'The Experience' Takes Center Stage at EC17

Executives from Cisco, Twilio, and Amazon Web Services took to the keynote stage at Enterprise Connect today, leaving attendees no question as to the need to focus on the experience, whether that be the user experience, the customer experience, or the employee/contact center agent experience. Wisdom well shared, as the experience is really the fundamental determinant of whether a technology, product/service, or company ultimately finds success in the market.

Cisco on Experiences

First up to the keynote stage was Cisco's Jens Meggers, SVP & GM of the company's Cloud Collaboration Technology Group. Truly successful tech ventures, he said, have come from those who have made the technology seamless and invisible. Businesses need to start with the experience and work their way back to technology, he said.

"We've taken the best of meetings, the best of Jabber, the best of video, and we've integrated all of that together into one amazing experience," Meggers said, while diagramming out this strategy on a Spark Board, ultimately creating a Cisco Spark logo, or what Meggers referred to as the "DaVinci Code of Cisco Spark collaboration."

Meggers then launched into a series of demos of the key experiences that Cisco is delivering with Spark. Meggers shared some of today's keynote announcements with me in a pre-briefing (see "Cisco Beefs Up Spark Ecosystem"), but he kept a few under wraps for his keynote.

Cisco has now integrated an AI-based virtual assistant into its Spark product line, formerly going by the name Monica, but now answering to "Hey Spark." Additionally, Meggers demonstrated how virtual reality would fit into a Spark room scenario, previewing a capability Cisco is calling Cisco Spark in VR. In one piece of Meggers and a colleague showed how team members could collaborate in a virtual room, interacting with a physical Spark Board out in the real world. All of this comes together to create "absolutely powerful experiences," Meggers concluded.

Twilio on Experiences

Next up was Jeff Lawson, founder, CEO, and chairman of Twilio, communications API pioneer. As Lawson explained in his opening, an all-too-often unfortunate side effect of technology companies scaling is the dehumanization of customers. "Now in the millennial era, people are begging for a return to humanity," he said.

But the same technology that has dehumanized things has the ability to reverse that trend and solve the problem, Lawson said. "We need to do scale and also do human at the same time. And agility is key to a great customer experience."

Lawson pointed to the professional services of more traditional communications providers as an example of where the problem lies. Why is it, he asked, that after spending millions of dollars deploying one of these communications systems, people still can't get what they want? It's because the legacy way of doing communications is not agile, and simply not reliable, he said, answering his own question.

Communications solutions need to be customizable, fast, low risk, and resilient, he said -- and this is where Twilio comes in. In particular, enterprises need to be able to build something that is customizable to your customer experience goals, he said. "We're not an app," Lawson said. "We haven't made all the assumptions about what you're trying to do, and this means that you are not constantly having to try to jam a square peg into a round hole."

Offering a set of flexible, proven APIs -- for programmable voice, video, wireless, messaging, and authentication -- Twilio provides businesses with the communications building blocks to put a custom solution together yourself and provide the experience you are wanting to provide.

AWS on Experiences

The third and final keynoter of the day was Amazon Web Services, a presentation led by Gene Farrell, VP of enterprise applications at AWS. Farrell teed things up by sharing how AWS's pace of innovation has been accelerating the bigger the company becomes, bucking the trend. He then brought out his colleague Tom Weiland, VP worldwide customer service at Amazon.com, to share news of AWS's entrance into the contact center market.

Amazon strives to be the world's most customer-centric company, Weiland said, "and at the heart of that is a contact center system that is simple, reliable, and scales with our needs."

Using customer feedback as a guide, Amazon set out to build a solution that was able to solve all of the challenges it faced in its own contact center: complex integrations, cumbersome tools, proprietary environments, complex pricing, security, scalability, and reliability. And the result is the solution that AWS has now brought to market, Amazon Connect, a "simple to use," cloud-based contact center service, as Weiland revealed on stage today.

With an eye toward the agent experience, AWS has made the graphical interface easy to use so that non-technical users can design contact flows, manage agents, and track performance metrics. Complete with integrations with CRM, workforce management, analytics, and helpdesk offerings, businesses can embed that Amazon Connect agent experience into the applications that their agents already use.

Amazon Connect users a per-minute usage pricing model, plus charges for associated telephony services. Amazon Connect is available as of today, offering DID numbers and toll-free numbers in the U.S. and 18 countries in Europe.

So as you head out to the show floor this evening and prep for another day of information-packed sessions and keynotes tomorrow, keep an eye out for other vendors that are putting a focus on the experience. Perhaps, at the conclusion of Enterprise Connect on Thursday, we'll be able to say for sure that the experience has become core to every communications system provider competing in the market.