Skype, Facebook, and the contact center

by Bill Gay on November 10th, 2011

A recent study noted that 23 percent of companies with revenue over $10 million use Facebook to support their customers. Twitter is used for this purpose by 12 percent of respondents. I’m not surprised by these statistics, but the long-term effects are interesting and it’s another proof point on how social media are changing the way people interact with companies and with each other concerning products and services.

People are already using mobile and other social channels to shop and review purchases, so it’s natural that they would want to get help using these same tools. In fact, social and mobile go hand in hand: 55 percent of traffic on Twitter and 33 percent on Facebook are from mobile devices.

I first discovered companies were using Facebook for customer support when I stumbled upon Nikon’s Ask & Answer Facebook page. The company and other users can answer questions, and it shifted my thinking to what support could be like. Of course, the “right” answer is sometimes lost in the mix and feedback, but the capability for everyone to participate is interesting and sometimes helpful.

When you add the power of Skype + Facebook to the mix of ways people can communicate, it’s not a stretch for people to want to be able to connect with companies through Facebook using these tools in real time via IM, voice, or even video calls―just as contact centers handle the multiple ways in which consumers want to communicate  today from voice, Web or IM. I can easily see a day when Facebook is just another channel and support resource that companies offer to consumers.

Let’s not forget Twitter. Customers can easily provide real-time feedback that companies now have to manage in some way. I know of several companies who have employees monitoring Twitter feeds that can respond to this feedback. However, in most instances, it’s not managed like other communications channels and is often a function of the marketing department.

Companies have to be ahead or at least in step with consumers and their communications methods. Ensuring a consistent, managed response using the right resources at the right time is what the contact center has always been about.

Consumer 2.0 is here and change continues to be the constant. How will you create and build better company-consumer relationships?

Traveling Lync

by Bill Gay on September 15th, 2011

I thought I would continue on the airplane theme that Dave Harper discussed on his latest blog related to BI. I tend to fly a lot too, and there have been more than a few times that I have needed to communicate with someone quickly while waiting in an airport. In a lot of cases, it’s early or late when I’m traveling, and this is where Lync presence really comes in handy.

As soon as I get an Internet connection, I will often check presence to find the right resource and start a quick Instant Messaging conversation. As long as they appear as “available,” then they are telling me I can reach out to them. By the way, you can also do this at 30,000 feet, which again, I have done more than a few times and especially on long flights. I have even heard of people having Lync voice calls on flights (but don’t tell anyone).

Like a lot of people, I need to maximize my time during travel because it’s a lot of hurry up and wait. I think you can easily see how this type of workflow changes the way people interact in many situations. In fact, this is the real reason why IM has far outweighed voice calls since Aspect added Lync. It’s also one more way in which Lync has improved my personal workflow.

Tell us how Lync has or would improve the speed of your business. Look for my next blog, which will begin a series outlining what we have found to be the five steps for successful Lync deployments.

Aspect and the Microsoft Worldwide Partner Conference

by Bill Gay on August 18th, 2011

A few weeks ago, there were several people from Aspect who attended the annual Microsoft Worldwide Partner Conference (WPC 2011), where we had a good time in Los Angeles meeting other partners and Microsoft personnel. This was my second trip to WPC, and not only was the weather great but there was significantly more focus on Lync this year. Mike Butts did a great job describing the general “Lync” tone at the WPC in a previous blog.

I want to mention that Aspect was honored by receiving an award from the Lync Voice team. Aspect won the Microsoft 2011 U.S. Lync Voice Partner of the Year for our services work for the State and Local Government sector within Microsoft. This award was related to deploying Lync to our new and existing customer base. Of course, Aspect performs Lync services work across all industry segments, but it was this specific area of focus where we had the largest impact with Lync deployments.

So thank you to Microsoft for the recognition!

What also impressed me during the conference was the amount of buzz around Lync. I suppose when someone refers to Lync as the “next billion-dollar business” (as Jon Roskill did) or talks about the potential of the Skype acquisition, it tends to get people excited. I believe Microsoft has several things that are working in their favor looking ahead over the next few years:

1) A general shift in the marketplace toward Unified Communications

2) Aging technology and the need to make decisions about new or replacement infrastructure

3) Large client base that already owns Lync licenses

Aspect decided to take the replacement path several years ago, and it has worked out very well for us – most people I speak to internally just couldn’t imagine doing business any other way.

Finally, there are a couple of videos I would like to share from the WPC that I strongly encourage you to view if you have not seen them. The first one is Kirk Koenigsbauer’s “The Future of Productivity.” In this video, Kirk talks about the momentum of Office products, including SharePoint, Exchange, and talking specifically about Lync’s advanced capabilities.

The second one is from Kirk Gregerson, who discusses “Going Big with Lync: Delivering a New, Connected Experience.” This video is focused on Lync specifically, and there is a reference to some work that Aspect did for Microsoft. You can see the specific Aspect application that Kirk demos at the 17:30 mark in the video.

Aspect worked with the Microsoft engineering team to track the status of their work with partners and in fact, Aspect developed the SharePoint site and Lync integration that he demonstrates in the video. The application has lots of interesting contact center and internal uses, as it pertains to contextual information and how people want to reach others in a collaborative organization.

I’ll be sure to keep you posted on the latest developments and products that emerge from the Microsoft-Aspect partnership. And I’d love to hear from others about their experiences with Lync and how it’s transformed the way their organization functions.

Lync is the definition of company-customer relationships

by Bill Gay on May 9th, 2011

Bill Gay, Director UC PracticeI’m lucky enough to talk about and actually use Lync, Microsoft’s unified communications (UC) solution, every day with existing and potential customers. I almost take it for granted just how easy it is to reach out to other employees and collaborate with customers because it has become woven into the fabric of how I do business every single day. Whether I’m working in the office, at home, from a hotel, or in an airport, I have the same communications experience. I’ve also had more than one employee tell me they could never go back to the way it was before Aspect embraced UC.

To me, Lync is the very definition and foundation to foster better company-customer relationships. Because of concepts like federation and presence, I’m able to connect with other partners and customers quickly and in a secure way. I’m also able to schedule audio, Web, and video conferences either in advance or immediately – and I’m able to do it all from one application without having to go to a lot of places to make happen. Because it’s so easy, I actually find myself using the technology to connect with people way more than I did before UC came along.

One last thought around this concept is the ability to bring other people seamlessly into the conversation. Sometimes this is through Instant Messaging or even adding them to our conversation if they are available. It’s not just other people here at Aspect that I have leveraged for help either; I have also been able to reach people in Microsoft who may have answers – all because they are federated with Aspect. With this capability, we often don’t have to schedule follow-up calls.

It’s very similar to what Aspect can do in the contact center with the concept of “ask an expert” to help improve first call resolution. We even use it in our own call center to support our customers.

I look forward to sharing more insights about how unified communications and Microsoft technology in general is transforming how companies communicate—not just internally but with partners and customers.

A Big Day for Microsoft – Virtual Lync Launch event

by Bill Gay on November 18th, 2010

Bill Gay, Director UC PracticeAt yesterday’s virtual Lync launch, Chris Capossela, Sr. Vice President, Microsoft Office Division, introduced Microsoft Lync as the lynchpin of Microsoft’s communications strategy, ushering in a new era of communications and collaboration.  “The future of productivity is here today,” he said. “Our mission is to deliver the best productivity experience across the PC, phone and browser…and to deliver this technology to customers on their terms.”

The live launch included:

  • A video call with Bill Gates using high-definition video through a simple internet connection
  • A Lync user experience demo
  • A B2C demo showing Lync’s integration with Microsoft XBOX Kinect, to “integrate the family room with the board room,” to allow for working from home in different formats
  • An array of Microsoft Lync-certified partner devices