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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