An­tic­i­pat­ing evo­lu­tion

Comms MEA - - News -

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.”

Emir Su­sic

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.”

Faten Hal­abi

‘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.

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