“Unless you’re starting now, you’re already way behind”: Avaya’s Peter Chidiac on AI

Avaya (NYSE: AVYA) creates intelligent communications experiences for customers and employees via innovative solutions that enhance and simplify communications and collaboration.

Steve Nuttall, Head of CX Research at Fifth Quadrant, recently sat down with Avaya’s Managing Director ANZ Peter Chidiac to discuss a range of topics including Artificial Intelligence (AI), customer experience (CX), the omnichannel, the move from personalisation to individualisation, and smart cities. 

The AI-assisted path to individualisation

The promise of omnichannel, a seamless experience of being able to switch between channels effortlessly, is a nice one but it has faced challenges over the years.

According to Chidiac, the main challenge – particularly for larger organisations – stems from the issue of siloed systems.

For example, a customer might switch from a webpage to interactive voice response (IVR) to an agent in one journey.

“In isolation they will work reasonably well but to switch from one channel to another and include agent involvement is quite a complex thing to do when you have disparate systems,” Chidiac says.

Chidiac says customers today are moving beyond personalisation to individualisation as they want to not only be known but also anticipated. In other words, surface-level customer knowledge is no longer enough, organisations now need to understand the customer as a unique individual. For Chidiac, AI that self-learns and improves will be the thing that will make this possible.

Chidiac thinks of AI as “an engine layer” that can extract data from CRMs, conversations, text and agents and then collate that data to create individualised experiences.

“In the context of CX with the contact centre, it is about individualisation - anticipating what the customer wants and being able to use that AI layer to serve up information,” he says.

 The advantage of being small

When it comes to smaller organisations, Chidiac says that the ones that are “born digital” have an advantage when it comes to integrating technology such as AI.

“We’re finding that the ones that are up and coming and born digital have one unified platform and they are working towards AI within those platforms, whereas the ones that have been around for a long time have legacy disparate systems, they’re larger organisations and it’s a big shift.”

In addition to being more agile and better able to utilise new technologies, these organisations also tend to be more connected to millennials, because that is their target demographic.

At the same time, the barrier to entry is getting lower, which means that smaller organisations can now afford to dip their toes into the world of AI.

Chidiac says they can just start with a conversational chatbot, for example.

“Unless you are starting now, you are already way behind,” he says, adding that Avaya has clients ranging from 5-10 to a thousand seat contact centres.

More data, smarter cities

Thanks to ubiquity of data collection improvements in retargeted ads, Chidiac believes that the shift to individualisation is not a difficult one for customers to deal with.

For example, if you search for something on the web, you almost expect to see adds pop up for it in your Facebook now. A few years ago, that might have been shocking, but now it is par for the course.

The rise in data will be further amplified by the advent of 5G, Chidiac says. With 5G, there will be a dramatic improvement in things like CCTVs, street camera, security systems and Internet of Things devices such as street lights and other city infrastructure.

Chidiac says that if these things become hyperconnected rather than isolated, they will learn and continue to improve.

“You have an AI engine that is being fed information from lots of different devices and all of sudden you have the ability to predict traffic flows, look at when accidents happen, and have emergency services connect to each other,” he says.

As in the case of the omnichannel, AI will have an important role to play in bringing together the myriad of connected devices in the smart city. But the system will still require some oversight, which Chidiac sees as coming from collaboration between government, industry experts, and technology experts.

Avaya’s Intelligent Xperiences

When asked by Nuttall what Avaya has planned for the year, Chidiac mentions a major event held in Texas in January.

Among other announcement, the company unveiled a new simplified branding for its solutions portfolio.

Avaya Intelligent Xperiences - or Avaya IX - encompasses the entire portfolio of the company’s solutions for contact centres, Unified Communications and Collaboration, and conveys the convergence of business communications to an intelligent platform underpinned by customer-led innovation, according to a press release on the event.

“[W]e’re going to not only build platforms but also intelligent experiences,” Chidiac says. “It is not about saying this widget is better than’s about giving the consumer a better experience, that’s the differentiator.”

To listen to Chidiac’s chat with Steve, check out Fifth Quadrant’s four-part podcast on Soundcloud


Stefan Kostarelis

Written by Stefan Kostarelis

Stefan is the Content Manager at a Sydney-based investor relations firm, and a freelance writer whose work has appeared in Techly, Paste Magazine, Lost at E Minor and Tech Invest.

Topics: Customer experience omni-channel Chatbot Artificial Intelligence CX Articles & Insights machine learning

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