Collaboration in the Contact Center

October 20, 2010 - 3 Comments

New Tools for Customer Collaboration

How great is it that we now have the ability to broadcast our gripes to anyone that will listen and if we have enough creativity, we can even re-brand ourselves to great acclaim.  But how challenging is this for a business who may be making attempts to not only broadcast a message in these new ‘social media’ channels…but is also realizing that these are great listening posts as well?  There are lots of free tools for doing this but they are next to impossible to integrate into the customer service framework that has been built and perfected over the years.

The combination of challenges and opportunities available to us these days are not limited to social media. The root issue here is that our modes of communication, the channels if you will are shifting – some of these are really taking root (video for instance) and others are either maturing (audio) or on the brink of acceptance (twitter/facebook).

Today’s show is about the tools you can employ to respond to this reality today AND set yourself up for success no matter which way these things may shift.

Tina Shakour, our TechWiseTV Collaboration Expert assembled a great set of topics and hands-on examples for us to dive into for this, Episode 76 – ‘Collaboration in the Contact Center

Tina knows where to go for answers and she started at the top.

John Hernandez, Vice President and General Manager, Cisco Customer Collaboration

John Hernandez leads the technology area where Cisco continues to excel and so this show starts with a little context for how to tackle these kind of problems.  The key theme he shared was our recognition that the market is now rewarding companies who can move from being Reactive to Proactive. These are not new sentiments of course…the difficult part is within the execution. How do you go about doing it?  Tina had John set up our show quite well of course as he outlined four components of successful customer collaboration:

  1. Social Media – Wrapping some control around the wild and wooly web so that a business can be more responsive
  2. Recording w/Analytics – the real time ability to parse the audio stream of a customer interaction and have your system engage resources for an agent to properly respond or escalate.
  3. Agent Dashboard Flexibility – the ability for the front line employees, the agents, to have a flexible command center that can be updated and customized to fit their particular needs or tool sets.
  4. Video Enablement – the recognition that ‘visual communication’ is fast becoming an expectation these days as it should.

For more from John, check out this ustream broadcast he did with Comcast Vice President and GM, Martin Marcinczyk on the use of Social Media Tools in customer care.

For more information on Cisco technologies in this area, check out the Customer Care Solutions Page.

A few other interesting articles:

Companies Need to Get on Board with Social Media (NoJitter)

Why We Love to Hate Social Media

What if you could have a network-based ‘personal assistant’ listening to calls in real-time to improve productivity by proactively helping you with tasks throughout the call?

Ruchi Gupta in the TechWiseTV Lab

SEGMENT 3: Real-Time Network Recording and Analysis
Jimmy Ray and Ruchi Gupta demonstrate how this remarkable new network-based tool enables instantaneous mining and analysis of customer conversations to constantly improve service.

ORA = Open Recording Architecture delivered as a network service.

  • Provides Web 2.0 access to recorded conversations
  • Record both sides of an audio conversation separately for enhanced speech analytics and compliance purposes
  • Dual audio/video stream recording (UC8.5)
  • Video (UC8.5) and screen recording (UC8.6)
  • Other specific features/capabilities in UC 8.5:
  • Live monitor/playback
  • Video blogging with Cisco Quad
  • Simple API to search for recorded calls
  • VMware ESXi 4.0 support

Open Recording Architecture

From Ruchi:

Contact centers handle thousands of customer conversations a day but unfortunately much of the enterprise intelligence that could be gleaned from those conversations is never used– because it’s either too expensive to capture, or too difficult to mine for useful information.  Cisco solves these challenges by recording conversations on the network–rather than a device–which simplifies the architecture, lowers costs, and provides optimum scalability.

Just as important, Cisco’s network-based recording allows the captured media to be quickly available to different applications–regardless of location–via simple application programming interfaces (APIs).  These interfaces implement open web standards, enabling a new ecosystem of applications that can gather useful information from conversations, either in real-time or afterward.

Targeted users:

  • Compliance auditor
  • Contact center supervisor (for training and issue resolution)

Additional Points:

Highly available appliance

  • Requires no regular maintenance


  • Forked media from Cisco IP phone
  • (2-channel audio only)
  • Direct call to or from ORA to any phone
  • (1-channel audio, optional 1-channel video)
  • Codecs: g.711, g.729, h.264
  • (UCM 8.5 SIP Recording API using phones with Built-in Bridge media forking)

Playback and Monitoring

  • To Cisco IP phone – can listen to or watch 1 channel only
  • To VLC media player – audio + video

Export and Download

  • MP4 format

New Web Based Agent Desktops

SEGMENT 4: New Web-Based Agent Desktop

Tina and Ruchi show how the new gadget-based user interface enables agents and supervisors to easily customize their desktops to provide faster, better customer service.

From Ruchi:

We have a new collaborative desktop for agents and supervisors that integrates traditional contact center functions with enterprise social software. Agent Collaboration Desktop for Agents is the next generation contact center desktop for CCE. A key characteristic is that each and every desktop capability is implemented through a publicly available Web 2.0 interface.

Two main deliverables: a common Web 2.0 API for Unified Contact Center Enterprise and Express, and a thin client desktop for use by agents and supervisors (Unified Contact Center Enterprise only). The API will be the same for Contact Center Express and Enterprise so anybody who writes an application for one environment can use it on another.

So why these Web-Based Mashups?

Because this desktop is a 100% thin client browser application, installation and upgrades to the desktop are done in a single place; on the desktop server.  By not requiring any components to run on the client, the solution lowers the Total Cost of Ownership for the customer.

Also, Contact Centers are very busy places. And to that end, contact center agents are kept very busy answer calls, responding to web chats, doing follow up work, looking up product or service information, and entering notes into CRM data bases. These are just some of the tasks they are responsible for on a daily basis. A typical agent could multiple applications open on their desktop at the same time, not including the basics like call control (hold, conference, transfer), to be able to do their job.  Transitioning between applications can take valuable time away from the task at hand, which is providing the customer with high-quality customer service.

By providing a framework where all agent activities can be done in a single application, it makes the user experience a lot better for the agent ultimately resulting in better caller satisfaction.

So we are now able to blend traditional Agent and Supervisor Functionality with Enterprise social software….but how?

This new desktop paradigm complements the Cisco Unified Intelligence Center to provide a complete Web 2.0 experience for contact center personnel.  Contact center agents and supervisors will access the functionality they need via OpenSocial gadgets, enabling enterprises to implement a completely thin contact center desktop with all the power and customization capability of traditional thick client applications.  Enterprises will also be able to mash-up contact center data and components using Cisco Enterprise Collaboration Platform.  The new Cisco OpenSocial agent and supervisor components combined with the Enterprise Collaboration Platform will provide the best in customer care capability integrated with the transformational capabilities of enterprise social software.

So what is really special to highlight here?

1. Web 2.0 Software Development Kit (SDK) –

Web 2.0 SDK for Unified Contact Center Enterprise and Unified Contact Center Express – Provides a powerful and broadly applicable web 2.0 based API for use by these gadgets, by custom-built gadgets, by 3rd party desktop applications, by wallboard and workforce management products, and even by configuration applications.

2. Thin Client Agent Desktop –

Thin Gadget-Base Client Agent Desktop built using industry standards – It provides a new gadget-based user interface for Unified Contact Center Enterprise agents and supervisors, and enables those gadgets to be hosted into a wide variety of environments to deliver a world-class user experience.

Benefits would include?

–       Highly Customizable

–       Architected to facilitate rapid application assembly

–       Build with a focus on agent usability

–       Business Decision Maker (BDM) Benefits: End-user centered design process to improve agent experience

–       Technical Decision Maker (TDM) Benefits: End-user customization – enabling a variety of work practices without IT involvement.

Our Target Audience is?

Contact centers looking to reduce call times by improving the agent experience

Contact center IT departments who wish to simplify deployment of new capabilities using a thin-client that is easily customizable

More on Cisco Agent Desktop

Tod Famous via Telepresence

SEGMENT 5: Social Media for Customer Care

Tod Famous reveals how the new social media for customer care tool empowers agents to join conversations on social web sites to resolve complaints more quickly and identify new sales opportunities.

Tod has been working on these issues and opportunities for awhile.

The Wrap Up

SEGMENT 6: The Wrap

Robb, Tina, and Jimmy Ray summarize the solutions that were covered on the show.

Special thanks to Jeff Campbell, Peter Milligan for a ton of incredible work on editing, proofing and valuable industry opinions we used throughout this show…

And thank YOU for watching (and reading all the way down to this point…did you?) If you are reading this…please drop a note below and say so!  (really curious….feel free to leave an opinion about these notes or the show itself if you feel so moved).

Now – for a fun bonus and a great blog entry by a former guest of our show Jeremiah Owyang –

“A Chronology of Brands that Got Punk’d by Social Media”

If you are the digitally social type and looking for a few ways to keep up with us…please reference the following:

In an effort to keep conversations fresh, Cisco Blogs closes comments after 60 days. Please visit the Cisco Blogs hub page for the latest content.


  1. Technology moving fast, now it becomes reality!

  2. That is awesome! This stuff is happening…there is your proof!

  3. Hi Robb – you know how much I love this show, I’ve admitted to being a bit of a contact center nerd. I had to share this though:

    Today I tweeted out I was waiting for the delivery of my Android phone. I wasn’t expecting a response, just commenting in the social media world. I received a tweet asking if I needed assistance with my delivery. How incredible is that? I knew the phone was out for delivery, so I didn’t really need help, but the fact that they reached out to me was fantastic.

    And now notice: I’ve re-tweeted their offer of assistance and commented on this blog. Good exposure for them.