A for Effortless – How Avaya is building a Utopian Experience

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Do you remember the story of the tortoise and the hare? Here’s a quick refresher: a tortoise and a hare were having a race, which, you assume, would be pretty lopsided in favor of the hare. But the hare was so focused on showing off that he lost sight of the ultimate goal: winning the race. 

Why do I bring that up? Well, because it reminds me of a phrase you may have heard in the business world, that “marketing is meant to be remarkable.” You may have also heard that companies are always aiming to “surprise and delight.” The crux of what both of these phrases are talking about is really that companies are focused on creating experiences for consumers that they will remember forever. According to Simon Harrison, CMO of Avaya, that’s also the completely wrong way to be operating your business.

Avaya is a software solutions company that many people may not have on their radar, but it is steadily bringing software solutions to 90% of Fortune 500 companies, has a presence in 190 countries, and it is effortlessly improving customer experiences. How is Avaya succeeding? Simon tells us on this episode of Business X factors.

Main Takeaways:

  • Effortless Trumps Delight: Customers may be delighted to be offered a freebie like chocolates on their pillows at a hotel, but loyalty or repeat business does not come from these ‘feel good’ moments. Customers have a preference for organizations who make life easy for them, solve their problems and create an effortless experience and will return to them over and over before they go back to a company that did one nice thing for them one time.   
  • Everybody Loves a Story: A powerful way of persuading people is to unite an idea with an emotion and the best way to do that is by telling a story. People connect with stories and it builds familiarity. Ditch the PowerPoint slides and the charts and tell stories that engage and are remembered.   
  • Design/ Reach for Utopia:  Joseph Pine and James Gilmore coined the phrase ‘Experience Economy’ way back in 1998 and they have since made an even stronger case for experiences as the critical link between a company and its customers. To design solutions to create the ultimate customer experience in a booming customer experience economy, imagine a utopia, a moment or experience when there is a perfect match between what a customer wants and what a business offers. And then empower staff to come up with transformational customer experiences. 


Key Quotes:

“I saw the things that they were doing through their eyes. I used to have chats with various leaders and marketing folks and product folks, but I had chats with customers as well. And I kind of thought, geez, you guys are crap at telling the world about this. What are you doing?”

“The everything customer… we are really a pain. We’ve never been so bloody awkward. We want everything. We want to be relentlessly connected. But when it suits us, we want to be absolutely left alone. We, in our own minds, we’re almost impossible to solve for.”

“What the everything customer really want,is an effortless experience. That’s the thing that makes them become a brand fan, a proponent of the brand. And effortless isn’t a dark art, it’s a science.”

“Effortless trumps in every scenario, delight. Delight becomes this kind of unicorn. It becomes this thing that you just start to chase. You set a bar that becomes the new standard bar. Now you’re chasing the next bar and it just becomes expensive and inefficient and not what people want.”

“Let’s think about consistent. If you go anywhere in the world and you want a coffee and you don’t mind a Starbucks, what are you going to go and get? Where are you going to go and get your coffee? That consistency, I know what I’m going to get. I know what I’m going to order. I know how it works. I’m going to go and get another Starbucks. Same with McDonald’s. Consistency equals effortless.”

“We have a fundamental tactical strategy around stories. We want to get the stories. We want people to feel good about sharing their stories, and we want to help other businesses to understand the value through those stories. So, if they say, we help the hospital to help more patients to help more doctors, then they read the story about how we did that, we don’t have to explain the value. The value is inherent in the story and the other guys go, ‘We want that, can you do that for us.’”

“We’re in an experience economy which is booming because of all these wonderful devices and support for the different modalities, your touch, voice, natural language, understanding, gesture, support, eye tracking, and all this kind of great stuff. And then there are different modes for if I’m on holiday mode, or I’m going to catch a flight or whatever. So, when you start thinking about the design of the solution, you want to create a utopian design. You’re thinking about the customer and the staff being two sides of the same coin, the same app.”

“Engagement-powered staff really delivers that truly transformational customer experience, but it does so much more. There’s a multiplication effect that’s part of this, there’s this really wonderful design.”


Simon Harrison joined Avaya in January 2020 as senior vice president and Chief Marketing Officer. He leads the company’s global marketing function to engage new and existing customers and partners, drive adoption of the company’s software solutions and support Avaya as the leading player in a dynamic digital communications market.  Prior to Avaya, Harrison was research director for Gartner and the lead analyst for the Unified Communications and Contact Centre industry.  In a career spanning 25 years, Harrison has been a thought leader, product strategist, marketer and consultant in the communications solutions industry with leadership roles in Marketing Sales, Product Marketing and Product Management for companies like Cirrus, Vocalcom and Siebel. Harrison has a second dan black belt in Karate that he acquired in Japan.

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Episode 16