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Cisco Systems, Inc. Executive Interview

Tod Famous, Director of Product Management, Cisco Collaboration Business Applications Business Unit, Cisco Systems, Inc.

Q: How can Cisco Context Service enable companies to reduce consumer frustration and enable agents to quickly gain a better understanding of the complete customer journey?

A: Let me begin by providing some quick background. Our Context Service provides cloud-based storage, tagging, and management of the data from interactions between businesses and their customers. It's built into Release 11 of Cisco’s contact center products such as Unified Contact Center Enterprise, Packaged Contact Center Enterprise, Unified Contact Center Express, and Hosted Collaboration Solution-Contact Center, and it's compatible with both on-premises and cloud contact center deployments.

Context Service keeps track of the interactions between consumers and businesses, allowing customer service agents to better understand the customer’s journey up to that point. This can dramatically reduce consumer frustration, because with Context Service, the agent already has a good idea about why they're calling and what's already been tried to resolve their issue. The consumer doesn't have to explain everything from scratch.

Q: How does your solution handle customer interaction data to help lower the barriers to delivering seamless omnichannel service?

A: Context Service handles customer interaction data in a way that's channel-agnostic, meaning that it stores and manages interaction data from multiple customer care channels such as voice (including IVR), chat, video, web, and e-mail, plus emerging channels such as the Internet of Things.

Certainly, businesses have offered multichannel customer service for a number of years, but unfortunately those interactions were often isolated. Context Service provides the ability to transform those siloed, multichannel touchpoints into seamless, omnichannel journeys. We often describe this using a simple equation: multichannel + context = omnichannel.

Q: Can you outline the processes employed in tagging, managing and storing data in the cloud?

A: The Cisco contact center portfolio has been instrumented so that our customers can just “turn on” the Context Service feature to enable cloud storage. In the normal setup and configuration of our systems they can set storage and retrieval points for context. For example, when creating a self-service IVR script with Customer Voice Portal, the admin creating the script will be able to post or retrieve context. We’ve also provided an out-of-the-box gadget for our agent desktop, Finesse, which will show the context history. We’ve worked hard to make it really easy for our customers to take advantage of this feature.

Q: What elements make your service superior to existing solutions for providing context?

A: Cisco's Context Service is a cloud feature operated by Cisco as a service (not premises-based technology that's been hosted in the cloud) so there is no overhead for the customer to implement the feature. The feature is included with the Cisco contact center portfolio, so there’s no incremental charge to use the feature, either.

Context Service is powered by the Cisco Intercloud infrastructure, a $1B+ Cisco investment in global data center technology.

The Context Service offer has also been designed with a security architecture that allows the enterprise to remain in control of the data encryption. Cisco operates the cloud, but the enterprise owns the data and controls access to that data.

Q: In addition to offering out of-the-box integration with Cisco Customer Collaboration platforms, what options does Context Service provide to support partner applications?

A: Context Service includes a software development kit that allows partners to integrate to the data source via the cloud. As an example, one of our technology partners integrated their webpage-monitoring application with Context Service in only three days, and demonstrated it at Enterprise Connect.

Q: Can you describe some of the ancillary benefits businesses might realize by implementing Context Service?

A: Let me address that with an example that ties some of the pieces together: A consumer, Oliver, clicks through a business's webpage but stops short of making a purchase. A partner application--which the business uses to monitor their webpage--rates Oliver as a hot prospect. When Oliver later calls the business, Context Service draws information from the partner application to alert the customer service agent that Oliver nearly purchased a particular product. Context Service can also show the agent any other significant interactions Oliver has had with the business. Armed with this information, the agent helps Oliver make a purchase.

Now think about the benefits. Oliver's happy because the customer service agent was able to help him faster. This makes the agent happy, too. And the business made a sale they might not otherwise have. But there's a multiplicative factor, too, which happens when Oliver tweets or posts about the amazing experience he had with that business. Marketing dollars can't buy that sort of positive, genuine endorsement. 


Tod Famous, Director of Product Management, Cisco Collaboration Business Applications Business Unit

Tod is a 20 year veteran of the contact center industry. He joined Cisco in 1999 as part of the WebLine Communications acquisition shortly after the formation of the Cisco Customer Contact Business Unit. Tod was part of the original product management team that introduced the industry's first IP Contact Center solution in 2001 and over his 15 year career at Cisco he has grown the business to a market leading position with over 25,000 customers. Tod also holds several patents for contact center technology. He currently leads the Cisco contact center product management team with global responsibility for the Cisco contact center product line.