Faten Halabi and Emir Susic discuss not just how to adapt to change, but to anticipate change - exactly what Avaya is doing.
The telco industry is changing. Customer service is changing. Technology is changing. The entire world is changing, really. Faten Halabi and Emir Susic discuss not just how to adapt to change, but to anticipate change – which is exactly what Avaya is doing to great effect.
The Age of Telephones is well and truly in the past. That’s clearly evident as soon as the interview with Emir Susic, Avaya’s vice president of professional services, kicks off. We’re several (ok, many) kilometres apart, but it’s as if we’re sitting right next to each other – the video and sound quality is that good. Plus, there’s seemingly no lag time – at all.
Susic says our conversation is, in and of itself, proof that times are changing. “It’s an exciting time. It’s a transformational time. The speed of change is amazing.”
Naturally, a big factor in that transformation is the move to digital – anything and everything online, with ever-faster speeds and ever-greater data demands from an explosion of products and services creating said data.
But Susic says transformation is more than just about technology, such as from hardware to software services. It’s also, he says, about changing customers. “They are transforming their business models,” he says, adding with businesses offering more services than ever before, they’re seeking consolidated services that cater to all their needs.
And that’s where Avaya comes in.
“We are much more than a phone,” Susic laughs. “Nobody in today’s market can do things on their own. Innovation is not reserved for one. We provide the services for our customers. It’s not only about Avaya – it’s about understanding the ecosystem.”
Understanding the ecosystem is something Faten Halabi, regional sales manager at Avaya, expands upon. “Service providers – like any other organisation – need to maintain customer loyalty and retention,” she explains.
“Without that they cannot build on their business.”
She expands further. “Customers’ expectations have also changed as individuals, businesses, and cities have become more interconnected than ever before. In turn, our usage of and our relationship with service providers is more important to us than ever.
“At a high level, and from a customer experience (CX) point of view, this means that telecom service providers are having to provide more, to build greater loyalty, and to explore niche segments to maintain revenues in a competitive environment”
Her assertions are also backed up by data. According to one PwC report, 73% of people point to customer experience as an important factor in their purchasing decisions – just behind price and product quality.
Changing contact centres
We’re not having issues chatting remotely – and that’s exactly what Susic says needs to happen to be able to deliver for customers. “Speed and flexibility is extremely important.”
Interestingly, Susic says part of that speed and flexibility can be delivered from what’s often seen as a rather slow and inflexible service: contact centres.
Be honest: when most of us think of contact centres, we think of gargantuan offices with cold linoleum floors and seemingly as many cubicles as there are grains of sand on a beach, the constant ringing of phones a din as loud as a whole swarm of locusts.
But that image, Susic claims, is about as outdated as phones that only have voice capabilities themselves. “More and more services are going to contact centres.”
What services are we talking about? Think artificial intelligence, machine learning, the cloud, and more. Basically, you name it, and a contact centre can now do it.
Halabi explains some of the trends. “The single biggest technology pivot that service providers are looking to make is shifting towards cloudbased communication solutions,” she explains.
“This is starting to result in a greater adoption of contact centre as a service (CCaaS) offerings that provide a single platform where service providers can access a full suite of collaboration solutions instantaneously. Importantly, these cloud-based solutions must be built to integrate with other business applications by using open standards and extensive APIs for customisation capabilities.”
She says more. “When you look at specific technologies, the region’s service providers are also investing heavily in AI, enabling their customer care or customer contact centres to
Nobody in today’s market can do things on their own. Innovation is not reserved for one.”
develop smarter automated services. Given the sheer volume of customer interactions that telcos need to manage, AI-powered chatbots and analytics systems can make that crucial difference in building a competitive edge.”
Susic also mentions the importance of AI in contact centres – and to Avaya. “For sure we are investing in AI. We need AI to help our agents do their job. They have to have that value-added service.”
Susic says the importance of new services like AI can’t be emphasised enough – adding that even though customers may have more complex questions than ever before, they still want to talk through their issues and prefer a quality-over-quantity approach when it comes to service.
Halabi explains that quality of service is key to retaining customers – regardless of whether it’s through a contact centre, AI, “digital human” (such as Kiri, the first digital human employed by a telco, and who can be found at Vodafone stores throughout New Zealand, enabling customers to benefit from self-service options and free up time for staff to address more complex customer needs), or something else. “Service providers – like any other organisation – need to maintain customer loyalty and retention,” she explains.
“Without that they cannot build on their business. Clarity and consistency in their customer engagements is essential to this loyalty equation.”
Our role ultimately comes down to intelligently connecting people and information – helping service providers to create more seamless communication experiences.”
‘Transformation is a reality’
But there are some challenges, as Halabi explains. “One of the challenges that service providers face when it comes to their CX strategy is needing to protect their existing technology investments while having the freedom to define, build and test new customer engagement models quickly. This has focused technology investments into more open, scalable platforms that are also easy for employees to use. You can have the most advanced contact centre or data analytics system in the world, but if you don’t have the expertise to use them, then it is meaningless.”
And there’s more. “I would also note that speedy resolution remains a crucial factor for customers when evaluating their telco service provider,” she explains.
“If my Internet at home is down, for example, I want to be able to call, email, or open an app to resolve the problem in the way that is most convenient for me at that time. Each of these channels must be able to support me to resolve the issue quickly in a single engagement. In this sense, it’s not enough to simply provide omnichannel service; you must also offer the depth of capabilities and the speed that customers are looking for.”
The connection still as strong as ever despite our lengthy conversation, Susic says a depth of capabilities is precisely one of Avaya’s core focuses. “It about being open… and skilful. It’s on a local level, a regional level, and a global level. Over the years, we have done a lot on a culture and a people basis.”
Halabi explains simply where things are at – both with Avaya and the industry as a whole. “Telecom service providers are thus looking for ways to simplify their communications, empower their teams, and better understand their customers. With this in mind, our role ultimately comes down to intelligently connecting people and information – helping service providers to create more seamless communication experiences.”
After all, as Susic says, “transformation is a reality, even though it’s not easy.”
Though it’s certainly a lot easier when the tech tools available are as innovative and reliable as those that even allow for our interview to take place at all.