With the first half of the year complete, now is a good time to look back at our December 2012 projections for 2013 Top Communications Trends to see how they have evolved and which ones are really propelling growth in communications solutions. For each of the last four years, a team of Avaya (News - Alert) experts has been asked to identify telecom trends for the upcoming year.
As the experts look back on their projections, simplicity and the harnessing of technologies to create the best customer experience are dominating in 2013.
The seven trends called out at the beginning of the year were:
1. Simplified complexity drives the agenda. Business leaders have widely welcomed the transition from proprietary to open systems as an avenue to reduced costs, streamlined technology environments and exciting new communications capabilities. But simplification hasn't been such a simple matter for IT departments, which have the job of integrating advanced applications into existing systems.
2. Video changes business and customer expectations. With each generation of users more exposed to and comfortable with video than the previous one, it is destined to be increasingly integral to daily life. This transition is presenting huge opportunities for businesses to interact with customers, partners and employees in rich new ways.
3. Real-time analytics help fine-tune the customer experience. Even companies with relatively small contact centers can generate millions of events a day while larger centers can generate billions. Businesses are increasing their investments to tap into this big data.
4. Businesses face the private-or-public cloud decision. A key question such organizations will consider as they evaluate the potential of the cloud is what type of cloud offering best meets their needs—a public cloud, where they share resources with other enterprises; a private cloud solution which resides within the corporate firewall; or a virtual private cloud, which is a dedicated portion of a public cloud.
5. Communications support goes proactive. Businesses that invest in communications solutions and underlying support services are more interested in avoiding problems than having them solved. Yet for a variety of reasons, reactive problem solving has been the industry's support model over time—until now.
6. Managed services hit an inflection point. Businesses increasingly will forego the expense of in-house IT staff for support purposes, instead turning to managed services providers for those capabilities.
7. Mobile muscles in. The next productivity boost will come through the integration of unified communications capabilities with mobility to enhance employee collaboration and customer support in new and innovative ways.
In taking a new look at the top seven with half the year behind us, the experts believe that the seven trends for 2013 remain on target, but there are some very interesting insights into how they see them evolving.
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In the case of simplified complexity (#1), the experts agreed this trend is very hot and has become more tightly coupled with Cloud (#4) and Managed Services (#6) trends. With enterprise-owned and in-house managed solutions all the solution complexity is owned by the enterprise. By leveraging Managed Services and to a greater degree a Cloud-based offer, solution complexity is pushed off to the services vendor. This frees up the enterprise to focus on core competencies and greatly simplifies their IT infrastructure.
Also becoming more prevalent, in different forms on different continents, is the move towards video, as mentioned in trend #2. Our experts pointed to the rapid adoption of video by retailers to increase reach by using video-enabled kiosks and ATMs that extend the branch experience. In Europe video is now being used to minimize traditional contact center problems, such as language and culture barriers, that might have caused backlash. The language, inflection, and body language that can be conveyed by agents over a video connection have proven much more pleasing to customers than non-native language audio only interactions. Customers are also leveraging video in their personal life with applications, such as Skype and FaceTime (News - Alert). This increasing video familiarity paves the way for leveraging video to better serve customers, proving that a picture can tell a thousand words.
The growth of the real-time analytics trend (#3) is leading many companies to consider a methodical approach to evaluating their own data collected through day-to-day transactions. Once a company starts to see the benefits of effective data mining, they move from low hanging fruit projects to more in-depth initiatives. Contact center owners are moving from ensuring they deal with the sheer quantity of customer interactions to how they maximize the quality of the customer contact across multiple channels (social media, e-mail, video, etc). Detailed real-time analytics enables this move towards quality by diving deeper into the data and parsing details of the customer interaction to truly ensure the customer is happy on multiple levels.
As touched on previously, simplicity is figuring prominently as businesses face the private-or-public-cloud decision trend (#4). As one expert stated, the private or public cloud decision is less a question of choice and more a question of “how to implement a cloud solution in an environment (public, private, hybrid) that meets the needs of different parts of a customer's business." Smaller-sized companies that can easily move to a cloud model because of their less complicated system/applications are where we have seen the most acceleration. Large companies are still moving to cloud and managed services, but at a slower rate due to the complexity of their infrastructure (many systems integration to a wide array of applications, etc.) leading to greater issues in deciding what moves to a cloud vs. what must stay on site (technical or security issues).
The trend of communications support going proactive (#5) is one that our company has leveraged to drive increased value to our customers. By embedding intelligent agents in our infrastructure we have been able to greatly enhance the speed and completeness of issue resolution for our customers. At the same time reducing the number of support requests we need to field.
The path to cloud can have several steps. Each providing increased simplicity for a company. One step is to leverage managed services (#6). Driven by demand for better TCO, this trend is one of our most dominant and still going very strong as we venture into the second half of 2013.
Rounding out the top seven trends of 2013 is mobile, which has been on our list for several years and is starting to see maturity in some sub-segments. For several years, companies have been struggling with the delicate balance between rolling out BYOD vs. the security risks and costs that come with a more open mobile architecture. This trend is now maturing to the point that even the most conservative of banks are adopting BYOD policies and some industries such as retail or education have become primarily mobile.
One sub-segment of mobile that is still developing is the use of mobile status to inform effective customer experience management. Contact centers can benefit from knowing the status of the customer they are servicing by providing a different interaction or information based on where their mobile device indicates they are located (e.g. home vs. hospital). While this is a great feature, we are still early in evolution of service providers providing valuable user location. In this space, the team of experts sees a variety of sub-technology trends, including the geotagging of phone calls that leads to routing and prioritization in contact centers.
How do these trends align with how your year is unfolding and what 2014 might offer?
As in previous years, we greatly appreciate your feedback and engaging conversations with our clients, industry analysts and global IT leaders that help drive the next set of trends.
Where do you feel the industry is vs. the 7 Communication Trends for 2013, or other big trends projected for 2013?
Pat Patterson is Director of Services Marketing for Avaya, overseeing marketing strategy and execution for Avaya’s global portfolio of Support, Managed, and Outsourcing services. Follow Pat on Twitter (News - Alert) Pat_Patterson_V
Edited by Alisen Downey