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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