Cisco Context Connects Contact Centers with Customer Journeys

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After checking your bank statement online, you see that you only have $50 in your savings account, but you know there should be $500. After exhausting your own resources to figure out what went wrong—Web chat didn't help, a tweet went unanswered—you take a deep breath and brace yourself for a call into the bank's contact center. You know the drill: The IVR asks for your account number. You may try to zero out but get nowhere. Finally, after saying or punching in the number, you're transferred to an agent. What's the first thing the agent asks? "What's your account number?" Does that make sense?

Cisco doesn't think so, and this week took the wraps off its Context Service for Contact Centers solution to help solve this issue. Context technology in this case is the ability to follow customer interactions across channels—Web, social media, etc.—and store and transfer interactions, which are then passed on to contact center agents. It's been the missing link in the multichannel world, and the technology is quickly becoming a must-have. Within the past month, vendors such as LiveOps, Salesforce, Aspect, and Genesys have also released their own contextual software.

"There's a lot of hype in the industry about a 360-degree view of the customer and total customer journey" says Ross Daniels, director of collaboration solutions marketing at Cisco. "It's our contention that actually delivering on that is impossible without understanding [the] context of that customer and why [he's] reaching out to the contact center."

Daniels says that while many customer service organizations can accept or manage a number of channels, one of the big challenges is that those organizations can't tie channels together. "Companies might be able to do some common reporting and routing on the channels themselves, but they know very little about the context that goes into each of those pieces of interactions," he says.

"There's a frustration with all of the promise of omnichannel—it's become such a buzzword in the industry—but no one's really been able to deliver on that yet," he adds. "The frustration is with not delivering on the omnichannel promise. The idea of context can bring this together."

That promise and the possible lack of its fulfillment potentially affects the majority of contact centers, according to research from Saddletree Research and the National Association of Call Centers (NACC). Virtually 100 percent of contact centers have some degree of incoming phone support, and 92 percent support e-mail customer communications. The research also found that 40 percent of contact centers support Twitter, and 39 percent support Web chat.

"The multichannel contact center is dominant in today's industry," said Paul Stockford, chief analyst at Saddletree Research, in an email. "It only makes sense to maximize 

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