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Posted on: August 12, 2019 By: Lauren Epperly

New commissionable products and services, more account managers and new sales tools to enhance our partners’ success.
By Lisa Heritage McLin – August 6, 2019

 

Delivering Fanatical Experience for our partners is the foundation of Rackspace’s Channel strategy, and that means we’re always working on improvements and upgrades to better serve you.

As we head deeper into the second half of 2019, I’m excited to share the innovative new resources we’ve been developing and invite you to join us. Leverage our brand to build yours!

First, a little kudos. The Rackspace Partner Network is currently experiencing approximately 10 percent quarter-over-quarter growth. This is thanks to the dedication of our entire team, but also the strategic work of Michael Stephens, who joined Rackspace in 2016. He has driven hyper growth through the agent community ever since then and will now serve as our Agent Channel Chief.

At the same time, we’ve also boosted the number of partner account managers across the U.S. and added an enterprise account team. These additions allow Rackspace to be more proactive and closer to our partners’ prospects and customers. We’ve also added new commissionable products and created new enablement resources to help you serve customers. Read on to learn more:

New commissions

Managed VMware Cloud on AWS is now a commissionable product. This unique cloud solution is a hybrid platform that offers access to public and private cloud, with the ability to shift workloads seamlessly between them. Companies can quickly add capacity to a new project or move workloads hosted on dedicated hardware to the cloud.

We also now offer commission for Rackspace Professional Services engagements. As customers seek more bespoke cloud expertise, Professional Services has become one of the fastest growing areas of our business.

[Read more: How to Get the IT Services You Need (Without Paying for the Ones You Don’t)]

Technical workshops

In response to partner demand, we’ve created Technical Partner Workshops, which will serve partners who support technology and product integration solutions for their customers’ digital transformation strategies. The workshops will be led by Rackspace Solution Architect Paul Croteau, who brings 25 years of experience in engineering, sales, technical training and account management to the task. Paul will help our partner solution engineering organizations find the best fit cloud transformation opportunities for their customers.

All Clouds Guide 

What if you could ask your customers a series of questions, then immediately get a customized cloud solution based on their answers?

We’ve got an app for that.

Our new All Cloud Guide is a sales tool that helps our partners quickly and accurately identify a customer’s needs, then get recommended cloud infrastructures choices based on those needs. Available as both a web and mobile app, the All Clouds Guide will recommend one or a combination of five infrastructure types: public cloud, private cloud, bare metal, server virtualization and colocation.

A sophisticated algorithm drives the All Cloud Guide, analyzing each answer by leveraging Rackspace’s two decades of experience. Quick, targeted videos offer support every step of the way, including:

  • Learn: “Why This Question?” videos will help our partners understand the importance of each particular question and the best way to explain how knowing this information will help navigate them to a “best fit” infrastructure.
  • Sell: Partners are walked through two main sets of questions, Business Background and Technical Deep Dive, to create an All Clouds Guide Workload report for their end client.
  • Share: The guide delivers its recommendation in real time, allowing you to immediately share with your customer on screen, via email, with a printout or PDF. Our partners can submit their workload report to Rackspace for fast follow up from our industry-leading experts.
  • Track: Keep up with all sales activity for your organization in easy-to-view lists and dashboards.

Want to learn more? Please visit the Rackspace Partner Network homepage. Already a partner? Reach out to your partner account manager or email raxpartnerhelp@rackspace.com.

Posted on: August 7, 2019 By: Carolyn Kuczynski

Originally published on dotmed.com

The use of artificial intelligence (AI) in the healthcare industry is rapidly increasing—and for good reason. AI comes with promises of better patient outcomes, reduced operational cost and increased efficiency, but it’s not a perfect world, especially as healthcare organizations are struggling with implementation and use of AI and machine learning technologies.

And what’s more, with industry executives predicting that AI will be ubiquitous in the field by 2025, healthcare organizations are also grappling with limiting the use of technology in instances where a human touch is more appropriate.

At its roots, healthcare is still an incredibly personal industry that deals with the most important factor to everyone — health. When it comes to integrating technology into certain aspects of healthcare like communications, there will inevitably be a time when it makes sense for patients to speak with a live person face-to-face.

Consider an instance where a patient is repeatedly using telemedicine (a field increasingly adopting AI to improve upon patient interactions) to interact with their physician. There are foreseeable instances where a doctor may have to see their patient face-to-face. Finding the right balance of knowing when to use technology and when to supplement with human interactions is essential.

So how can institutions execute a successful “man-needs-machine and vice versa” outlook? Organizations need to consider these two new approaches as part of their AI implementation.

An IoT Approach

Wearables and health applications are much more widely adopted as they are driving patients to be more active participants in their own healthcare and giving them greater access to their medical data.

IoT technology, like sleep monitoring devices or fitness trackers, allow them to monitor their health, connect with their electronic medical records and share key health information with their doctor, all from their own devices. AI then takes this IoT-driven information and aggregates it for healthcare organizations to analyze and provide more personalized care.

This approach, centered around IoT, is about moving from a reactive business to a proactive business by leveraging new AI and machine learning capabilities to better predict outcomes. In the case of a sleep monitor for example, the device monitors a patient’s sleep habits and an adjacent interactive application coaches the patient by sending reminders and adapting to the patient’s individual habits.

This is great for those looking to monitor their health on an ongoing basis. However, once the technology shares predictive analytics and recommendations daily, it’s best that a physician monitors that data as well, to provide more effective treatment (perhaps once a year or more depending on the patient’s condition).

A Patient Experience Approach

In the unfortunate scenario of a fatal diagnosis, AI could be used throughout the patient’s diagnosis process — assisting physicians, saving time and improving critical outcomes. But when it comes to delivering the news that this patient is in a critical condition, interactions should be sensitive and come from a face-to-face conversation.

When using AI as part of the patient experience, it’s all about moving from a cost center to a profit center. This means making access to healthcare more convenient. The industry should approach healthcare services the same way companies such as Amazon, Uber, AirBnB and Netflix are meeting consumer demand for more convenient retail and subscriber services experiences.

Communications and customer experience technology can provide both proactive and reactive omnichannel experiences anytime, anywhere and across any device. Healthcare organizations should also use technology to automate tasks that take clinicians away from the more personal patient interactions that will always require a human touch.

These organizations can better use their clinicians to perform higher value work where AI cannot, like interacting with patients.  Communications and customer experience tools can also be used to provide personalized self-service and live agent experiences. This serves to meet some of the most frequent complaints about patient experience, including:

• Poor experiences with office staff

• The feeling that a patient is just a number rather than a person

• Difficulty scheduling appointments

By leveraging open API integrations with healthcare tools like Epic, both self-service and live-agent assisted conversations can be more efficient, effective and personalized. Integrating self-service customer experience tools into patient scheduling applications puts the power in the patient’s hands to manage their own appointment adds, moves and changes.

Moving Forward With AI

The great news is that AI has been democratized and made much more readily available to organizations due to the rapid pace of innovation. However, to best realize the benefits, healthcare organizations must not move toward a pure reliance on this technology. They should explore and implement new approaches to find the right balance between using technology in a smart way while preserving the clinician-patient relationship.

A critical component of this is leveraging AI to assist humans in their day-to-day, rather than replace humans altogether. AI is a natural extension of self-service that can be used to provide even more effective experiences leveraging natural language processing and machine learning abilities.

But AI is not the solution to every customer interaction, and there will always be glaring conditions where AI-enabled interactions need to seamlessly escalate to live-assisted human interactions. Healthcare organizations implementing (or considering) AI should already be thinking about what this will look like in reality, starting by identifying situations where a more human touch is required.

Learn How To Select The Right Communications Solutions For Your Healthcare Organization. >

Posted on: By: Lauren Epperly

There’s a reason the word “hold” shares 50% of its letters in common with that hot place with the Devil. Both are H-words we’d prefer to avoid. Call back solutions provide an effective way to save your customers from the fiery frustrations of sitting on hold. There are many benefits to this service which improves efficiency for both your business and your callers.

About Call Back Solutions
We’ve all heard the message “your call is important to us.” It’s often paired with the automated voice telling us that the business we are trying to reach is experiencing unusual call volumes at this time. Utilizing a communications platform that offers queue management informing callers of their estimated wait time can help. Yet today an even greater number of callers want to enjoy the convenience of entering their phone numbers for a call back instead of remaining on hold interminably.

First introduced in the mid-1990s, call back solutions provide customers with the option to leave their number and name for a return contact, without losing their place in queue. It’s a simple way of saying to the customer you value their time and want to provide them with the best customer service possible in a streamlined way. Here are the many advantages of this call center technology feature.

Advantages of Call Back Services

Time is on their side.

By providing the queue callback option you are giving your customer back one of their most important and highly limited resources — time. In 2012, a survey of 2,500 customers found that nearly 60 percent of respondents believed “one-minute is too long to be on hold.” We can only imagine how many seconds have been lopped off that tolerance in the intervening six years of on-demand digital responsiveness.

The appeal of choice.

Call back solutions also empower customer choice. They can elect to stay on hold if they’d like to, but now there is another option. Either way, your agents are going to work hard to meet the customers’ needs. Yet now the customer regains control of the communication and doesn’t feel as if they have been taken hostage by Zamfir music fans.

Better moods = better interactions.

With call back services the customer gets a return call when an agent is available to address the concern or question. This gives your agents a better starting point as they no longer start the call trying to placate people angry about the hold delay or the aural assault of hold music or repeated brand messaging. The technology, too, can use the call back number to link into other customer history records to have the agent begin from a more knowledgeable position from the get-go.

Level out call volume.

Call back solutions help your business defer calls until volumes are more manageable. With this technology helping you better manage call spikes, you can improve call center productivity and optimize call handling to ensure the customers get the best experience possible while agents are buffered more effectively from the onslaught of overwhelming traffic loads.

Handling calls gets easier.

When an agent does finally get on the line with someone who has been on hold “too long” they will often get an earful. The customer needs the release of complaining about their negative experience. This not only makes the interaction more challenging but also hurts your agents’ call handling times. Your agents can be more efficient when customers feel heard and empowered.

Lower call abandonment rates.

Finally, call back solutions also lower the number of callers hanging up in frustration. A long wait time can cause someone to end the call and then try again later. Those recalls can negatively impact call volume handling all over again. Worse still, the customers may simply take their business elsewhere, without your customer agents even getting a chance to make a positive impression and provide excellent customer service.

Learn more about the benefits of call back solution with our Queue Callback Savings Calculator. Evolve IP’s experts are available to help you optimize your customer experience by offering callers the ability to request a callback based on your call center conditions. Learn more today!

 

Posted on: July 29, 2019 By: Carolyn Kuczynski

By Evan Wade

Most of the time, technology moves in a straight, iterative path.

Rarely, however, an up-and-coming solution bucks the trend, doling out features and innovations in such quantity that it skips several links on the evolutionary chain — and Vonage’s Number Programmability, currently in beta, definitely falls in this category (if we do say so ourselves). If that statement sounds a little strong, Number Programmability backs it up.

Representing a combination of some of the top products and services in Vonage’s current portfolio, it culminates in the ability for any Vonage Business Cloud number to be leveraged by Nexmo’s application programming interfaces (APIs) to meet virtually any business communication need.

What is Number Programmability?

Number Programmability isn’t exactly a product or a solution — it’s a capability.

Leveraging Nexmo APIs, Number Programmability enables any Vonage Business Cloud phone number to be intelligently programmed so that it becomes much more than a number.

Your VBC number can become:

  • A Robot-Enabled Meeting Scheduler – If you’re unable to take a call, the caller can answer a few prompts and schedule a call back at your next available time, all thanks to a simple integration with your cloud-based calendar.
  • An Automated Virtual Receptionist – An automated virtual receptionist that can route a call according to the time of day or the number of the incoming call.
  • A Real-Time Translator – When integrated with any translation API, a programmed number will use artificial intelligence (AI) to recognize if a caller is speaking a different language and give you a word-for-word English translation.
  • An Intelligent Transcription Service – An intelligent transcription service that immediately begins taking notes on the call and auto-uploads the notes to the right customer or prospect account in Salesforce or another CRM.  Think of the potential for your contact center!

These are only a few of the infinite possibilities that Number Programmability enables. Using the power of communication APIs and a little imagination, you can program your Vonage Business phone number for major types of customizations with just a few lines of code.

Number Programmability is also broadly adaptable, with cloud-based architecture providing countless features to the end user’s communication devices.

In this way, it’s immensely scalable, allowing businesses to add different types of functionality to one line or one thousand. It’s highly integratable, too, connecting to a large, growing list of products from Vonage partners, such as CRMs and business applications like Salesforce and Jira or AI platforms like Watson and Google.

Best of all, this kind of evolutionary improvement isn’t a far-off pipe dream. It’s in beta now, with GA launch anticipated later in 2019. 

Productivity Booster, Experience Enhancer

With Number Programmability, every aspect of your Vonage Business Cloud phone number becomes customizable: If you can dream it, you can build it. And with Nexmo APIs as building blocks, virtually any type of unified communications solution can be developed to support a business’ unique needs. 

The highly flexible nature of Programmable Numbers provides serious potential to boost internal productivity by automating existing processes or workflows. 

Need to record specific words during a phone call for compliance? That’s no problem with a Nexmo Voice API, Call Recording, and Natural Language processing. Want to route calls to specific agents based on who’s calling, before anyone even picks up?  

Or even better: Want to have certain VIP callers hear different IVR options? Done, with a simple CRM integration, Nexmo Voice API, and a little programming logic – and and it’s even better with a bot who understands natural language.

We can think of many use cases where Number Programmability removes the need for tedious steps in a process or workflow through automation.

By eliminating unnecessary, time-consuming work, employees are freed up to focus on work that’s more profitable to the business.

Other use cases make it effortless to elevate the customer experience, which has its own rewards: improved NPS scores, more first-call resolutions, happier and more loyal customers. Depending on your goals, Number Programmability can make it happen.

Infinite Flexibility, Easy Deployment

The possibilities are endless because Number Programmability takes all unified communication features out there and brings them together in the cloud, all in one tech stack. There’s no need to decide whether to invest in a certain feature or package. Instead, you customize, build, and deploy distinct capabilities to match your exact business needs. And it’s easy, too, because you’re using Nexmo communication APIs as programmable building blocks. Your team only needs to add a few lines of code to deploy highly customized capabilities.

No matter what “connection” means to an individual business, the Vonage Business Cloud platform provides an easier way to achieve it when combined with Programmable Numbers.

And this is just the start. As Number Programmability rolls into full-blown release, it will undoubtedly come to encompass more capabilities, including video, chat, and rich messaging. This has to be some of the most exciting communications news in a long time.

Posted on: July 8, 2019 By: Carolyn Kuczynski

By: David Portnowitz

Let’s face it: The decision to upgrade a business phone system is never easy.

It can be a difficult process, and one that requires a considerable amount of planning and strategizing. After all, who wants to deal with a lengthy migration process and the uncertainty that comes with using new technology?

The truth is that it can be one of the most important things that you do to protect the integrity of your overall communications strategy.

Here are some signs it’s time to make the leap and explore a new option:

Your Hardware Needs To Be Replaced:

All hardware eventually depreciates in quality and needs to be replaced. This is unavoidable.

For this reason, many businesses are switching to softphones, which can be easily updated when they are needed, saving a considerable amount of money.

Whatever you do, don’t wait; if you need to update or replace your hardware, do it now before it continues to be a problem. You’ll also make your end users happy and give them better tools to do their jobs.

Your Business Has Grown:

Chances are, your business is in a different place than it was, whether you purchased your business phone system it a few years ago or a decade ago. Now, you most likely have a higher inbound call volume.

How is your interactive voice response system handling the extra traffic? A slow or inefficient system could lead to call abandonment, or even worse, a negative customer experience (CX). If this is the case, it’s time to invest in a cloud-based system that will make it easy to manage calls.

You’re Expanding:

If your business is getting the opportunity to expand, this may be one of the best times to switch out and upgrade your phone system. It’s very important for you to think about how you will provide your new locations with high-quality communications. Do you really want to install new physical lines into your facilities?

Instead, consider upgrading to a VoIP system which will be highly scalable and cost-effective. By leveraging VoIP, you will be able to expand into new markets with greater agility. You can have the option to scale up or down, without having to rip and replace any infrastructure, saving you time and money.

You’re At Risk From Downtime:

Stop and consider what would happen if an unexpected storm were to roll into your area, impacting your connection to the publicly switched telephone network (PSTN). Your company would instantly lose access to its core phone system.

Working with a cloud communications provider will give your company guaranteed business continuity and disaster recovery. Your phone system will remain up and running no matter what happens in your local area, providing a much greater peace of mind, and ensuring you are still able to provide for your customers.

You Don’t Have A Unified Messaging System:

Even if your phone has been working properly, you could be getting more out of your communications system—so much more.

Most enterprises—your competitors included—are leveraging unified communications as a service (UCaaS). With UCaaS, companies have the ability to centralize all of their disparate communications mechanisms like voice, video, fax, email and messaging into one user-friendly platform. UCaaS is now the gold standard for business communications, and it’s something your company should absolutely be considering.

Also, if you’re upgrading to VoIP, take our advice and conduct a comprehensive network assessment to make sure your new system will be capable of working at the desired level. Oftentimes, businesses rush into a VoIP migration only to have to retrofit their network at a later time.

Whatever option you ultimately select, don’t rush into your decision. Plan ahead, and make sure you pick a system that will benefit your company the most.

Posted on: June 10, 2019 By: Carolyn Kuczynski

By TAYLOR MALLORY HOLLAND – Contributor

Selling cloud communications shouldn’t be hard. When business leaders truly understand the value of unified communications-as-a-service (UCaaS), making the migration is almost a no-brainer. When enterprise decision-makers encounter the alphabet soup surrounding the technology, however, they are often overwhelmed by UCaaS.

Understanding these seven UCaaS benefits can help channel partners sell more technology and increase their revenue streams.

7 UCaaS Benefits for Enterprise Customers

When it comes to selling the tech, knowing its value is essential. Here are some UCaaS benefits that are sure to impress your clients — and earn you more revenue.

1. Streamlined communications

Vonage Business offers high-quality UCaaS that integrates all of your clients’ communication applications and services into a single communications platform. That includes voice, messaging, video, conferencing, contact centers, business apps, and even chat. Your clients’ employees can access the platform from any internet-connected device, including their smartphones.

Clients who aren’t ready to give up their landlines don’t have to move their phone systems to the cloud. Vonage also offers session initiation protocol (SIP) trunking, a cost-effective technology that lets businesses connect legacy phone systems to the Vonage Cloud quickly and affordably.

2. Scalability

Traditional phone systems don’t make it easy for your clients’ businesses to grow or shrink. Adding new users means adding new extensions, purchasing new equipment, and sending someone from IT to get new hires up and running. Downsizing means that your clients are stuck with extensions and unnecessary equipment.

With UCaaS, IT departments can add new users or even new business locations without having to worry about complicated and costly installations. And with pay-as-you-need pricing, your clients don’t have to foot the bill for service they’re not currently using.

3. Improved collaboration

At many large organizations, siloed departments and human latency create communication gaps that slow productivity, impede innovation, and frustrate both employees and customers. UCaaS helps bridge these gaps by making it easier than ever for employees across departments and locations to connect and collaborate. Your clients’ employees can work from anywhere and from any device, and they can set status alerts to let colleagues know when they’re unavailable.

The Vonage platform includes HD voice and video conferencing, as well as instant messaging, for up to 300 participants. So if one of your client’s employees needs to ask a colleague a quick question, she doesn’t have to wait around for the team member to check their email. And if two teams need to share information, better align their departments, or collaborate on a project, they can have face-to-face interactions, even if they’re hundreds of miles apart.

4. Seamless integrations

UCaaS is a powerful business solution on its own, but it also integrates with other key cloud business technology, including CRM systems like Salesforce and NetSuite, collaboration solutions like G Suite and Office 365, recruiting tools like JobDiva and Bullhorn, productivity apps like Slack, and even industry-specific applications.

By connecting these systems to UCaaS, your clients also connect these systems’ data and boost productivity for employees. For example, with CRM integration, employees can click to dial directly from CRM, automatically log calls in CRM, and view customer information from CRM inside the UCaaS platform.

UCaaS technology is constantly evolving, and Vonage is at the forefront of that innovation, enabling channel partners to meet all their clients’ communication needs — now and in the future.

5. Omnichannel customer service

Using UCaaS, your clients can build omnichannel contact centers that support voice, video, chat, and whatever communication channels are yet to come. That means customers can communicate with your clients in whatever way is most convenient for them, which goes a long way toward creating a great customer experience.

With CRM integration, your clients’ service reps see screen pops for incoming calls, so they can greet customers by name and easily access all the information they need to answer questions and provide support. Meanwhile, managers can record calls and pull detailed analytics in real time, which gives them insights into how to better train reps and improve the overall customer experience.

6. Better customer engagement

Thanks to Nexmo APIs, Vonage Business offers functionality that other UCaaS providers don’t, including communications platform-as-a-service (CPaaS). Leveraging developer-friendly APIs, CPaaS streamlines all the real-time communications features that customers use to reach a business — voice, video, SMS, social chat — and allows your clients to embed those features on their websites and social media pages. If a potential customer sees a Facebook post about an item they like, they can reach out to the business directly from the Facebook post with just one click.

Vonage also offers voicebot and chatbot APIs, marketing automation APIs, and a host of other features that make unified communications more personal and powerful than ever.

7. Cost savings

Unifying communications into a single solution means fewer vendors and thus fewer expenses. With Vonage Business Cloud, your clients could save an average of 36 percent compared to a traditional phone service, and a traditional phone service doesn’t include all the other UCaaS benefits.

Because the solution is cloud-based, your clients don’t have to pay for or maintain hardware. They also don’t have to worry about hardware failures, which can be costly and can cause operational downtime.

UCaaS Benefits for Channel Partners

Vonage has much to offer businesses, and thus many opportunities for channel partners to expand their revenue while increasing customer satisfaction and loyalty. The Vonage Partner Network offers training opportunities, tools, and support, as well as a robust residual-selling model with benefits and incentives that increase with each tier.

UCaaS technology is constantly evolving, and Vonage is at the forefront of that innovation, enabling channel partners to meet all their clients’ communication needs — now and in the future.

Posted on: May 20, 2019 By: Carolyn Kuczynski

Remember that song: “One of these things is not like the other? One of these things is just not the same!” We could say this of Interactive Voice Response (IVR) and Auto Attendant. Although sometimes confused for the same thing, there are important differences between Auto Attendant and IVR.

You have by this point in your life called into many an auto attendant, we can be sure of that. It’s when you call into a business or organization and, instead of talking to a live human, you are greeted by an automated voice which provides you with a full menu of options. The automated attendant — also known as a phone tree or auto receptionist — routes calls to a queue or voicemail box. Although to be fair, it can play hold music while it makes the connection.

How does that differ from the IVR? You might think of it as auto attendant 4.0. For one thing, when you reach a business with an IVR, the automated voice quite often sounds better, more true to life. Additionally, you can typically interact with the IVR using either the numbers on your keypad or your voice. You know you’re working with an IVR when it says “press or say 1.” That “say 1” is your cue that there’s voice recognition software at work.

Now, we recognize that those distinctions don’t seem like such a big deal when you’re calling in. You’d probably rather be talking to a human in the first place, so being able to speak instead of press numbers isn’t that big of a step up. OK, but the real difference between auto attendant and IVR isn’t directly experienced so much by the caller as it is by the recipient of the call.

Auto Attendant vs IVR for the Agent

Think of auto attendant as an automated switchboard operator. This feature does help your customer get more efficiently to the individual or department they want to reach. But they don’t provide additional information. The attendant sorts them to the right place based on their keyed responses.

With IVR, the caller may never need to interact with a human. After all, this solution feature can provide information and collect details from the caller, such as case numbers, addresses, birthdates, credit card numbers for over-the-phone payments, and much more. For example, paying by phone at your utility company by entering the numbers of your checking account or credit card. Since the IVR can easily handle automated tasks, your business can free up human agents for more complicated processes.

Another advantage is that the IVR can be scripted to provide information to the caller based upon their responses or particular circumstances at your business. For instance, the messaging a customer might hear while on hold could be customized to reflect the details gained from their menu sequence. Since they are calling in response to X campaign, they would hear messaging related to that campaign while in queue.

IVR solutions can also feature additional add-ons such as:

  • Data-Driven Routing: deliver prioritized calls to the proper destination based upon the customer’s transaction status or account information
  • Post-Call Survey: provide inbound or outbound call surveys to understand the satisfaction of your customers once their call or business transaction is complete.
  • Appointment Reminder/Notify: deliver an automated outbound call to notify the customer about a change in their transaction status change or confirm an upcoming appointment.

Evolve IP’s IVR is delivered through easily customized pre-built scripts that deliver the exact call flows and features you need. Evolve IP’s IVR service also retains the flexibility to be customized for your exact needs. Find out more today!

Posted on: April 12, 2019 By: CNSG Marketing

By: David Portnowitz of Star2Star

The global communications landscape is changing significantly, with the internet of things (IoT) and artificial intelligence (AI) both growing at remarkable rates. If you’re not already familiar, IoT stands for “Internet of Things” and is the industry term for this era’s “smart” devices including smart phones, appliances, cars, and other items we use every day. AI is more widely known, and often characterized as an intelligent robotic persona. With the prevalence of Siri, Cortana, and Google Assistant, almost everyone who has ever used a smart device has also experienced AI.

Breaking Down The AI and IoT Trends

In 2015, there were about 15.4 billion connected devices in existence; by 2025, this figure will swell to 75.4 billion. 77 percent of consumers are now using at least one AI-powered device or service. Oftentimes, customers engage with AI without even realizing it.

Related: What You Need To Know About Chatbots

As global communications are changing, contact centers are being forced to keep up with the pace. The contact center, after all, is one of the most important touchpoints for customer communications and businesses are being challenged to update their technologies as well as their customer service strategies.

Related: The Communications B2C Customer Experience

The AI Emergence

AI is being used in a few different ways in the contact center. First and foremost, AI has emerged as a major driving force behind interactive voice response (IVR) systems and chatbots. In the past, automated conversations were very basic. But thanks to AI, bots can expand beyond rudimentary conversations and respond accurately to complex customer queries. For this reason, there is growing interest in using AI-powered bots to provide self-service throughout the day, and after hours.

Related: 3 Key Ways AI Impacts UC

Now, a gap is growing between companies that are actively using AI in the contact center and companies that are not; companies that are using AI can provide much better self-service by reducing on-hold times, lowering costs, and streamlining conversation flows for agents. Companies that refuse to embrace AI will fall farther behind the competition in the coming years. Businesses are therefore strongly advised to work AI into their customer-facing processes.

Related: 10 Reasons Businesses Are Switching To UC Cloud Services

We are also seeing more and more companies deploying AI for intelligent call routing. Routing decisions that used to rely primarily on basic input data (like a customer’s language, location, age, and purchase history) are now being enhanced with real-time intelligence engines. AI can pull data from a wider pool, and combine that information with additional characteristics (like a caller’s mood) to put a customer in touch with the right associate.

Related: UC Solutions For Every Industry

Contact centers, it should be noted, are also using AI to collect real-time threat intelligence, in order to prevent fraud during interactions. Many businesses now use AI in the background to gather data and flag suspicious activities.

The IoT Impact

The IoT, meanwhile, is having a major impact on the way that businesses approach customer service. First and foremost, companies now have access to much more data than they had in the past. Connected endpoints can provide a wealth of information that can be analyzed to better understand the customer experience. Contact centers should have access to this information, in order to provide relevant service.

Related: Key Market Drivers In Cloud Communications

This, of course, also means that agents need to be better prepared to handle technical questions. Many contact centers are now providing additional training for agents, to get them up to speed.  According to one study, 67 percent of respondents said their contact centers trained associates to handle customer interactions differently due to connected/IoT technologies. Twenty-three percent of contact centers, it should be noted, hired associates with different skill sets to support IoT technologies.

Related: Top 10 Technologies That Changed Business Communications

While it’s important to have a working knowledge of IoT and an AI-driven customer service strategy, it’s important to remember the third component to an advanced contact center: A robust unified communications (UC) platform. It all comes together with UC, which can serve as a centralized environment where agents can access incoming messages from any device and leverage the support of AI and IoT services.

 

 

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