Avaya Aims to Shore Up Efficiencies With New Communication Tools

Avaya is targeting unmet pockets of user demand in the telecom industry with the release of three new offerings this week. Kevin Kennedy, who will be taking over as CEO in January, is appearing at VoiceCon on Monday to unveil the new products: a contact center product focused on outbound messaging and self-service, a speech-to-text application, and a unified communications package that bundles licenses of various products.

Each is a separate tactical play for Avaya, Ken Landoline, an analyst with Synergy Research Group, told CRM Buyer. However, the unifying theme of the rollout is Avaya’s go-to-market strategy of deploying technology that makes life easier for the business user.

“Each of these applications focuses on saving time and money and making the workforce more efficient — all of which, in this coming economy, will be very critical to most businesses,” he said.

Appointment Scheduling

One offering, Proactive Outreach, is a vertical play for the financial services and healthcare industries. It will likely be replicated in other verticals in the coming year with additional functionality that can be used across all sectors, Laura Bassett, senior manager of Avaya Customer Service Solutions, told CRM Buyer.

This new customer service portfolio leverages outbound communications and self-service automation to deliver information to customers.

Use case examples in financial services include helping customers handle new account openings and alerting them to overdrafts.

Hospitals, doctors and other healthcare organizations might use the healthcare version of the product to offer automated payment options, or to send patient welcome calls, account information collections, and reminders for annual flu shots or check-ups.

Customers can complete transactions using automated menus or speech commands. Both portfolios let customers choose to connect to a live agent; customer information is routed to the agent when a call is transferred.

Avaya chose to debut the Proactive Outreach offerings in the financial services and healthcare verticals because they are facing key customer service challenges, Bassett said. Both sectors must be highly attuned to customer communication preferences.

“A customer might not want to receive a phone call about a sensitive health issue — maybe he or she prefers to get a notification via SMS (short message service),” she suggested.

This service also delivers a value-add for call center operators who are happy to be relieved of incoming inquiries about routine issues in order to focus on more complex interactions, added Bassett.

The outbound messaging space is highly fragmented, Landoline noted, probably because most uses are still focused on emergency notifications or weather alerts.

“It is ideal that Avaya is jumping into this market right now,” he said. “There are other providers, but Avaya is the 800-pound guerrilla in the space now and best suited to expand outbound messaging into other nonemergency uses.”

One benefit of opting to go with Avaya as opposed to a smaller, best-of-breed vendor, Bassett said, is that this portfolio is able to easily integrate with related communication applications.

Speech to Text

Avaya’s other two new offerings also focus on ease of use for the end-user, Steven Hardy, director of Avaya Unified Communications Solutions, told CRM Buyer.

The business case for Speech to Text is self-explanatory. With it, users do not have to listen to several minutes worth of messages to jot down phone numbers. “The time savings can really add up,” Hardy said, adding that Avaya is rolling out the application internally to its North American sales staff.

A joint development of Avaya, Mutare Software and SpinVox, Speech to Text essentially converts a voice mail message into text that is delivered as an e-mail with an optional voice attachment.

All Inclusive

Avaya’s Unified Communications All Inclusive package bundles a collection of disparate products.

“Historically, the telecom industry has made it difficult to procure and install mammoth capabilities,” Hardy observed. “There may be one client license for a phone system, one for a soft phone, another for communications capabilities. The cost and administrative burden of this can mount up.”

The new package combines voice and video telephony software and unified communications applications. It is automatically included for new customers and those upgrading to Avaya Communication Manager 5.0 Enterprise Edition at no additional cost. For customers of Communication Manager 5.0 Standard Edition, the package is available for US$50 per user license.

The price point is noteworthy, Landoline said. “Fifty dollars is at the lower end of what I have seen in the market — certainly low enough to get companies excited about the possibility of providing UC capabilities in every seat of a communications operation.”

With the package, companies can purchase an Avaya Communication Manager license and deploy the specific mobility and desktop communications applications wherever they choose. It effectively gives employees single number access.

The package supports Avaya Communication Manager 5.0; Avaya one-X Communicator; Avaya one-X Portal; Avaya one-X Mobile; Avaya Extension-to-Cellular; Avaya VPNremote software; Applications Enablement Server integration with Microsoft Office Communicator or IBM Lotus Sametime; and Avaya Intelligent Presence.

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