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Tuesday, December 31, 2013

December 31, 2013

Happy UC Migrations In 2014         

It’s the end of 2013, and even though there has been much talk about “unified communications (UC),” there really hasn’t been much action! Part of the reason is that there is still a lot of confusion about what “UC” really means and it’s not just about IP-based, person-to-person voice call connections or (VoIP).
The future of business communications is rapidly being accepted as becoming more mobile, multimodal, IP based, and integrated with business process applications, but what does that really mean for legacy PSTN-based  telephony systems?. The major challenges for every organization, large or small, for moving forward towards that future are twofold. First, understanding how and where the benefits of using the new communications technology will apply to the various operational needs and priorities of the individual business operation. Secondly, planning a minimally disruptive and cost effective migration from their current communication technologies. 
The UC change will basically impact how the legacy wired, premised-based, PSTN-connected telephony system will be subsumed by wired and wireless cloud-based Internet connectivity services, and how Communications Enabled Business Process applications will replace person-to-person contact activities. Such change will obviously be an evolutionary one, so most organizations will face the old syndrome of “one foot on land (CPE, PSTN) and the other in the canoe (cloud services, WebRTC).” So, it will be important to use technology that is flexible enough to connect the old with new.
 I usually like to focus on what the end users will need and want from communication user interfaces, but there is no question that infrastructure and connectivity that end users don’t see, are equally important for implementation planning. Patton Electronics is a well-established technology provider in Europe, but less well known in the U.S., that is focused on providing the connectivity technology to connect all the old endpoints with all the new business communications endpoints required by both organizations and service providers that must migrate to the UC future. As every organization starts their migration planning  towards IP Telephony as part of UC enablement, they will need the connectivity flexibility that Patton’s SmartNode and integration services with Microsoft and IBM UC platforms can offer.
Smartphones and tablets are changing  the landscape of most business applications, expanding end user multimodal access to information and people for both consumers and enterprise employees. BYOD concerns have required organizations to find a way to keep job-related activities separate from personal use of a user’s mobile device. This was done with technology described as “dual persona” container sandboxing on the mobile device, where the business container is controlled by the organization, and the user controls the personal container.
Since consumers and BYOD employees get their mobile devices and services from the wireless carriers that also provide network access connectivity, it is no surprise that wireless service provider AT&T, came up with a cloud-based “dual persona” capability for online business applications under the label of AT&T Toggle (SM). To complement Toggle, AT&T just announced a trial of a mobile app (Toggle Voice, based on AT&T's RingCentral offering) that provides an old mobile phone capability for using two phone numbers for separately initiating, receiving, and billing business and personal phone calls. Such a personal/business dual-reach capability has been demonstrated in the past by companies like Broadsoft, Movius, and Divide, but AT&T might be unique among US carriers in offering this combination of a secondary business number within a business container.
The service convergence of real-time voice calls with online mobile apps will have a significant impact on how end users will interact with companies, especially as customers who need live assistance within the context of online self-service applications. Because mobile consumers can now directly access such online applications for information and transactions through business websites, they will use such access as a first level of engagement, rather than with traditional PSTN phone calls or other modes of contact.
Similarly, because mobile consumers can now be contacted anytime and anywhere, business process applications can be authorized by customers to initiate automated notifications for important, time-sensitive situations (airline flight canceled or delayed, bank account status changes, health monitoring alerts, etc). Such notifications can also provide for convenient, “contextual” responses as well as flexible access to available live assistance.  
“Dual Persona” Mobile Devices Are Not Enough
Many industry observers, including myself, have long talked about the need for mobile devices to accommodate secure use of both business and personal communications and applications. That is being accommodated by various mobile clients and APIs that control different “containerized” online interaction functions on a mobile device.  However, there may be several “personas” that an end user can require, not just a single job-related one, or a single “personal” one. For this reason, BYOD must include the ability for end point devices to use separate and secure “interaction personas” that are personalized for each individual end user. (“BYOP?”)
As a starting point for business communications, job-related personas will typically be implemented by organizations to support their mobile employees and business partners. However, since every business user is a also a consumer and therefore a customer of a variety of public service and product providers, mobile customer services will also have to be accommodated for personalized information access via “mobile apps” and proactive customer notifications. This will be particularly important for health care and financial services.
Customer services are moving away from legacy telephone call centers and IVR applications to support multimodal mobile consumers. This is particularly critical for “BYOD” mobile users who will be using a variety of smartphones and tablets, with different form factors and mobile operating systems, for all their mobile interactions with people and online applications.
Mobile devices must therefore be able to securely and efficiently support different modes of IP communications between people (messaging, phone/video calls, social posts) as well as personalized interactions with a variety of business process applications designed for consumers/customers. In particular, every self-service “mobile app” will need to provide “click-for-assistance” options that will be UC-enabled for the user’s choice of multimodal communication. (This covers a lot of different activities that must be managed by a single mobile device, but the basic mobile device technology that has already been developed for both network connectivity and application access security, needs to be expanded and customized to cover all the real world use cases.
It’s still early in the service development game, but multimodal mobile devices (smartphones, tablets) are rapidly being adopted by all types of end users (BYOD). This is driving the need for mobile communication service providers to securely support separate controls for organizational employees, business partners, customers, and consumers with what I call personalized “Interaction Management Spaces” on their individual mobile devices. 

Copyright © 2013 The Unified-View, All Rights Reserved Worldwide

Saturday, November 16, 2013

Multimodal Interfaces For User Self-Service Input/Output

Copyright (C) Unified-View, All Rights Reserved.

For years you have seen me refer to multimodal mobile devices as the mainstay for unified communications. You hav have also seen me stress the fact that UC is not just for person-to-person contacts, but also for interactions with automated, online applications. Now that consumers have rapidly adopted the use of smartphones and tablets, the all are able to access information and people without necessarily making a tradtional phone call over the PSTN.

This transition is not only affecting the use of telephones and the legacy Telephone User Intefcae (TUI), but is also causing a ripple affect in how online mobile self-service apps must support the flexibility of multimodal endpoint devices. In the Winter issue of Speech Technology, the challenge of integrating voice and visual interfaces is discussed, highlighting the need for end users to use both forms of interaction as their personal needs dictate. 

(Go to

As I have frequently stressed in the past, people will usually find it faster and easier to talk than to type input, and faster and easier to read (or look) than listen to informational output. On top of that, there will be times when a user has to be hands-free and/or eyes-free, in which case, the user choice will need that flexibility option at the input or output level of any self-service application.

Device Independence For Mobile Apps

Because "Consumer BYOD" will require mobile apps to support a variety of form factors and mobile OSs, there will be a new need to separate mobile apps from the control of any input and output content. That approach seems to be on the agenda of the World Wide Consortium's Multimodal Interaction Working Group to develop standards for  inter-operating between "modality components." This means that an application process will be completely independent from the different input/output format controls, which can be selectively used for individual end user situations.

Think of it in terms of person-to-person UC-enabled messaging, where the message sender creates a message in text or speech, the recipient gets notified about the message, then can choose to retrieve that message as voice or text. So, an application interaction controller can be directed to dynamically convert and deliver input or output to a particular device screen interface or voice channel. Since we are talking about a Web-based interaction with an application, not a person, a real-time voice (or video) connection is not directly involved except when invoked through a "click-for-assistance" option in the application (like the Amazon "Mayday button").

Here is a recent post I did on the role of multi-modal live assistance as part of mobile customer self-services.

Thursday, August 15, 2013

Customer Satisfaction? UC Interaction Flexibility!

By Art Rosenberg, The Unified-View/ UC Strategies Expert


UC flexibility has always been more important for mobile users than for desktop workers, because they need dynamic flexibility for both initiating contacts and responding to contacts while “on the go.” This is particularly true for customer business interactions where consumers increasingly use mobile self-service applications, but then run into a complex problem that requires expert live assistance. “Click-for-assistance” with new browser technologies like Web RTC, will help streamline direct access to such customer service staff, but the question still remains as to exactly what kind of assistance is really needed by the individual customer.

One solution is to stop guessing about what such customers want and give them the choice of selecting the expertise they think they need, including the flexibility of how and when they want to interact with such support, without first talking to an agent and then getting transferred. An innovative approach has been developed by OrgSpan, that has integrated their solution with a leading interaction (contact) center provider, Interactive Intelligence, to provide such a practical capability. So we interviewed the founder and CEO of OrgSpan, Jeff Swartz.  

What is changing the most about customer service today?

We believe the biggest change in customer service today is what customers are expecting, especially when they increasingly use personalized, multi-modal smartphones or tablets. They don’t want to be limited to searching a FAQ, emailing support, or sitting in a call-waiting queue after dialing into a support center. Customers are drawn to solutions that put them in control and that are more flexible in nature. They therefore want companies to offer dynamically flexible solutions that allow them to choose how and when they want to get the live support they need. There is a rapidly increasing movement towards non-voice (telephone) based interactions such as chat, email, social media channels, etc.
They also expect to be able to change their mode of communication without losing any context of what they have already done.  For example if I’m on a company’s support site, searching FAQs, performing self-service transactions, asking questions in the forums, or chatting with an agent, when I decide to elevate my interaction to a voice or video conversational, I want the context of what I’ve been doing to go with my contact so I don’t have to start all over with the contact center agent.
Finally, many customer service organizations struggle to find an available “expert” to help if the initial agent cannot handle the issue.  We’ve seen large, multi-thousand agent call centers, with little or no ability to search for either other agents or experts inside and outside the call center to assist when help is suddenly needed. With the adoption of mobile consumer self-services, the “expert” problem will only increase. 
What are the challenges that customer services will still face with new contact center technologies?

The biggest challenge we see is support organizations accepting the changing customer expectations and paradigms, and accepting the need to meet the customer on his/her terms and in a format that supports the device the customer may be using. Customers want access to all support channels that work well on their smartphones and tablets. They also want to be able to escalate the mode of that interaction. So I may start out by browsing a support website’s self-service applications, but then want to easily be able to turn that into a chat.  And if the chat isn’t proving efficient, I want to easily be able to switch to an audio or video call.

Customer service organizations often struggle to meet the customer’s expectations because it means utilizing new online self-service technologies and accepting that they will have less control over their customer. These new self-service technologies also present a new problem – it becomes more complicated when the customer does require live assistance.  How do you capture the context of the self-service activity, especially when they are “mobile apps,” to pass along to the right kind of person in the contact center?

What Does OrgSpan technology offer that is better than existing approaches for assisted customer services?

OrgSpan offers two cloud-based solutions that help customer service organizations deliver an improved experience for their customers. Our first product, called OrgSpan Connect, allows customer service agents and anyone in the organization to have rich profiles defined with their experience, skills, certifications, etc. that can be searched to find an appropriate expert when needed. This helps increase first-contact resolution, reduces overall interaction time, and improves customer satisfaction.
Our second product is called OrgSpan Select.  This product is focused squarely on those organizations that want to offer a radically different and more personalized customer service experience. OrgSpan Connect makes rich employee profiles available internally, so employees can find and connect with other employees. OrgSpan Select, however, integrates into a “Click for Live Assistance” support flow and makes rich agent/expert profiles available to your customers, so that they get to browse, search, and ultimately choose the agent/expert they want to handle their interaction.
The customer gets to view and search a variety of information about each agent/expert including skills, product knowledge, authority role, and REVIEWS from other customers, as well an estimated wait time for each agent/expert. This experience is available on smartphones and tablets, as well as from any web browser. This customer-focused experience allows customers to personalize their live assistance experience and can help differentiate a company’s customer service from its competitors.

What Kind Of Companies Can Benefit Most From OrgSpan Select?

OrgSpan Select has received lots of interest from several types of customers.  First, there are technology provider and services companies that want to gain a competitive advantage through better support channels. I can buy a Canon lens from dozens of online companies at virtually the same price point.  Superior customer service can sway a customer’s decision from which vendor to make the purchase, as well as help retain the customer when they have problems. 
The second type of customer company is one that wants to encourage an ongoing relationship between their customers and their customer service agents.  For example, credit unions, would love to have their members develop a personal relationship with their customer service personnel. This encourages loyalty and additional business from their members. 
Finally, we’re seeing a lot of interest from companies that have to support a large number of very different products or services. A good example is a health care company that is supporting multiple products and multiple versions of the same product, where support for each product requires very specific knowledge and expertise on the part of the customer service representative. With OrgSpan Select, the customer would be able to select a customer service representative who has the specific needed knowledge/expertise to help.
How Does OrgSpan Select Work With Contact Center Communications and Online Portals?
OrgSpan Select currently supports routing of email and callbacks.  We integrate with Interactive Intelligence’s Customer Interaction Center product on the telephony side.  Companies can easily customize the look and feel of OrgSpan Select to match their website design and marketing efforts.  Implementation of OrgSpan Select is also extremely easy and requires very little effort to integrate into their support website.
OrgSpan products are cloud-based and extremely easy to set up and configure. Both OrgSpan Connect and Select work with premise-based and CaaS modes of Interactive Intelligence's Customer Interaction Center. 
We’ve had some interesting reactions from customer service organizations ranging from “We could NEVER do that” to “We love this”.  We also get concerns about exposing agent information including photos.  We support pseudonyms and alternate-photos so you don’t have to make public the agent’s real name or photo.
We believe our Connect and Select products can really help an organization improve their customers’ live assistance experiences when they really need it and help meet the rapidly changing expectations of their customers. Org Span Select is just the first product in a suite of service technologies we will be releasing that will enable companies to build private social portals for their customers.  We’ll be announcing further developments later this year.
For general information or to learn more about OrgSpan products and services, please visit or email  You can also view demos of OrgSpan Connect and Select at Customer Service Experience, ITExpo West, and Call Center Demo trade shows in the Interactive Intelligence booth.

Copyright © 2013 The Unified-View, All Rights Reserved Worldwide

Friday, July 26, 2013

Customer Mobility And Accounts Receivable Management

Servicing customers includes some functions that have always been most difficult for all types of businesses, i.e., managing the timely payments for goods and services. Though most customer services involve satisfying various consumer needs, collecting payments – especially those that are in arrears – must also be done in an effective way that does not violate any of the regulations or state and federal laws that currently exist. With new business communications technologies, there are new benefits that can be gained, if – and when – regulations allow.

There are now new opportunities for supporting ongoing and late payment management through direct, more timely and efficient interactions with customers who increasingly carry smartphone. Most importantly, mobile customer contacts and interactions can be flexibly controlled by the individual customers to suit their personalized needs. However, because there are many different laws and reglations, originally designed to protect legacy cellular users, that make it both difficult and expensive to do the job of performing collections from customers through accounts receivable management or by independent collections companies. (For more information on this issue, read the white paper on “Payment Compliance – Same Rules, Different Game.”)

Payment Management Benefits Through Personalized, Mobile Interactions

The benefits of providing mobile self-service interactions are significant; not only will they reduce the costs of supporting customer needs, but they will also create greater customer cooperation and satisfaction in fulfilling their financial obligations. In addition, self-services will not only generate greater contextual information about a customer’s current status, but will also enable customers to quickly and flexibly access appropriate forms of live assistance to discuss their financial situation constructively.

The basis for any customer business interaction and relationship can now be reinforced through both mobile self-service applications, as well as timely access to live assistance for all of a customer’s business activities. That relationship can now include payment situations where a customer must be notified in a timely and efficient way of any problem that has developed, along with convenient options for quickly resolving those issues.

It is important to differentiate enterprise Accounts Receivable Management (ARM), which should be viewed as a logical extension of customer services for business organizations, from commercial collection activities from organizations that specialize in dealing with debtors, not their own customers. (See latest capabilities for Latitude Software® collections technology.) It is, however, ARM that will provide the most benefit to most business organizations, because it can help retain existing customers, while also facilitating customer payment management activity. It is also here that innovative contact center technology providers, like Interactive Intelligence, are supporting new personalized interactions for mobile customers.  

The bottom line is that more convenient and easy access to up-to-date customer data, coupled with efficient and flexible communications with customers, can improve the nature and costs of collecting on customer accounts that are in arrears.

Automating Payment Management With Mobile Customers

There have always been several basic problems in interacting with customers for business purposes, especially if they are mobile. These include:
·    Automating timely customer contact 
Not knowing where a consumer is at the moment or what real-time communication constraints they have, makes it difficult to notify them of a time-sensitive situation. Calling a voice-only cell phone is very limited for informational access, and is also disruptive, and therefore usually restricted by various regulatory constraints. 

·    Personalizing the contact for the customer’’s current situation

It is important that any outbound notification be accurate about the current status of the customer payment situation. Utilizing a personalized mobile device dramatically increases the chance of a “right party” contact.

·    Simplifying a customer’s response to any important automated notification

A customer response can range from simple acknowledgement to wanting more information to wanting to perform a transaction to wanting to discuss the issue with a live person. Those kinds of choices need to be available to the customer in order to bring faster closure and greater satisfaction in the customer experience.

·    Provide easy and flexible access to appropriate live assistance, as required

At any point in a customer self-service interaction, there must always be the option for live assistance, if needed. Ideally, that will include capturing all contextual information about the customer’s activity up to that point, so that assistance personnel will not have to question the customer unnecessarily.
“Click-for-Assistance” Options in Mobile Self-service Applications

One of the benefits that mobile customers now have with new smartphones is that the users can change communication modalities easily. In particular, switching from online, visual self-services to live assistance can be simple and seamless, since a multi-modal endpoint device can handle all types of voice, video, or text interactions. This makes for a very cost-effective way of interacting with consumers for any business process, including payment management and collections. 

Assistance options include any form of communications, such as:

·        Email

·        Text chat (IM)

·        Voice connection

·        Video connection

·        Voice message

·        Social post

For mobile users who will find it easier to speak than to type text, e.g., while walking or driving a car, the technology for voice-to-text options will allow a message to be created in voice, but delivered to the recipient in text for more efficient retrieval.

One of the biggest frustrations that customers find in dealing with call centers is that they have to wait in queue for the right person to talk to. This situation can be averted easily by providing a callback or “virtual queue” option, whereby mobile customers can be called back ASAP or at a preferred time. Having a mobile smartphone increases the user’s accessibility significantly, and makes access to live assistance more flexible, efficient and convenient. 

Security and Compliance Issues

Customer access to secure web portals, where identity authentication is required, ensures that any online self-service access to information or transaction will be secure. This will require the user to have appropriate “mobile app” links for such services in general, but will also be most useful in payment services.

An alternative security measure may be to switch from online access via a web portal, to a “click-for-assistance” voice connection with a live agent for making secure payment. That capability will be facilitated with new WebRTC capabilities in browsers.

Contact Center Payment Management Assistance

All self-service applications will need simple and direct access to knowledgeable agents who can offer assistance with the payment function or can negotiate a payment schedule. Mobile smartphones can support such capabilities more easily because they are multi-modal. With the new prospect of WebRTC technology that enables simpler voice and video connections through Web-based applications, the opportunities to provide such “click-for-assistance” options to smartphone users of “mobile apps” will increase significantly. What will also be needed, however, is integration of such connections with contact center inbound and outbound contact management routing.

Of particular importance for any business or service organization, however, is the ability to enable authorized and personalized automated outbound notifications from a business process application to specific customer recipients. Under the label of “Communications Enabled Business Processing” (CEBP), such capabilities are only now becoming practical because of increased flexible accessibility to recipients through their mobile smartphones. This will not only be more efficient and effective for making timely contact with customers, but will also significantly reduce traditional notification costs through mail or live outbound call attempts.

While mobile notifications can most effectively utilize various modes of asynchronous messaging (email, SMS texting), they can also exploit UC-enabled real-time connections, when authorized, including text chat and voice/video connections. 

Any responses to outbound notifications that need to go to live assistance can also be directed to the same type of integrated live assistance access used for self-service applications discussed above. There may also be different “contextual” routing and priority queuing controls, since the contact was initiated by an automated business process, not the customer.

It will also be important to move any new contact center functionality for mobile customers to a cloud-based platform, rather than to a legacy, premise-based system. This trend is already rapidly being adopted for traditional contact center functions in order to facilitate rapid, cost-efficient implementations, third-party management and support, and, most importantly, implementation and integration of new mobile customer service apps.


While existing laws and regulations governing collections are very stringent and tightly constrain accessing consumers via their mobile devices, the rapid and broad-based adoption of these devices will eventually force those regulations to change.  Your contact center must, therefore, start supporting mobile, multi-modal customers differently and more flexibly. The increased use of automated, self-services, and controls for mobile customers provides the required functionality for interacting more efficiently with customers, while minimizing any activity that would be viewed as harassment. On the other hand, such automated facilities significantly reduce operational costs while expanding productivity and customer satisfaction.

For debt collection organizations, new contact center technologies are also available, although their relationship with debtors are not tradtional “customer” relationships. See more information about what Interactive Intelligence’s Latitude Debt Collection software offers.

Because vast adoption of mobile communications technologies is inevitable, now is the time to start changing the old telephony ground rules that were initially designed to protect consumers from telemarketers. It’s time to start envisioning the benefits to both the customer and the product/service provider when customers and business organizations are both more accessible via mobile contacts.  For this reason, business management in the ARM industry should continue supporting and educating lobbyists on the long list of reasons to remove unnecessary obstacles for supporting mobile customer services.

Copyright © 2013 The Unified-View, All Rights Reserved Worldwide

Monday, July 22, 2013

Ready For Personalized "Business Interactions" With Mobile UC?               

As all forms of person-to-person and process-to person contacts converge under BYOD for multi-modal, mobile devices to accommodate the different needs of individual end users, it is getting more difficult to quantify business communications infrastructure requirements for any organization. That is why there is such a big interest in migrating to “cloud”-based, hosted and managed services, rather than investing in new premise-based telephony systems that is based on the wired PSTN. This is, however, an evolutionary transition for most organizations that have existing legacy PBX and desktop technologies that still work.
The UC Strategies Experts were headed in the right direction when they defined “unified communications” (UC) as “communications integrated to optimize business processes.” That is a fundamental perspective way of the technology for making both person-to-person and process-to-person communication applications more inter-operable and integrated. However, “UC” doesn’t describe what has become even more important to the adoption of technology, i.e., the different user interfaces and modalities for flexibly and seamlessly exploiting all forms of contact and interaction between both people and with automated applications.
“Use Cases” Correlate Business Processes With Specific Types of Involved End Users
Most importantly, it has now become more difficult for organizations to quantify their operational interaction/communication needs (functionality, network capacities, etc.) for their many different end users, both inside and outside the organization. That includes business partners and consumers/customers, as well as different types of employees in an organization. However, the flexibility of private or public network (“cloud”) solutions can help the selective transition of an organization’s existing business communications to the next generation of what I have started to call “business interactions.” Communications flexibility is not just for a particular business process, e.g., often referred to as Communications Enabled Business Processes (CEBP), but must also include the personalized contact and interaction needs between different individual end users involved with that specific process.
One way to plan for that perspective of more flexible and interoperable “business interactions,” is to recognize that most business organizations in major vertical industries have similar business processes that need to integrate with communication applications on a personalized end user basis. That is where BYOD and interaction flexibility comes into play, i.e., each type of end user involved in a key business process needs to be identified in terms of their job responsibilities or “roles”, as well as for the communication facilities that they will utilize. That will also include “customer” roles of consumers, who are part of a business process. This will be the new way that business interaction requirements will have to be defined in order to implement communication flexibility efficiencies for “optimized” business processes.
Start With A “Use Case” Business Process For Its Interaction Needs
While the technology is still developing the new tools for business interactions and marketing is looking for the right term to describe how both end users and automated business process applications will dynamically interact, business organizations of all sizes should start reviewing “who does what” in their high priority business activities. This perspective must now include mobile end users, who will also be more multi-modal and flexible, when it comes to business interactions.
In addition to making and responding to contacts, end users involved in a business process will also need access to contextual information that is always part of a business interaction with both people and automated applications. Finally, start planning on IP-based “click-to-contact” people for all involved end users, using federated presence information for calls or IM to gradually replace legacy phone calls over the PSTN. That’s where telephony is going and the migration is starting now in the "clouds!"

Copyright © 2013 The Unified-View, All Rights Reserved Worldwide

Monday, July 01, 2013

Enterprise Mobility Management For Shared, Personal Devices

“Mobility” includes the different multi-modal mobile endpoint devices and the “mobile apps” that are having a huge impact on both consumers and business users who only want to carry a single, personalized device to do all of the following:
1.      Communicate dynamically with people in a variety of ways for either business or personal contacts
2.      Access information and self-service applications as consumers or employees in various modes
3.      Control personalized automated notifications
4.      Because mobility requires dynamic flexibility of interaction, UC enablement will be very important for both contact initiators and contact recipients
The technology is still evolving to support all of the above, but the biggest hang-up seems to be keeping the “separation of church and state” for supporting the device, the public network access, and the mobile application middleware that must reside within the different endpoint devices. The big argument is concerned with security of any information that can be accessed by the mobile device and most IT folks think they need to control the whole device to protect their business data.
Several years ago, when Apple came out with the first “smartphone,” I remember posting an article that suggested that access security to enterprise data should be controlled at the application levels, not at the device or network levels. I still believe this is a viable approach. Obviously, it will be a combination of authentication and encryption that will enable maximum end-to end security in the mobile Web environment that smartphones and tablets will exploit.
The BYOD game is forcing organizations to accommodate user choice of mobile device for both person-to-person communications and business applications access. Mobile devices should have thin clients to primarily provide wireless access to applications that control data access, and not store either applications and data that will be in ‘private” or “public” clouds. That will minimize enterprise responsibilities for supporting end user mobile devices for employees, business partners, and customers to different levels of control on the device for what my colleague, Michael Finneran, describes as "Secure Containers" and all the MDM (Mobile Device Management) platforms have them.
I used to employ the term “Dual Persona” for describing the above mobile device management requirement, but if you think about it, every mobile user is not just an employee of a particular organization, but, as a consumer, in addition to personal/social contacts, they have business relationships all over the place, each of which require the same kind of security protection of authentication and encryption. I suggest that the personal mobile device must be controlled primarily by the individual end users (especially when it comes to privacy issues), and supported by the network service provider end users subscribe to, while specific business application access should be controlled by the organization that provides such mobile applications for authorized access by their employees, partners, and customers through their business “app stores.”   
So, we really can have “separation of church and state” within a mobile device, except that there really will be many “states,” i.e., online applications from different service providers that will be personalized for individual mobile users, employees, partners, or consumers. Enterprise organizations have to accept the fact that BYOD means they are “sharing” the use of a user’s mobile device, and therefore should only control the access to business information that is primarily stored on web portals, not on the mobile device itself. That means if a mobile device is lost or stolen, every provider of information access applications to a specific user has to be notified and be able to take protective action. Mobile services are not a “one-stop shop!”
What do you think?
Copyright © 2013 The Unified-View, All Rights Reserved Worldwide

Thursday, May 30, 2013

Mobile Self-service Apps Need Assistance

I recently attended Interactive Intelligence’s annual global conference, Interactions 2013, where a highlight was their “cloud” based platform offering for mobile customer self-services, Interaction Mobilizer. ININ has recognized that the solution to supporting mobile customers with smartphones and tablets is to not only maximize the use of customized, multi-modal, self-service business applications (“mobile apps”) offered selectively to customers, but to also simplify integration of such applications with flexible choices for accessing live assistance.
Mobile self-service applications provide to major benefits to contact center operational performance:
  1. They minimize the need and expense for live assistance
  2. They provide greater “contextual” information to agents for more efficient and effective customer experiences, if and when assistance is needed
What has to happen with mobile self-service applications is that they must update traditional online applications designs for mobile device use, as well as facilitate direct access to live assistance to mobile users with their choice of contact mode from within the mobile application. That would eliminate the need to have a customer leave the app to always dial a toll-free number and go to a waiting queue.
Many online apps already offer customers the option to use IM and “text chat” for customer assistance. They can also send emails with questions and problems. What integration with contact center telephony technology brings to the table is the that when customer runs into an issue with the self-service application, they can immediately speak to a qualified representative or request a callback when such a person is available and get immediate confirmation of that request. No mobile self-service application will ever always be 100% adequate to satisfy every customer need, so the option for flexible live assistance must be always be offered to fill the gaps in the dynamic needs of every mobile consumer.

The future of mobile self-services

Visual self-services will effectively, slowly, but surely, displace the limitations of legacy IVR applications by enabling more information to be efficiently delivered to smartphone and tablet screens. That doesn’t, however, preclude using the efficiencies and convenience of voice user interfaces (VUIs) for user inputs, as has already been well demonstrated by Apple’s Siri, and other “virtual assistants.” Such options will be particularly necessary when mobile users are walking or driving a car and must be “hands-free” or “eyes-free.”
One of the other major benefits of increased consumer communications mobility is that it opens the door to greater accessibility for pro-active, time-sensitive “notifications” and reminder messages, which, in turn, can be linked contextually to “self-service” applications or to “click-for assistance.” This not only reduces the need for expensive and unnecessary live customer assistance, but will also simplify flexible customer choice to access to such assistance whenever necessary.
At the recent 2013 UC Summit, our survey of invited VARs, SIs, and Consultants showed very high interest in supporting Mobile UC for customer services for business clients. However, in a quick audience poll after my presentation, only a very small percentage of the attendees were involved in helping customers with current IVR applications. So, the multi-modal, mobile self-service future looks promising, and the comprehensive tools that Interactive Intelligence has developed will be very critical to fulfilling that promise!  
For more insights about the big shift of customer services to mobile customers, read my post on UC

Copyright © 2013 The Unified-View, All Rights Reserved Worldwide

Monday, May 06, 2013

ShoreTel Joins Mobile UC At The Desktop

Whether you like it or not, all your employees are consumers too, and they are all going to be carrying around their own personal smartphones at work. They may also be carrying tablets in place of bulky laptops to access “cloud”- based applications when on the go. The issue now is, - how can that fact of life be accepted to improve multi-modal business communications while also minimizing communication costs.
The need for flexibility in business communications has always been driven primarily by end user mobility. Legacy desktop communications handled such flexibility needs with separate and expensive voice and visual endpoints, connections, and software applications. Multi-modal wireless smartphones and tablets have made UC enablement both necessary and practical. Now that such ubiquitous mobile devices can do almost everything that the desktop endpoints do and more, the BYOD question arises about the need for having different endpoints for an end user who may need both wired and wireless connections.
Following in the footsteps of the many consumers who have already abandoned their residence wired phones and home PCs in favor of more flexible mobile smartphones, we can now expect a similar trend to take place for business users, whether working in an office or from home. However, the problem with using those just mobile devices in place of wired desktop phones and PCs is that:
1.      Battery life won’t support prolonged usage for either long phone calls or extended online application access.

2.      Voice quality is not always good

3.      Handset control of “hard phones” is ergonomically better than screen-based control

4.      BYOD considerations require “dual persona” controls over call/message management

ShoreTel’s New Desktop Hard Phone For Mobile, Post-PC Employees

Recognizing this need for business end users, ShoreTel has just announced it’s new desktop offering, the ShoreTel Dock, coupled with ShoreTel Mobility, to allow BYOD employees to use their mobile smartphones and tablets as “portable PCs” that can also work with “smart” hard desk phones in an office or at home. Because they are multi-modal devices, the smartphones and tablets take over the roles of the desktop PC in terms of access to “cloud” based applications, “softphone” screen-based telephony options, and multi-modal messaging functions.
Those mobile devices can now also benefit from using a very low-cost desktop hard phone add-on that takes care of the inherent limitations of the mobile devices mentioned above. It also retains the familiar and simple options for initiating and receiving phone calls that legacy  “hard” desk phones have long offered.
While the multi-modal mobile devices handle all forms of communications, ranging from text messaging to Instant Messaging to voice and video connections, ShoreTel’s Dock and ShoreTel Mobility enable easy visual access to those new communication functions. The Dock still has the familiar Message Waiting Indicator light, which is controlled by their voicemail application, but therefore doesn’t reflect any other forms of messaging activity. Given that the multimodal smartphones and tablets are really handling all kinds of incoming calls and messages, it would be nice to see that MWI light tie in with a more comprehensive display of all the different kinds of messages that are “waiting,” not just  “Visual Voicemail.”  Voicemail messages are no longer necessarily more important than other modes of messages and notifications!

They Didn't Forget "Dual Persona" Call Management!
ShoreTel has also incorporated “dual persona” capabilities in its call management functions for both incoming and outbound calls. This allows job-related calls to be managed separately and differently from personal calls on the same device. Although traditional phone calling by keying in a phone number will not disappear overnight, it is also obvious that “contextual” contacts from a directory display, a text or voice message, or from a document that is linked to a particular individual or group of individuals, is the way of the presence-based UC future.
ShoreTel seems to be moving quickly to a UC-enabled desktop with its integration with Microsoft Lync, while also preserving familiar telephony procedures and user interfaces for desktop business users.

Copyright © 2013 The Unified-View, All Rights Reserved Worldwide

Thursday, April 11, 2013

UC Opportunities For VARs, SIs, Consultants at UC Summit

April 11 2013
As I highlighted in my recent post, UC is becoming a key factor in next generation contact centers that must now support mobile consumers. This direction was reinforced at the very successful Enterprise Connect show, where Voxeo, an innovative provider of self-service application development technology, was judged “Best of Show.”  While person-to-person business communications are still important, there are huge benefits to be realized from the fact that consumers are rapidly becoming both mobile and multi-modal, and will want well-designed mobile self-service applications rather than always trying to get or enter information through a person.
Of course, what makes self-service applications work better, is the flexibility in mobile user interfaces that are is supported by smartphones and tablets, as well as practical options for seamless access to live assistance when needed. The technology tools for implementing such capabilities are still evolving. Business organizations will require assistance in planning and integrating the new communication technologies that are complex and require experience that is not readily available within most IT organizations. This is, of course, particularly true for smaller SMB organizations that never had large IT staffs in the first place. However, ALL organizations, large and small, have to support the new demands of their mobile consumers/customers, using multi-modal smartphones and tablets.
Finally, the “clouds” are rapidly becoming the universal framework for all communications and business process applications. For my perspective of customer interactions in the “clouds,” see my recent white paper for Echopass, a leading provider of managed contact center services.

Big Opportunities For VARs, Consultants, SIs as Channel Partners

While communication vendors are rapidly moving into the “cloud”-based services space, they are also frantically looking for channel partners who can support user organizations on an ongoing service basis. This opportunity will be highlighted at the upcoming annual “UC Summit” taking place on an invitation basis for VARs, Consultants, and SIs in La Jolla April 28th – May 1st.
This will be a unique opportunity for channel partners to extend their relationships with both vendors and other channel partners in order to benefit from the changes that UC and mobile communications are bringing to business communications. In particular, I will be presenting the case for helping business organizations implement mobile, self-service applications that will be dominating the next generation of contact center activities.
For more information and an application to be invited as a guest to this unique conference, please check out this link.
Copyright © 2013 The Unified-View, All Rights Reserved Worldwide

Thursday, April 04, 2013

“Unified Customer Services” For Digital And Mobile Consumers

We are finally seeing unified communications (UC) finally taking over customer interactions. This means that every size organization, in every type of market segment, must be prepared to support consumers/customers with the flexibility of UC for all types of interactions. What is bringing new impetus to this shift in business communications are three key factors:
·        Mobile consumer devices - Multi-modal mobile devices, like smartphones and tablets, have expanded convenient and fast direct consumer access to online, self-services, including various modes of person-to-person contacts, online information access and transactions, and pro-active notifications by automated business processes.
·        Interoperability and integration between various forms of person-to-person communications and business process applications – Because there is increased flexibility required for contacts with mobile people, the various forms of communication must now dynamically be controlled by the end users, depending upon their individual needs and circumstances as contact initiators or recipients/respondents.    
·        “Cloud” – based applications – As both communication and business process software applications become location independent, developing and integrating them in “cloud” environments becomes critical to faster and lower-cost implementations and ongoing change management.
Customer services are rapidly moving from legacy call and contact centers to “Unified Interaction Centers,” where online self-service applications are not only minimizing the need for live assistance to consumers to get information or perform simple transactions, but also facilitating more flexible access to specialized assistance whenever needed. The result of such changes to customer assistance is greater personalization, experience customization, and, ultimately, customer satisfaction.
This year’s Enterprise Connect brought increased focus on the important role of the contact center in business communications, in this report from the show. Customer services are now becoming recognized as high-value applications and “use cases,” that are benefiting from integration with “consumer BYOD,” UC-enablement, and “cloud” services.  
Customer services used to be locked in together in different technology platforms that were difficult to integrate. As a result, only big organizations could afford to invest and support implementing all the pieces involved with legacy telephony call centers. One of the leading innovators in contact center technologies was Interactive Intelligence (ININ), decided to build their software infrastructure fully integrated from the ground up, calling it an “all-in-one” software product. However, because, of contact center application complexity and costs, many SMB organizations could not afford to implement such contact center technologies by themselves.
The challenge of supporting customer services has been greatly increased by the advent of “Mobile UC” and multi-modal live assistance and self-service applications, not just phone calls. So, while UC-enabled business communications focused initially on internal organizations and collaborative contacts, the big Customer Service markets were pretty much stuck on old CPE-based call center telephony. Now, however, with increased consumer mobile flexibility, “cloud” based applications are making big waves in all kinds of customer service applications.

The Really Big SMB Market For Unified Customer Services

I have always felt that customer services will really be the same for small or large organizations. The main differences showed up in things like:
·       How big your market is
·       How much live assistance and expertise will be needed by different customers
·       Software tools for running operations smoothly, training customer-facing staff,
·       Management tools and metrics to insure customer responsiveness satisfaction (“Experience!”)
·       Customization of self-service applications for different types of applications, especially “mobile apps.”
Interactive Intelligence (ININ), among other leading customer service software technology vendors, emphasized it’s strategic move of going after the SMB market, since small businesses really need to use most of the same technologies as larger organizations. There have always been more SMBs out there than larger enterprise organizations, so with the advent of “consumer BYOD,” there is suddenly a huge need for third-party expertise of Channel Partners and Consultants to help develop, support, and manage the complex technology of multi-modal customer services in “public,” private,” and hybrid cloud environments.
The “cloud’ environment will be particularly useful for implementing and managing integrations and self-service customizations. That always used to an expensive and time-consuming effort. Now, with all application technologies moving into interoperable “clouds,” it should no longer be any big problem for any size organization to move forward selectively with individual customer groups, customer-facing staffs, and specific customized online applications, associated with different forms of live assistance.        

Bringing The Right Experiences To The Customer Service Table

As confirmed in many recent market studies, mobile customers are now expecting:
·        More access to mobile online self-services
·        Pro-active mobile notifications and alerts, rather than calling in or checking online
·        Greater flexibility in choice of user interfaces (voice, visual)
·        Options for multiple forms of “smart” access to live assistance when needed
Watch for the growth of cloud-based “Unified Interaction Centers!”
Copyright © 2013 The Unified-View, All Rights Reserved Worldwide