2017 has been a terrific year for Cisco’s contact center business. We’ve held number-one market share in North America for four straight quarters. And as Synergy reports, we had nearly 20 points higher share than our nearest competitor in the most recent quarter.Synergy: Q3 2017 Contact Center Market Share

But we never rest. We’re always looking to the future. Here are six things we foresee for the customer care industry in 2018.

1. Informal customer care will increase. 

Many businesses need to provide care, but not necessarily from a formal contact center. This includes small and midsize companies, but also teams within larger organizations. And the care can be for internal or external “customers.” For example, a marketing team might support sales on seasonal promotions. Or product developers could answer non time-critical questions from consumers. Persistent messaging is foundational to this type of care, whether to a customer or fellow employee.

Cisco introduced Cisco Spark Care to help businesses provide less-formal care. Built on Cisco Spark, it provides integrated administration and enterprise-class security.

2. The machines will rise. (But don’t be afraid.)

If you’ve been paying attention, the increased emphasis on artificial intelligence (AI) shouldn’t surprise you. AI can drive automated care via chatbots and the like. The interactions can be surprisingly natural. So much so that you’ve probably already chatted with a bot without realizing it.Bots are like IVRs, however. Employ them when they add value to the customer, not just to cut operational costs. It’s important to properly scope your bots. “Smarter” bots require more training and must typically address a narrower range of topics. Also, bots must seamlessly escalate to live support. This is one reason why Cisco predicts call volumes won’t drop much in the emerging age of bots.

Cisco Spark’s Care Assistant leverages AI and human experts. If the AI recognizes a question, it provides an answer. If it doesn’t, it escalates the query to people. Cisco also acquired MindMeld to power the next generation of automated conversations.

3. Context is everything. 

We hear this from politicians all the time: “You quoted me out of context!” This is because context really is everything. Without context, you don’t know the whole story. Fantastic customer support requires that we know who the customers are and why they’ve contacted us. Customers interact with businesses over time and across different channels. The customer views this as a single, connected journey and you as a single entity. But the business typically sees these interactions as isolated, disconnected events. Is it any wonder consumers are frustrated?

Cisco’s cloud-based Context Service allows you to keep track of previous customer interactions to provide faster, better-focused care. Best of all, it’s built into our Contact Center Enterprise and Express products.

4. It’s cloudy out there. 

Contact centers are moving to the cloud, especially at the low end of the market. But on-premises contact centers won’t disappear anytime soon. In fact, many new customers still prefer on-premises deployment. What does that mean for you? When evaluating vendors, consider one that lets you choose your deployment model. (Like Cisco.)

Cisco offers contact center solutions for on-premises, cloud, and hybrid deployments. You’ll also want a solution with open APIs and rock-solid security to leverage best-of-breed capabilities and even multicloud possibilities (think Google, AWS, Azure, etc.).

5. The new table stakes: Implement on time and on budget. 

We all want the newest shiny feature, but not if it’s going to disrupt the customer experience – or the bottom line. What good is a long list of promised features and a lowball price estimate if the vendor can’t deliver in reasonable time and without endless add-on costs? How confident are you that web services from a provider with no care heritage can be the backbone of your contact center?

More and more businesses leaders have expressed delight that their Cisco contact center was deployed on-time and on-budget. Our channel partners feel the same way.

6. Many more identities will be stolen. 

We’ve heard the horror stories. And it may have happened to you. I spent hours last weekend reactivating a credit card account after someone stole my personal data. How secure is your contact center? Is it built on solid security like Cisco’s? The scary truth is that nothing is 100% secure (except perhaps a bone guarded by my dog), but you want the odds in your favor. Consider world-class Cisco security.

I hope 2017 has been good to you and your business. I can’t wait to see what 2018 holds in store for us and the contact center industry!

Learn more about how Cisco contact center products can help your business – and your customers.


Jeff Campbell

No Longer with Cisco