Everybody in the (Speech Enablement) Pool
IP telephony is gaining ground on time division multiplexing (TDM) deployments and may eventually surpass them, Don Peterson, chairman and CEO of Avaya said during his Tuesday keynote presentation, "Speech Solutions: Microcosm in the Communications Macrocosm," at the 11th annual SpeechTEK 2005 conference in New York. "I believe strongly that people choose to communicate through speech as their primary method of communication," Peterson said. "Somehow, the business world and the technology world have managed to convert that...into a less-than-perfect interaction with a keyboard and screen." Mobile voice communications enabled by IP telephony "is the key building block that will actually drive...technology changes into their full transformation potential."
CEOs expect IT to drive innovation, product development, and customer acquisition, he said. In essence, they are "raising the bar," as they want technology not just to provide efficiency, but product innovation around service delivery as well. He cited Steve Wynn of Wynn Las Vegas Resorts as an example. Wynn, wanting to create a differentiation strategy for his resort, recognized the evolving Vegas market--gambling was still a major attraction, but in a significant shift from the previous decade, about 50 percent of resort revenue came from other avenues. As a result, he wanted to use technology to transform the guest experience, providing guests with access to Wynn staff and amenities. He began with the idea of putting a computer in guest rooms, but opted for IP phones. Still a work in progress, Peterson noted, however, that the goal is clear: Increase the number of guests that are spending, and to increase the spending per guest. "Communication, after all, is the essence of human interaction." Technologies "are letting us do that in very, very different ways....It's about process [and] process design to make sure...the experience is precise and delivers the value that is sought."
There is a myth about the contact center, Peterson said, particularly that it is only about answering the phone. The reality "is that that contact is all about delivering customer value, and we think that that's a critical distinguishing [concept] for people trying to apply these technologies. Fundamentally, the contact center is intended to connect the customer who has a need to people and resources that can meet that need, and those resources can be quite disparate in most organizations." The traditional model includes presenting applications to CSRs, who then must obtain the necessary resources to meet the customers' needs. "That puts a huge burden on that contact center agent...[but] the evolution of this is clear now and it has to do with a much more capable communication resource in between the customer and the organization as a whole."
Customer contact coupled with overall integration of business processes is one phase where communication enablement is valued, but "mobility is about application value, not just productivity," he said. The collaboration process "in addition to the location itself, is going to involve time, so we're going to be faced with workers who need to collaborate across different time zones and different locations."
Perhaps the biggest takeaway, however, was that the adoption of IP telephony is poised to experience significant uptick . "We're at the point in this evolution where the market starts to tip in terms of acceleration." Avaya is particularly aggressive about driving IP into contact centers and into companies in general, not on the basis that IP is the future and all should have it, but the idea that IP can enable new ways of solving business problems and creating new opportunities, says Joe Outlaw, principal analyst at Current Analysis. "The overall theme is a theme that you don't hear from many of Avaya's competitors and that is this idea that speech communications and communications in general are an important part of running an organization," he said. "To help companies become more effective to help them prosper, their idea is to drive communications into more of a supporting position to support business processes the way the company runs. In other words, [the goal is] to make it an enablement tool, not just something on the side but something that's deeply embedded in how companies work [and] how their processes work."
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