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June 29, 2007

What Will Have To Happen To Customer Service When Your Customers Get Their iPhones?

By Art Rosenberg

Today’s the big day for Apple’s (News - Alert) new iPhone and all the pundits are speculating about its impact on the market for a variety of reasons.

Back in January of this year, after Steve Jobs first introduced the coming iPhone (News - Alert) product to the world, I welcomed the arrival of a device that would make UC real for end users. Although converging iPod music entertainment with multimodal communications has been a major attraction for the consumer market, I see the innovative multimodal device interface design as step forward in the migration in the migration to mobile unified communications. However, I also highlighted some of the initial iPhone deficiencies for business users in the enterprise market reported by industry pundits. Now that the iPhone is about to be delivered to the drooling consumer market, it is time to look at what it will do to enterprise communications from a customer contact application perspective.
I have discussed “Consumer UC” in the past as something that will require traditional telephone call centers to get ready for the “multimodal customer,” and the iPhone release is the tip of the multimodal contact center iceberg. This event should be a wakeup call for every organization to get serious about migrating their customer contact operations towards the future. That migration will range from supporting IP and wireless network connectivity to training multimodal agents to dynamically support “transmodal” customer interactions. That’s a major overhaul of legacy call center operations and will pose serious questions for both IT management and contact center operations planning.
Raising the customer contact bar – What if a lot of consumers have an iPhone or similar “smartphone”?
A practical way to look at what’s coming down the pike for contact centers is to simply assume that a lot of consumers will soon get an iPhone or a competitive “smartphone” equivalent. Although one of the big drivers for consumer interest in the iPhone is because it has integrated iPod entertainment capabilities into a mobile phone device, it is also of interest because it also offers the convenience of multimodal, unified communications capabilities, including unified messaging and web information access. So, what will that mean for enterprise contact centers and satisfying the customer experience?
Here are some logical perspectives:
  1. Because the iPhone is a multimodal device that will be carried by individual customers, it will be “always on” and personalized.
  2. It will be used for “person-to-person” contacts, information delivery, and multimodal self-services.
  3. Because of richer, multimodal self-services, the iPhone/smartphone will be able to exploit the benefits of self-services to a greater degree than traditional telephones or cell phones.
  4. Because environments constantly change, the mobile user will initiate customer contacts with different modalities, depending on a combination of:
    1. The communication need,
    2. The initiator’s preferences, and
    3. The environmental circumstances.
  5. Increased information richness of self-service applications, enabled by multimodal mobile device interfaces, will help reduce the demand for live assistance.
  6. We can assume that presence will be involved for managing contact access for all real-time contacts.
  7. Use of email and IM will be more efficient because they can exploit links to information and documents by URL links, rather than enclosing attachments.
  8. Email from customers or customer service will also be able to exploit speech input rather than typing, e.g., JOTT, another way making voice messaging more efficient and manageable for customer contacts.
  9. Voice messaging will exploit speech recognition to convert voice messages to more efficiently managed email, although the iPhone Visual Voicemail stresses only the control interface of voice messages.  
  10. Mobility will be a new driver, in addition to global customers, for customer contacts to be initiated 24x7, driving further change to the old peak-hour traffic models of traditional call center activity.
  11. Mobile customer accessibility through multimodal “smartphones” will also impact traditional call center queuing for live assistance in several ways, including:
    1. Call back rather waiting in queue
    2. IM and text messaging options
    3. Dynamic escalation between communications modalities (“transmodal communications”), e.g.: escalate from e-mail, voice mail, SMS, IM to voice conversation (“click-to-talk”)
  12. IM and presence management will facilitate collaborative interactions between enterprise personnel in supporting customer assistance in real-time. (First Contact Resolution — FCR)
There are other ripple effects upon enterprise customer contact/support requirements that will stem from the consumer adoption of the iPhone and other successful “smartphones.” So, Apple and AT&T’s (News - Alert) “coming out” party will herald the advent of multimodal customer contact and all the consequences of satisfying new customer contact experiences. Most importantly, it will push enterprise organizations to really start rethinking their old call center operations from a UC perspective and start planning their migrations to multimodal customer contact.
The good news! Hosted and managed services will ease the transition to multimodal customer care
Although the industry watchers originally started off with concerns only about enterprise movement to VoIP and Internet Telephony, it is becoming increasingly clear that the real driver of UC migration will be the customer-facing support of business process applications that will require the flexibility of mobile and multimodal communications. That will apply not only to where the revenue “ROI” comes from, the customers, but also to the customer-facing support staff wherever they are located. That’s where the capabilities of the multimodal iPhone, coupled with both customer contact response flexibility and proactive information delivery will drive business communications into the UC future.
Inasmuch as the multimodal customer contact technology is still evolving and internal enterprise IT resources have little or no experience with converged communications, business organizations are not really ready to take full responsibility with internal staffing for new UC technologies. So, why should they?
This is where the new, software-based complexities of multimodal contact center technologies, coupled with the power of flexible distribution of computing resources and support staffing, will be pushing the enterprise market towards the practical benefits of rapid time-to-market from hosted, multi-sourced technology migration services. In particular, with the new offerings of hosted, multi-sourcing service providers that can quickly migrate existing contact center technologies to the multimodal customer environment, the enterprise pain of first developing a comprehensive RFP for all customer contact applications before fully understanding what will really work for different customer contact needs, can be significantly reduced in time, effort, and costs. It’s not just “try before buy,” but rather “learn before migrating,” because only experience can determine the choice of implementations required. 
What Do You Think?
Send your comments to me at [email protected].
Attention CIOs: Watch this great recent Webcast from Avaya (News - Alert) and Microsoft on the practical “Why’s” and “How’s” of migrating to UC!
This discussion with the two dominant enterprise communications technology providers in the text messaging and telephony worlds highlights the practicalities of migrating to UC and also underscores the UCStrategies.com industry-wide initiative for identifying individual business user requirements. 
A New Service For Enterprise UC Planning
The Unified-View, together with the industry experts at UCStrategies.com, is developing a standard end-user online survey service that will be made freely available to enterprise organizations to help gather UC/mobility profiling information about current end user business communications activities. This information will help enterprise management to:
  • Gather information about which individual end users or work groups need UC capabilities the most
  • Identify the related business process that will determine UC migration priorities
  • Help align the value of improved UC capabilities with the ROIs of business processes.
  • Help identify and quantify the mobile and UC activities associated with specific individual users and their business contacts that should also be provided with UC capabilities
  • Enable the organization to plan specific migration training needs for individual end users or end user groups, in accordance with a practical migration implementation schedule.
  • Enable the enterprise to compare before and after changes in business communication efficiencies and business process benefits by basically using the same survey for “migrated” users as a “before and after” comparison.
The service will also allow enterprise organizations to “benchmark” individual users or different groups within the organization for evaluation purposes. In addition, it is planned to allow such information to be benchmarked in Unified-View market research reports across enterprise organizations, to identify differences in end user needs between different vertical market segments, and identify “best practices” for UC management.
Stay tuned to the UCStrategies.com web site for initial availability of the UC Profiling service. We are in discussions with all the major UC technology providers to support this initiative to help both their customers and sales channels plan their UC migrations properly and effectively. 
News From UC Strategies
To better understand the different perspectives and issues involved with implementing UC technologies, go to the UCStrategies.com web site for the latest, most practical insights on migrating the enterprise to UC. 
You can also review the presentations given by the UCStrategies.com experts at TMC’s (News - Alert) ITEXPO.

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