Please hold for digital transformation

by Dave Michels

Enterprise communications is a fun gig.  I thrive on digging into the vendor nuances in vision and action. It’s a pebble and ripple thing.

But I have to say, there’s a ton of bullshit in this industry. We like to talk about the importance of transformation and productivity gains, but sometimes industry pressures cause us to say things we don’t really mean. 

A simple example is “communications” and “collaboration.” These words have different meanings, but sometimes they are used interchangeably. When someone uses the word “collaboration” it is important to figure out which flavor they mean. Some might call this active listening, but it’s really more active filtering out the BS.  Sometimes it takes 20 questions to sort things out. 

Here’s some terms that can initiate a game of 20 Questions:

  • “We support five nines”
  • “We fully integrate with Google”
  • “We are a Microsoft Partner”
  • “We use WebRTC”

It’s kind of fun. Every industry has its form of buzzword Bingo. Honestly, if the vendors actually just said what they meant it wouldn’t be any fun at all. 

There are however, a few that bother me. Here’s three things that get my goat:

Digital Transformation: Digital transformation is very important – it’s also very hard and has very little to do with any product you can buy. That doesn’t stop vendors from suggesting that their products or services will result with digital transformation. Something that every company must do — or die. In other words they are implying “buy my shit or else.” Digital transformation is a relatively new thing, so be especially suspicious when the proposed miracle cure-all has been around for decades.

Cloud-washing: The cloud versus premises-based debate is over, and the cloud won. What’s that mean? I dunno, but good luck buying a communications solution that isn’t cloud. It doesn’t matter if it’s a license or a service or if it’s hosted or comes in a big iron box — every UC solution is conveniently now a cloud solution.  Gartner just kicked off its annual UCaaS Magic Quadrant – here’s how they define UCaaS:

“Unified communications as a service (UCaaS) supports the same functions as its premises-based unified communications (UC) counterpart. Only the delivery model is altered.”

No wonder everyone is confused. Any ‘as a service’ offer must shift emphasis from product to service in a bigly way. In UCaaS for example, that means operational excellence, self-service portals, flexible billing, SLAs, customer service, disaster recovery, and much more. It can’t just be a PBX in a datacenter.

There’s very little overlap in the questions you ask before buying a car versus renting a car.  “There’s no way I am renting this Ford, have you seen its resale value?”

Cloud washing doesn’t really get my goat. I think this one is kind of fun. Technology evolves, so labels should too.

Now excuse me while I toast my bread in my new, vertical, auto-pop air grill.  

Customer Engagement: Now that’s a euphemism if I ever heard one.  I’m just not sure what it’s supposed to mean.

My buddy Inigo said “I do not think those words means what the vendors think.”  Some vendors use “Customer Engagement” to describe what their call center product produces, and others use it to describe the actual (contact center) product — both are wrong.

Remember the childhood burn of offering a dime and saying “call someone who cares”?  We never actually took the dime and called. You know why? Because NO ONE CARES. That’s ok, because no one wants to use a phone to get their problem resolved anyway.

Think fast: the best companies in the world with high valuations and brand appeal? Perhaps you thought about Amazon, Apple, Facebook, Netflix, and Google. Now when was the last time you called any of them?

Now think of the worse companies when it comes to customer care? The companies that just the thought of having to call them makes a vacation to Gitmo sound like an attractive alternative. Perhaps you thought of Comcast, United, or a power utility.

That will teach Dr. Dao from trying to cancel his Comcast service. 

The contact center will never go away, but it needs a complete overhaul. The vast majority of the customer engagement centers that I call infuriate me.

I want efficient, contextual, and helpful interactions – preferably not by voice. Fix that, and then we can talk. Not!