From where I am now, I have to admit, the ASEAN region is well placed for growth in the digital age, especially with the rapid development of digital lifestyles, smart nations initiatives and virtual services. Looking around, most countries in this region are leading globally on the internet and social media use, but like any other positive things, there will always be a setback – most businesses here find it hard to reap the full benefits of digital transformation to drive economic growth.
To understand this transformation better, I had the chance to interview Muzaffar Ariff himself, the Country Manager for Malaysia from Avaya. And if you are wondering what Avaya does, well, let’s just say they are the global leader in digital communications software, services and devices for businesses of all sizes have been widely known for their open, intelligent and customisable solutions for contact centres and unified communications.
Hey Muzaffar. How’s it going? Can you share with us a little bit about yourself and your role in Avaya?
I am currently the Country Director of Avaya Malaysia, which actually happens to be my second tenure in Avaya. Way back in 2005, I was an account manager with Avaya. How time flies.
Now, for the past 20 years, my career has revolved around Customer Experience (CX) and I regard CX as my calling and let me be honest. Every time it is done right, it helps my clients improve their customer loyalty, directly impacting their revenue and nothing excites me more than the ability to help our clients improve their end-user customer experience and satisfaction.
In the Avaya-IDC report on ‘Industrial Transformation in the Asia Pacific’, companies that participated in the study indicated that their Digital Transformation (DX) journeys were incomplete.
And here’s a little trivia to you readers out there.
Did you know, in Malaysia only 50% of the respondents believe that innovation is extremely important to drive business?
So Muzaffar, back to the interview, can you tell us what are the key challenges that Malaysian companies are facing in their DX journey?
The challenges faced by Malaysian companies in their DX journey do not differ significantly from countries in the region. Companies are all racing to innovate but not all innovation will have a positive impact on the business.
What I see as a challenge is for Malaysian companies and leaders to successfully understand the role technology can play in their business. It is important that they understand the different role each technological tool has in their business before they decide on what to adopt in their overall operations.
Also, Malaysian companies need to start working together with other industry players on their DX journey and this means businesses need to embrace outside innovation from technology service providers, customers, partners and start-ups through collaborations and partnerships. From here and out, companies who do so can then successfully transform their business.
How do you overcome such?
The businesses’ strategy is key. The first question that every business leader needs to ask is what is the key objective of the DX initiative? Is it to reduce the cost to serve? Or, to increase business transactions? This will determine the type of technology and technology partners required to successfully meet the business objective.
From there, how can Malaysian companies build deeper relationships with customers and partners, and deliver exceptional Customer Experience (CX)?
Understanding customer behaviour is critical towards achieving exceptional Customer Experience (CX). We need to understand what a customer’s preferred touchpoints are and how we can use technology to achieve this.
It is extremely expensive to rely on personnel in brick and mortar locations to manage customer engagements. As people get busier, customer communication can be better addressed using alternative channels of communication – things like phone calls, e-mails as well as digital platforms such as mobile application and web. But what is important is for the communication to be consistent and the customer journey to be seamless across all these channels.
The idea behind the digital communications software is what makes Avaya unique in its own way, so how would you describe embedding communications could impact business processes?
Internally within organisations, we aspire to improve collaboration amongst employees, particularly across geographies. In countries like Malaysia, there is a disparity in expertise between rural areas and major conurbations like the Klang Valley, yet digital communications software do help to bridge such gap. Let’s take someone from Jerantut for instance. He or she can communicate with their colleagues in Kuala Lumpur as if they are in the same office and imagine what that can do to bring up the staff competency level nationwide!
There have been talks about how emerging technologies like cloud, AI and voice biometrics can help companies in Malaysia scale their business operations. Can you share how the integration of traditional and digital channels with innovative technologies can create an omnichannel experience between customers and employees?
Organisations are finding ways to reduce operational costs, particularly in handling low-value transactions when serving their end customers. Let’s take the banking industry as an example. How many questions does your bank typically ask before they provide you with any information on your account balance? Frequently asked questions by customers include determining bank account balances and this does not require a physical person to attend you. Additionally, voice biometrics help reduces the time taken to address simple customer queries. If customers can be authenticated the moment they connect with the bank, their queries can be answered in a much shorter time.
Separately, the cloud proposition provides organisations with the capacity to better focus on delivering their business outcomes, whether to reduce their cost to serve or better upsell to their end customers. Cloud will help them to “outsource” the complexity of developing, installing and maintaining the enabling technology platform. That value can come from all forms of cloud deployments, whether on a public cloud or a private cloud within the customer’s own premises.
Shifting some of these customer communications to digital channels with innovative technologies will help companies to achieve higher productivity and customer satisfaction in the long run at a lower cost.
What has the business strategy and plans been for Avaya Malaysia’s market?
What I can share with you on our strategy for the year is, to focus on the final outcome that we deliver to the end customer. Our Go-to-Market strategy will shift from technical discussions towards what the technology can do to improve the business. From Avaya’s viewpoint, this is how our customers can transform the way they communicate and collaborate with their end customers as well as internally between employees to drive better productivity. We will continue to support our end customer’s digitalisation strategy but at the same time ensure that the human touch is not lost.
Is Avaya foreseeing any challenges in the near future especially when digital transformation always accelerating impact across society, and if yes, what are the solutions?
Malaysia is a young country with a median age of just 28.5 years. The younger generation is growing up in a society that is starting to rely heavily on technology such as smartphones, chatbots, etc. At the same time, we have the older generation who are struggling to keep up with these technological changes, and we have to admit, at times they are somewhat still very technologically averse.
Successful and effective digital transformation will need to transcend these varied demographics by humanizing digital services. While we push for the greater use of mobile apps and chatbots, a smoother transition in digital transformation will require us to ensure that there are ways for users to access traditional communication channels such as speaking to customer support when they face difficulties.
Somewhere down the road, is there anything we can look forward to?
It is an exciting time to be a consumer in all industries. We can expect DX to improve our overall experience with Banks, Telcos or even Airlines with greater personalisation. They will be able to serve us using multiple communication channels that are convenient and best fit our needs.
How best to contact you Muzaffar?
Do reach me out on LinkedIn