So what’s going on outside the Core Contact Center

I happened to be watching a few documentaries on how Einstein and other Key Scientists discovered their contributions for which they are now known for… I looked back at my work and see a plethora or technologies, buzzwords and jargons thrown around everywhere and I started thinking if it was possible to bring all of them under one logical roof. What I noticed was that the core contact center gets a lot of attention but the surrounding soft processes and technologies outside the core has been ignored. Let me first explain what I mean by the core:

It has three primary components:

  1. The Connect Services – Focus is on Expanding the ways by which the Customer is able to connect with the Contact center. Nowadays this extends to finding ways how agents also can perform their service from multiple channels other than the rather traditional phone + pc method.
  2. Self Service Services – These Focus on Diverting the Interaction from Human to Machine. The Motivations can be many but bottom-line it’s a machine doing the human’s job. Again the rant of IVR Hell is the most popular slogan in every CC Sales person’s narration and continues to the Rise of the Bots in service of Humanity and the best bots being from their garages.
  3. Automation Services – These Focus on Ensuring that the Customer gets serviced by the right agent or bot based on information collected during the interaction or history.

All of these are fundamental to any contact center solution for longer than the past 2 decades and hence I never got myself to blog on the various transformations happening here. What could happen outside the core is however never discussed and hence the key subject of this blog.

Let’s visualize this Core Thingy

So the Experience Gained by Customer when Interacting with the Connect services, we call “Customer Experience” aka “CX”. Similarly, the Experience the Core Gives to Agents becomes the “Agent Experience” aka “AX” … Right?

Wrong… Let’s see why…

Let’s focus on the Customer and see what actually is driving their CX… I hear your mind voice…you just thought about the new term “Omni-Channel” …. And Something Else is coming up… “Customer Engagement” …. Ah now I hear something else … Ok Stop… I’m here to tell my opinion …not Yours!

In my opinion Customer Experience is governed by three key activities

  1. Engineering – This is where the Engineers tirelessly build the core and associated solutions block by block. After crossing the mindless desert of bureaucracy, the storm of politics and whirlpools of bugs, the Engineers brings solutions to production. This used to consist of lifelong projects in the SDLC era but now has been cut short using DevOps so engineers have to cross smaller obstacles than larger ones before…
  2. Experience – Once the Solutions are brought to production the customer happens to use the solution and hence you get “Customer Experience”. Thankfully there are tools which are able to Quantitatively measure these customer experiences using DataOps. This used to be a laborious manual task in the past but nowadays has become automatic to a large extent letting the Data Engineers to focus on Insights
  3. Insight – The Insights is the activity performed typically by Supervisors but now slowly business managers and marketing managers are also getting into these tools to gain insights to better their side of business. These Insights result in Stories which in turn fuels the next round of Engineering.

Now let’s visualize what I’m talking about …

Now in Traditional Environments, this whole cycle would happen every month at max but the way things are moving in the Digital Economy, it actually moved on to Events based model thanks to AI ….

On a similar note the same cycle goes on in the Agent Side as well contributing and improving the “Agent Experience” and “Agent Engagement”

So What else could be happening here… All the Engineering activity happen mostly on the CC Platform and the Data about Customer and Agent Experiences and Interaction Histories are stored in Data Stores

So Let’s bring them all together:

So Let’s look at this new box called Platform we just added… It’s basically the core of the contact center exposed to Developers and Infrastructure Engineers.

The AppOps Team would use Observability Tools to understand the Services’ performance and bottlenecks.

The AIOps on the other hand use Experience Monitoring Solutions and Uptime Monitoring Solutions with Automated Remediation Solutions.

For the Developer there is the DevOps Stack with the Code Repository to store their configurations and code. Continuous Integration Ensures that the ready to release software/configuration gets Tested functionally and for Security Vulnerabilities as well, before landing on the platform.

So this is how all this would look like:

So the Platform has a lot of real-time and historical data in the Data Store… Let’s see what the Data Folks do with it…

So If you have a real Data Engineering Minded Org then the Data Engineers and Scientists would like to have their own layer of lakes to handle the processed data in their useable form.

Most Orgs would use prebuilt Analytics solutions to serve business metrics to Business Managers and Contact Metrics to Supervisors…

There could and should be more outside the core that typically gets ignored in most orgs… If you know anything I missed please do let me know

Skype for Business & Azure AD Application Proxy As Reverse Proxy — Skype for Business Blog by Mark Vale

I always thought Reverse-Proxies were over hyped…I see Mark Vale having similar view…

Often when speaking with customers, there is a large discussion about what reverse proxy is used for Skype for Business deployments, cost of them and network dependencies. Experience has taught me that reverse proxies often take up far too much time on the discussion table because customers usually do not understand their need. They view […]

via Skype for Business & Azure AD Application Proxy As Reverse Proxy — Skype for Business Blog by Mark Vale

IBM Verse Basic–MS Team You need to Watch Out

I had been trying to check out IBM Verse when I heard about it and volunteered to trial but never got a Invite…After a looong time I got the Invite early this month and over the weekend I activated it…This account is a basic Non-Enterprise Account meant for feature trial and not formal business usage so You need to hold back on expectations as the Enterprise edition may look and feel very different and also have very different User Experience…

Anyway here was the nice invite I got..

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On Clicking on the Link it goes to a page that asks for basic Profile info and the Password You want to setup. Once Done we see this message

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The confirmation mail did takes a few hours which IMHO is slower than how O365 gets activated. Once Activated I tried to open the link auth.ibmverse.com in my Official Laptop and was consistently not able to connect on all three major browsers: IE, Chrome and Firefox! I thought this must been a Server Side Issue and waited for a week and still no improvement….Then I tried from my Home PC and it worked! It was Slow compared to O365 and gmail, but it worked…Looks like ibmverse is black listed by the laptop’s Endpoint Security Program for now! So enterprises planning to adopt this should pay attention to this…

Anyway I’m in and I was surprised by the UI which is much more cleaner than the ancient Notes UI.

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I had sent myself an email before I opened to be sure that the account had got created…and there it was waiting for me to open

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What I liked was the way multiple services have been integrated into a clean single UI…The Opening screen itself gives a high level view of the day’s calendar…I can go to more details in the Calendar Tab

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The Contacts Tab is simple compared to what Google or O365 Offers

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Thankfully it does have group management

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Further I liked the Files Management Tab

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This moves this solution from a ‘Email’ To ‘Collaboration’ Platform…Though restricted to Non-Real-Time Collaboration only unlike Cisco Spark..

I tested it out using a sample docx file with nothing more than a text line saying “Testing”

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When I try out the options some revealing aspects comes up

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Looks like Encrypted Files are not searchable! Why??

I liked the Sharing feature

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But was disappointed when I tried to read/open the file within the browser

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The Cycling would just not go away…Don’t know why!

Weekend Free Time is limited so I move on to check out how this blends into the email application and was not disappointed at the nice integration

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It shows the files within the email compose window ..Nice

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Attached and ready to go …And I get a error message!

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Awe..but I ignore and choose to proceed…

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Actually the File sent as a URL and I was able to open it from O365 account…Of course inside a browser after username/password which ultimately ended in the cycling screen!!

Further it didn’t open in my laptop because of the endpoint protection software clocking this website…

I move on to search for the Sent File folder I Guess where I find it!

Sent Files are listed under the ‘Compose’ Button! why??

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Then my attention shifted to other Items in the UI

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and I noticed that within Chrome browser the app was trying to integrate itself into the browser as a mail app

imageOf course I choose to Allow, Ignore or Deny

Next I saw the IM Feature

imageimageNot Bad!!Now this promoted this solution from Non-Real-Time Collaboration to a limited Real-Time-Collaboration Solution…

Effectively IBM has Combined Notes, Connections and Sametime into a single UI and in a manner that is least cluttered and still easy for new comers!

Definitely it doesn’t have all the features of each of these solutions’s Enterprise On-Premise Counterparts but I’m still Impressed.

In Summary:

Pros:

  • Simple UI …Its way simpler than Gmail and Outlook (Web)
  • Brings Email, File Sharing and IM into same UI very well
  • Cloud Based meaning Features will keep added with time

Cons:

  • Still very basic and may not please sophisticated users of Notes, Connections and Sametime
  • Slow compared to Gmail and Outlook (Web)

I will keep checking this again for new features getting added in future and will report back if anything interesting happens…There are still many features like the decluttering feature, 100MB Email size etc which needs further checkout but will do that some time later…below are some that were highlighted in the mailer I got

We hope you’ll find this to be a delightful experience. In addition to mail you also get:

  • Calendar, contacts, in-line attachment preview, one-click tracking of actions that need attention, and analytics-based identification of important people and content.
  • Upload, store, and share files with individuals, with up to 500MB personal file storage.
  • Send and receive instant messages.
  • Collaborate and interact with others by viewing profiles, status updates, and files.
  • Encourage others to collaborate with you by spreading the word about IBM Verse Basic so they can get their own account.

We want you to see how Verse helps declutter your inbox. You can:

  • Send up to 100 emails in a 24 hour period.
    Send mail containing up to 10 recipients per email.
    Send mail messages up to 100MB in size.
    Have a mailbox quota of 500 MB.
    Experience spam filtering for emails sent from outside domains.

Please use the latest Microsoft Internet Explorer, Google Chrome or Mozilla Firefox browser only. Support for other browsers is coming soon. For more features and the ability to send unlimited emails, check out the full version of IBM Verse for all your business mail needs.

Stay engaged with us using #NewWayToWork and #IBMVerse.

If you need to try this out for yourself I encourage you to go to this link

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Interactive Intelligence PureCloud Collaborate –Check Out

I heard about Interactive Intelligence getting into Cloud from a article and wanted to check it out at inin.com. Like all other Cloud players they also had a free trial option and I took the bait.

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Gave my email id , Company name and region and they sent a activation email. Click on activate and you get a page to set your password

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give the name and password and you get options to invite team members

imageThis is optional and trial has no limit on how many users can be configured

Now the Activation actually happens…Let me pause here and first brief that this is not a trial of the entire product but just the PureCloud Collaborate..There are other products which add on to collaborate but get priced on a PUPM (Per User Per Month) model.

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The packaging looks sensible at first glance but then I was disappointed that a senior player in Contact Center announces that they are entering the Cloud market and let people play with only the ‘Web Conferencing’ bit.

Anyway right at the start the web site put up a message to see an overview of all the features but just stayed with a dark overlay an no clickable controls Sad smile

Only option was to close the browser tab and head back to https://apps.mypurecloud.com/directory/#/login

This time I was able to login

The first message I read wants me to install a app

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I did not configure others so not tried ‘collaborating’ by sharing files…But couldn’t find options of how to create a web conferencing session with others inside or outside this application. Sadly this looks like a trial aimed at showing that the cloud service is up and running but not want to give a taste of what it provides on-par or better than the on-premise software portfolio.

Sadly I don’t trust marketing videos and whitepapers…I leave the portal disappointed Sad smile