Mobile Business Customers Need "UBI" Not Just "UC"

10 Dec 2014

More and more consumers are adopting multimodal smartphones as their primary, personal means of interacting with online business applications and live assistance, changing the old definition of customer service. What used to be a dependency on phone calls to a "call center," had moved through the "contact center" that also handled email and fax, to what I now describe as a cloud-based "Unified Business Interaction" (UBI) center. That description also helps shift the old, heavy focus on live, voice-only customer assistance to multimodal self-service applications, enhanced with live assistance as a flexible option on demand (screen share, email, text chat, voice, video, social).

This perspective will be reinforced as legacy contact center providers shift towards Internet connectivity with cloud applications and multimodal, and mobile endpoint devices. As a recent announcement from Avaya about it's partnering with Google indicates, they are quickly moving to support this disruptive change for customer support staffs with a combination of Google Chromebook laptops and Avaya Agent software connected over the Internet and exploiting WebRTC for real-time connections. (See Sheila McGee-Smith's report on the Avaya-Google announcement.)

What's Different About "UBI" From "UC?"

While UC has generally meant different ways person-to-person communications can be dynamically performed, UBI means integrating many different "User Experiences" (UX) involved with a customer business interaction. This can range from (self-service) online information searches to online transactions to flexible contacts with live assistance, using both voice and visual user interfaces as dynamically required by a customer. This will be particularly important when consumers/customers are mobile.

The net impact of mobile customer service flexibility provided by UBI includes the following:

  • Increased customer satisfaction and control over how and when they can get information or perform business transactions
  • Increased opportunity for more timely, personalized, automated proactive customer service notifications and alerts to mobile customers anywhere, anytime. Such notifications will also include options for efficient customer responses to the notification issue.
  • Lower costs for customer support staffing as customers exploit more self-service options and notifications are generated automatically by Communication Enabled Business Processes (CEBP)
  • Access to live assistance has to be more flexible and selective for an individual mobile customer's situation or preference
  • Mobile customers will increasingly access live assistance contextually from within a "mobile app" via a less expensive wireless Internet connection rather than a PSTN phone call
  • Customer service agents will have to more skilled, not only in the more complex needs of customers who have first tried using self-service applications, but also being able to interact with customers using different modes of mobile communication and information exchange. (Note: This perspective has been recently termed by a Frost & Sullivan white paper as "Support Interaction Optimization" or SIO.)
  • The UBI approach will also work well with business partners, such as suppliers, and field service staff
  • Moving customer service information and apps into a "cloud" will also facilitate the use of agents who can work and be managed from home, rather than from a contact center location. This will increase staffing flexibility and also reduce the location-based overhead of a contact center operation.

Leading wireless carriers (MSPs) like AT&T and Verizon are already getting ready to service mobile multimodal consumer needs with VoLTE network connection services, so it is important for business organizations to plan their migrations from legacy premise-based call and contact center technologies to the coming era of "cloud" base Unified Business Interaction services.

Where Do You Start?

Since there will be an increasing emphasis on mobile self-services, the logical starting points well be any existing customer "use case" applications that exploit online self-service. Such applications need to be "mobilized" to support new consumer BYOD mobile devices, including different form-factors (screen sizes), voice and visual interfaces, different mobile operating systems, and integration with "cloud" based resources (online business process applications, data, storage, user interfaces, etc.).

Once existing online customer self-service applications have been converted to multimodal, mobile use, new self-service opportunities should then be developed for the expanded range of mobile customer needs. There are new software development tools available that can facilitate this migration to mobile self-service applications that also provide more flexible and efficient access to live assistance on demand.

The expertise for designing, developing, and integrating the next generation of mobile business self-service applications is, unfortunately not within the skill levels of today's IT organizations, but must come from expertise that will be offered from third -party resources that specialize in various vertical market "use cases" that can be implemented and managed in various types of "cloud" environments.

A recent study by IDC reports that responsibility for budgeting technology needs in customer service areas, including social networking, is already shifting from IT to Line of Business (LoB) management. So, step one will really be about selecting experienced third-party resources (consulting, channel partners) that can do the heavy lifting involved in the initial planning, implementation, and ongoing change management that will be required.


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