Sheila McGee-Smith
Sheila McGee-Smith, who founded McGee-Smith Analytics in 2001, is a leading communications industry analyst and strategic consultant focused on the...
Read Full Bio >>

Sheila McGee-Smith | March 28, 2017 |


Cisco Spark Meets Customer Care

Cisco Spark Meets Customer Care Cisco unveils a digital customer support solution for help desks and small teams, and Altocloud announces a Sales Communications Solution built on the Spark platform.

Cisco unveils a digital customer support solution for help desks and small teams, and Altocloud announces a Sales Communications Solution built on the Spark platform.

Long suspected to be in development, Cisco chose Enterprise Connect 2017 to announce Spark Care, customer care capabilities for companies using Spark. While the news was revealed yesterday in a press release alongside additional Cisco Spark announcements that have to do with devices and security enhancements, for a contact center maven like myself, it is the roughly 150 words devoted to Spark Care that are most relevant.

In supplement to the information in the release, contact center industry analysts were briefed on Cisco Spark Care last week by Cisco director of customer care product management, Tod Famous. As many will jump to incorrect conclusions when they hear there is now a Spark customer care offer, it is perhaps best to describe from the outset what Spark Care is NOT:

  • Spark Care is NOT a replacement for Cisco's existing contact center solutions, Unified Contact Center Express and Enterprise or Hosted Collaboration Service – Contact Center.
  • In fact, Spark Care is NOT a replacement for any existing contact center solution, premises or cloud based.
  • Spark Care is NOT, at least today, a competitor to Five9, inContact, Serenova or any other multi-tenant cloud contact center solution.

On then, to what Spark Care IS:

  • Cisco describes Spark Care as a digital customer support solution for help desks and small teams. The target market is teams with up to 20 agents, who service either internal or external customers, such as internal help desk or external technical support operations.
  • When made available on April 6, customers will be able to quickly embed auto-generated Spark Care code on their websites to offer chat and callback services.
  • The initial competitors for Spark Care, as Famous explained, are companies that specifically target the Web chat market, including Zendesk Chat (formerly Zopim), Live Person and FreshChat.

The accompanying screen shot of the Cisco Spark Care agent desktop gives a sense of the various elements that are displayed to the user, which include a mini key performance indicators (KPI) dashboard at the top. On the right, you can see that Spark Care allows an agent to support multiple simultaneous chats.


But while Spark Care is best compared to existing Web chat platforms, Famous was clear to point out that there are attributes of the product that clearly distinguish it from competitor offers. The first and most obvious differentiator is that Spark Care is only being sold as an add-on to Cisco Spark. That means that like the Spark Board, it can be used by Cisco to help incentivize customers to upgrade to the required release of Cisco Unified Communications Manager (CUCM) and to deploy Spark.

Spark Care callback capability is powered by Spark Call, which means it supports both voice and video escalation from chat. Built on the Spark platform, Spark Care inherits all the security and IT management features of Spark, including single sign-on. Spark Care also uses Context Services, a Spark-based repository of historical customer interactions.

While the initial capabilities may seem modest, Famous ended the briefing by saying, "We are just getting started. It is not our ambition to be the number one vendor in the live chat market. ...Our ambitions are much bigger than that." Without tipping his hand with specifics, Famous's "stay-tuned" message could not have been more clear.

Partners for Customer Care
Spark Care was not the only contact center-related solution working on the Cisco Spark platform that was announced at Enterprise Connect yesterday. Altocloud announced a Sales Communications Solution built on the Spark platform. With this new Sales Communications Solution, Altocloud extends a context-based, customer journey approach to sales professionals. Both inside and outside sales teams will be able to provide easy, persistent communications to customers, and the company will have one place to prioritize, track, and share these interactions.

Altocloud also announced today a deeper integration with Cisco's Unified Contact Center Enterprise Platform (UCCE), using the power of customer journey analytics to enhance Cisco's Enterprise Chat and Email (ECE). With the Altocloud integration, agents will now be able to view customer journey history when an incoming chat occurs and businesses will be able to trigger proactive and predictive ECE chats at the right time in the customer journey. In addition, agents will be able to escalate from ECE chat to a Spark video call with the customer.

Clearly, Cisco's Enterprise Connect announcements centered on Spark. The Altocloud announcement reinforces that Cisco's partner community is also investing, building applications that extend the Spark platform. Both are presumably hoping for a big payoff.

Follow Sheila McGee-Smith on Twitter and Google+!
Sheila McGee-Smith on Google+


August 8, 2018

Artificial intelligence (AI) is becoming a reality for your contact center. But to turn the promise of AI into practical reality, there are a couple of prerequisites: Moving to the cloud and integr

June 20, 2018

Your enterprise may have adopted SIP Trunks, but are you up to date on how the latest technology is driving evolution in approaches?

In this webinar, youll learn how the new generation of SI

June 6, 2018

The two largest strategic vendors-Cisco and Microsoft-have been busy making changes to their enterprise communications roadmaps, incorporating collaboration applications as fundamental components.

March 12, 2018
An effective E-911 implementation doesn't just happen; it takes a solid strategy. Tune in for tips from IT expert Irwin Lazar, of Nemertes Research.
March 9, 2018
IT consultant Steve Leaden lays out the whys and how-tos of getting the green light for your convergence strategy.
March 7, 2018
In advance of his speech tech tutorial at EC18, communications analyst Jon Arnold explores what voice means in a post-PBX world.
February 28, 2018
Voice engagement isn't about a simple phone call any longer, but rather a conversational experience that crosses from one channel to the next, as Daniel Hong, a VP and research director with Forrester....
February 16, 2018
What trends and technologies should you be up on for your contact center? Sheila McGee-Smith, Contact Center & Customer Experience track chair for Enterprise Connect 2018, gives us the lowdown.
February 9, 2018
Melanie Turek, VP of connected work research at Frost & Sullivan, walks us through key components -- and sticking points -- of customer-oriented digital transformation projects.
February 2, 2018
UC consultant Marty Parker has crunched lots of numbers evaluating UC options; tune in for what he's learned and tips for your own analysis.
January 26, 2018
Don't miss out on the fun! Organizer Alan Quayle shares details of his pre-Enterprise Connect hackathon, TADHack-mini '18, showcasing programmable communications.
December 20, 2017
Kevin Kieller, partner with enableUC, provides advice on how to move forward with your Skype for Business and Teams deployments.
December 20, 2017
Zeus Kerravala, principal analyst with ZK Research, shares his perspective on artificial intelligence and the future of team collaboration.
December 20, 2017
Delanda Coleman, Microsoft senior marketing manager, explains the Teams vision and shares use case examples.
November 30, 2017
With a ruling on the FCC's proposed order to dismantle the Open Internet Order expected this month, communications technology attorney Martha Buyer walks us through what's at stake.
October 23, 2017
Wondering which Office 365 collaboration tool to use when? Get quick pointers from CBT Nuggets instructor Simona Millham.
September 22, 2017
In this podcast, we explore the future of work with Robert Brown, AVP of the Cognizant Center for the Future of Work, who helps us answer the question, "What do we do when machines do everything?"
September 8, 2017
Greg Collins, a technology analyst and strategist with Exact Ventures, delivers a status report on 5G implementation plans and tells enterprises why they shouldn't wait to move ahead on potential use ....
August 25, 2017
Find out what business considerations are driving the SIP trunking market today, and learn a bit about how satisfied enterprises are with their providers. We talk with John Malone, president of The Ea....
August 16, 2017
World Vision U.S. is finding lots of goodness in RingCentral's cloud communications service, but as Randy Boyd, infrastructure architect at the global humanitarian nonprofit, tells us, he and his team....
August 11, 2017
Alicia Gee, director of unified communications at Sutter Physician Services, oversees the technical team supporting a 1,000-agent contact center running on Genesys PureConnect. She catches us up on th....
August 4, 2017
Andrew Prokop, communications evangelist with Arrow Systems Integration, has lately been working on integrating enterprise communications into Internet of Things ecosystems. He shares examples and off....
July 27, 2017
Industry watcher Elka Popova, a Frost & Sullivan program director, shares her perspective on this acquisition, discussing Mitel's market positioning, why the move makes sense, and more.
July 14, 2017
Lantre Barr, founder and CEO of Blacc Spot Media, urges any enterprise that's been on the fence about integrating real-time communications into business workflows to jump off and get started. Tune and....
June 28, 2017
Communications expert Tsahi Levent-Levi, author of the popular blog, keeps a running tally and comprehensive overview of communications platform-as-a-service offerings in his "Choosing a W....
June 9, 2017
If you think telecom expense management applies to nothing more than business phone lines, think again. Hyoun Park, founder and principal investigator with technology advisory Amalgam Insights, tells ....
June 2, 2017
Enterprises strategizing on mobility today, including for internal collaboration, don't have the luxury of learning as they go. Tony Rizzo, enterprise mobility specialist with Blue Hill Research, expl....
May 24, 2017
Mark Winther, head of IDC's global telecom consulting practice, gives us his take on how CPaaS providers evolve beyond the basic building blocks and address maturing enterprise needs.
May 18, 2017
Diane Myers, senior research director at IHS Markit, walks us through her 2017 UC-as-a-service report... and shares what might be to come in 2018.
April 28, 2017
Change isn't easy, but it is necessary. Tune in for advice and perspective from Zeus Kerravala, co-author of a "Digital Transformation for Dummies" special edition.
April 20, 2017
Robin Gareiss, president of Nemertes Research, shares insight gleaned from the firm's 12th annual UCC Total Cost of Operations study.
March 23, 2017
Tim Banting, of Current Analysis, gives us a peek into what the next three years will bring in advance of his Enterprise Connect session exploring the question: Will there be a new model for enterpris....
March 15, 2017
Andrew Prokop, communications evangelist with Arrow Systems Integration, discusses the evolving role of the all-important session border controller.
March 9, 2017
Organizer Alan Quayle gives us the lowdown on programmable communications and all you need to know about participating in this pre-Enterprise Connect hackathon.
March 3, 2017
From protecting against new vulnerabilities to keeping security assessments up to date, security consultant Mark Collier shares tips on how best to protect your UC systems.
February 24, 2017
UC analyst Blair Pleasant sorts through the myriad cloud architectural models underlying UCaaS and CCaaS offerings, and explains why knowing the differences matter.
February 17, 2017
From the most basics of basics to the hidden gotchas, UC consultant Melissa Swartz helps demystify the complex world of SIP trunking.
February 7, 2017
UC&C consultant Kevin Kieller, a partner at enableUC, shares pointers for making the right architectural choices for your Skype for Business deployment.
February 1, 2017
Elka Popova, a Frost & Sullivan program director, shares a status report on the UCaaS market today and offers her perspective on what large enterprises need before committing to UC in the cloud.
January 26, 2017
Andrew Davis, co-founder of Wainhouse Research and chair of the Video track at Enterprise Connect 2017, sorts through the myriad cloud video service options and shares how to tell if your choice is en....
January 23, 2017
Sheila McGee-Smith, Contact Center/Customer Experience track chair for Enterprise Connect 2017, tells us what we need to know about the role cloud software is playing in contact centers today.