Cisco demos upcoming customer collaboration suite

The next time you get into a fender bender, all you might need to do is shoot a video of the scene on your smart phone or Flip Video camcorder and stream the clip to your insurance company to file the claim.

Or if you find yourself worried that the carousel has circulated one too many times without your luggage, Tweeting a complaint from baggage claim may give your airline a head start on locating that lost bag.

And within minutes of posting your next new job title on LinkedIn, you may receive a call from your financial institution with a 401K or RRSP pitch.

Cisco Systems Inc.’s beta customers are trialing these types of scenarios, said John Hernandez, general manager of the customer contact business unit at Cisco. “They are applications we have actually built and we are getting feedback,” he said.

One product scheduled for release in November, called the Customer Collaboration Suite, intends to make life easier for customer service and call centre operators by incorporating social media so it becomes a part of an agent’s everyday routine.

Demoed by Hernandez in a recent “fireside chat” Web cast with Martin Marcincyzk, vice-president of national customer operations at Comcast Corp., the suite provides customer service agents with a composite profile of a customer that includes real-time information on their online activities.

Social media is putting the power back in the consumers hand and consumers are putting the pressure on corporations in terms of how they interact, said Hernandez. The operational excellence of a call centre as social media continues to rise is a challenge, he said.

The suite integrates with social media sites like Facebook, LinkedIn, Twitter and MySpace and incorporates public profile information, activities, posting history and statuses into the composite profile to help agents better understand their customers.

Agents can see a customer’s tweets, for example, in real time, and respond with a Direct Message to the customer’s Twitter account directly from the dashboard. If agents don’t know how to respond, they can click a “suggested response” tab for immediate advice.

The suite also pulls information from RSS fields, blogs and wikis – anything with a Web interface, said Hernandez. And it is agnostic, so it will work with any social media sites that may evolve in the future, he said.

“That’s the key point,” said Hernandez. “As the market evolves, the application will evolve with it.”

The demoed version combined Cisco’s Unified Contact Center Enterprise software with the Quad social media collaboration platform and a social media application module, but enterprises can also tailor the suite to their specific needs.

In the demo, the dashboard displayed three columns – customer satisfaction issues on the left, sales opportunities in the middle and future products on the right. An information tab provided related knowledge base articles from around the Web.

Comcast handles more than one million transactions per day that involve answering questions for customers, and the company wants to create a consistent experience with common answers, said Marcincyzk during the Webcast. The company conducts nearly 10,000 customer transactions per week through social media and roughly seven million transactions per week through phone calls, he said. 

MichelleWarren, president of Toronto-based MW Research and Consulting, watched the demoand said she hasn’t seen anything like it.

The suiteis a good fit for call centres and customer service departments, she said. Andwhile price points weren’t provided, it seems suitable for mid- to large-sizeenterprises looking to either enhance or create a social media strategy, shesaid.

The abilityto provide pre-written responses that agents can just copy and paste into a DMis a good way to control the use of social media in an organization, she said.“The struggle of social media is it is often an emotion response and that hasto be managed on the enterprise side,” said Warren.

Open TextCorp. has also been “very vocal” on social media and is a likely competitor,she said. “They’ve done a big push there in the last two to three months. Ifthey don’t have something now, I suspect they will by the end of the year,” shesaid.
Follow me on Twitter @jenniferkavur.

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