Transcript for The Cloud and the Future of Customer Engagement
Steve Leaden: Welcome, everyone to another podcast from UCStrategies. My name is Steve Leaden, I am one of the UCStrategies experts here and I run an independent consultancy of Leaden Associates. Our topic for today is the Cloud and the Future of Customer Engagement. We have a guest with us from Interactive Intelligence, Jason Alley. Jason is the Senior Solutions Marketing Manager. Jason is going to be sharing with us a lot of what he is seeing around, thoughts, challenges, and vision, what is going on from Interactive’s point of view and the cloud and the future of customer engagement. Jason please say hello, and maybe just give us a quick bio on your background.
Jason Alley: You bet – thanks, Steve. I am very happy to be here with you all. I have been with Interactive Intelligence for the last four and a half years and prior to that I had consulted for 10 years and prior to that in the supplier world as well. Over the last 20 years, I have really been focused on the contact center and the broader customer care industry so this topic is near and dear to my heart. Over the last several years I have been focusing very heavily on the cloud and seen some of the implications of how it is going to impact the future of customer engagement.
Steve Leaden: Jason, let me kick it off here. It is a very interesting topic. I have been writing over the last 18 months about cloud, amongst other topics. Some of the dynamics that I am seeing now especially within the last six, I will give you three quick talking points here: one is that the word “collaboration” has now become a household word actually to the point where people are using unified communications elements now as part of the collaboration conversation. In addition, using the Amazon Kindle, Fire Mayday button of course brings us back to full video collaboration and obviously it is a keen attraction in the consumer space.
Number two, I am seeing mobility becoming really a way of life for all of us regarding aspects of remote workers, defining UC tools on the tablets now and on Smartphones. Again, the word “mobility” is not just about a mobile device any longer. It is about working anywhere/anytime.
Then the third point we are seeing quite a bit of now, with our customers especially, is that everyone is talking multichannel in the contact center at least from a starting point. Obviously, we will be talking about Omni Channel in a moment – that single customer experience – but all of our customers including some major healthcare providers are looking at a call not just as a phone call but an IVR function, texting, web chat, social media integration, and even email of course. And how do those potential tools have an SLA around them, and how are those going to be handled by the customer service center? A lot of interesting dynamics going on in the enterprise space at large. Jason, talk to me a little bit about the cloud and the future of customer engagement and what you are seeing from your point of view.
Jason Alley: Absolutely, Steve. You hit on three very important points that we are seeing in terms of trends and what is going to be important to consider moving forward. Sitting back and preparing for this podcast, I was reflecting a bit and I really think over the next several years we are going to see more change, more innovation than we have seen in the past 20, and the distributed cloud is going to play a big part in that. We see new native cloud applications emerging – that couldn’t really be built 10 or 15 or 20 years ago – that are effectively reinventing the customer experience, incorporating things like you mentioned – collaboration and mobility and multichannel capabilities. But really not just the way they have been implemented in the past, but implementing them in new ways to deliver new kinds of experiences to customers.
For that matter, customers aren’t the only ones that are going to benefit from these new native cloud applications emerging either, they bring the latest in web and social and mobile design to employees within and beyond the contact center within the enterprise. If we consider user experience, it is such a central part of the design of these new types of applications that it is really different than what employees and contact center professionals have been used to. The user experience is core to the design rather than being an afterthought.
And you mentioned collaboration. We see the walls being broken down and new types of tools and capabilities that are allowing people to communicate and collaborate, another trend that you mentioned a moment ago, much more effectively, that’s able to speed customer response times. So much is changing; it is changing so fast and again, reflecting and preparing for the podcast I was reminded of several conversations that I had with members of the development community a while back. As I talked to them about the future of customer engagement and the cloud and this new environment, their eyes lit up and they all felt that we were really entering a special and unique period of innovation in the cloud. One that would dramatically change our industry for the better and I am excited to be part of that. I think it is really an exciting time to be in this industry.
Steve Leaden: Yes, totally. As a sub-topic here and I mentioned it a little bit earlier, Jason, it is interesting we have an SLA typically of 80/20; 80 percent within 20 seconds of calls handled and that’s obviously a phone call. We have seen emails range anywhere from one hour up to 72 hours for an SLA. It is interesting, IM/chat as well as video as a potential channel; they are kind of instant on, again just referencing Amazon’s Mayday button. They actually went from an SLA of 15 seconds originally to the Christmas holidays this past year they actually set the bar again and reduced it to nine seconds. So the old adage and rule of 80/20 is kind of going out the window so what are you seeing from a customer engagement point of view with all of these different channels?
Jason Alley: That is a great question, and this ties in with the general topic of Omni Channel, which really as we are seeing it is a strategy, not necessarily a specific technology or set of technologies. What we are seeing is companies in their respective industries are trying to figure out how do we consider and understand the customer’s journey? How do we capture the right information so we can anticipate a need? Then how do we meet that need proactively and possibly even delight them by surprising them in the interaction and be able to meet that need without them ever reaching out to us a company? Or if they decide, they do reach out for service that it is intuitive, it makes sense, it is via the channel of their choice and it is handled in an appropriate fashion, which gets in to the topic of SLAs that you mentioned a moment ago. It is a fascinating time where everything is changing and companies are having to start at the strategic level to figure out what they want to accomplish and how they want to better serve their customers in new and unique ways then understanding how to leverage the technology in order to get there.
Steve Leaden: Absolutely, thanks for those thoughts to kick this podcast off. Let me turn the microphone so to speak over to our colleague here, Phil Edholm. Phil has a few thoughts as well as a question or two for you. Phil?
Phil Edholm: Just kind of to start off a quick thought process here, if we look at the cloud and the cloud gets defined as a lot of things in the market. But Jason, one of the things I thought was most interesting and actually came from a guy named Timothy Chou is the concept is the cloud is really about standardization, simplification and repetition of IT and dramatic reductions in cost. If you look at industries that the cloud has run through starting with the CRM industry with Salesforce, what we are seeing in the cost of computing and cloud infrastructure. The cost of cloud storage what you are seeing in industry after industry a cloud actually represents what I will call for lack of a better word, the Industrial Revolution of Computing. Much as when we standardized the manufacture of things we went from things being built by a craftsmen and having a lot of labor content to dramatic reductions in labor content. Do you see this really impacting the cloud marketplace from a contact center perspective and beyond that, the more general communications market, unified communication, telephony where you will see similar, 50, 70 percent reductions in pricing with cloud deployment models over the next couple of years?
Jason Alley: In terms of the actual numbers, I will have to admit I am not the numbers guy, but we are definitely seeing improvements in efficiency and being able to leverage infrastructure and technology that others have in place that they are experts at. I think much like the general business was able to leverage the cloud, now cloud application providers are able to leverage infrastructures of service provided by companies, like Amazon Web Services, who have data centers around the world, are experts at turning up instances of machines and have all sorts of specialized software behind the scenes to allow that infrastructure to operate effectively. Now application providers can essentially treat infrastructure as code or as software. So with that come a lot of efficiencies. No longer do they have to be the experts on how to make the infrastructure work behind the scenes, but rather how to be able to integrate with that environment in an appropriate fashion. Now it is really important that you design your application properly to take advantage of those capabilities but really, it is changing things.
Phil Edholm: I have another question. I happened to stumble into in San Francisco last week a social media management event. It really was focused to companies that are managing their social interactions either generally on social, socially with customer’s etcetera. Interestingly enough, a lot of Fortune 100-500 companies were there talking, a small event, about 10 vendors but none of was a traditional contact center vendor. I had a lot of conversations with the vendors that were there, and I was struck by three things that I think were very interesting. The first was that it’s a new group of companies; they are starting from a new paradigm. Where CRM thinks about what the company knows about the customer, they are focused on what is the social world know about the customer. CRM less about what did you order and more about who are your friends? What social networks are you on?
The second was that all of the people that I talked to almost universally talked that social was not part of the contact center, it was actually being run separately, typically in the marketing organization, small teams. They talked about time to response as being critical, going back to the comments about the Mayday button. The fact (that) when I post on Twitter a problem, it’s not just between me and the company, everyone who sees me on Twitter sees my problem. The result was that the contact center may be a source for some of the members of those smaller teams, but they are really not part of the contact center.
The third thing that was interesting was I asked all the companies how they were going to integrate with the contact center. Well, all of them loosely said, oh yes, that’s something we are looking at, there are not any specific plans. I think this is a very interesting question – do you see this whole social revolution as being an extension of the contact center, or is this potentially a whole new set of technologies that are going to change the market.
Jason Alley: Yeah that’s a great question Phil. And I will say that that is something that a lot of companies are trying to figure out right now. That is, how you break down the barriers within organizations between marketing and between customer care; to be able to properly monitor and respond to things that are being said about a company and needs that are being communicated through social channels. I think more than some of the technology challenges associated with answering that question are more around organizational and process issues that contact centers are facing. But with that being said, I do think that we are going to see entirely new ways of servicing customers that are embracing these social paradigms. Take for instance social customer care or customer choice routing and the idea that customers are able to choose who they want to speak with after being able to select certain criteria that is important to them and based on the matched agents or service professionals, being able to then look at their deep agent personality profiles and figure out, who can I relate with most? Who can best service my interaction? I think that is a great example about how we are not just looking to take what exists today and integrate well with it. But we are thinking about new ways of servicing customers and offering things that quite frankly they are just coming to expect in today’s world in terms of the types of applications and capabilities available to them in their consumer lives.
Phil Edholm: Excellent, thank you I will pass it back Steve to you.
Steve Leaden: Thank you Phil, appreciate that. Just as a quick footnote here we are working for a major bank right now and one of the takeaways as part of our study is they are building a new branch office and that branch actually has kiosks in it. They are not just any kiosk, they are actually a video kiosk and this is kind of their wave of the future that they want to create virtual contact center agents, centralized in the contact center, that will be specialists in loan applications and automotive and other kinds of specialties, mortgages, etc. You will be able to within just a short few seconds get hold of a specialist who will actually help you process and actually interact with you regarding your application and your qualifications. That’s is a whole new way of thinking compared to the typical visit of, oh I will be here on Monday and Thursday. It is very, very interesting how this multichannel is going to hit for sure. Thanks, Phil.
Bill MacKay, I know you had a few thoughts around multimedia and metrics around the contact center for some comments and maybe a question or two for Jason.
Bill MacKay: Thank you, Steven. Jason, I know that with any enterprise organization whether they are looking at an on-prem solution or whether they are looking at a cloud solution, there is still that need to be able to build an exceptional customer service department. I guess what I am wondering, I know that chat adoption is up significantly over the last few years and social channel is on the rise for the multimedia contact center. I am wondering if you might comment perhaps on some of the metrics that might be looked at for an organization when they are looking at a cloud-based solution.
Jason Alley: That is a great question and I think some of those metrics are very similar whether you deploy in the cloud or you deploy on premises. It gets down to the statement you made earlier, companies are looking to build exceptional customer service organizations and chat capabilities and social media monitoring and routing capabilities are available to companies through premise based deployments as well as cloud based deployments. It gets to another interesting point where there are going to be different deployment models that customers are going to continue to prefer. Some will want to purchase the software outright and deploy on premises, others will want to deploy in the cloud and there are different ways to deploy in the cloud. They may be very comfortable with the virtual private cloud or single tenant model. Or they may want to take advantage of some of the new distributed cloud technology that is coming out with some of these more native cloud applications emerging as well. At the end of the day it is the focus on the processes and the measurements that are important to deliver the kind of service that you want to and really that transcends deployment models whether it is cloud or prem.
Marty Parker: Steve, this is Marty Parker speaking if I could jump in on Jason’s comment here. I think this is a really important idea that he just introduced about what the word cloud means anyway. It’s become such a massively used word that I believe most vendors would like the customer to just think, oh, if I just pick up everything I have on the premises model and put it in the cloud, I am going to be safe, I am going to have everything done for me and it will cost me less.
That probably is a myth. What Jason just said at the latter part is the cloud provides the power of modularity and layering that is the future of the industry. I believe that one of the best ways for a business that currently has customer engagement models running from on-premises equipment, one of the best ways for them to proceed is to look at this from the view of which bite-sized pieces should I start consuming in the cloud? So if what I need is a social engagement model for five percent of my calls, let me go start consuming that from the cloud and routing it into my contact center on premises if that contact center is capable.
Or if what I need is multichannel for some 20 percent of my demographic, I will move 20 percent of my traffic into a cloud model, start delivering multi-channel to that demographic, and don’t waste any of my time messing with the traditional people who want still want to call on the phone.
It is just like what we have seen – the biggest mistake of the world of internet protocol communications, voice over IP, was that you had to move your whole PBX to get the benefits of unified communication – huge mistake. Customer after customer wasted years migrating black phones when they should have been spending time migrating productivity into employee’s lives. I would say bite-sized, modular cloud consumption, not bucket loads.
Steve Leaden: Agreed, in fact, Marty, we are working with a major healthcare provider right now to your exact point, where we implemented an Interactive contact center, their CaaS solution. We had this entire contact center and it was not just basic, it had some customized reporting and routing, etc, time of day, day of week, etc. We had the entire contact center from contract to build out within less than 90 days. I could never do that with something that I would purchase in a real premise model. The fast ramp-up of something that we would call sophisticated to even more sophisticated from a build-up point of view becomes, for lack of a better word, almost modular in its build out.
Marty Parker: Yes, right and probably the word hybrid should be blended in here, too. I know Jason, your company Interactive Intelligence, does quite a good job of that where you have a compatible environment in the cloud with the on-premises option. So you can actually split call centers and agents across those pretty readily, right?
Jason Alley: Absolutely, and certain companies feel more comfortable having the voice path remain local on their premises so there are special appliances that can be deployed to do that and also allow calls to terminate at their facilities rather than up in the cloud. Still the application resides in the cloud. So there are multiple different ways in which they can deploy and it really just depends on their comfort level, what their requirements are. A lot of times security and compliance requirements play into those preferences as well.
Steve Leaden: Excellent. Thank you.
Bill MacKay: Just one last closing comment I know it is not purely straightforward. Basically what we are talking about is the ability to be able to communicate allowing customers the ability of using the channel of their choice; hopefully be able to deliver one call resolution but importantly with a uniform customer experience regardless of what the contact point is. Simple but huge challenge.
Steve Leaden: It is a huge challenge to develop consistency. In fact, we also have another dynamic coming into play here and that’s the word millenials. This “instant on” and this I would say the new media and the new expectation of engaging right away… We really just have to thank the consumer industry and tablets and streaming like Netflix for example where we can watch a time just about instantly. How is that going to play Jason, into the whole expectation of Omni Channel as Bill was sharing here?
Jason Alley: It is interesting you mentioned online video streaming. I think a really good example of how things are changing was an experience I recently had with my Amazon Prime viewing experience. My family was up in the wine country, we were on vacation, staying in a family farmhouse and we had ordered a movie online. We had all settled in and I don’t about your families, but it is not the easiest to decide on a movie between five or six family members. But we finally had, we sat down, we hit play and up came the dreaded spiral. Needless to say our internet connection was not quite so good at that point. And we went to bed and I decided to check my email right before going to bed and I got an email from Amazon delivered in an automated fashion saying that they noticed my experience was poor, the playback experience was poor, they were sorry for that. They identified what I had ordered and they told me that they do not typically do it, but they were going to refund me my three dollars and ninety-nine cents. I think it is that kind of proactive thoughtful interaction that considers the customer journey that really makes this discussion interesting. It is no longer just which channels can I make available, but how can I change, how can I really impact the loyalty of a customer in a given moment? I think when you talk about the millennials, “in the moment” is a key theme, right? We are living in the moments now and how do you capture those moments so you can really almost surprise them or delight them in those moments? That was an example that just really hit home to me about how things are changing.
Steve Leaden: Yeah the old days of 20 meg download are just not good enough anymore, Jason. You are absolutely right, that whole experience, I find that fascinating that they actually had an automated response for you, and gave you something back without you even asking or making a call on that, that is pretty fascinating, it really is.
Jason Alley: Effectively what they did was turn a moment of frustration into a moment of delight.
Steve Leaden: Right.
Jason Alley: It was pretty amazing to me.
Steve Leaden: Yeah they continue to be extremely out of the box and innovative for sure. Thanks Jason, appreciate that. Art, I know that you wanted to talk to Jason a little bit about mobile customer services and CEBP, so what are your thoughts?
Art Rosenberg: Well it is what the customer, the end-user is going to be able to do and therefore expect. They are becoming more mobile, I don’t know what the numbers exactly are, somewhere between 78 and 90 percent of consumers have Smartphones, which means that they are accessible wherever they are and these devices are multi-modal or omni, they can be contacted, they can initiate contacts in a variety of ways depending on their circumstances. You need that kind of flexibility, one for the customer to make contact and two you were just talking about, proactively notify them of something and that is how you delight people when you take care of the problem before they even notice it.
Amazon with their Mayday button focused it very carefully on particular kinds of customers that had a particular kind of device and it was more like a help desk function, “let me show you how to use this device,” that’s what they really designed it for.
All that kind of flexibility, access to information, choice of mode of contact, is most possible to be done in a cloud environment where you are not limited by storage. You are not limited by the kind of connection you have.
I think that one of the big things that customers, consumers are going to benefit from – they like to be in control. They don’t want to be depending on somebody else telling them what they want to do and when they can have it and so on. If they can control it they will be happier. Anyway that is where the cloud comes in, to provide that kind of flexibility and especially for people who now need that flexibility because they have devices that support flexibility not just a telephone and voice.
Steve Leaden: Thanks Art, we appreciate all your comments there. Let me just turn the microphone over here to a new UCStrategies member, and that is Evan Kirstel. Evan maybe you can just do a quick intro on yourself and then maybe have some thoughts around social, CRM and any other thoughts that you might want to share with Jason.
Evan Kirstel: Sure, thanks for the introduction. I am really excited to have joined the team. I have 20 years on the vendor side of the house from infrastructure folks to applications and most recently Sonus and prior to that Oracle, AcmePacket, AudioCodes. You could kind of get my point of view of the world from the vendor history there. In any case I would just reiterate the notion that social is cutting across not only the traditional contact center, call center and customer support and of course marketing, but into whole new realms and areas of the business. Things like the sales teams, which are now leveraging social media to generate leads and prospects, and to engage new customers. I actually got a call the other week from Smith-Barney, who I understand are leveraging LinkedIn data to identify prospects or suspects for investor advice. These companies are rapidly leveraging social data using social tools in their mission on the sales side. Social is cutting across things like investor relations in getting messaging out and getting CEO messaging out and spreading the good news to investors. It is cutting across of course traditional marketing functions but also areas like field operations and internal communications within the company, what we used to call infernets typically are now very much social animals and are alive and encouraging employees to collaborate and communicate via social. It is a fascinating topic and I think you are going to see a lot of intersections of vendors and technologies as vendors either partner up or compete in brand new segments of the market like social selling and social CRM. It is a really great time to be in the industry, and there is a lot of opportunity to add new value to what has been a fairly quiet space, lets says, in the contact center for some time.
Steve Leaden: Agreed. Don, what are some of your thoughts also regarding social media and how that is going to have a possible play into the cloud here?
Don Van Doren: Thanks Steve. I think there is a lot of comment here about all the changes that are coming and the opportunities from social, mobile apps, multi-modal challenges. Also UC concepts of presence, how we can start building those into sort of a customer portal concept. The challenge we talked about before is how do we get the end users to adopt some of these options. I think two of the challenges, one is the expense of potential gear that you have to get this in place, with the other internal organization challenges that we have been talking about.
Jason, I would like to address the first one of those challenges, the expense of getting the gear in place. This frankly seems to me a really interesting opportunity for cloud offerings. Because to the extent that companies can try out some of these more innovative concepts, figure out how they are able to move them into the organization through a cloud offering might be a really interesting approach. I am just wondering if you might comment on whether Interactive Intelligence is thinking about adding some of these more innovative kinds of solutions into its cloud offering to help facilitate getting end users to make some of these kinds of changes. What about it?
Jason Alley: Don, I think you make a really good point in that you don’t have to change everything all at once. And you can take different components that are aligned with your strategy and things you are looking to do and be able to deploy them in a controlled fashion that will allow you to do a few things.
First of all, you can get up and running very quickly especially in the cloud. Secondly, you can learn things along the way before you roll it out to a broader segment of the organization and span the types of capabilities that you are looking to deploy to meet your broader requirements and strategies. I think that is really important and certainly something that we do as we work with customers is to be able to figure out what is a smart deployment plan and how can we encourage people to take smaller steps in order to get educated and to make progress. Well, they may not have the budget at the moment or necessarily the business case proven out yet. They can still make progress and they can help with that to be able to move things forward.
Don Van Doren: Great, thanks.
Steve Leaden: Thanks Don. Let me bring the microphone here over to Marty for a quick moment. Marty, I think you have some thoughts both around cloud hybrid, which you referred to a little bit earlier as well as where some of these tools are coming from. They are not necessarily in the contact center and maybe you have some thoughts around the future, too.
Marty Parker: Right Steve, but in the interest of time I will just say yes I have already talked about the hybrid idea, the bite-size modular hybrid approach earlier. The last comment I will make is I think it is really important to this industry to reach outside of the traditional contact center model. If we spend all of our time talking to the people who are running the contact centers today we are going to miss all the other departments in the enterprise that are solving these problems in different ways. Several of our clients at Unicomm Consulting we have discovered in talking with their organizations that there are active initiatives for customer engagement in their web locations, their digital marketing locations, their mobile apps units. And they have these units because the customers are demanding it because the lines of business are demanding it and the people who do these things are coming from different parts of the IT organization and I think they do not even imagine talking to the contact center teams. It is really important to try to build a network out across the IT organizations and at least understand what is happening and at least make the proposal that consuming common communication services will be a cost reducing and an efficiency driving approach for the enterprise. I would say, Jason, that Interactive Intelligence still needs to help your channels do this. I think your company may have the capabilities with your APIs and your integrated business process approaches but I don’t think your channels do.
Jason Alley: Marty, I think what you just talked about is really, really important because it is less of a technology issue than it is a process organizational issue. Folks like yourselves, I personally feel, are critical to help break down barriers and develop strategies and viewpoints that cross the organizational boundaries, and to do the kinds of things that we have talked about in terms of these future ways of servicing customers and engaging with them you have to do that.
Marty Parker: We are doing that right now obviously in this podcast but I think that you as the vendor are the people your channels will look to. You’re providing them with the motivations and incentives; if you don’t act, it will not happen
Jason Alley: Absolutely, and that is another really important point I think, Marty, in that customers do not want a supplier to show up with a list of a million capabilities and say “okay which one would you like?” a la cart menu. Rather, they are looking for prescriptive approaches and that is something that we really pride ourselves on is being able to listen, understand the requirements of the customer, and rather than coming with a long list for them to choose from, come with a specific recommendation that meets their requirements so they can be successful. It does require exactly what you talked about, which is working across boundaries, understanding the requirements and being more consultative in the approach.
Marty Parker: Thanks Steve, back to you.
Steve Leaden: Thanks Marty, appreciate that. Jason, to kind of wrap it up here, I will give you the mic one more time here, so to speak. It is great to own the mic – just kidding. The thought here really is what do you see within the next maybe 12 to 36 months that not necessarily in NDA mode, but what are some of the trends that you are seeing that are part of the interactive space going forward that customers or enterprises should pay some particular attention to?
Jason Alley: First of all, I would say look for new ways to service customers and approaches in technology that can help you do so. There are a lot of things that we talked about in terms of things like social customer engagement, omni channel, and the like that can fall into this category. The second is understand how can you improve the user experience, the agent experience, the experience of supervisors, administrators, business users, with new types of cloud applications and capabilities that allow them to be more effective in their job, and that ends up resulting in better customer experiences and frankly happier employees. They are able to focus on the work at hand rather than how to use the thing that is sitting in front of them. That is the second point.
The third is collaboration. You mentioned that this at the very top of the discussion is a really important topic as well as unified communications and understanding how to allow people to collaborate effectively across the organization, to be more effective in the work that they do.
Then finally I would say really consider the fact that there are new models emerging but there is choice as well. Make sure when you are looking at how you are going to deploy in the cloud, you are working with someone who is really going to try to find the best solution, folks like yourselves for your specific environment. It is not a one size fits all when you go to the cloud and it is important to make sure how you deploy is appropriate for your organization.
Other than that just really excited about what we have ahead in that time frame. I think again we are going to see much more innovation over the next several years then we have in my career in this space at least.
Steve Leaden: Thank you Jason. Just to wrap it up I personally would like to again thank Jason Alley, Senior Solutions Marketing Manager for Interactive Intelligence. I personally would like to thank all of the UCStrategies experts for contributing on the call today. Thanks to all who have listened to this podcast today and we will be back to you again very shortly with another great podcast. Thanks everyone.
Jason Alley: Thank you all.