Guest Blog by: Stephen Leaden

Today’s competitive market is just that—competitive. Companies need tools to leverage a competitive advantage or stay current within their respective industries. Customer experience is now front and center, and there are tools in the market that can make a significant difference and give your organization that competitive edge.

A Gartner Group study found that, by 2016, 89% of respondents planned to be customer experience-focused. And the results ring true today—every client we’re engaged with now is customer experience-focused. It is not just a trend; it’s is a megatrend. We see a few common requirements among clients.

  • They want to create a culture of the same customer experience across all channels—for in-house appointments, video consults, mobility apps and conversations, online purchases, live chats, phone calls, email, feedback forms and more.
  • They want to leverage the customer experience culture they’ve created and expanded on it so that any customer has that same feeling when they’ve completed a specific transaction. And they want that feeling to continue as the customer journey continues.
  • They want to use tools to understand the customer journey and measure it. The more they can measure, the more accurately they can engage customers on their terms and on their desired channels.

And all clients are concerned with at least one of the following factors:

  • Leveraging the customer experience, using the channel of the customer’s choice, creating the same experience across any channel, or the omnichannel experience.
  • Introducing newer technologies that can help differentiate their organization from the competition.
  • Managing overall investment costs through hard-dollar ROI savings and increased sales, or customer loss avoidance.
  • Managing end-of-support on existing legacy systems, creating possible risk for their organization near term and long term.

Newer Technologies Go Mainstream

There is significant growth, in some cases a hockey stick curve, taking place in today’s unified communications (UC) and contact center markets. There is a hunger to leverage new technologies to enhance the customer experience. Available technologies and those going mainstream include:

  • Unified communications: The ability to communicate and collaborate
  • Mobility: Availability anytime, anywhere, with access to real-time UC tools
  • The UC and Contact Center as a Service (CCaaS) models: Real-time UC and CCaaS have become mainstream because of ease and speed of deployment, as well as outside management of complex tools.
  • Videoconferencing: Recent legislative approvals from Medicare, Medicaid, and insurance companies now provide reimbursements for pre-op and post-op video meetings—with no need for the patient to physically go the physician’s office
  • The omnichannel contact center: The ability to engage clients at their channel of choice and leverage a similar experience for all, no matter what channel is used—voice, chat, video, email, social media, and fax.

Newer technologies, such as artificial intelligence, internet of things, big data, Communications Platform as a Service, 5GF, blockchain, biometrics and others, are gaining momentum. These technologies hold promise to expand, enhance and enrich the customer experience across all borders.

End-of-Support and Risk Drive Customer Engagement

All manufacturers of on-premises systems announce end-of-support on their entire telephony or contact center systems (or a portion of them) at some point. Legacy systems can be limited in features and functions, and that can affect the differentiation factor for companies.

Manufacturers announce end-of-sale and then end-of-software support within 12-24 months, and finally announce end-of-hardware support anywhere from 18-36 months. So, end-of-sale is the starting point, and we advise clients to begin migrating to a newer platform—or think about doing so—within one to two years after end-of-sale is announced.

End-of-software support, which, in my opinion is the critical date, is when possible risks set in. Technicians will no longer be trained in the legacy technology, and fewer can support it over time. In addition, parts availability over time erodes—most parts are refurbished after end-of-sale dates. Capacities will force companies to add hardware or other systems, throwing good money at bad situations in many cases. And direct and indirect manufacturer support for any issues associated with the legacy system will be minimal and eventually end. We’ve also had clients experience a multiday outage based on parts availability.

Some customers experience capacity issues with legacy centers and receive no further support after 2020; others with a legacy IP telephony system will require a software upgrade of $400,000 or more just to get current—and they’ll receive no software support after July 2018, if they don’t buy extended support.

In addition, many legacy systems do not offer integrated UC and support for third-party APIs and integration to CRM applications. Most systems have no capability for the omnichannel experience. These all are real issues and create risks over time for customers and users, and the IT department must support these systems.

ROI Helps Facilitate the Buy

Our clients are mid to large enterprises that support anywhere from 500 to over 60,000 endpoints. All CFOs for associated projects require a hard ROI for approval, especially because many of these are larger capital projects. ROI facilitates the approval process and it adds financial value to the enterprise.

We factor in various areas to a hard ROI, including SIP trunking and contact center operations assessments. SIP trunking typically saves anywhere from 20% to over 50% annually for legacy PRI and POTS. During our contact center operations assessments, we capitalize on technologies proposed in the new contact center, including workforce management (manages staffing costs by 4% to 20%), self-service (manages staffing by 15% to 30%), intelligent routing (manages staffing by 20%), CTI (manages staffing by 20%), and leveraging dialer (including appointment reminders, reducing no shows by 50% and callbacks, as well as reducing abandoned calls by 25% to 30%).

Our analysis and recommendations offer optimizations that help manage staffing models by 5%—and can take that further by another 5% to 7%. Many client projects can pay for themselves in 12-18 months, even if these projects are in the millions.

Moving from Risk to Reward

We’re living in extraordinary times. The focus on customer experience has never been greater and many companies’ survival is at stake.

End-of-support for legacy systems is a key driver when considering an upgrade or replacement; the risks are greater as time goes by. It only takes 12-18 months beyond an end-of-sale announcement for an enterprise to be exposed. And legacy systems cannot provide the robust feature functionalities required in an omnichannel customer experience.

Finally, an approach for leveraging ROI can “grease the skids” for approval of a major capital replacement project.

Take the time to discover what customer experience requirements are important to your organization. Leverage how newer technologies will differentiate your enterprise. And understand the risks to your organization based on end-of-support. Lastly, leverage ROI to facilitate the project approval process. By using the approach outlined in this article, you can move from organizational risk to reward in less time than you think.

Watch the on-demand webinar, “Economic Impact Analysis: Are Disparate Contact Center Systems Holding You Back, Yet Costing You More?”, where we present these concepts and explain the impact. 

Stephen Leaden is founder and President of Leaden Associates, Inc., an independent Telecommunications consulting firm providing specialized support to enterprises in VoIP, Unified Communications, Contact Centers, converged networks, and Cloud-based architectures. Enterprises in the health care, education, manufacturing, financial services, publishing and government market segments have come to rely on Mr. Leaden and team for best-in-class designs and implementations and the expertise to minimize risk associated with medium-to-large scale enterprise implementations. Stephen can be reached at sleaden@leaden.com.

Stephen Leaden

Stephen Leaden

Stephen Leaden is founder and President of Leaden Associates, Inc., an independent Telecommunications consulting firm providing specialized support to enterprises in VoIP, Unified Communications, Contact Centers, converged networks, and Cloud-based architectures. Enterprises in the health care, education, manufacturing, financial services,...