It has been more than a year since I started using Cisco Spark. And it has been a year of learning and changing how I work with my team…and I’m still learning. My focus and passion at Cisco is customer-care technology. I’m always thinking about how to apply new collaboration technologies to customer interaction:

  • Do new messaging applications like Cisco Spark belong in the contact center?
  • Should businesses be using them to communicate with customers?

On the first question: Absolutely.

Paul Stockford of Saddletree Research and I discussed this recently in, “Hip to Be Squared,” following the announcement of Cisco Spark.

Team collaboration is the fuel of a great contact center operation. Contact centers have always been and always will be about people.  (Note: I’m a huge proponent of self-service as the first/best option for customer care. But as long as there are people, there will be a need for assisted-service contact centers).

Contact center management aims to maximize the productivity of customer care teams. And I confidently say from personal experience that Spark is a great team productivity tool.

Spark is the easiest way for my team to discuss topics, share news, and remain aligned on objectives and work in progress.  The mobile experience allows us to work from anywhere. While this can be intrusive if left unchecked, it allows us to work faster and fill idle moments with productive collaboration. Our work happens beyond traditional borders of time and location.

Every contact center agent team should have a Spark room. I have no doubt that they will find it a useful way to collaborate.

How to apply tools like Cisco Spark for consumer-to-business (C2B) and business-to-business (B2B) customer care is less clear.

C2B has zero tolerance for downloading, setup, onboarding, or learning a new tool to collaborate. For example, when companies introduce web chat, they embed it into their corporate web sites and offer the most basic features. The interface needs to be entirely intuitive from the consumer’s perspective. This slows the adoption of more advanced features like content sharing, desktop sharing, whiteboarding, or multiparty chats. When companies do introduce advanced features, the agent controls the experience, creating a clear leader-follower dynamic.

We’re still in a period of rapid innovation on Cisco Spark. The features are changing quickly in the core team collaboration use case, so it will take some time to translate the capabilities into the right C2B experiences.

There are some immediate use cases for Cisco Spark in B2B customer care. If there’s engagement with a persistent team, or a project/case that will take weeks to complete, Spark rooms can be incredibly useful as a core place to collaborate.

The obstacles to adoption are the communication-fatigued “oh, another tool I have to learn L.” Or the communication luddites “I don’t like change, let’s just keep using email.” If your team includes people who aren’t willing to adapt, then it may be tough to force change.

I believe overall adoption will be grassroots. Cisco’s strategy will be to support adoption over time with integration points to hand off from traditional customer contact channels (phone/chat/email) to Spark rooms.  Our goal would be to make it easy for an agent contacted via a traditional channel to create a room with the right participants and carry the context forward.

If you follow Cisco contact center, then I’m sure you can connect the dots to see how our new Context Service also fits into that picture.

Let me know what you think about these ideas, as they are top-of-mind for our contact-center product managers and our customers.  We look forward to carrying this conversation forward. Share your thoughts by commenting below or messaging me on Spark at famous@cisco.com.


Tod Famous

Senior Director, Product Management

Cisco Customer Contact Business Unit