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Context: The New Holy Grail

If I were to pick one word to summarize my takeaway from five Enterprise Connect 2015 contact center/customer experience track sessions, several keynote presentations, numerous one-on-one meetings, and a whirlwind tour of the show floor, it would be "context." Keep in mind I have a strong bias toward contact center-related news, but I think the value of context pervades many of the applications and technologies announced and discussed this week in Orlando.

Cisco Context Service - This newly announced cloud-based service is Cisco Customer Collaboration's foray into not only the world of customer journey but also Cisco-delivered, SaaS-based contact center services, as Rowan Trollope, Cisco senior vice president and general manager of Cisco Collaboration Technology Group, lightly alluded to during Tuesday's keynote. Tod Famous, Cisco's Customer Collaboration product lead, describes Context Service as a cloud-based solution that tracks a customer's critical contextual data and immediately delivers it to the service agent. The service -- available to Cisco contact center customers at no incremental cost -- will allow for the storage of a virtually unlimited amount of contextual data.

Altocloud - Not surprisingly, one of the first partners to create an integration to Cisco's Context Service is the company founded by Barry O'Sullivan, former general manager of the Cisco contact center business and then senior vice president and general manager for Cisco Collaboration. Cisco showed Altocloud's integration with Context Service, available now, in its booth at the show.

The screenshot above shows Altocloud Journey information about the Web pages a customer has visited being presented to a contact center agent inside the Cisco Finesse desktop. Note especially the graphic on the lower right, which visually lets the agent know that this customer started at the home page, navigated to auto, home, business, and life insurance pages, then went back to the business insurance page, and has connected from that point. Putting that customer journey information together with the transcribed text from a previous conversation that details a discussion of a master policy covering all insurance areas, the agent starts the call with considerably more information than available via the standard screen pop.

CafeX and Humanify - As detailed in a No Jitter post and discussed during the "Delivering an Improved Mobile Customer Experience" session in the Enterprise Connect contact center track, these two companies announced a partnership this week to jointly deliver personalized mobile experiences. CafeX's Fusion platform alone allows businesses to gather and deliver available context to agents about customers and their previous interactions. Humanify's predictive analytics platform goes one step further, adding the ability for a company to personalize the experience. Customer Weight Watchers, for example, uses Humanify to match available agent assets to the profile of the caller -- a 50-year-old man who is a runner vs a 25-year-old woman who is a new mother.

Cisco Spark and Interactive Intelligence Collaborate Announced at this week's show, both of these solutions are collaboration applications, not customer-care solutions. But context is a strong aspect of the value each delivers. They allow persistent communications that reveals the context of a stream of interactions, the relevant individuals, and links to related documents.

The connection between collaboration applications and customer care is not initially obvious but definitely exists. Cisco already is using Spark internally to create rooms with customers that have trouble tickets. Customers can visit the room to see the status of their issues and relevant Cisco resources get added to the room as appropriate.

In a recent conversation, Brian Barnes, vice president, World Service & Global Credit Administration Technology, American Express (Enterprise Connect speaker and CafeX/Cisco customer), described the problem that context can solve for the company. A corporation doesn't innately have continuity, he noted. A customer isn't dealing with "Fred," he is dealing with American Express. And when Fred goes home, or isn't scheduled to work the next day, that doesn't work for either the member or the business.

Consumers have been trained by the mobile communications applications available today to interact on a peer-to-peer level, and they want to have similar types of interactions with businesses. The problem that needs solving is how, as a corporation, to create that kind of peer-to-peer relationship with a consumer. And providing the context of the relationship the consumer has with the business, as well as that customer's earlier-related interactions, is the new Holy Grail for contact center agents.

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