Five Thoughts from Avaya Engage 2024

Avaya Engage takeaway: The product roadmap is in place, and customers seemed bullish on what they heard. Now it's time for Avaya to deliver on its promises.

Avaya Engage
(Credit: Zeus Kerravala)

Last week Avaya and the International Avaya User Group (IAUG) held its annual user event, Engage, in Denver. The event brings together Avaya customers with its technology and reseller partners. This was as important an Engage as there has been in the past decade given CEO Alan Masarek has a full year under his belt and the management team is now in place.

I’ve been to several Engages and thought this was the best one in years. The company has restructured financially and can now focus on looking ahead rather than behind. In the past, Masarek has talked about Avaya “roaring back” but changed that narrative to “Avaya is roaring forward,” indicating that the past is the past and everything from here is forward-looking.

While the event covered a wide range of topics and themes, below are the key themes from the event:

AI interest is high, with initial use cases being agent-facing

As with all events, the central theme at Avaya Engage was AI. In the contact center, AI promises to improve customer experience. Brands can use AI to enable agents to be “super agents” by providing them with suggested responses and next best actions, automating documentation, providing insights into customer sentiment, and more. AI also offers customer-facing capabilities such as virtual agents, smart bots, intelligent routing, translation, and predictive capabilities.

Every customer I talked to at Engage (and at other events) is trialing AI to roll it out as an agent-facing tool first and, once proven, then looking to use it for customer-facing services. Decision makers understand that the risk/reward of AI in front of customers is high. Get it right and gain a competitive advantage, but get it wrong, which can cause customer frustration and turnover.

I'm expecting the learning curve on AI to be short, as the technology has come a long way in the past couple of years. Vendors, such as Avaya, have poured tremendous resources into ensuring their systems provide fast and accurate results.

AI isn’t the enemy of contact center employees; it’s their best friend

There is currently a high amount of fear and trepidation regarding AI's impact. Agents, supervisors, and other customer-facing people have heard the whispers that AI is coming and will take people's jobs away. This is like the chatter when the Internet was in its infancy, and more businesses went online, or even in the early days of computers.

Each technology innovation ate away at some jobs, but it created so many more jobs on the back end of the transition. With AI, the initial use cases are designed to make agents more innovative and productive, which is why they are coined "agent assist." For those of you who think AI will take your jobs, be warned, it's not AI that will eliminate your position but rather the agent that embraces AI that will.

Not all customers want communications in the cloud

The tech industry loves absolutes. Everything is going mobile, or, as I have heard far too often in communications, all communications will move to the cloud. Communications delivered as a service can have significant deployment time and manageability advantages, but it’s not the right solution for everyone. Avaya’s customer base is the biggest of the big as it touts almost every major bank, airline, government, retailer, and others as consumers of its technology.

Many of these customers have no intention of taking out the rock-solid voice infrastructure currently in place, at least not now. The risk of disruption is high, and many large organizations' customer service workflows and applications are tightly coupled with Avaya technology. I asked one customer, a major airport in the US, how long it would take to remove the current on-premises Avaya solution and migrate to the cloud. The customer paused, thought about it, and told me months, maybe years, and any disruption costs money.

Avaya’s “Innovation without disruption” go-to-market model enables customers to leave their current solution in place and adopt digital channels, giving them the best of both worlds. The cloud is the way forward for many companies, but not all of them.

Contact centers need new measurement metrics

Contact centers have used key performance indicators such as average handle time and first call resolution to measure effectiveness for as long as I can remember. As customer service evolves, it’s clear that these KPIs need to evolve, too, for many businesses. During the keynotes, Ben Yon of Disney explained that their contact center “agents” are tasked with ensuring customers understand the entire Disney experience and can often spend a significant amount of time on the phone.

He mentioned Disney tossed out average handle time as a metric and instead is measuring customer satisfaction as the primary KPI for contact center effectiveness. Companies modernizing their contact centers must understand that you can’t use legacy metrics for current-day CX.

The revamped RingCentral partnership is Avaya’s Schrödinger’s Cat

In 1935, Edwin Schrödinger devised an experiment in which a cat placed in a closed box with a flask of poison and a radioactive element could be dead or alive at the same time, creating the paradox known as Schrödinger’s Cat.

What does that have to do with Avaya? The most recent iteration of the RingCentral partnership enables customers to use Avaya calling and RingCentral collaboration in a hybrid model. This makes it easy for customers to keep Avaya, as they enjoy the benefits of the company’s highly reliable and high-quality voice platform and leverage RingEX for meetings, messaging, and other capabilities. However, it also makes it easy for customers to move off Avaya as migrating to RingCentral telephony becomes straightforward, creating Avaya’s paradox. Which will they choose? That depends on Avaya. From the customers I talked to, if Avaya delivers on service and innovation, they’ll stay, but if the company falters, there’s now an exit for them. I’ve talked to many members of Avaya’s management team, and they are aware of this commitment to the highest levels of customer service and are confident in their ability to meet customer demands now and in the foreseeable future.

I've been to many Avaya Engage events and felt this was the best one in years. The overhang of the financial issues and restructuring is behind them. The product roadmap is in place, and customers seemed bullish on what they heard. Now it's time for Avaya to deliver on its promises to ensure the mood at this event becomes the norm and not a one-time anomaly.

Zeus Kerravala is the founder and principal analyst with ZK Research.

Read his other Network Computing articles here.

Related articles:

About the Author(s)

Zeus Kerravala, Founder and Principal Analyst with ZK Research

Zeus Kerravala is the founder and principal analyst with ZK Research. He spent 10 years at Yankee Group and prior to that held a number of corporate IT positions. Kerravala is considered one of the top 10 IT analysts in the world by Apollo Research, which evaluated 3,960 technology analysts and their individual press coverage metrics.

Stay informed! Sign up to get expert advice and insight delivered direct to your inbox

You May Also Like

More Insights