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The Future of Contact Center: Cisco and AI Pave the Way


July 26, 2018 - 10 Comments

When I think of the contact centers I visited in the 1990s, I remember walking into an open area where the agents worked. I noticed all the brightly colored sticky notes that dotted their workspaces. At the time, I thought it looked like chaos. But, in reality, that is how contact centers managed information and tasks. They used manual processes that were linear and analog.AI Innovations graphic

And for the most part, it worked. Consumer demands were very different in the 1990s. E-commerce and mobile technologies were in their infant stages. Customer demands were more predictable. Basic information for things like password resets was not always available. Most businesses viewed the contact center as a cost of doing business. The contact center wasn’t an important aspect of a company’s brand.

Physical sticky notes of the past became “virtual” sticky notes within the IP-enabled network. Customer service centers operate faster today, using networks to communicate, gather, and send information. They collaborate with more people to solve issues that aren’t easily remedied online or in an app.

Cisco has led the transition in contact centers, but there is still much to do. Through artificial intelligence (AI) technology, we move from digital and fast to intelligent and agile. To date, AI has been limited to a few pockets of customer care. As a leader in the contact center market, we bring advances in intelligent care to our customers. We do this by adopting AI solutions to enhance the Cisco customer journey. With this, the contact center will evolve from a cost center to a strategic asset.

AI is embedded in our product strategy. Here are some examples:

  • Self-service: AI-driven self-service means consumers can get the answers they’re looking for instantly. Intelligent bots, FAQ resources, and virtual agents use customer data to provide the best possible answer at the time of need.
  • Intelligent routing: Intelligent routing requires admins to design and develop routing scripts and strategies with algorithms rooted in the historical knowledge of customer behavior. Imagine being able to automate call flows with AI and machine learning tools that use all available data – including current details like hold time, location, and time of day — to decide where to route inbound communication to achieve the best outcome.
  • Real-time help for agents: This continues where intelligent routing leaves off. We are helping agents provide seamless and personalized customer journeys. We provide suggested answers and relevant information in real time to serve the customer.
  • Actionable business insights: For agents to focus on relationships, they need to offload mundane tasks. AI-driven business insights mean that the system can observe what is happening during an interaction. It can make suggestions on how to respond or mitigate lengthy searches. Or go a step further and engage other systems to help with tasks. Agents aren’t forced to manage many back-end platforms.

As announced earlier this week, we are proud to collaborate with Google and its new Contact Center AI service. With this integration, agents don’t have to search through many systems and knowledge bases to find a response to a customer request. The “intelligent agent assist” feature automates the process, increasing agent effectiveness and efficiency. It ensures that your agents can always give customers the best possible response to their queries.

Here’s how the Google solution works:

  • It listens: The service observes the conversation in real-time. It starts suggesting relevant content such as documents, links, articles, and more.
  • It adapts: It adapts to an evolving conversation. Cisco’s context service brings the customer’s prior data into consideration.
  • It assists: Provides the agent with the best information to handle the particular case in a single dialogue box. This ensures that the end customer’s experience is always consistent.
  • It learns: The service uses machine learning to improve over time.

Existing customers using our premises-based platforms do not need to wait 12 months for the next release. Cisco is building cloud-based services that overlay on our premises-based contact center platforms. We are bringing cloud-speed innovation to our customer base.

In summary, this is just the beginning. With our open platforms, a global and extensive partner footprint, and massive customer base, we have the ecosystem strength to turn our vision into reality. This week’s Google announcement lays the foundation for a future of broader autonomy where the service can fully automate responses to certain customer inquiries. And we are very excited about the possibilities that lie ahead by using artificial intelligence and machine learning across our entire suite.

See how we plan to help companies deliver exceptional service in the age of the digital consumer. Explore our customer care product portfolio. We are excited to get started with this technology and we invite our Cisco contact center customers to pilot the integration. Contact us for more information on the pilot program.

 



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10 Comments

  1. I am very appreciate by your blog about future of contact centre. Really this is a great blog. Thanks for sharing with us.

  2. Will it use Google's natural language processing system and Will be available in many languages?

  3. Tod, great news about this partnership with Google, but what has happened internally with the MindMeld side of things? Is this still being pursued internally within Cisco in the context of AI and ML?

    • We are using MindMeld for Webex Assistant. We are not applying it to CC products at this time.

  4. Will be very interested in bringing this to life, is this trial available in EMEA as well? Everybody is talking AI in the CC Space, so good to see that you finally are taking a huge step in this area.

    • We have no GEO restrictions on trial. We are using US data center at this time therefore therefore this may prevent certain EU customers from accepting the solution (something we will address going forward with EU data center availability)

  5. Good to see a much more complicated Contact Center application is moving towards AI. waiting for roadmap and resource availability on this.

    • Yes, we're very excited about brining AI to the contact center. Our solution is available for trial now. Contact cc.cloud@cisco.com if you are a Cisco customer interested in this feature.

      • @Tod Famous , great news! Is there a partner enablement program available for this? Does this apply only for Interaction History (Context Services) and Chat (Google Dialogflow to Cisco ECE, I assume?), or also to the Voice channel, such as Google Duplex https://ai.googleblog.com/2018/05/duplex-ai-system-for-natural-conversation.html? Is there any role for Mindmeld in this? We have now worked some time on Bots and AI platforms (expertflow.com/ai-chatbot/ and expertflow.com/chat/ ). Our primary business is around Cisco, so we would like to know how and where to align and invest - there seem to be overlaps and gaps across the various platforms.

        • The feature will apply to real time agent chat and voice; eventually on all Cisco CC offers. It's improved by Context but not dependent on it; however it is a hybrid service so relies on same hybrid plumbing architecture of Context Service. This feature doesn't directly relate to bots yet. We are introducing this as an "Assist" feature to help agents. Once we see success with this technology in suggesting answers to agents, we will connect it to our bot framework to allow our customers to use the service to directly answer questions [without agent involvement]. There's no relationship to MindMeld and this feature; note we're going to have a lot more AI futures in the feature. Most of them will be independent from each other. AI and AI technology has many use cases.