by Monica Mehta
The modern customer expects a seamless experience from businesses: no lag time, no gaps in the exchange of information, no mistakes about account details or purchasing history. 81 percent of prospective buyers are frustrated by companies that don’t make it easy to do business with them, according to a 2015 Accenture report on customer experience. The good news is that there are a lot of opportunities for improvement.
Headquarters: Santa Clara, California
Revenue: US$4.1 billion
Oracle products: Oracle Integration Cloud Service, Oracle Sales Cloud, Oracle Marketing Cloud, Oracle Social, Oracle Java Cloud Service
Senior Vice President and CIO
Length of tenure: Four years
Education: Undergraduate and graduate degrees in electrical and computer engineering, University of Maryland
Personal quote/mantra: “Never stop learning, and keep innovating.”
When customers call a sales representative, or when a sales representative wants to negotiate or manage a deal with a customer, they want all customer information available and up to date, and they want quick and easy responses to their requests—as time is of the essence when it comes to striking the next deal or ensuring fast customer service. In order to deliver that high level of service, the different parts of the business that handle all that data need to talk to one another. From an IT standpoint, this means having integrated systems that can easily swap data.
Systems integration—the process of connecting computing systems and applications so they function as a coordinated whole—is the IT backbone of great customer experience. Traditionally, IT has had to write custom code to enable systems and applications to communicate. In today’s fast-paced business world, organizations no longer have the time or money to do that. They must enable their users to get the information needed across business departments instantly and effortlessly.
Avaya is a leading communications company providing solutions that aid in the engagement of customers, vendors, and internal/external teams across multiple channels and devices. Its most popular platform integrates and delivers voice, video, data, and web communications applications and services that customer service team members anywhere can access. 95 percent of Fortune 500 companies are running Avaya solutions, which makes uptime and ease of use paramount. For a company that helps other companies deliver an exceptional customer experience, customers are priority #1. But in early 2013, Avaya found that its Net Promoter Score (NPS)—a loyalty measure of a company’s customer relationships—was only in the low 20s.
To improve customer satisfaction, leaders at Avaya embarked on a three-year customer-centric digital transformation that involved changing from a hardware-based model to a cloud services model. One of the most important elements of the transformation was giving its employees and partners a 360-degree view of customers, and that involved integrating on-premises legacy systems, new Oracle cloud applications, and third-party and partner systems with the help of Oracle Integration Cloud Service and Oracle Java Cloud Service.
We have to maintain some legacy platforms and extract information from them into cloud applications. The Oracle integration tool is helping us shield the business from that complexity.”–Hazem Morsy, Vice President of Global IT, Avaya
Now, employees and partners can pull information on everything from sales leads to customer service tickets without lots of complicated, costly coding or use of other IT resources. And the integration efforts have paid off: Avaya’s current NPS is 59 and rising.
“We wanted to be the easiest company to do business with, and that’s all about a connected experience for the customer,” says Fari Ebrahimi, senior vice president and CIO at Avaya. “It’s the interaction between our sales team, partners, and support team that creates this type of experience.”A Laser Focus on the Customers
Disconnected systems on the back end meant that to deliver a good customer experience, users had to manually navigate through different systems’ views, different resources, and a bunch of documents and handouts in order to process sales orders, schedule an installation, or get technical support.
“The business units were disconnected, and that was a major source of dissatisfaction for our customers,” says Ebrahimi. “Our goal was to put the customer first and fill all of our integrated processes around what they want, so that their experience is seamless.”
Avaya uses Oracle Sales Cloud and Oracle Marketing Cloud to handle its modern sales and marketing processes and to manage its nearly 10,000 partners in more than 46 countries. Third-party solutions handle billing and order management and supply chain management. Oracle’s Siebel Customer Relationship Management applications help manage customer service. Finally, a mix of legacy and new on-premises and cloud custom applications help users handle quotes, sales, and services.
Avaya deploys its applications using a custom-built, Java-based engagement platform called Breeze, a cloud-based system that enables users to create workflows to install, configure, and manage Avaya’s customer and team engagement solutions. The collaboration platform gives customers, employees, and partners the ability to custom-build their own solutions on top of it, according to how their business engages customers.
Partners are an important part of Avaya’s business, accounting for more than 70 percent of its revenue. The Avaya Breeze Platform enables partners to take customers from lead generation through order placement and provisioning to customer service.Avaya Facts
|Percentage of Fortune 500 companies that run Avaya solutions|
|Percentage of cost reduction from greater integration between Avaya’s systems|
|Percentage of reduction in Avaya’s custom code after implementation of integration tools|
Another partner technology Avaya developed is Partner Portal. This portal enables partners who sell Avaya solutions to manage their customer accounts and services and to find new opportunities to sell more.
“We created Partner Portal on Oracle technology to bring everything as a dashboard in front of our partners—for example, what quotes they have created, where is the deal in the cycle, what kind of tickets were open against that account,” says Hazem Morsy, vice president of global IT at Avaya. “They log in and see everything in that one view.”
In addition, the Partner Portal engagement, along with a unified and integrated partner quoting experience that uses the Avaya One Source Platform, has utilized Oracle technology to streamline the configuration, pricing, and ordering experience. This has resulted in shortening quote-to-cash cycle times from months to days—and in some cases, to minutes—saving the company and its partners millions of dollars in operational efficiency.
Oracle Integration Cloud Service and Oracle Java Cloud Service function as vessels that seamlessly transport data between different parts of the business. Oracle Integration Cloud Service connects information between Avaya’s internal on-premises systems and its cloud systems. Oracle Java Cloud Service provides standardized, upgradable extensions to Avaya’s third-party applications—enabling, for example, the team to build code that links the Avaya Breeze Platform with Oracle Sales Cloud.
“With our new model, we are using standards, and a lot of the integration comes prebuilt and is maintained by Oracle,” says Ebrahimi. “The model uses standard security models and object models and provides the same user experience—so it’s all consistent, reducing the cost and the time for us to make changes.”
Ebrahimi says Oracle Integration Cloud Service is like Oracle Fusion Middleware built on the cloud for integration. “Oracle Integration Cloud Service is a layer that takes care of integration with a variety of cloud providers and helps us have a standard interface through our on-premises and cloud systems. That is a much simpler thing and a more cost-effective way to go than having to do tons of custom coding.”
Most importantly, Ebrahimi says, it enables an exceptional customer experience. “This high level of integration ultimately enables us and our partners to have a 360-degree view of a customer as the demand is generated, the opportunity is managed, the quote is generated and processed, the order is processed and fulfilled, the service is configured, and support is provided. So when a partner is speaking to a customer, they can help them with any step along the way.”Power in the Hands of Business
The Avaya Breeze Platform allows business users to define workflows, working with either Oracle Integration Cloud Service APIs or Avaya’s internal APIs, which are mostly automated.
“Users can modify the workflows, which enables them to manage the interaction they’re going to have with the customer. The APIs basically mask the difference between an on-premises system and an external system, and they become a set of consumable microservices, changing their interaction to a multitouch experience,” says Ebrahimi. “But the users see it as workflows that they can change on their own, so they don’t need to come to IT. They don’t need to spend lots of time understanding the interaction between the systems and the data models.”
With Partner Portal, users no longer have to log in to multiple systems to answer simple questions about products or customers. “Now, they only go to one place, and they see a unified dashboard of the data they need that’s real time, already integrated, and available for them,” says Morsy.
Our goal was to put the customer first, and fill all of our integrated processes around what they want, so that their experience is seamless.”–Fari Ebrahimi, Senior Vice President and CIO, Avaya
Ebrahimi says IT used to spend a lot of time figuring out how to connect different systems together, implement new systems, and manage infrastructure standards so that systems were always fast, available, and secure. Now, he says, “the good thing is that a lot of cloud providers like Oracle are building their infrastructure with standards, scalability, and security best practices.” That frees up the IT team to concentrate on strategic initiatives.
“Our IT team is spending time understanding, for example, where things are slowing down, how to improve the performance of our infrastructure, or how to expose more commercial services so we can interact with customers in more interesting ways,” says Ebrahimi. “They can focus on the customer rather than on technology integration issues.”Taking Control of Workflows
For example, partners may decide to offer Avaya’s Aura solution, a unified communications platform, to their customers. Leveraging the Avaya Breeze Platform, the partner can choose how those customers will be engaged. Partners may offer a live chat with an agent from Avaya, and if they see a lot of chat demand, they can increase the number of agent sessions offered. They can change the distribution of calls to different regional call centers, or offer video chat for a certain time period each day.
“In the past, you would have had to ask IT to write the code, and it would take months to enable and test,” says Ebrahimi. “All of it now can be done graphically using a workflow designer, and the change can be instituted within hours. If you like it, then great. If you don’t like it, you can go in and change it yourself.”
When partners sell Avaya’s solutions to customers, they often need information from Avaya to configure and create a quote. Prior to implementing Oracle Java Cloud Service, partners would have to go to multiple sources to gather the relevant customer information, such as what products or services they had already purchased that might affect the pricing. In some cases, partners didn’t have vital information such as how many opportunities customers had with Avaya, or how many trouble tickets had been created against their accounts.
With the integration between legacy systems and Avaya’s Partner Portal, which is enabled by Oracle Java Cloud Service, Avaya is creating a one-stop shop where partners can go to see all relevant information on customers.
Another system that uses Oracle Java Cloud Service to bridge to other applications is Avaya Intelligent Analytics, a centralized warehouse from which business intelligence reports are generated. The system is built with Oracle Business Intelligence Enterprise Edition technology and extracts data from almost all of the business’ systems. “It dictates the views of our revenue, sales, deals, quotes, and pricing—it’s almost a decision support system,” says Morsy.Increased Value for Customers
In addition to increased customer satisfaction and better business insight, greater integration between parts of the business has led to major cost savings. Ebrahimi says the company has reduced costs by 30 to 40 percent, with much of the reduction coming from the elimination of custom code and the integration of different datasources that were reducing business agility.
“In working with Oracle, we’ve reduced our custom code by 80 percent,” says Ebrahimi. “This means fewer resources spent on creating and maintaining the code, freeing up money to add value for customers through innovation.”
One of Avaya’s innovative projects is Customer 360, a platform that will allow Avaya salespeople, representatives, and partners to have a complete view of any customer by account, location, and services. This view is allowing Avaya sales staff and partners to incorporate an intelligent upsell- and promotions-driven model. “This is the next phase in our evolution toward a more customer-centric business,” says Morsy. “And it was possible because we were able to complete our systems integration in the first phase.”
Ebrahimi hopes to reach the NPS gold standard—a score in the 60s or 70s. He sees the right integration strategy and technology as an essential part of the plan to reach that goal.
“Integration tools are yet another way to make it easier for us to create a fantastic customer experience,” says Ebrahimi. “If you have the ability to serve customers’ needs at any point through a multitouch experience, your customers are going to promote you to others, and as a company you’re going to do better.”
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