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Avaya - A Telcom Giant With Bell Labs Roots

Louis_dambrosio_2Avaya is a Basking Ridge; New Jersey based communications equipment and software Company. Privately held, the company was acquired in 2007 by Silver Lake Partners and TPG Capital for $8.2 billion. Avaya is a spin off from Lucent Technologies, before that Avaya was part of Western Electric, and AT&T. Avaya has been operating under the current name since 2000. Avaya is number 440 on the 2007 Fortune 500 list. The company is a technology and telecommunications giant that according to MarketWatch powers about 15% of corporate phone lines in service worldwide. As the majority of companies in the Fortune 500 that blog are tech or telco businesses, Avaya is therefore a great prospect for corporate blogging. Prior to its 2000 sale the company had been struggling with profits and share price, to the extent that Lou D’Ambrosio replaced the CEO in 2006. Mr. D’Ambrosio appears to be making some good progress according to this blog post from 2006 about their developer conference.

Avaya's Business Blog

Avaya's Contact Center Insights blog was started in May of 2007, and the mission of the blog, reported on the website is to

"lead the conversation on the future of customer service. Our goal is to inform and inspire, providing insights that challenge our community to think outside of the contact center walls."

The blog is written by Zack Taylor, and Andy Green, Zack is on Avaya's team for Global Strategic Solutions, and is an expert on customer contact. Andy Green is Global Managing Editor for Avaya, and he is the main blogger on the website who is listed as the main contact for correspondence.

Corporate Blog Review

I am going to use Business and Blogging’s approach for reviewing corporate blogs for this review of the Avaya blog for the Fortune 500 Business Blogging Wiki. (see this example from Liz Fuller on a review of the General Motors blog)

On a scale of 1-10:

Ease of Finding 9 - You can find the Avaya blog easily on Google. The blog has a link on the home page, as well as links to the company's podcasts and RSS feeds.

Frequency: 2 - Since May of 2007, there have only been two to four posts per month on the blog, from both Andy and Zack. That's okay; you don't always have to write a lot of content on a blog. But if you want more interaction, the Avaya bloggers will probably have to write more posts. Andy Green had explained to me his company does monitor what is happening in his community, using Blogpulse and Technorati.com.

Engaging Writing: 4 - I found Andy's posts to be the most engaging with the community and also often more topical; those posts struck me as being more valuable. There were a few comments on the blog, but at no time did I ever see anyone from Avaya answer or comment back. Conducting a comment dialogue is always helpful to engaging readers and something I'd recommend the Avaya bloggers try this. The authors use a lot of pictures, something appropriately, and sometimes not. I noticed the authors use a lot of extended posts. However when you click on a post, the left side navigation disappears. Typically in most blogging systems you want the side navigation elements to remain on the page for a reader so they can click through.

Relevant: 4 - The posts were focused on the mission of the blog about the customer contact industry. I would like to see more posts about current events in the industry.

Focused: 7 - Very focused on Avaya's industry.

Honest: 5
- I'd like to see more discussion about Avaya products. And on a point of good social interaction design, one of the bloggers does not appear to link to other websites, in fact I think either the Avaya blogging publishing system does not allow you to insert a link easily, or little training is needed. Linking to other articles and blogs is a great way to attribute references and also get people to visit your blog because when you linked to another blog post people click through and bloggers who read their traffic stats see the traffic coming from your blog.

Interactive: 4 - The blog allows comments, however, you cannot enter your website or blog url, so there is no way to research a person's background who comments. Having the blog URL of the person who comments is useful to readers in that if a comment post is valuable, a reader can click through to a commentator's blog or website to establish the credibility of the writer. Also, the Avaya blog does not have a unique URL for individual comments. Unique URL's for individuals’ comments are helpful, especially if you need to identify a reader's comment from among a number of comments. I also notice that trackbacks are turned on in the blog. Trackbacks are extremely useful in terms of tracking conversations published from other blogs.

The blogs terms of use have a lot of legalize, which is good, but not very much on blogger guidelines, such as a comment policy so that readers' expectations are set.

Responsive: 4 - Does not appear to be any engagement with commentators; I did not see any of the bloggers reply to a reader's comment. I did get a chance to exchange a few emails with Andy Green, who was extremely forthcoming with information and helpful, and when asked if the company comments on other blogs, he pointed to several websites where he said his team had commented. Andy told me his "Two examples: we've commented at customerthink, which is a kind of blogging central for CRM/Enterprise 2.0, and No Jitter, which is a zine and blog that covers VoIP and contact centers."

Rating & Final Thoughts

The Avaya blog receives 39 points out of a possible 80, which places the blog in an average category. So, in summary, I rate the Avaya blog in the Average category.

Interestingly, I think that if I had used Easton Ellsworth’s criteria for rating a blog, the Avaya blog would have received an even lower rating. Easton uses the following criteria on this review of the Dell corporate blog from July of 2006:

Title/Tagline
First Impression
Author(s)
Layout/Design
Content
Post Frequency
Conversationality

The Avaya blog received a higher rating with Business and Blogging’s rating system because the company picked a good name for the blog and it was easy to find, and so received a 9 on Ease of Finding. I also thought the Layout was pretty good, but I did think there were several social interaction design elements of the blog that could be improved. No trackbacks, unique links for each comment, and I think there could have been greater use of the side navigation with additional content.

The Avaya Blog is a new blog for the Fortune 500 blogging wiki, and means we are up to 51 corporate blogs in the Fortune 500 or 10.2%. Overall I commend the efforts of the bloggers, however, I do think the blog has a lot of room for progress; more posts, more engagement, and a content strategy that follows more current trends would be great. Andy Green had explained to me that the focus is on thought leadership, and technology trends rather than discussing any issues related to Avaya customer service or product ideas. While this is okay, if the bloggers were to talk more about Avaya’s approach to customer service and how the company was handling customer service issues internally, I think that would really engage existing Avaya customers, and demonstrate to the rest of the community how Avaya handles customer service issues. However, I show my bias here for focusing blogs on customer service and product development.


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