Avaya Wants to Up Virtual Agents' Ante

As more companies begin to consider utilizing remote agents to complement its bricks-and-mortar contact center force, the onus is on the vendor community to provide the technology and infrastructure necessary to ensure customer service interactions still run smoothly, especially today when customer retention is vital. Looking to further the agent experience and also incorporate embedded video into customer service initiatives, Avaya released its latest version of its desktop application suite, Avaya one-X Agent.

According to Mike Harwell, product manager responsible for the contact center agent product line at Avaya, the offering has been successful so far but he didn't want to see the company rest on its laurels or ignore customer requests. "The specific moves toward Voice-over Internet Protocol and virtualization have driven the platform changes we've made," he says. "The other real key thing is that we kept hearing from our clients over and over that they wanted more simplification on the desktop for agents."

Not surprisingly, a main piece of the latest iteration of one-X Agent is a revamped user interface (UI), allowing customer service representatives (CSRs) to manage multiple interactions simultaneously. Also, there is new functionality allowing for click-to-call and drag-and-drop for conferencing and transfers, giving CSRs a more effective way to reach the right knowledge expert quickly. "We're moving away from a cluttered desktop to something more streamlined, using a more modern appearance with the drop-down menus and customizable tags," Harwell says.

Sheila McGee-Smith, president of McGee-Smith Analytics, explains that the revamped UI was absolutely necessary. "The former product, IP Agent, had a dated look," she says. "Now it is more similar to the unified communications client one-X Communicator and borrows the look and feel from that, which is a good thing."

Another important enhancement unveiled in one-X Agent is support for embedded video, which is slowly coming onto the scene as another avenue for customer service interactions. While it is easy to only think of video capabilities in customer-facing terms, Harwell says it is important internally as well. "What we've been seeing more recently is companies wanting to use it for collaboration between agents, supervisors, and product experts," he says. "There are real benefits in having remote agents, but a drawback is the lack of socialization between them, their counterparts, and the rest of the company."

McGee-Smith explains the latest offering will help Avaya protect its base. While software-as-a-service companies including LiveOps are often mentioned in the same breath as "virtual agent", she says that at times Avaya gets lost in the shuffle. "It's something Avaya has always been able to do," she stresses. "Perhaps there was recognition that people were not as aware of that fact."

McGee-Smith adds that the company is looking to protect itself from encroachment from newcomers to the remote agent soiree. She says Avaya executives can point to the company's work with large North American–based contact centers offshoring with India, among other countries. "When push comes to shove, in any kind of [request for proposal] situation, Avaya can have thousands of references," she says. "It can blow some of the new age players away. That's what market power is all about."

News relevant to the customer relationship management industry is posted several times a day on destinationCRM.com, in addition to the news section Insight that appears every month in the pages of CRM magazine. You may leave a public comment regarding this article by clicking on "Comments" at the top; to contact the editors, please email editor@destinationCRM.com.

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