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What Retailers should look for in 2012 – Happy Holidays

2011 is drawing to a close as I am writing this blog and Cisco is going on company holiday until after January3rd 2012. 

I will be taking time off myself to recharge after Christmas before heading off to National Retail Federation 2012 in New York. 

I thought I’d wrap up the year with what I think retailers will need to be looking at in 2012.

The Five Areas I think retailers need to pay attention to going forward are:

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HCS: Now bringing flexible customer collaboration to an SMB near you

I’m pleased to announce that customer collaboration solutions are becoming available in the cloud with the Cisco Hosted Collaboration Solution for Contact Center (HCS) in early 2012. These solutions are optimized for companies with 500-1,000 agents, with emphasis on scalability, simplicity, flexibility, and speed.

Scalability allows the technology to be deployed to a wide range of customers. Thus, powerful customer collaboration solutions can scale based on the specific size and makeup of the customer. Gone are the days of one-size-fits-all contact center solutions; now if you’re a small to medium-sized business you can cater to your customers’ needs and concerns with the same tools as a large one, and at vastly accelerated speed.

Midsize businesses often do not have the resources to deal with complex IT systems, which is why simplicity is paramount. With the simplified management of a cloud-based contact center solution, SMB’s IT departments can focus their time on more urgent matters.

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Machine Builders in my Factory?

As you know there are many changes in manufacturing operations today. These certainly relate to Operations Excellence, Continuous Innovation, Energy Management, even the Supply Chain and Customer Service world. There are technology changes and personnel changes. There are Global impacts as manufacturing companies compete in new regions and those same new regions sprout new manufacturers. And at the end of the day (or maybe the beginning?) there is a need for someone to build a specialized machine.

We have already seen the power of a converged (technologically) network. Ethernet/IP helps the controls world provide information to the IT world. We see this every day, where older proprietary networks are replaced by standard Ethernet. Here are some thoughts as they relate to specialized machine builders:

So, we have this technology that can unify us, Ethernet. Who knew that years ago I sold against Ethernet? But that was a different version. Today is new, with managed switches, managed services, and tomorrow is your new today.

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How to Deliver Superior Customer Service in 140 Characters or Less

When you complain about a company’s customer service using Twitter, do you expect them to respond? If you’re a baby boomer (which covers approximately 76 million Americans), you are more likely to. In fact, according to a new study from Maritz Research, nearly half of all respondents expect companies to respond to—or at least read—their tweet.

The Maritz Research study examines consumer expectations from brands in the social web. In addition to being timely and relevant, this research highlights the value of customer engagement which is especially vital for me and my team as we continue to lead Social Media Marketing listening at Cisco.

When it comes to listening, Maritz Research uncovered a significant gap: although nearly half of the consumers who tweeted a complaint directed at a particular brand expected the company to respond, only a third of those customers actually received a tweet back from the mentioned brand.

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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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