Last week was a busy one for CoolHarbour. With three key events in the Unified Communications (UC) and Customer Experience (CE) industries being held at our door-step, it would’ve been inexcusable to miss them.
So we set out dressed in our best suits and armed with a pocketful of business cards. Our mission was to check the pulse of these two inter-linked technology sectors. Perform our very own MOT of these sectors, if you like. We were looking for answers to some key questions – What are the major trends? What are the best practices or success stories? What are the key innovations that our partners and customers can benefit from? At the same time we were looking to assess where we as a Systems Integrator need to evolve our own capabilities to continually deliver value to our partners.
Our assessment of the 3 events
First stop was the annual Unified Communications Expo, the flagship event for the UC industry. Several comprehensive reviews have already been written about this event, so we’re not going to go there. However as one entered the hall and did a quick scan around the exhibition hall it was evident that this is an industry struggling for an identity. ‘PBX’ and ‘messaging’ are swear words in the UC sector we were told, but ironically most of the messages were about like-for-like replacement of PBX functionality and adding on a few new channels of communication. So what were the new industry buzzwords? Well we’re not sure about new, but ‘Mobility’ and ‘Cloud’ appeared to be the major themes. Whilst both have clear benefits, they seem to be very inward looking and bottom-line focussed. It was somewhat disappointing therefore that very few vendors talked about Customer Experience in their messaging or presentations. Perhaps what was most alarming was the fact that a major product rebranding exercise from a software giant which, by the way, delivers negligible benefits to end-users, took centre-stage. Money talks, we suppose! Let’s hope next year we get to see more companies talking about the ‘Customer’.
Next up was the Genesys G-Summit 2015. In stark contrast to the UC Expo, Customer Experience was THE central theme at this event. This year Genesys are trying out a new formula where they are running a series of ‘local’ G-Summits across various countries instead of the traditional larger regional G-Force events. The idea is to allow a wider audience within key geographies to benefit from attending these events by making the customer and partner stories more relevant. Some 100+ customer experience professionals from across the UK gathered to hear from Genesys executives, customers and partners on how to build ‘The Ultimate Customer Journey’. Speakers from Marks & Spencers, Bank of Ireland and Provident Financial Group shared their blueprint and best practices for creating the ultimate customer journey. The event was packed with expertise, insights and new perspectives on how to manage the customer experience. It was extremely refreshing to see a technology company talking about the need for their users to have a Customer driven Culture.
Our mission culminated with a visit to the Guildford for the Avaya Consultant Engagement Day. A much cosier affair relative to the other two, this event was one of a series of Consultant briefings that Avaya are delivering to, dare I say, rebuild their image. If we’re honest, in recent years one can’t have escaped the negative sentiment surrounding Avaya across the Telecommunications industry, with Cisco, Microsoft and others claiming to have gained considerable market share at their expense. Such grand claims and counter claims are always taken with a pinch of salt, but this event gave us good insight into what Avaya have been doing over the last couple of years to fight back. Avaya get the fact that the battleground for organisations is the ‘Customer’ and not ‘Employee Productivity’. Their focus has been on creating a fully integrated suite of ‘Customer Engagement’ solutions that allow organisations to win this battle for the Customer. Their partnership with Google and the solutions portfolio has been covered in depth by analysts so we won’t go into that. But after attending this event we could only conclude that the competitors’ rhetoric around Avaya’s demise is rather churlish. They are not only alive and kicking, but perhaps much to the disappointment of their competitors, evolving their solutions portfolio in the right direction.
What were the common themes?
Two common themes emerged across all three events:
- Customer Experience is not just a buzz-word anymore, it’s the raison d’être for many organisations. If your business case for implementing any technology does not start with the Customer Experience then you need to question what advantage you are going to gain over your competitors by making these technology investments. The forward looking organisations are creating a ‘customer first’ culture and mapping out their customer journey, to make it as painless and engaging as possible.
- The shift to the ‘Cloud’ is taking place at a dizzying rate, but be clear about your reasons for doing it and which type of ‘Cloud’ is right for you. You need to look past the marketing hype and see ‘Cloud’ as outsourcing of technology assets and management. The Cloud carries immense advantages but also carries some risks. Selecting and migrating to the right cloud model is a huge undertaking and a long term commitment to your chosen partner. Take your time to think through the best model and partner(s) for your organisation, and watch out for the hand-cuffs!
So what does this mean for CoolHarbour’s partners and their customers?
Only a week on and we are already engaged in several discussions with our partners and their customers to help them successfully deliver their UC or CE technology migrations. The industry is going through an explosive phase because of the ‘refresh cycle’ where many organisations are looking to retire their legacy communications and contact centre technologies. But as their customers have evolved, they too have had to evolve their business operations and the underlying Telecoms and IT infrastructure. Organisations face a lot of choice when it comes to technology platforms and service providers. They need technical expertise and experience to make the right decisions with the Customer Journey front of mind. And once they’ve decided on their platforms and services providers, they then need to make them work the way their customer’s demand. CoolHarbour’s extensive UC / contact centre development & integration capabilities coupled with our track record of delivering these in the cloud allows us to make a positive contribution on such technology transformation programmes.
If you were at any of the above events we would love to hear what you walked away with (apart from a bagful of branded goodies, business cards and glossy brochures).