Multi-Modal Communications 3

by Dave Michels

In this third and final post to this series, I will take a look at a few enterprise focused examples of multi-modal communications.
Companies in this post: Avaya, Fonolo, Gold Systems, Google, Proton Media, Radish Systems, Radvision, Siemens-Enterprise, and Skype,
Let’s start off with Avaya and their One-X Mobile Agent. Avaya always try to demo too much and confuse the point, like in a recent keynote they showed how a video call can go to voice mail. What they were showing was a dynamic multi-modal call, but what people saw and heard was a failed communication attempt or botched demo. They redialed and were connected.  In the video below, they sow more multi-modal magic, but confused the message with a 5 minute hold time and resolution requiring a local technician. Those points were included attempting to show the features call back and geo location lookup and conference.

Radish Systems. I met Radish Systems through the Innovation Showcase at Enterprise Connect, the company was one of four companies selected to present and exhibit at Enterprise Connect 2011. Radish takes the IVR of yesterday and combines it the smartphone of today and delivers a new type of IVR- Interactive Video Response. The notion allows a call center to push pictures to the phone while on a phone call. The applications are limitless.

Check out this video hosted by the CEO of Radish Systems. Theresa Szczurek gives several examples of what ChoiceView can do, but the more pertinent ones are the hotel booking and the florist call. In the hotel booking, the reservation agent provides views of the rooms while on the call and then sends a map to the hotel. The florist example also sends pictures of products, but more importantly understood exactly where Theresa was on the website before she called.  These examples illustrate the power of complementing voice with multi-modal communications.

Honorable mentions go to Siemens Enterprise and Radvision, both of which have incorporated two way video and collaboration sessions with the iPhone and iPad. Also, Fonolo brings context and state to the IVR.

So far, most of my multi-modal examples require a smartphone. But Smartphones are not the only multi-modal device. Nor does the multi-modal part have to be on the remote end.

Terry Gold, CEO of Gold Systems, gives an example of how the Vonetix framework upgrades Microsoft Lync to a multi-modal Call Center. It is a brilliant concept, IM to speech for the agent to communicate with a caller in queue.

Another interesting form of multi-modal communications is the notion of simulated conferences. I am happy to admit I didn’t get this at all and was sure this notion was just stupid. The only one I have tried is Avaya’s WebAlive service which I wrote about here. Contrary to my initial thought, this isn’t just a game version of conference calls, but actually fills a hole as a viable form of remote collaboration.
Audio conference calls are not engaging. Shared desktop or PowerPoint sessions are a step up, but still pretty easy to get distracted with other matters like email or buying shoes. Video conferencing is a bit intrusive and potentially expensive. Simulated meetings address all that – efficient, engaging, and collaborative. WebAlive is also reasonably priced for small business.
Proton Media offers a similar technology for Microsoft Lync environments. That makes three now of the four Innovation Showcase presentees in one blog post. Be sure to check out Innovation Showcase next year at Enterprise Connect (Proton Media, Fonolo, and Radish Systems). This is a great example of mulit-modal communications – engaging video, audio, documents, and this notion of distance. With WebAlive, everyone can hear the speaker on the podium, but otherwise, two way audio is limited to people near you (and you can move around). I also like in WebAlive that you can pick up a phone and make a call or hit the webscreen on the wall and visit/share a website.

Of course, no multi-modal conversation is complete without Skype – which makes video, IM, voice, and desktop sharing a free ubiquitous service. My problem with Skype is some limitations that I think should be gone. For example, SMS is rapidly becoming the communications technology of choice when a short note will do. The problem with SMS it is requires giving out a direct cell number which is problematic on multiple levels. This is another topic for another post, but we need to stop communicating with addresses that frequently change and focus more communicating with people. Google Voice gets points here – allowing people to keep their number (and SMS address) regardless of cell phone carrier or even if they have a cell phone. This is a solution that Skype should offer, but doesn’t. I also don’t get why Skype offers such crappy voice mail as an add-on fee. I can send an IM that queues until the person comes online, but not a voice message. 

I will also recognize Southwest Airlines for actually calling me in advance last week (before I got to the airport) notifying me that my flight was cancelled. The recording provided online rebooking instructions and also offered to transfer me to an agent. All of which not only allowed me to manage my time, but manage my communication modal as well (they also sent me an email – oddly no SMS though).
Multi modal communications is where it is at, and a strong contributor to the demise of the POTS line. A simple thing like the equivalent of SMS on home POTS lines could give copper lines an significant injection of relevance.
Last and final point is the APIs of modern UC solutions offer a tremendous amount of potential to use multi-modal tools to communications enable business processes (CEBP). Examples are deep and rich – automatic notifications or reminders, tools to locate people with specific skills, or manage emergencies. The list goes on. The fact is, a lot more can trigger a phone call (or txt, or IM, etc.) than a finger these days.
See also
Multi-Modal Part 1
Multi-Modal Part 2