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The Rise of the Digital Contact Center

By David Butler, Sr. Director, Digital Customer Experience, CTO Architecture and Consulting, Avaya

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David Butler, Sr. Director, Digital Customer Experience, CTO Architecture and Consulting, Avaya

We have reached a tipping point in managing the variety of digital and mobile engagement methods preferred by customers to avail of our products and services. The new reality is that customers/ consumers have become increasingly adept at all available online and mobile tools and use them to jump across all organizationally-defined silos in their quest for expediency and self-reliance. Over sixty percent of the decisions customers make today are informed by the quality of their experiences all along their journey, so how companies engage customers across all channels offered, matters profoundly. We are in the midst of Digital Business Transformation.

“The digital contact center platform provides core omni-channel interaction coordination services across the various touch points”

As business executives become measured on Net Promoter Score® or NPS® and envision customer experience more holistically, we are seeing the next waves of investments and multi-disciplinary projects forming around convergence of contact centers with the newer digital channels and big data. There is a growing realization that new Orchestration/Coordination platforms are required that will enable a company to service its customers in the manner that they prefer across a plurality of channels, devices and situations with a high level of continuity, reliability, security, economy and quality that will differentiate them in years to come.

Several facets of converged customer interaction across digital and traditional customer response channels require fundamentally new platforms / architecture, a few examples are:

• New web browsers will natively incorporate Web Real Time Collaboration (WebRTC) standards-based capabilities that enable seamless stacking of channels (e.g. multimedia chat, voice, video, co-browsing) all in a single application frame on the glass. For example, bank customers launching into automated and assisted care from their mobile wallet. Scaling up these new interactions will be a challenge. Agents will need to be equipped to conduct simple to more complex customer driven interactions seamlessly. Both agent-initiated and application-initiated shifts in channel will occur as a result of one or a string of events.

• As applications process and manage customer interactions on a given channel they must also be capable of providing real time contextual data and yielding to a higher authority (e.g. Analytically-driven real time decision engines) that create meaningful experiences / better outcomes out of data. The pairing of big data and real time decisions with customer interaction is evolving rapidly for online users wherein the marketing automation and monetization platforms are designed to figure out and optimize the lifetime value of every user. The expectation of both business and consumers is that technology is now capable of delivering relevant, personalized experiences regardless of channel.

• Commensurate with customers multi-tasking and increasingly being adept at all available online, mobile and social tools comes fundamental shifts in customer-agent interaction patterns. In the past, it was typical that agents’ staff designated channels. Aside from voice calls, agents are measured on handling multiple customer work items in tandem for email, web chat and social interactions. Now and in the future, many interactions will be a single customer in time on one or more channels, in this case multiple modes of interaction, simultaneously. Our interaction with Artificial Intelligence (AI) enabled agents, will become more frequent with the proliferation of sensors in our homes, airports, shops and main streets. These conditions directly impact core functions of customer response routing, resourcing and reporting.

Omni-channel agents will be equipped to conduct simple to more complex interactions seamlessly and often driven by the customer. In addition, agent-initiated and application-initiated shifts in channel can occur as the result of some event.

Two such interaction patterns have emerged within Social Community based customer support:

1. A customer is becoming increasingly agitated and the business objective is to intervene and shift them from the social channel into a tokenized chat handled by an agent, manager, or specialist best suited to de-escalate and resolve the issue.

2. A customer is typing key words or phrases identified by real time text analytics that indicate a shift in purpose from evaluate to purchase (such as weighing two offers) and the business objective is to intervene with a ‘close’ agent trained on the offers and empowered to sweeten the deal if warranted. Optionally, it may become mutually beneficial to customer and agent to meet digitally face-to-face and co-browse content. The collaboration session is instantiated seamlessly in one click and full context is maintained throughout for both customer and agent.

In the digital contact center, omni-channel customer engagement typically drivesan industry best practice approach with several interaction application provider/vendor applications at the helm of digital and traditional contact center channels. However, maintaining consistent experiences and coordination across these channels is critical.

The digital contact center platform provides core omni-channel interaction coordination services across the various touch points (email, web chat, mobile apps, social, etc.) as depicted in the illustration above. A primary role of the platform and related engagement services is to coordinate and make interactions seamless in-channel, when transitioning to another channel and across multiple channels simultaneously. Interaction coordination is provided through open Web/REST APIs where the Interaction Manager applications operating on any given channel, communicate with the Engagement Services.

Engagement services provide many capabilities that are shared by any Interaction Manager/channel. It is core to the solution as a whole including engagement flow design and real time execution, low-latency context data retention, attribute-based resource matching, event correlation for reporting and business intelligence, unified collaboration APIs, and real-time staging of interventions for analytics / real time decisions.

The target objective is the implementation of a platform that will easily integrate with company data sources and systems, and provide a seamless cross-channel data aggregation, analytics and logic layer to recognize and facilitate customers in each step of their engagement process across any channel. For customers the goal is to inspire, personalize and create a path towards self-discovery. Ultimately, providing a joined-up experience across all channels for more effortless journeys offering solutions to problems when they happen and if possible before they happen. For CIO’s it is a continuous balancing act executing on customer experience innovation. Cost takeout from optimizing traditional customer service / response channels is happening in parallel as the new channels and connectivity patterns diverge from traditional dial tone.

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