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When is a Visit from the Fire Marshall a Good Thing?

Our recent Americas Customer Collaboration Partner Sales Summit in Natick, MA brought together nearly 300 partners and Cisco attendees for two days of product updates, live demos, best practice sharing, networking, and interactive discussions.  Over the course of the event, some key discussion points included the clear shift in the contact center market toward Cisco, and the power of Cisco’s full Collaboration portfolio in helping to deliver Customer Collaboration solutions.

This annual event has become so popular–and the general demand for expertise in Cisco contact center solutions is so great –that our meeting room was filled beyond capacity by partners eager to work with us.

Although we didn’t in fact receive a visit from the Natick fire marshall, if we had it would have only underscored that all the momentum in the contact center industry is clearly with Cisco as we continuing driving to #1 in the market.

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Not All Contact Centers are Created Equal

Contact centers have been around for decades, and since it is a mature technology, potential buyers sometimes believe there is little difference between the offerings from the various vendors.  Nothing could be further from the truth!

While it’s certainly true that the major contact center vendors can provide traditional functionality such as interactive voice response (IVR), skills-based routing to agents, and associated reporting, the question then becomes “And what else?” Although traditional contact center functionality is still vital to customer care, the industry is evolving as businesses of all sizes strive to provide customer care in the manner in which today’s customers wish to be served.  This transition to what Cisco first defined as Customer Collaboration combines traditional contact center technology and processes with key innovations in social media, Web 2.0 agent workspaces, video, and network-based recording and analytics to empower businesses to forge deeper, proactive relationships with their customers.

When you think about implementing or upgrading a contact center, have you considered how your business or organization will keep pace with today’s consumers?

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Cisco Customer Collaboration Driving Aggressively to #1

Cisco’s contact center business is growing more than twice as quickly as the market, and we are driving aggressively to become the #1 vendor worldwide.  As I talk to customers, press, analysts, consultants, and partners, I continue to see momentum on our side.  Market trends, changes in the competitive landscape, and customer desires are all responsible for this momentum.  Of course, I think that we are creating some of this momentum for ourselves as well.  Let me share some insights.

Contact center has become mainstream within Cisco, a real change from the niche market view of customer care that the company had in the past.  The talented Cisco sales force has embraced our industry-shaping innovations in Customer Collaboration, which combines traditional contact center technology and processes with key innovations in social media, Web 2.0 agent workspaces, video, and network-based recording and analytics to empower businesses to forge deeper, proactive relationships with their customers. Customer collaboration empowers our own customers to succeed, and there is clear focus on this market, starting with key Cisco sales executives, who exhorted the Cisco sales team at the global sales kickoff in August that, “The time is now for Cisco to stand up and claim leadership in Contact Center.”  Needless to say, hearing that from one of the top sales leaders in the company put an extra spring in my step.

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New Survey Shows that Cisco Contact Center Skills are in High Demand

Computerworld’s annual IT Forecast survey for 2012 underscores the continued expected growth of the customer care industry, and highlights specific demand for Cisco contact center products.  Of the 353 IT executives polled, 35% plan to hire help desk and technical support personnel in the next twelve months, which bodes well for the customer care industry as a whole, while 23% plan to hire IT professionals skilled in Business Intelligence (BI).  I was particularly struck by the latter statistic, as it indicates how eager companies are for the kinds of recording and analytics solutions provided by Cisco MediaSense, in conjunction with our technology partners.

I was also strongly encouraged by the poll’s indication that 18% of the IT Executives surveyed plan to hire additional Web 2.0 developers, driven in part by demand for social media.  This is yet another confirmation of Cisco’s market-leading vision to deliver products like Cisco Finesse–our web 2.0 agent desktop–and Cisco SocialMiner, which integrates social media into the customer care workflow.

Most exciting, however, was the survey’s indication that IT Executives are looking to hire personnel with Voice-over-IP telecommunications experience, with specific mention of the need for people with skills in Cisco contact center systems.  IT Executives are clearly recognizing that the thought leadership and market momentum in contact center are all with Cisco, as we now hold the #1 position in interactive voice response (IVR) market share, and are well on our way to #1 in contact center.

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Tips and Tricks for Leveraging CRM Solutions

One of the best parts of my job is talking with–and more importantly, listening to–leaders from companies and organizations who use Cisco’s contact center products to collaborate with their customers and grow their businesses.  Over the course of these conversations, we’ve discussed ways in which companies can get the most out of their customer relationship management (CRM) solutions.  Today I’d like to share a few of them with you, gleaned from a recent conversation with Doug Saunders of Republic Services Inc, the leading provider of solid waste collection, transfer, recycling, and disposal services.

1) Don’t underestimate the power of self-service: Interactive Voice Response (IVR) is a mature, proven technology for automatically handling routine caller requests that can free up valuable agent resources for calls that require more detailed/customized assistance.  For example, Republic Services uses Cisco Unified Customer Voice Portal for automated order entry, saving approximately five minutes apiece for each of 100-200 daily service requests–the equivalent of one to two full-time agents.

2) Creating a unified experience is key: Companies can strengthen their brand by providing a consistent, unified customer service experience across multiple media channels including voice, video, web, chat, and e-mail– regardless of whether the “call” goes into a national service center or a local branch. Cisco’s contact center solutions are built on the network, making this unification a natural consequence of our architecture.

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