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.

Learn more about how DevNet, Cisco’s resource center for all things developer, is driving innovation forward with artificial intelligence and with Google.

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.



Tod Famous

Senior Director, Product Management

Cisco Customer Contact Business Unit