The next frontier in customer service is the challenge of bringing together the relevant pieces of information about customer preferences, behaviours, and connections in a seamless whole.
So says Keith Dawson, analyst, Ovum IT, who believes this is monumentally difficult because of the siloed nature of contact centre applications and the fragmented customer contact landscape.
“But key vendors such as Cisco are tackling the problem, and its new Context Service offering shows great promise,” he claims.
At Enterprise Connect 2015 Cisco unveiled its solution to the broad problem of providing contextual background to customer interactions.
“Its Context Service is a cloud-based tool for storing, tagging, and managing interaction data; it is built into Release 11 and is available to users of Cisco’s premise or cloud platforms at no extra cost,” Dawson explains.
“The tool can store interaction data from multiple customer care channels such as voice (including IVR), chat, and email, plus emerging channels such as the Internet of Things.
“It can perhaps best be imagined as the storehouse for the historical details about what a customer has done already, across all channels, so that agents can see a continuous portrait of their journey and act in a way that does not add friction or fragmentation to the customer’s experience.”
Dawson says Cisco’s partners are already working with this storehouse of knowledge, in the form of APIs that allow them to build connections to apps such as analytics and journey mapping tools.
“For the last year the industry has been abuzz with the promise of the “omni-channel” customer experience - that theoretical next step beyond multichannel contact,” he adds.
“For the most part, vendors have been keen to board the omni-channel bandwagon, but there have been very few instances in which a solution has solved an actual business problem.”
Happily for Dawson, Cisco has squarely identified a problem - the lack of consistent contextual information as consumers switch channels - and made a solution available with a minimum of fuss.
“It is clear that Cisco intends Context Service to be easy to use - that is why it has put the tool in the cloud and made it accessible to its partners,” he adds.
“What is unclear is whether contact centre users will want to grab and format the data on their own, or whether they will rely on data analysis firms to extract the relevant insights and action items from the storehouse.
“In either case, however, Cisco has done the industry a service by putting context into the customer service mix.”