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Back to the Future in 2015: Marty McFly’s Contact Center

In the 1989 movie Back to the Future II, Michael J. Fox’s character Marty McFly travels to the year 2015. He sees a future with hover boards, holograms, flat-screen TVs, and video calls. Not bad for predictions made over 25 years ago!

But the movie didn’t give us a glimpse of what a contact center might look like in 2015. Based on the trends over the last year, let’s consider what Marty may have seen had he traveled to a contact center in 2015 instead of Hill Valley.

Moving from Multichannel to Omnichannel

And 2015 will be the year that the “omni” will be cemented into omnichannel. Multichannel customer care has been around for some time now.

Customers can reach out to contact centers via the channel they choose: voice, video, web chat, email, or social. But what if a customer uses more than one channel to complete a single transaction over a period of time?

Each time the customer makes contact, all the information and context from previous contacts, regardless of channel, will be available. Each subsequent agent or resource can get right to the issue at hand to complete that customer’s journey and fulfill their request.

Speaking of customer journeys, omnichannel allows you to Read More »

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4 Ways Video Conferencing Makes a Difference

4 Ways Video BenefitsIt’s not an industry-specific thing. Video conferencing can provide business benefits no matter the industry. Retailers and financial institutions are employing video to interact with customers. Medical professionals are consulting with one another across distance. Manufacturers are addressing production issues more quickly and thoroughly.

Where the need for interaction exists, so does the potential for video conferencing to add value. Once upon a time, suggesting a meeting over video was folly. It was too complicated, expensive, and it required equipment housed in the hallowed halls of the executive wing (and maybe an IT guru).

Now it’s on my smartphone, tablet, and laptop. My kid can figure it out. Hurdles cleared. Check.

A recent Forbes Insight article, “Boost Innovation with Video Communications,” outlines eight ways video can provide business advantages. Here’s my take on four of them.

1. Reduce travel costs.
Making video conferencing available up and down the org chart not only reduces travel, but it removes distance as an impediment to collaboration. Although I’ve decreased my personal business travel, I work with far more people outside of my primary work location than I ever have before. And our collaboration is more successful.

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“Who Can it Be Now?” is No Longer a Legitimate Question in the Call Center

blog image ZT call center 1_2015In 1982, the Australian group Men at Work reached the #1 spot on the Billboard music charts with a song titled “Who Can it Be Now?” The accompanying early MTV-era video proved to be extremely popular, portraying a visitor to an apartment peering through a keyhole. And it didn’t hurt that lead singer Colin Hay had a very interesting set of eyes to feature in the short. In case you haven’t seen this classic, check it out here:

Unfortunately, the very same paradigm hinders today’s customer-experience strategies. We invite customers to our businesses, and when they arrive we often ask the equivalent question: “Who are you?” This is still true in today’s contact centers, where customers are asked to self-identify through any number of authentication processes.

What’s difficult to grasp is that many Read More »

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A Magical Squared Moment

One of the problems we’re working to solve with Project Squared is to enable teams to work much more flexibly – any time, any place, any device. We believe that ad-hoc conferencing is a key part of this, which is why it features prominently in the application right now. I had a great experience – magical almost – with the app last week, and I wanted to share it with you.

A few developers, product managers, designers, and I were in a Squared Room, heatedly discussing the right user experience for a new feature we are considering adding to the app. The chat conversation was coming in bursts throughout the day. Around evening time in California, the discussion started up again. One of the participants was about to get in his car to drive home, so he took a gamble and hit the “call” button. It was actually quite late for me (I’m on the east coast), so I initially ignored the incoming invite, assuming others would as well. However, I saw that the call was still going on a few minutes later, so obviously something was going on. I was on my mobile, but figured I’d pop in and see what was happening. So, I clicked the join button.

When I joined, there was a heated discussion going. Four other folks were live in the call having an argument. The initiator of the call was still driving – thankfully his phone was lying down next to his seat and not in his hand! One of the others was outside a restaurant waiting to be seated. The other two were in a conference room in the office, working on some UX sketches on a whiteboard. We talked for about ten minutes, and actually made some good progress. The fellow in the restaurant reported a similar experience to mine – he initially ignored the request for the group call because he was at a restaurant. But seeing that the call was continuing, he jumped in to check it out.

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Moustaches and the Customer Experience

Tom_Selleck

Photo by Alan Light

Remember when moustaches were cool? For those who weren’t paying attention, it was back in the 1980s when Tom Selleck–sporting that signature facial hair–ruled the T.V. airwaves as private investigator Magnum, P.I. Most guys old enough to shave (or who thought they were) tried to proclaim their manliness with a Magnum-style moustache. We thought 128 kB of RAM and the 5 1/4″ floppy drives on our IBM XT personal computers were pretty neat, too.

The early 80s were also the last time many consumers thought that contact centers–or call centers, as they were known then–were cool. People appreciated being able to call businesses if they had a question about their bill or needed product information (remember, those were the Dark Ages before the internet). But as related in a noted white paper, contact centers soon became more about minimizing costs than providing exceptional customer care. And of course we started getting annoying telemarketing calls in the middle of dinner.

In the last couple of years, however, customer care has begun to swing back in favor of the customer.

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