Remote working and omni-channel engagement driving comms in Ireland
The drive to facilitate and exploit the benefits of remote working among smaller organisations has been a key driver for communications giant Avaya in Ireland, according to David Flood, its managing director here.
Speaking to TechPro, Flood said the company’s mature technological base in Ireland, supported by partners such as eir, Vodafone and BT Ireland, has allowed it to pursue an agenda of modernising the technologies for its existing customers, as well as facilitating new ones.
Flood said that this has been the case with communications technologies, across unified communications (UC) and collaboration, but also with contact centres.
“The most interesting fact though,” said Flood, “[is] what’s driving companies. We’re seeing, in the smaller end, the SME market, remote working. We’ve had some pretty bad storms and we’ve very aware that staff can’t always get to the market. We’ve seen a big uptake in terms of using UC tools, collaboration tools, video.”
Organisations, according to Flood, are also seeing demand for greater diversity in engagement from customers, from various sectors.
“In the contact centre,” said Flood, “we’ve seen a big movement towards what we call omni-channel, so where organisations are serving a demographic that just don’t natively pick up a phone and call into a contact centre.”
“They’re using Twitter, WhatsApp — they want to be served in a way that suits them.”
“We’ve seen a lot of investment from larger organisations, both domestic and foreign, into being able to serve customers across multiple channels. But that has been challenging for them because they want to understand the whole journey customers has taken. They might come via tweet, leading to pushing a web page to a customer, saying ‘we can help you if you go to this particular web site’. And the customer decides that’s not sufficient, so they may make a phone call or schedule a phone call at a more suitable time. But contact centres are about management and discipline, and trying to do the same thing, deliver the same experience consistently.”
“We’ve seen organisations grapple with the different channels that their consumers want to interact with, but equally do it in a very manageable way. So they see the customer’s journey. The next time the customer contacts them, they have a history of previous interactions,” said Flood.
That ability to tie more contextual information to engagements also provides opportunity for a better experience, he argues. Customer Relationship Management (CRM) integration has increased in recent times, says Flood, with significant benefits.
“I’ve seen in the last 18 months, a lot more integration with CRM applications, help desk systems like ServiceNow, through to things like Microsoft Dynamics and Salesforce. And we’ve got a number of alliances in place in terms of allowing our technology to sit comfortably in those environments. The companies want agents to have less applications running on their desktop to manage so they want everything in one place. So naturally, we fit in to that,” said Flood.
Avaya is now better equipped to meet these demands, with cloud offerings as part of its portfolio.
“Eighteen months ago,” said Flood, “we didn’t really have a cloud solution in the Irish market. You would typically sell the technology to the customer from an infrastructure perspective, and then the software, and then the services. But we’ve seen of those customers and ports we’ve modernised to the latest technology, 15% have chosen cloud as the preferred delivery model, particularly in SME market. They like it, they like the commercial construct. They like giving an organisation that specialises in technology, the ability to serve them, to support them without having highly skilled people running and maintaining systems. That’s growing dramatically. The number of ports in the first 6 months, we’ve doubled in the last 6 months. It’s a tremendous growth curve, mostly in the SME space.”
However, Flood said that larger organisations are looking more at a hybrid model.
“While they want to consolidate into data centres, they’re typically the customers’ own data centre environment or they outsourced the data centre to a third party, but they effectively maintain control.”
This results in “more of a hybrid than full consumption,” said Flood. “They like their commercials of OpEx, but they also like the responsibly to have control over what’s there, security, compliance, and just integration points. They’ve invested a lot to integrate the back office applications into the contact centre so they like to contain that”
“We’re not seeing an awful lot of public sector, while they’re moving workloads to the cloud, we can’t connect with public sector strategy around cloud. I don’t think it’s well defined, particularly in terms of communications, and contact centres,” Flood added.
With the industry coming to terms with the General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR), there has been a perception that blended engagement channels might pose some challenges for organisations to achieve compliance.
“I would actually argue that it’s the opposite,” said Flood, “because those channels are digital, that data is stored. So, there is probably more compliance in terms of any interaction that’s digital — the organisation has a recording because there is a digital footprint.”
“No different than contact centres would have had compliance for recording voice, it’s a fairly simple binary process you make a call, the call is recorded, they have that for compliance purposes and to train and improve staff.”
There are other benefits for this level of digitisation, said Flood.
“A lot of investment is in real time analytics of those conversations. Chat bot technology is being used to assist the agent in terms of the conversation, working in parallel, prompting them with information or questions from a sales perspective. Compliance with GDPR has really raised a huge awareness of that.”
“Our technologies here look at say one part of our product portfolio and contact centre, the R&D is in Galway. The global R&D for our contact centre is based in a facility in Galway we’re we have over 320 people. We’ve engineered GDPR compliance functionality into the product. We don’t state its GDPR compliant because that’s the organisation’s responsibility, but we’ve engineered a lot of functionality into the contact centre to allow companies to more easily comply with GDPR,” said Flood.