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Avaya 2014 Predictions: The Rise of Communications Technology Expectations

VMblog 2014 Prediction Series

Virtualization and Cloud executives share their predictions for 2014.  Read them in this VMblog.com series exclusive.

Contributed article by Laura Bassett, Director of Marketing for Avaya’s Customer Experience Management and Emerging Technologies group

The Rise of Communications Technology Expectations

In 2014, I think we will see a greater response to how the workforce is changing, specifically in terms of employees' expectations of communications. The Millennials are the single largest demographic at the moment. In less than ten years, the generation has penetrated the working world, now comprising 75 percent of the workforce. This new workforce is built differently: they don't know a world without the internet; they expect answers instantly; they seek constant engagement and are at ease with collaboration; and they are comfortable with "connected" technologies like no other generation. The rise of the Millennials will have a profound impact on business and the way it operates. 

For the first time since the Pew Research Center's Internet & American Life Project began tracking adoption, a majority of Americans now own a smartphone of some kind. Equally telling, Gartner says smartphone sales exceeded feature phone sales for first time ever in the US during Q2 of 2013. Simply put, we have rapidly become a generation with both a desire and expectation to be able to communicate not just anytime and anywhere, but all the time and everywhere.

Businesses will start to appreciate the limitations of mature networks

To accommodate this hyper-connected generation and rising trends such as the consumerization of IT, BYOD and BYOA, networks need to be fully prepared. Typical working environments weren't built to withstand this wave of change: they aren't set up to deliver instant answers; they don't encourage or enable collaboration; and the technology isn't capable of delivering the experience we're used to getting at home. The network is key to enabling device and application flexibly and,  and more businesses will come to realize that relying on existing, and often mature, networks will limit their ability to communicate in ways that are now appreciated and even expected.

The Sochi 2014 Olympic Games is a great example of how this trend is manifesting itself. Approximately 75,000 spectators are expected to visit the park each day, each carrying two or three devices. This will place unprecedented demands on the network, requiring a secure and robust infrastructure that is capable of carrying vast amounts of data and coping with huge spikes in traffic during flagship events. Consumer adoption and appetite for cutting-edge technologies is impacting infrastructure investment at all levels. Regardless of the scale and profile of the project, organizations of all sizes face many of the same challenges, and 2014 presents an opportunity for them to create environments that are flexible enough to embrace and enable the new era of communications. To do this, they must put in place a clear and effective strategy that will enable them to achieve that goal.

In terms of the evolution of the network, 2014 will be a year focusing on simplicity in deployment and management. Played against tight IT budgets, the need to evolve networks and desire for reducing complexity may drive a growing trend towards outsourcing.

We'll see the emergence of smarter offices through communications-enabled technologies

I think we're gradually moving towards more functional and productive ways of working, which means the office of tomorrow will look quite different to the one we are used to now. The ‘Internet of Things' or ‘machine to machine communications' may still be industry buzz words for now, but in the near future they will become vital to the future of business. In fact, communications-enabled technology will go as far as to enforce change on business processes and business models as companies are presented with more timely and relevant information about customers. Technology and networks that are self-aware will become increasingly prevalent as the cost of the sensor technology reaches an all-time low. In fact, Gartner predicts that we will soon reach the point where it's cheaper to have a communications-enabled system than not. This will lead to a fundamental change in the way companies work - from new ways of developing technology, to better facilities management through an increase in pay-as-you-go billing models for office utilities.

Video will come to be recognized as a real cost-saving tool

Video, perhaps one of the most talked about communications technologies, has been rising on the priority list for some time now. I think in 2014, however, we will really start to see businesses realizing the cost and productivity benefits of video solutions. In fact, we've already started to see that happening in 2013.

Video is moving into the mainstream - easier to use, mobile and software-based video applications supported by more advanced hardware are increasing employee hunger for collaboration. More sophisticated networks are offering further interoperability, making it easier to use. The move from audio-only conferencing to video is a natural one for most business to make, especially as point-to-point video has become a commodity item for most of us. Video conferencing solutions are now accessible and affordable, and the advantages of lower travel costs and higher productivity are grabbing the attention of more and more customers. In addition, videoconferencing is no longer reserved for typical office-based businesses; it's also filtering through vertical industries such as retail. If we take the example of The Agency Group, one of the world's leading booking agencies, it chose our videoconferencing solution because it needed a reliable, scalable, collaborative video solution to facilitate communications between offices in North America and Europe. The Agency Group saw an immediate return on investment, as the company enhanced collaboration, improved productivity and saved nearly $50,000 per year on long distance and travel costs.  

The contact center will adapt even more to the next generation

The rise of this hyper-connected generation will continue to impact the contact center in a major way. Consumers now use social media and other new channels to contact companies, and they expect outstanding customer service regardless of the means of communication they choose. The customer service industry is changing dramatically as a result; businesses need to allow customers to move seamlessly from one channel to another without losing the thread of the interaction. And they need to provide a consistent service across all channels. We will see this trend persist in 2014 as it forces companies to re-evaluate their customer experience strategy to include those new platforms.

Companies are already looking to the contact center to find ways to generate additional revenue without adding cost to the operation. Similarly, they are looking at how to automate more of the customer services model to provide the seamless 360 degree experience customers' desire while streamlining costs. 

While technology is advancing at a rapid pace and new solutions are coming to market far more frequently, this creates more opportunities for our channel partners to revisit existing customers with new solutions and to up- and cross-sell. Not only that, but customers are also looking to get the most out of their existing applications which opens doors for optimization and tuning services. Integration and application development is an area of growth, particularly as companies look to develop a customer service experience on new devices such as mobile applications, video or social networks.  

Conclusion

Our uptake of smarter devices and applications as well as our acceptance of the multiple digital and social channels now available has caused our technology and communications expectations at home, work and play to skyrocket. Consequently, people have come to expect the same user experience and functionality they have at the workplace anywhere in the room, regardless of outside factors.  Next year, work will move even closer to becoming "somewhere you go" rather than "something you do," and the resulting implications will have a huge impact on the kinds of technologies that business will require and demand.

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About the Author

Laura Bassett is the Director of Marketing for Avaya's Customer Experience Management and Emerging Technologies groups, overseeing business planning & strategy, product marketing, and sales enablement for next generation solutions. Additionally, Laura is a supporting author of Avaya's Social Media in the Contact Center for Dummies. Laura has over 20 years experience in applications consulting, development and delivery. She has a BSBA in Computer Science and an Executive MBA from the University of Florida. 

Published Tuesday, December 17, 2013 7:31 AM by David Marshall
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Smartphone Customer Expectations Rising - (Author's Link) - January 10, 2014 11:35 PM
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