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The Year That Was In: Customer Experience and Contact Center

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Image: Denis Putilov - Alamy Stock Vector

Although 2023 may have been dominated by a deluge of generative AI product announcements, the year also witnessed big news regarding Avaya, the overall move toward cloud-based platforms and the increasing emphasis on employee experience.

 

Big Story #1: Avaya News Made Headlines

After a rocky end to 2022, in February 2023 Avaya entered into Chapter 11 bankruptcy. In early March 2023, NJ contributor Stephen Leaden authored an article targeted at Avaya users which offered practical steps to weathering any potential operational challenges an extended Avaya restructuring process might take. As it turned out, Avaya exited from Chapter 11 in early May 2023.

In August 2023, Omdia Analyst Brent Kelly authored Avaya is Back, which not only summarized Avaya’s restructured product portfolio but provided some insight into Avaya’s overall strategy as well as the “to the cloud” trend which was particularly significant for Avaya because they own a large share of the global on-premises communications and contact center space.

In that article, Kelly wrote “Avaya Experience Platform (AXP) is Avaya’s emerging flagship cloud-based contact center. Avaya will actively try to migrate customers to this solution over the next few years. This solution was launched just last year and is a modern multitenant contact center built for cloud and managed by Avaya. It is available only in the Azure cloud.”

Check out the following for NJ’s coverage of Avaya throughout 2023.

  • Avaya Files for Chapter 11: Avaya filed a prepackaged bankruptcy with intent to exit Chapter 11 within 90 days—a much shorter process than the company’s 2017 bankruptcy.
  • Avaya's Financial Restructuring Provides Opportunity to Refocus Resources: The company's Chapter 11 filing plus its recent overhaul of product lines and go-to-market strategies offer Avaya a chance to execute on CEO Alan Masarek's strategy.
  • Avaya Users: Your Provider Went Bankrupt: Bankruptcy can often make a business's customers nervous about whether or not existing services and contracts will continue during restructuring. Here's what to expect and how to respond.
  • Avaya Emerges from Chapter 11: With its new capital structure, the company can pursue new market opportunities while enhancing its customer service and support capabilities.
  • No Jitter Roll: Avaya Highlights New Capabilities: At Avaya ENGAGE 2023, the contact center services provider announced new platform integrations and capabilities, along with expanded strategic alliances with Google and Alcatel-Lucent Enterprise.
  • Avaya Partners Cognigy and Journey: Both Cognigy and Journey offer Avaya's contact center customers the opportunity to reimagine their customer experiences, with the latest AI and smartphone technologies.
  • Avaya is Back: In some of the latest Avaya news, the company’s post-bankruptcy strategy has a laser focus on CX while deprecating PBX and UCaaS.
  • Avaya Demonstrates How AI Can Transform CX: Avaya recently hosted a webinar showcasing capabilities for the banking and travel sectors. Here are some of the key takeaways.
  • Who is Avaya and What’s the Latest News?: Avaya provides customer experience solutions ranging from contact center solutions to enterprise communications equipment for collaboration.
  • The Leading UCaaS Providers of 2023/2024: The following article provides an overview of the leading Unified Communications as a Service (UCaaS) providers and what they offer in terms of features, functionality, integrations and/or partnerships.
  • 5 Avaya Takeaways from Gitex Global: The company’s restructuring have not affected its customer base strength.
  • New Avaya Hires: Since August 2022, Avaya has experienced tremendous change but is likely past the worst of it. What’s emerging now is an implausibly different company.

 

Big Story #2: On-Premises Remains But New Features Need the Cloud

In this article on trends in UCaaS and CcaaS, Brent Kelly wrote that an October 2023 Omdia survey found that “eighty percent of respondents have a PBX, and they intend to keep an on-premises PBX for a while. They will migrate some users over to cloud services, but not all.”

Robin Gareiss, CEO and Principal Analyst at Metrigy said that specifically “in the contact center world, we continue to see about 40% of companies using on-premises platforms, either fully or partially – meaning, on-premises at headquarters integrated with cloud licenses for remote workers, typically.”

Gareiss went on to say that there are many legitimate reasons for staying with on-premises platforms, and there are plenty of companies supporting them still – Avaya, Cisco, Mitel, NICE, and others. “To take advantage of application innovation, they will need to run cloud-based applications over the top, so to speak. So while the platform may stay on-premises, they'll be able to introduce new, AI-enabled applications faster with cloud integration.”

And that is certainly what the market has seen throughout 2023 – the introduction of generative AI-based functionality into UCaaS and CCaaS platforms. Consider these few CCaaS-related examples reported in No Jitter Roll:

  • GoTo integrates ChatGPT into its Customer Engagement product
  • Verint introduced AI and CCaaS solutions
  • AI's LLM was designed for use by contact centers
  • Twilio and Frame AI partnered to improve the customer experience in contact centers
  • Salesforce integrated Einstein GPT into its Sales Cloud and Service Cloud products
  • Vonage added omnichannel CX capabilities to its Conversational Commerce solution
  • ASAPP launched CoachingAI, which provides generative AI tools to make quality assurance more efficient.
  • NICE added new features to CXone including some AI-powered capabilities
  • In one week, Cresta used generative AI to provide in-conversation agent assistance and rules-based triggering for contact center events, Omilia uses generative AI to provide in-call suggestions to agents as well as sentiment analysis and other capabilities. CallMiner launched generative AI-based features to provide contextual advice to agents and more customizability to supervisors. And, Marchex launched generative AI-powered call summary and customer sentiment features.

All of these cutting-edge features are only available in cloud-based solutions. According to Sheila McGee-Smith, “as vendors spend R&D dollars to build new innovations, the future is clearly in the cloud. While some attempt to make that innovation available to customers who have premises-based systems as well, that is a costly exercise.”

 

Big Story #3: Improving CX is Great, but Don’t forget Employee Experience

Multiple companies also launched, acquired and/or improved in the area of workforce engagement management (WEM) solutions. Consider these announcements:

“Workforce Engagement Management tools are incredibly helpful to improve agent experience, using AI to improve quality management and even scheduling flexibility,” Gareiss said. Companies need to “focus on agent experience as much as customer experience, because the two are heavily intertwined.”