Andrew Love, Brand Protection – Specialized Bicycles
Lisa McCann, Brand Protection – Avaya
Andrew: Welcome Lisa to this coffee and keyboard fueled episode of the Brand Protection Professional, A View from the Field conversation. Tell us a little bit about Avaya and your history in brand protection. I know the Avaya name, but had a hard time placing my finger on what Avaya does.
Lisa: Thank you – as for Avaya, think how businesses communicate internally and with customers-contact centers, unified communications, and video–we sell software, services and devices to enable and enhance customer experiences and support digital transformations.
I’ve been involved in protecting these company objectives and Avaya’s customers, partners, and our brand from certain threats for a little over five years now.
Andrew: Interesting business. “THREATS” wear so many different clothes. What threats is your team up against?
Lisa: From a brand protection perspective – whether it’s fraudulent submissions for incentives or discounts, counterfeit products, or violations involving our intellectual property – all these threats and others are addressed by our brand protection team. Our scope is wide, and our team efforts protect our customers from non-genuine products and protect our partners so they can compete on a more level playing field, and aren’t competing against illegal or unethical practices that undermine our authorized resellers.
Avaya sells through a vast and varied distribution network to meet our customers’ needs and demands. For brand protection, understanding and working closely with our channel partners is key.
Andrew: So one can look at the distribution model, and where issues occur, and then focus. Give me an example of this focus.
Lisa: Usually we get involved where there can be a possible misrepresentation. Which is a key component of fraud. For example, we may grant a special discount based on information presented to us, but what if the information provided is fraudulently misrepresented? What if the “customer” is not a business at all, but a front for a bad actor? Our team combats this risk by working to ensure discounts, incentives, etc. are used consistent with the approval and that the potential the approval is based on false information is minimized, hopefully
Andrew: It’s like the Jurassic park theorem, where instead of “Life Finds a Way” it’s “Fraud Finds a Way”
Lisa: Exactly, fraud risk is a reality for almost all situations where money and people are involved, and Avaya products are no exception. It’s important to identify risk factors and how they relate to one another. For example, a fraud risk might increase as more money and more people are involved – like an XY axis with the risk of fraud increasing the further along the axis.
Andrew: I love your XY axis approach. I have been working on how to prioritize threats in a similar manner based on our market sales. For example, 100 threats in Spain, a key market for cycling, are more dangerous than 300 threats in a country we sell very little in. You sound like you have a different kind of threat matrix you work from.
Lisa: Fraud can creep in at all points – while it’s definitely the exception not the norm, these scenarios include companies that desire to partner with Avaya misrepresenting their business information, companies using Avaya’s logo or intellectual property without rights, false information submitted to qualify for larger pricing discounts, counterfeit products intended to deceive customers, or misrepresentation related to support services.
Fraud, misrepresentation, false, deceit– these are all counterproductive to the trust element that is needed to further the brand’s business and channel integrity. That trust element is what brand protection works to preserve.
Andrew: Wow, and with the scale of your company, and the scale of Avaya’s product distribution, the number of channels product moves on and what you have to watch must be crazy (Andrew glances at his desk phone he’s had for years, whoa… it’s Avaya!).
Do you find yourself being primarily pro-active or reactive? It’s a different work rhythm for sure.
Lisa: Definitely both! Although, we’ve had our greatest successes when we operate as pro-actively as possible. Moving further upstream to preventing detrimental acts is where you can really make progress – the reactive efforts are needed as well but can be completely exhausting.
Andrew: (nods with sympathy)
Lisa: Reactive efforts use up your team’s resources and quite frankly, morale – especially when reacting to the same scenarios over and over again. If that’s occurring, you need to change the game – become more proactive. Identifying and addressing root causes is mandatory in my book.
Andrew: Is that what fundamentally draws you to the work in brand protection? I mean being a firefighter is important, and we all need firefighters ready to parachute in, but forestry and clearing undergrowth prevents the fires starting.
Lisa: In brand protection, I’ve found we can put our skills, knowledge, and time towards things that are the opposite of fraudulent and deceitful tactics – truth, genuine, honesty – in pursuit of preserving our brand – what our business should be focused on. Brand protection fundamentally has to do with value for the customer – there’s a “money” element – keep prices low, ensure funds are available for R&D, and make selling your products and services profitable for downstream partners – ultimately our success is the value that’s created for end customers.
Of course we’ve all heard life and business isn’t fair – but I appreciate working in an area with an opportunity to help level the playing field.
We succeed when our customers have reliable, innovative, communications systems – just like the value Specialized’s innovations that improves the “ride”, we improve the “customer experience”. Whatever business you operate in, your work as a brand protection professional ultimately helps ensure the company can remain focused on the basic reason why the business exists.
Andrew: Thanks Lisa, this one has me thinking a lot – XY axis of people x money and fraud risk increases. I think I will be mulling that over for a long time.