Impressions from Voicecon!
Wow – Cisco was in the house for Voicecon this year! For a company that was not taken seriously as a voice vendor a few years ago, this year we were rocking this conference. Walking around in my Cisco t-shirt, I was stopped several times by folks who complimented the shirts (simple black t-shirt with Cisco in white on the front) and one guy admitted to me he was sick of the “awful colors” on t-shirts. Then I overheard a passing comment about how “Cisco people are EVERYWHERE”.
So besides Cisco being highly visible, what other impressions am I taking away from Voicecon this year?
SIP: Talk about one hot protocol – everyone is talking about SIP trunking. An interesting blog article (NoJitter.com: SIP – What is holding it back?) calls out interoperability, features and perceived risk as factors contributing to a slow adoption of SIP trunking. Looking through the Voicecon schedule, there were at least five sessions with “SIP” in the title – and this doesn’t count how often it came up in keynotes and breakout sessions. Everyone is talking about it, but not many are making the leap. I agree with the factors laid out in the NoJitter.com article, but I think there is another factor: prevalence of legacy systems. Many older PBX systems cannot support SIP trunking. This means if you are going to make the leap to SIP, you also have to make some big decisions about your overall communications strategy and probably make some choices about the vendor of the future for your enterprise. Complementing this SIP trunking discussion is all the talk about “session management”. Chances are good you are scratching your head wondering “what does that mean” – and you would not be alone on in. Session management is a key factor to aggregating communications systems and starting to leverage the benefits of SIP trunking. We are going to dive deep into this on the May 6th TechWiseTV show on SIP and Session Management – should be a fantastic show!
Video: The Cisco TelePresence “fishbowl” was packed with customers every time I walked by it. Our TechWiseTV broadcast and workshop on Cisco TelePresence had fantastic attendance – we were repeatedly receiving feedback on our surveys that ya’ll wanted to hear more on this topic so we produced the shows and you were there (thank you!). But this wasn’t all just about TelePresence: video cameras and video vendors were nearly ubiquitous at the conference. Flip video, video phones, immersive technologies such as TelePresence, how to share video within your enterprise, video and mobility…and so on. I counted at least seven sessions dedicated to video! Video, in all shapes and sizes and in many different use cases is hot, hot, hot right now! If you haven’t prepared your network for this traffic, you might want to get started.
Social Media and Customer Care: I have always had a soft spot for contact center. Probably because I use to work in tech support and I know how BAD it can be to be an agent working in a poorly managed contact center. The agony of having calls waiting in queue and your supervisor leaning over your shoulder urging you to wrap up a call when the customer just refuses to reboot their PC and move on. The tricks agents can play to drop themselves to the bottom of the call queue. Forgetting to log out of the queue and ruining your call stats for the day. Ahh… yes, memories. For most people, contact centers have not really evolved much over the years from the end-user perspective. You call the bank, punch in your account number and when you finally get to an agent what do they ask? “May I have your account number please”? Cisco has some pretty awesome contact center and customer care software, but I just think it has not been a top priority for many industries and most Enterprises.
Then enters social media. A customer can tweet out a negative reaction to your product or brand and with enough re-tweets, you could have a nasty trend on your hands and a PR mess. You don’t have to be a celebrity like Kevin Smith to get noticed either – Comcast has changed their culture due to the many customers using social media to broadcast their complaints. I recorded an example of how Cisco integrates social media into customer care with Tod Famous on the showfloor this week – and I have to say, this is some seriously cool stuff. Keeping in mind that I am a bit of a contact center nerd (and an anguished end-user of bad customer care centers), I am thrilled to see the surge in this. In his keynote, Tony Bates did a fantastic demo on how customer care has really changed and has become more about customer interaction. The challenge I see here is for the enterprises who have not fully embraced IP Telephony and Unified Communications – making the leap to integrating social media in your communications strategy is going to take some planning…and some time.