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Sunday, June 10, 2007

UC-based Kiosks

Copyright © 2007 Unified-View, All Rights Reserved Worldwide

June 8, 2007

UC Going After the On-premise Customer – Will The Wired IP “Smartphone” Become the New, Multimodal Applications Kiosk?

By Art Rosenberg, The Unified-View

UC capabilities originally targeted business communications on a person-to-person basis, where the contact initiator knows the specific contact recipient and just needs the flexibility of different communication modalities for maximizing individual and group productivity. However, it is no big secret that the real business “ROI” of converging information/communication technologies will be coming from three primary sources:

  1. Speeding up revenue generation from customers
  2. Reducing operational labor costs to get 1
  3. Reducing technology costs (TCO) to support maximum customer access

All of the above are geared to contribute to the bottom line of any business activity with customers, and the Web has become the fastest growing form of customer access to business activities because it is “always-on,” multimodal, and “virtual.”

Generating Revenue Faster At The “Point-of-Sale”

Getting revenue from customers faster means that customers are getting their needs satisfied more quickly, including getting live assistance with the purchase of goods and services. This can happen wherever the customer happens to be initiating their transactions, including:

· From a wired phone

· Online at a business web site

· Mobile, using a personalized wireless device (laptop, smartphone)

· Visiting a “brick and mortar” branch office or retail location

Although e-Commerce has significantly displaced some traditional brick-and-mortar business activity, there are many kinds of businesses that still require customer visits to retail locations or branch offices. This is where self-service business process applications can be highly customized and simplified for on-premise devices to quickly service simple customer needs without the costs and delays of on-premise live assistance. A familiar example is the ATM machine located at banks and other remote locations for simple banking transactions (deposits and withdrawals).

However, as we all know too well, every self-service application may require live assistance and for premise-based business activities, such assistance must be immediate and based upon the device that is supplied on-premise. This is where the benefits of premise-based business process applications can benefit from IP communications capabilities, shifting from an on-line interaction to a real-time voice conversation with live assistance. Although this may sound like a traditional IVR call center situation where a caller presses ”0” to talk to an agent, this is much more focused on specialized, live “point-of-sale” transaction applications that are key to revenue generation. The question is, how will UC help that happen?

Putting the Premise-based Customer Contact UC Opportunity in Perspective – “Contextual Contact Initiation”

Most telephone customer contacts originate off-premise, where there has been little application control over the consumer’s communication device. Even with premise-based phones, the chasm between telephony and business applications limited voice application interfaces to the complexities of standard telephone device TUI.

We have always had premised-based telephones available for use by both visitors/customers to contact live assistance, usually via an operator, e.g., an airport, a hotel, department store, etc. We have also always had different kinds of application-based, online information and transaction kiosks in public locations, often with a separate wired telephone alongside to initiate an independent voice conversation with live assistance. In both cases, the telephone contact was totally controlled by the customer/visitor who would then have to explain what kind of information or assistance they would need.

Online premise-based PC applications are more flexible and efficient because of their dedicated and customized rich, transaction-oriented interfaces, e.g., ATM machines. However, when live assistance is required, the traditional voice connection must still be activated over a separate telephone line. With VoIP and IP telephony, the combination of rich, online information and data transactions with live, contextual voice contacts can make premise-based self-service applications much more efficient and productive, yet easily supported by live assistance “on demand.”

Some Examples

The lodging industry always has visiting customers, better known as “guests.” Guests always have both information needs and assistance needs while on the premises. The former was traditionally taken care of by a combination of hotel information reference books and the use of the in-room television set to access information from the hotel computer systems. For live assistance, however, the traditional room telephone was available as a separate means of contact unrelated to the information delivered over the TV set.

Although originally announced back in 2001, Avaya created a new, applications oriented “Concierge” phone for the opening of the new Wynn hotel in Las Vegas. It was an IP phone with a screen that was able to do display all kinds of hotel and local area information like the in-room TV, but also had the option to initiate context-based outbound phone calls related to the displayed information. The desktop “smartphone” form factor simplified the application user interface and avoided the complexities of a general-purpose PC. For business travelers who need to do “work,” however, this was not the device for that purpose.

Cisco is also moving in this direction, having formed a “customer business transformation” consulting team that is doing the business process analysis for their customers to come up with UC solutions that exploit the benefits of multimodal IP phones. Listen to the examples cited in Blair Pleasant’s recent interview with Cisco’s Manjula Talreja that enable UC-enabled communication devices to support self-service business process applications in point-of sale environments.

Consumers are being given new capabilities to search for nearby locations of products and services that need to be seen, transacted, tried on, or discussed face-to-face. But, once on premise at these locations, the opportunity to get information and execute transactions on a self-service basis needs to be simplified by customizing the user interfaces around the specific business application process involved. General-purpose computer interfaces are not what is needed for “point-of-sale” activities.


While UC is very heavily oriented towards the flexibility of multimodal devices for a variety of person-to-person contacts, it is also going to be useful to the “point-of-sale” customer environment, where the customer is only a visiting contact initiator, who will use a premise-based device designed specifically for simplified self-service functions, and, if necessary, to immediately access live assistance within the context the customer’s activity. (“Contextual contact initiation”)

While such premise-based activity may be limited in volume compared to growing web-based e-commerce and mobile usage, it is certainly a critically sensitive factor for revenue generation for businesses that are visited by the customers.

What Do You Think?

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Attention CIOs: Watch this great recent Webcast from Avaya and Microsoft on the practical “Why’s” and “How’s” of migrating to UC!

Go to:

This discussion with the two dominant enterprise communications technology providers in the text messaging and telephony worlds highlights the practicalities of migrating to UC and also underscores the industry-wide initiative for identifying individual business user requirements.

A New Service For Enterprise UC Planning

The Unified-View, together with the industry experts at, is developing a standard end-user online survey service that will be made freely available to enterprise organizations to help gather UC/mobility profiling information about current end user business communications activities. This information will help enterprise management to:

  1. Gather information about which individual end users or work groups need UC capabilities the most
  2. Identify the related business process that will determine UC migration priorities
  3. Help align the value of improved UC capabilities with the ROIs of business processes.
  4. Help identify and quantify the mobile and UC activities associated with specific individual users and their business contacts that should also be provided with UC capabilities
  5. Enable the organization to plan specific migration training needs for individual end users or end user groups, in accordance with a practical migration implementation schedule.
  6. Enable the enterprise to compare before and after changes in business communication efficiencies and business process benefits by basically using the same survey for “migrated” users as a “before and after” comparison.
  7. The service will also allow enterprise organizations to “benchmark” individual users or different groups within the organization for evaluation purposes. In addition, it is planned to allow such information to be benchmarked in Unified-View market research reports across enterprise organizations, to identify differences in end user needs between different vertical market segments, and identify “best practices” for UC management.

Stay tuned to the web site for initial availability of the UC Profiling service. We are in discussions with all the major UC technology providers to support this initiative to help both their customers and sales channels plan their UC migrations properly and effectively.

News From UC Strategies

To better understand the different perspectives and issues involved with implementing UC technologies, go to the web site for the latest, most practical insights on migrating the enterprise to UC.

UC Industry Update including Highlights from VoiceCon Spring

You can also review the presentations given by the experts at TMC’s IT Expo.