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What’s the Direction for Omnichannel and Cloud Migration?

This week’s Avaya Engage marked the first iteration of the event since the vendor both entered and exited bankruptcy earlier this year, emerging with a much-improved financial outlook. At Engage, company officials naturally offered plenty of optimism as well as vision of where they go next. One perspective on the future came from three customers Avaya brought to the stage to discuss where they see their customer experience (CX) and cloud strategies headed.

The first two companies represented industries that face different challenges when it comes to CX and the role of self-service.

Jason Stump, CIO for Wynn Hotels, explained Wynn’s approach to CX by describing a decision that wasn’t directly contact center-related: Why the hotel/casino company chose to take its time in adopting “digital keys” that allow guests to get into their rooms without even stopping at the front desk. For hospitality, especially at the higher end, customers often want to interact with employees and receive what they perceive as special treatment: “People make other people happy,” Stump said.

Meanwhile, Sherrie Mullikin, director, business strategy and initiatives at Southwest Airlines, noted that travelers often prefer self-service in dealing with schedules that, for both the customer and the airline, may change frequently. But when customers can’t get what they need via self-service, they may well need to triage with the help of an agent. So Southwest’s CX evolution has to account for both continued self-service improvements and great agent assistance. It’s all about being agile, and while their 3,500 agents are primarily phone-based, omnichannel remains important.

Finally, Rick Belsky, VP global networks for Liberty Mutual, focused on the fundamental platform in ensuring high customer service scores. He noted the “exceptional” performance his company experienced from running its contact center on Avaya’s private cloud. “[High]-performance systems power exceptional experiences,” Belsky said.

Wynn's Stump discussed the persistence of premises-based systems, saying Wynn’s “monster” communications system was not likely to be a candidate for a short-term full migration to the cloud. He noted that some vendors might try to force premises customers to the cloud, but that in such a scenario, the provider could be risking its own position, as a company like Wynn would then have to consider all potential cloud providers.

In a meeting with journalists after his opening keynote, Avaya CEO Alan Masarek noted the high cost of switching providers for many large enterprises, suggesting that the cloud migration would likely be a hybrid story. For example, he said a large healthcare company might need to keep its critical care hospital on its premises system, but might opt to move sites such as remote laboratories or doctors’ offices to the cloud. “Not everybody goes from prem to cloud,” he said.

The fact that many large, critical sites will remain on-prem doesn’t mean the cloud won’t continue to grow in importance, he concluded. “It doesn’t change where we’re going, it just suggests that the world is not going monolithically to the cloud,” Masarek said.

Finally, on a separate note, I’d be remiss if I didn’t take a moment here to congratulate Michael Finneran of dBrn Associates on his retirement, and thank him for all he’s done to help me, my teams, and the publications and events I represent. During the decades he’s written and been a speaker for Enterprise Connect, No Jitter, and its predecessors, he’s been a generous and wise colleague. Michael’s one of the smartest, funniest people I’ve had the pleasure of working with, and I’m grateful for his support over the years.