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Friday, December 07, 2012

Unified Mobile Self Services For Consumers Moving To Clouds

Copyright © 2012 The Unified-View, All Rights Reserved Worldwide

Rapid user adoption of mobile smartphones and tablets and their impact on Internet access is changing business communications and interactions. For a “big picture” overview how such change is affecting IT for both organizations and consumers, see the latest report by Mary Meeker of Kleiner, Perkins, Caulfield and Byers.
The statistics reaffirm the growth of mobility and personalization that is driving change in how organizations interact with customers/consumers, as well as with their employees.  They also reflect the role of flexible unified communications for both internal users as well as for multi-modal interactions with consumers/customers.

Improving Customer Services With Mobile, Multi-modal Self-Service Applications

Although contact center technologies from the leading industry providers are slowly shifting to public, private, and hybrid “cloud” offerings, there are also innovative players who are moving faster to exploit mobility and cloud-based applications in practical ways that I have long been waiting for. In particular, they are supporting consumer adoption of smartphones and tablets to increase the role of online applications for customer self-services over legacy IVR applications, while UC-enabled “click-for-assistance” provides access to live support on demand. Two technology providers that caught my attention recently are Voxeo, with their approach to “Unified Self-Service” and the second incarnation of Radish Systems, with their ChoiceView Visual IVR service for smartphone users.
Of particular interest, is not only how legacy IVR applications are becoming multi-media, but also how such self-service applications are supporting both inbound and outbound “mobile apps” and hosted by leading communications service providers. As consumers shift to mobile, multi-modal interactions with all types of organizations, legacy contact centers will increasingly become cloud-based and UC-enabled for self-services.
Mobile Users Need More Notification Control As Contact Recipients   
Business communications is a two-way-street, but not just between individual people any more. People contact organizations and organizations contact people using various modes of contact (AKA “channels”), contextually exploiting online business applications and CEBP. We see increasing recognition of the need for legacy business contact centers to support such flexible, multi-modal interactions because of what I call mobile “Consumer BYOD.”  However, the same concerns for flexibility and control applying to all individual mobile users, who now must handle a variety of business and personal inbound and outbound contacts, except, guess what? They don’t have personal “agents” to handle all important (time-sensitive) inbound contacts (calls, ALL forms of messages) when they are too busy doing something else.
So, the more ways that people can be directly contacted by other people or by business process applications (CEBP), especially in real-time (voice, SMS, IM, video calls), the greater the need to automatically screen and manage incoming contacts. Otherwise, people will be spending most of their valuable time going through emails, all kinds of notifications and alerts, SMS messages, phone/video call attempts, social networking postings, etc. For this reason, it is time to focus on the individual end user’s need for what I would describe as “unified notification” management that can deal contextually with the dynamics of mobile contacts by recipients and their individual time priorities.
To prove my point here is an interesting commentary from a blogger on the subject of managing his incoming mobile messaging and notifications.The “cloud” is already being exploited to provide hosted inbound contact center services to organizations, so can it also be used to provide personal contact management services to individual consumers?
So Who Will Provide “Unified Mobile Notification” Services To Consumers?
The answer lies with the service provider(s) that the mobile user will use in a BYOD environment.  Since BYOD implies the procurement of mobile devices from a service provider that also provides network connectivity, the wireless carriers are obvious candidates for such responsibilities. Perhaps this is one reason that Voxeo has spun off a new company that will provide self-service applications capabilities to service providers.
However, with a “dual persona” approach to sharing a mobile device between work responsibilities and all other personal interactions, it would appear logical to have incoming contacts controlled by the individual user for both personas, i.e., screening the contact initiator, the type of contact, the form of notification, and the options to respond to respond at this particular time.
Some of these features have long existed under the umbrella of personal call management services (telephone answering) and voice mail systems available to business end users, e.g., AVST, but with multi-modal mobility, must be expanded.
When it comes to such notifications and alerts, there is an issue of personal time availability, as well as the mode in which the alert will be executed because of situational circumstances. Take your pick:
  •  Vibration
  •  Audible sounds
  •  Visual displays
  • Other?
  •  Do not disturb at all
Clearly, the individual end user will have to dynamically select what will be suitable in any given mobile situation, especially when driving a car and restricted to an eyes-free, hands-free user interface. The challenge to make such dynamic control simple, intuitive, and as automatic as possible. Let’s not pass the buck to the contact initiators to check presence information before making contact – that doesn’t solve the recipient’s problem.