How Avaya Augments the Work of its Support Engineers

The following was originally posted at http://www.avaya.com/blogs/archives/2015/02/how-avaya-augments-the-work-of-its-support-engineers.html.

In late January, Microsoft announced a virtual reality project called HoloLens. The reviews of the prototypes have been positive, and I can see why: Virtual reality has been something geeks have been reading about, seeing in movies and TV shows, and dreaming about for years.

While virtual reality systems are not entirely new, what is different this time is that Microsoft is behind it.

While Microsoft may not be known for cutting edge “cool” technologies, they bring something new that may just drive adoption of VR like we’ve never seen before: The enterprise.

The demo of this technology even includes a Skype conversation that appears within the VR goggles and can be “pinned” in virtual space, allowing the wearer to look away as need be. The demo takes this use case even further, by using that video call to help someone do some home repairs. When I saw this, it quickly reminded me of this older video from BMW:


In this video, we watch a mechanic use similar VR goggles for diagnostic assistance in working on a BMW engine. These glasses give the mechanic information on exactly how to do each new step, including the tools and motions for successful completion. Not only does this allow for fast, uniform, and high-quality repairs, but it does so with reduced training of the mechanic, enabling the vendor to provider excellent customer service.

I’ve always found this vision inspiring in my daily work of improving how Avaya Support Engineers do their daily work. How can we build diagnostic tools that augment our engineers (and the engineers working for our certified business partners) by providing them the real-time information they need to quickly identify the root cause of a problem and implement a solution?

Given that most of our work is software, and not hardware, we don’t exactly need Microsoft’s HoloLens goggles, but the mental framework is the same.

Like Microsoft’s home repair example, we know that sometimes you need more than a written or video-based knowledge article; sometimes a fellow human is what you need.

As such, Avaya enabled audio- and video calling between our customers and our engineers as well as enabling our engineers to quickly video call each other to “swarm” around a customer issue. We’ve also built scripts that know what to check on our products and create a red/yellow/green dashboard report for the user so they can quickly scan for known configuration issues.

We’ve found that this not only speeds up the checks our engineers would have done anyway, but also gets them to look at things they might not have thought to.

What’s even faster than speeding up the work an engineer does? Automating the work entirely. We’ve invested years of effort in automating how we handle the alarms our products send, allowing us to handle 85 percent of alarms without any human interaction, drastically improving resolution times and CSAT.

What diagnostics tools do you use in your work? Any you would recommend others use for troubleshooting Avaya products? Or just for doing plumbing or other things we all get involved with from time to time? What do you wish was available to make troubleshooting faster and better?


The 5 Reasons Why I Joined Avaya Global Support Services

The following was originally posted at http://www.avaya.com/blogs/archives/2015/02/the-5-reasons-why-i-joined-avaya-support-services.html

family_dinnerA couple months ago, I found myself around the family kitchen table attempting to explain to my wife why I was considering leaving my current role at Avaya for another. Between requests and “stories” from our three young children, I explained that I was considering joining the leadership team of our support organization as a strategy leader.

As I cut some food for my daughter and passed the ketchup to the boys (is there such a thing as too much ketchup?), I told my wife about how Avaya Support has gone through a huge evolution in the last couple of years, earned a lot of recognition, and are now looking to take their delivery to another level.

Although I would very much enjoy having you, oh beloved reader, at our family dinner table, alas, the logistics just do not allow for such wonderful things. While I cannot share some of my wife’s amazing cooking, I will share with you the reasons why I think Avaya Support will continue to be not only an industry-leader, but an innovator in delivering value to our clients.

Downtime is the enemy

91 Percent of Outages Resolved in 2 Hours or Less

We know that system outages are the worst thing that can happen to our clients, and as such, we have dedicated teams trained on restoring down systems as fast as possible. If that isn’t great enough, I’m really excited that they have begun to reach out to our clients when we know they are at risk.

For example, we know that having a recent backup allows restore times in 2.5 hours instead of 1.5 days. Given the industry average of $110,000 of cost to the customer for every hour of outage, this makes a huge difference to our clients. If a client doesn’t have a recent backup, we reach out and help them implement a backup strategy. These engineers are inspiring on how customer focused they are.

Death to Rework

Our support team hates rework and that’s why every time one of our wicked-smart engineers finds a new problem, she will document it and publish the solution tohttp://support.avaya.com instantly. As if that isn’t enough, we use our own Avaya technology,Avaya Automated Chat, to help our customers easily find what they are looking for.

Avaya Ava

In fact, our implementation of this technology, dubbed “Ava”, has become the face of Avaya. How cool is that? Even when Ava fails to find you a solution, she succeeds by putting you in touch with an Avaya engineer and passing that engineer your full history, so that you don’t have to start all over.

Not Just a Phone Company

As a Gen-X’er myself, I despise talking to customer support on the phone; and Avaya gets that. Not only do we work with customers over the phone, email, or online chat, but last year, they deployed a first-in-the-industry video chat option using our own products.

If you haven’t tried this yet, stop what you’re doing; and just check it out. Wicked cool stuff. Of course the hot topic is support via social media–something I’ve written on–and now you have an opportunity to see what @Avaya_Support can start doing.

Innovative Diagnostics

Perhaps my most passionate topic over the years has been around diagnostics for Avaya products.

Avaya Support continues to raise the bar in the space of diagnostics. I get irritated when I see valuable time of our human experts being used to validate basic settings, gather log files, etc.

We’ve got really exciting technology that leverages our lessons learned from years of troubleshooting hundreds of thousands of customer systems and we embed that into tools that can solve product issues without an engineer; which means our customer gets an issue resolved in a matter of minutes.

I’m excited that we’re not resting on those laurels, but continuing to invest in improvements and all-new tools to keep satisfying our customers.

Satisfied Customers

As a result, in 2014, 92% of our clients indicated that their overall support experience was excellent, very good, or good. Read that last sentence again. 92%! Isn’t that amazing!

When we look at Avaya’s Net Promoter Score, as an entire company, we were at 65 the last quarter (average of 50 over the last 4 quarters), putting us in best-in-class with Amazon and other companies and beating out companies like Cisco, Microsoft, and Shoretel. Read morehere.

Avaya Client Services

Please don’t just take my word for the impact of the items above. In October 2014, I was proud to join other Avaya Client Services leaders in Las Vegas at the TSW 2014 Conference, hosted by TSIA. Avaya walked away with three awards for our efforts in Avaya Client Services, putting Avaya in TSIA’s STAR Awards Hall Of Fame.

As you may surmise from the above, I was convinced this was the right move for me and I’ve made the shift. As part of this new role, I plan on continuing to bring you stories from Avaya Support as a means to help our customers and partners derive as much value as possible out of their Avaya Support agreements.

*Based on internal metrics in 2014


Firey Snow Fort

Two days ago, on Twitter, this image came across my feed:

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(Link to source)

I posted it on Facebook thinking, Ha! Wouldn’t this be cool. Then, yesterday, I had a few hours to kill with the kids, so why not? We only had 2 feet of snow on the ground in my backyard, so it was no small feat to build up the walls. First, we had to locate the circle of stones that we use as a fire pit in the warm months. After that, we dug out around it, piling the snow up on the walls. Later, I got the snowlbower out and snowblowed in the yard, throwing the snow where the walls should be. Overnight, we got ~3″ of wet packing snow which was great today and I spent a couple more hours building up the walls and even making a built-in snow bench (the kids wanted this. Me? I’d rather sit in a dry chair.) It was wicked nice to spend the afternoon today sitting around the fire with the family in the sunlight, and pretending that the frigid cold wasn’t coming back tomorrow.

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Testing out the “built-in” chair, which we just left as part of the wall instead of digging it out.

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Relaxing after a long day of shoveling

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The boys helping me; good shot of the built-in bench.

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Overhead shot of the job.

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Family time getting the fire started.


High Hope Farm – Finishing up our trip

Alright readers, just a few more pics and then back to non-family things. Unfortunately, we brought the-fever/cough-thing-everyone-backhome-has-been-fighting/getting-over with us and the grandparents picked it up. So, we needed to step up and do the chores all by ourselves.

The boys loaded up the front of the tractor with wood and I drove it over to the back porch and the boys unloaded it all by themselves. TWO loads of that. I was really impressed with them for doing this just fine.

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Meanwhile the great folks at Beaver Dam Farms, who lease land from High Hope, moved the egg-laying-hens in their mobile tractors from the fields to the new hot tunnel

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After 3 days of clearing land over a 4-day stretch, the ash pile really got built up. I was even able to restart the fire after 48 hours with nothing but the hot ashes. I felt like a boss.

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Then we finally lit the huge bonfire that Pops had prepared for us. It was very dry and went up wicked fast.

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Then it was time to head home. A great trip; we can’t wait to come back over the summer.

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High Hope Farm – January 27

Not sure what happened, but I seem to have taken zero pictures on the 26th, oh well.  We cleared a bunch of property of small trees and brush, making an impressive burn pile.

On Tuesday, we focused on the same spot, doing a good deal more clearing and burning. It was very rewarding to see just how open and clean this area now is. And let’s be honest, who doesn’t like burning big bonfires of brush!

M continues to love getting time on the ATV or “four wheeler” was we call it. He will drive around with me sitting behind him to the point that he says his thumb hurts from holding the gas down!

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T continues to not want to really drive, but does like me to take him for a fast drive. I am able to get him to drive through the gates as I open and close them for us.

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Afterwards, Pops has me do some harrowing of the long drive way to the house, a drive on the farm, as well as a paddock and a chewed up part of a field. We do the harrowing with Pops’ very old tractor for some reason. The noise and exhaust prevent the kids from joining me, so it proved to be a nice hour of alone time.

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High Hope Farm – January 25

Another gorgeous day on the farm. While it started out freezing cold, the sun really came out and we got up to the low 60’s today. Unfortunately, last night, M came down with a fever thing that T had earlier in the week, and then S got the same this morning. M recovered well and was active, but S stayed bundled up on a couch all day.

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Another selfie with M driving the ATV this morning, just before we ran the cows from their pen out into the pasture since it was going to be a warm day.

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The boys went out and we helped Pops pick up sticks and debris to pile up with other such things to help create a bern to better manage water and reduce erosion. And yes, M seems set on wearing his sweater vest every day this week.

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We did a lot of walking and playing with the dogs as well. We painted a gate (barn red, of course), and started to move the rails for a new herb garden. Grandma was also sporting the day-glo orange hats. :-)

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As the day wound down, we fed all the animals while Grandma played “bump” with the boys.

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High Hope Farm – January 24

Bear with the slight deviation from non-personal and into the personal space.

Every year, my family and I head down to High Hope Farm, run my mother and stepfather. We love coming for visits and typically come between Christmas and New Years, but due to two funerals, we had to reschedule for late January. Anyway, we’re here now and I thought I would share some moments.

First off, Grandma had given each of the kids their own rolling suitcase, which they loved having for this trip:

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The next morning, as typical, our kids woke up before dawn and “sneaked” out of the bedroom to go find their grandparents and get the day started. After bellies were filled with homemade waffles, we were out for the morning chores. It was in the low 30’s but with the sun shining, and good jackets, it was quite pleasant. M has decided, and rightly so, he can drive the ATV as long as I’m on it with him. He’s quite good at steering and judging speed. Here is a shot of the chickens who are ready to move to another pasture, or to the hot tunnel to ride out the rest of the winter.

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S and T joined us as well with Pops in the barn on the tractor after we mucked out the stalls and headed out to bring a round bale of hay out to the steers.

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Afterwards, we had a quick lunch and headed down to Mississippi St. to see the Bulldogs take on the Georgia Bulldogs. The boys and I had gone last year for an evening game, but S got to join her big brothers this year. We were pleasantly surprised to see that for the pre-game even for kids, not only were there basketballs to play around with on the court, but a bouncy-house!

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Then on to the game where M really got into the score and who to root for where T was more concerned with why one fan nearby was yelling at the court so much.

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