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Having four C’s to work with is a marketer’s dream, and while there’s a good story here, it’s even stronger when considered in the context of UC. This post is based on last week’s Cisco Canadian Customer Collaboration Day (yet another C!), which I attended at their HQ in downtown Toronto.
Cisco does these events very well, and there was good transparency not just hearing from customers and partners, but also some frank discussion about the challenges of selling both directly and through the channel. I’m not here to give you a deep dive about Unified CCE Release 9.0, but do want to highlight some takeaways around Cisco’s vision for the contact center, primarily through the lens of collaboration.
For some time now, collaboration and video have been the driving themes with Cisco, and while we’re all pretty familiar with what this means for UC in the enterprise, the value proposition has also been clearly defined for the contact center. If you follow our portal regularly, you’ll know that the contact center is getting more attention from UC, and to pick up that thread, you should start with the articles from UCS colleague Art Rosenberg.
Coming back to Cisco, it may sound cliché to hear them talk about how easy it is to add CCE – Contact Center Enterprise – when you’re already using their networking infrastructure. Sure, they have a dominant position in the network, and having a single vendor end-to-end is always easier for IT to deploy. The prize, of course, is Avaya’s increasingly-shaky perch atop the contact center space, and if/when that domino falls, Cisco could become as dominant in UC as Microsoft is on the desktop.
In Cisco’s eyes – and every other contact center vendor – there’s a lot of share potentially in play if you believe that Avaya is vulnerable. Clearly, Cisco believes that – so much so, that once they set their sights on winning a 30% share, we were told that John Chambers soon upped it to 40%. Sure looks like a winner-take-all mindset, and going into 2013, this should be a key storyline for us to follow. The strength of Avaya’s market position can – and should – be debated elsewhere, but I’d rather stay on course here with my takeaways from the event.
Takeaway #1: Network-Centric Beats Telecom-Centric in Today’s Contact Center
To whatever extent you believe the wonderful world that the Cisco-powered Human Network will open up for us, this event confirmed for me that a telecom-centric model just doesn’t cut it anymore. All the telecom vendors are running as fast as they can to make this transition, but of course, Cisco has been there all along, so they’re in a good spot. By taking a bottom-up approach, once the network is optimized to support the full gamut of applications that enable collaboration, developing a solution set for the contact center should be an easier path than having to go the other way. That is, trying to update a legacy contact center portfolio to IP – and even cloud-based – and ensure full interoperability with the data network.
Increasingly, today’s contact center needs to come out of its silo and be tightly integrated with the broader enterprise. Nowhere is this more evident than with social media, and there was some lively discussion at the event about its implications and whether it should be managed by the contact center or marketing. The key here is buying into the broader sandbox that defines collaboration. If your idea of collaboration is simply integrating voice with data, you can probably do just fine without CCE. However, if you see how new forms of value can be added to the contact center experience with social media, video, true multichannel interaction, mobility, etc. – then boy, does Cisco have a package for you.
Takeaway #2: Collaboration is Redefining the Contact Center
This builds on my last point above, which I see as a distinct takeaway. As expected, we heard about Social Miner, and how it ties into the need for advanced analytics to extract new value from multichannel customer interactions. This touches on another trend – Big Data – but for this post, the main idea is that Cisco has these capabilities, largely via their analytics partner, Exony. Cisco certainly isn’t the only game in town, but from what I’ve seen, they’ve taken a leadership position in understanding what social media represents for the contact center, not just in terms of richer interactions, but the fundamental need to more precisely route calls to the best-skilled agent in the least amount of time.
They cited one stat that really targeted the problem/opportunity for me; namely, 70% of Twitter-based complaints are ignored. While it’s easy to dismiss Twitter, the scale, speed and ease of spreading bad news via social media is unprecedented, and businesses cannot really control how it’s used. As such, they talked about how they’re trying to educate the channel to see this as a legitimate customer channel, and this is where applications like Social Miner have value. Most social media activity is unstructured, and contact centers don’t know how to manage it, so vendors that help them figure this out are going to succeed.
Stepping back a bit, they also talked about how collaboration technologies create new ways for customers to engage with the contact center. A great example is the retail kiosk, and they cited Home Depot, where they’ve centralized a team of kitchen design experts in a contact center that customers can tap into on the spot from any store location. There certainly are other environments that open up when mobility and video are part of the mix, and when collaboration is driving the value proposition, the contact center experience becomes richer and broader, going well beyond what any telecom-centric platform can deliver.
Finally, I wanted to comment on Packaged CCE, which is another way of making their go-to-market approach more channel-friendly. The update message was that traction continues to be strong, mainly due to its streamlined architecture and ease of deployment. This is especially important for the channel, and as we often discuss on this portal, the better UC can be packaged up, the easier it will be for the channel to sell it. Cisco came out with Packaged CCE in the spring, and for a quick primer, UCS colleague Blair Pleasant did a nice review, which you can read here.
All told, Cisco has a strong hand to play now in the contact center, especially for businesses who totally buy into the collaboration concept. Once you get beyond the telecom-centric model, UC becomes central to the value proposition and the collaboration vision Cisco is bringing to market. In fairness, the path isn’t easy, and we heard about some challenges during the sessions, so don’t expect an all-Cisco world any time soon. They have a lot of learning to do yet, and no doubt the competition will respond as best they can. They will surely take many forms, and we’ll be evaluating them here in future posts and podcasts.
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Communications Integrated to Optimize Business Processes.
UC integrates real-time and non-real time communications with business processes and requirements.
Uses presence capabilities for coordination, and presents a consistent unified user interface and experience across multiple devices and media types.
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