferencing. You can meet the needs of individual users in your company by adding targeted software applications designed for office workers, mobile workers, home/teleworkers, customer service agents and more.

So, if you are ready to take the plunge with virtualization, there has never been a better time with a solution like Avaya Aura ME. If you are still more comfortable with a single-server solution that is simple to manage and offers easy growth to up to 1,000 users, Avaya IP Office can fit the bill.  Read “Getting Mobile Collaboration Right: A Guide for Midsize Enterprise” at http://www.avaya.com/usa/solution/mobile-collaboration for more information on these 2 winning options.

Adding the Human Touch to Mobile Engagement

A power shift is taking place in the dynamics of customer engagement. And it impacts every company—large and small.

The shift began well over a decade ago with the Internet. This made it possible for customers to go online 24/7 to do research, browse solutions and make buying decisions.  Now the mobile revolution is taking this powershift to a new level.  As Forrester researchers Ted Schadler and John C. McCarthy note in their recent report, Mobile Is The New Face of Engagement; ‘by 2016, more than a billion people will be using mobile devices to engage with brands, information, and each other.”

Using these mobile apps, people can act “in the moment” to check a status, find an expert, receive an alert, make a purchase, answer a question, share an opinion, send a message, etc. This shifts more power from institutions to individuals. It takes the revolution that was started by the PC and the Web, bringing it to an entirely new level.

But this powershift isn’t all one-way. Companies can also take advantage of the powershift to differentiate themselves and maintain the connection with their customer base that is critical to long-term success. In fact, it’s a business imperative for companies doing business on those terms to find  ways to add the human touch to mobile engagement.

Avaya has provided a fascinating analysis of this in a whitepaper that focuses on how this dynamic is playing itself out right now in the insurance industry. (To see the full whitepaper, go to http://www.avaya.com/uk/resource/assets/whitepapers/SVC7067%20Claims%20Processing%20WP.pdf

According to the consulting firm Accenture, nearly half of all insurance policies today are renewed or bought online rather than through agents. As a result, many consumers only interact with their insurance provider when they need to file a claim. When that moment comes, consumers want the convenience of a mobile app, but research shows they also value “concern” from their insurer. They want timeliness, courtesy, promptness and knowledge, but they also want the understanding, empathy and willingness to listen that only another human being can offer.

For insurance companies, this means that personalizing the new mobile interaction channels (e.g. smartphones and tablet PCs) will be imperative. Click-to-call, click-to-chat, co-browsing, one-touch video and other techniques can merge aspects of online self-service with personal live interaction, capitalizing on the best of both worlds.

In words that apply to many industries, the Avaya whitepaper notes that “Today, when alternative insurance options are at every consumer’s fingertips, brand loyalty is of utmost importance… responsiveness and personal interaction at each step of the claims process and at each touch point with policyholders can capture an important opportunity to solidify brand loyalty and, as a consequence, grow their business.”

To read the full whitepaper, go to http://www.avaya.com/uk/resource/assets/whitepapers/SVC7067%20Claims%20Processing%20WP.pdf

Mobile Collaboration—Who Needs It in Your Company?

Mobile workers are no longer the “road warriors” of yesterday—salespeople and executives who spend more time on the road than not. These days, all kinds of iWorkers (as the consulting firm Forrester calls many of us) are constantly blurring the lines between being on duty and off.

Because mobile, unified communications is going to be a significant focus for investment, you want to make sure you are allocating your spend in the right places.

Yes, everyone in your business can benefit from mobile communications and collaboration. But different kinds of workers will find themselves working in different situations more often than others.

Forrester recommends spending time to make a full assessment of the types of tasks that mobile and remote workers are performing. This will define the required capabilities.

Typically, you will focus on solutions that enable mobile workers can use to resolve issues and answer questions more rapidly.

Don’t expect immediate results.  To drive effective adoption of mobility use early adopters—executives, sales team, and field forces—to be evangelists for the rest of the firm. And remember to back up your efforts with training and communications support.

To help you in your efforts, Avaya has developed a guide to Getting Mobile Collaboration Right. http://bit.ly/MLJ3CZ

It recommends that you factor in the needs of employees that fit one or more of the profiles below.  Each has its own unique requirements, but they can all benefit from the improvements delivered by mobile communications and collaboration.

Power Users: These employees often work on a laptop computer and are as comfortable working in the office as they are out of it — from their home or car, at the airport, or in a coffee shop. They need to be accessible no matter where they are.  In their eyes, mobility is mission critical.

Highly Mobile Employees: These workers may not have a laptop, but they are frequently out of the office — either meeting with clients or roaming around your facility. Typical examples of this user include sales reps, accountants, attorneys, real estate brokers, manufacturing workers and healthcare workers.

Full time Teleworkers: These employees don’t have an office in the traditional sense; they work from home exclusively. They need communications tools that make them just as accessible and responsive as employees who work in the office.

Office Workers:   People who primarily work in the office were the prototypical deskphone user. In today’s high energy work environments they can also benefit from communications and collaboration tools to ensure they work faster and smarter, and are as productive as possible wherever they happen to be—whether in their office, in a conference room or waiting for a train or bus on the commute home.

Are You Ready for a Pop-up Branch Office?

The need to have a physical office space where employees do their work has been under revision for years as more companies opt for telecommuting and home office working arrangements.

Now, this same thinking is being applied to traditional branch office expansion strategies.  Companies are now looking at what are called “pop-up” or “ultra-light” branch offices with an expected lifespan measured in months or a few years, at most.

To minimize IT costs, the pop-up branches rely on cloud services, IP-based communications solutions, mobile communications (both company- owned or BYOD), tight user authentication and security processes and remote management.

Interestingly, these branches often get Internet access via consumer and/or wireless as prices continue to decline and reliability increases.

They are also taking advantage of 802.11n-based WiFi solutions to get practical and high-performing multimedia communications. According to a recent Nemertes report, 802.11n “makes WiFi acceptable as the sole means of connectivity for laptops and desktops.”

Heightened security is critical to any pop-up branch strategy. IT will have to implement authenticated network access at a minimum, but also more robust health checks (i.e., is the device properly configured with antivirus software, firewall, etc.) and flexible virtual LAN management.

An alternative to the pop-up branch is the completely virtual branch.  Back in 2008, UMTB, Israel’s third largest bank, gave customers the virtual branch option. Those who enroll cannot get service at any of the bank’s physical branches, with the exception of using teller and ATM services for deposits and withdrawals. In return they have access to one-on-one phone support, e-mail, live online chat, extended service hours and a range of online tools to manage their interactions.  About 6,000 customers have opted for the virtual branch—not big numbers, but the bank says it is satisfied and some other Israeli financial institutions have followed suit.

For more on pop-up or ultralight branches see the full Nemertes report at nemertes.com/reports/ultralight-branch.

Avaya has also posted a wide range of source materials on BYOD and mobile strategies.  Go to http://www.avaya.com/usa/solution/mobile-collaboration

2 Winning Options for Small and Midsize Businesses

Whether your business that has a handful of servers or hundreds of server racks, until fairly recently they were all managed the same way: server by server, one application to one server.

Virtualization has changed all of that. With virtualization, you can allocate applications across servers. You can more easily balance workloads across hardware and better adapt to peak usage and maintenance schedules. In the event of a hardware failure, applications can be quickly migrated to another server in the environment and resume operation. You don’t need redundant hardware—overall savings on hardware and management can be significant, which is why virtualization has been a dominant trend in IT for the last several years.

But there has been one major holdout in the virtualization game: communications. You might have virtualized your other applications, but you kept your communications separate and apart.

That’s because, initially at least, virtualization software—solutions like VMWare’s vSphere and Citrix’s XenServer—could not adequately support real-time communications. They could handle non-real time applications (e.g., voicemail ) but for real time services like call control, conferencing and call center applications the quality was simply not there.

Now that’s changed. Enhancements to virtualization hypervisors have opened the door to fully virtualized unified communications platforms. This is a big deal, particularly for midsize companies.  In the past, midsize companies were forced to choose between single-server communications solutions designed for small companies or much larger, multi-server solutions designed for enterprises—in effect, having to under-buy or over-buy.

Now, through virtualization, the midsize company has a way to move into advanced communications and collaboration, without being forced to over-buy. Midsize companies can buy virtualized modules of unified communications services deployed in turnkey appliances with separate partitions for each service. They can select only the services that they need, and if their needs change, new modules can be activated on the appliance without additional hardware costs.

The Avaya Aura Solution for Midsize Enterprise (ME) is typical of the new unified communications solutions that take advantage of virtualization. It provides a centralized, enterprise-wide architecture for up  to 2400 users (up to 250 remote locations) with common management for all kinds of collaboration—mobile, voice, video, instant messaging and presence—and support for extended applications such as  Avaya Aura® Contact Center, Avaya Aura® Conferencing and AvayaLive™ Engage.

The complete base system is one server. Even with additional application servers for advanced applications, virtualization is a key reason why Avaya Aura ME is up to 16% less expensive per user compared to competitors (based on Avaya internal testing–measured at 400 users).

Faster and less costly than installing everything separately, the solution uses the Avaya System Platform application to simplify the installation and maintenance procedures. System Platform runs multiple Avaya Aura applications on a modified Citrix Xen hypervisor on a Linux platform.

Set-up is streamlined through the use of pre-defined templates (e.g., enter IP addresses once for all solutions) simplifying desktop management and speeding deployment. Overall, streamlined administration can result in 75% less time required for system maintenance.  Virtualization also means significantly less power and cooling required compared to traditional deployments.

Virtualization is not for everyone. That’s why Avaya also offers a non-virtualized solution: Avaya IP Office. On a single server platform, IP Office can grow from serving a handful of users to up to 1000 users at up to 32 locations. It’s designed to be easy-to-administer and deliver desktop communications capabilities right to a smartphone or tablet, including integrated e-mail and voice mail, instant messaging, presence and conferencing. You can meet the needs of individual users in your company by adding targeted software applications designed for office workers, mobile workers, home/teleworkers, customer service agents and more.

So, if you are ready to take the plunge with virtualization, there has never been a better time with a solution like Avaya Aura ME. If you are still more comfortable with a single-server solution that is simple to manage and offers easy growth to up to 1,000 users, Avaya IP Office can fit the bill.  Read “Getting Mobile Collaboration Right: A Guide for Midsize Enterprise” at http://www.avaya.com/usa/solution/mobile-collaboration for more information on these 2 winning options. Be sure to check out our website: at www.primetelecommunications.com !

Are CIO’s Lighting a Fire for More Managed Services?

“Come on baby light my fire” has more meaning than just lyrics to a great old song.

We know things are getting more complex with application integration. mobile device management, social integration and UC integration… the list goes on. Things are – heating up.. But what’s an IT leader to do when pressures are mounting? Resources are scarce and CAPEX budgets are capped.. Almost 90 percent of companies nowadays are telling us they’re doing something within the realm of managed and hosted services.

Nemertes Research analyst Irwin Lazar, pointed out that this increase in managed/hosted services trend is increasingly important – especially when you look at how companies are planning for growth. (Have a listen to what Irwin Lazar has to say about this in our communication trends video about Managed & Hosted Services.) We discuss how nearly 40 percent of companies are adding more services. Not only are folks raising the roof in a positive way about Managed Services, CIO’s are lighting a fire within their IT teams to get more creative about the mix of managed services support.

If you’re concerned about managed services and if you haven’t really looked at them carefully, our advice is to take a hard look now.

Important success metrics include cost of IT per employee, revenue per employee, and IT spend per employee. All of these metrics tend to correlate positively with higher use of managed services. So, companies that outsource the day-to-day support operations of their applications tend to spend less per employee and have higher success metrics.
Being able to leverage third-party services shows significant financial and operational benefits in this day and age, where talent is so hard to find. So, are you waiting for someone to light your fire – baby?

How To Not Get Boxed Into a Communications Upgrade

Upgrading to any new technology is rarely a cut and dried decision. You hear about all the new things that are out there, but you also know that change means disruption and may force your business to give up features you now take for granted.

For most IT decision makers, the ideal technology upgrade scenario is to get new capabilities, but hold on to the things they like in their current solution. That’s exactly what Interline Brands did when it upgraded its communications at 130 locations to an Avaya IP Office solution.

A leading distributor and direct marketer of maintenance products, headquartered in Jacksonville, Fl., Interline was able to get a host of new capabilities while racking up huge savings in acquisition, operational and transition costs.

The Interline locations around the world are mostly small distribution centers/storefronts. Many of them used the PARTNER Communications Systems, a solution first introduced in the 1980s that over the years became one of the top selling small business communications systems of all time.

Interline wanted to keep using the PARTNER systems, but accepted the fact they were based on dated technology and no longer being manufactured. Then Interline discovered the best of both worlds: Avaya offers a “version of its best-selling small business IP Office solution that essentially mimics how the PARTNER system worked.  Interline was able to continue using many of the same features as its older PARTNER solution (cutting down dramatically on training and transition costs), hold on to its PARTNER telephones (cutting down on acquisition costs) and still get the benefits of moving up to a new IP-based communications solution.

With 130 locations, Interline also got the ability to administer the systems from a central location. Streamlined administration, together with consolidating existing analog lines at many locations into digital services, cut overall spending and enabled full ROI within three months.

Interline is also benefiting from:

  • One-number access. Calls to an individual’s office number can ring simultaneously on the mobile or home phone so calls are never missed
  • In-building wireless capabilities. A must for warehouse locations
  • Conferencing. It’s possible to quickly set up conference calls with up to 64 people to enable cost-effective collaboration.
  • Automated Attendant. Users can customize caller greetings so key callers receive a personal message and are routed directly to the most appropriate person or team.

To learn more about Interline’s experience and what it can mean for your business, read the case study at http://www.avaya.com/usa/case-for-avaya/customer-stories/interline-brands

For a great resource on upgrading your communications, see the Definitive Guide to Upgrading Your Communications System at http://www.avaya.com/usa/resource/assets/premiumcontent/thedefinitiveguidetoupgradingyouravayacomsys.pdf

A Healthy Way to Expand Your Medical Practice

On paper, expanding a medical practice with new locations often looks like a good idea: it will build on your existing reputation (perhaps your most valuable business asset) and make it possible to offer more services and reach more patients. The cost, while it may be significant, is still incremental to the expense of operating one location.

But it is also possible for just the opposite to take place. If you underestimate the logistical challenges involved in expanding a medical practice you risk tarnishing a reputation that has been years in the making.

To get a better sense of these challenges, analysts from Avaya (the global leader in business communications systems) recently spent time talking to owners, managers and employees of a range of healthcare practices that are undergoing expansion.  To capture what was observed, Avaya created an e-book about a health care clinic (a composite of many clinics) undergoing a difficult expansion in which it risked losing both staff and patients. The e-book highlights the potential risks, including losing staff and patients, and the important role that next-generation communications and collaboration capabilities can play in addressing these challenges, including:

  • Reducing the amount of staff time required to handle growing patient call volumes
  • Providing patients with better, more personalized service through efficient record look-ups and automated information services for things like lab results
  • Improved appointment compliance through automated reminders
  • Innovative new services, such as video conferencing, that make it easier to provide specialized care and respond to emergencies

This e-book is part of a series Avaya has created that focuses on the day-to-day impact that today’s communications solutions are having on small and midsize businesses.  To get it now, go to; https://www.avaya.com/usa/registration/day-in-the-life-physician-s-practice