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Cisco Systems, Inc. Executive Interview

Omar Tawakol, VP and GM Contact Center, Cisco Systems, Inc.

Cisco Announces Contact Center Portfolio Based on Collaborating with Clients to Meet Changing Customer Needs.  

Industry giant Cisco announced a multi-pronged campaign to radically improve customer experience management in the enterprise while fostering both digital and workplace transformation via improved contact center collaboration. 

“We consider this one of the most exciting times ever in the contact center space,” said Omar Tawakol, VP and GM Contact Center at Cisco. “Our new cloud-centric portfolio enhancements, revealed at Cisco Live in Barcelona the final week of January 2020, are designed to enable our clients to take advantage of new capabilities for enhanced efficiencies and customer insights as well as provide a seamless path for larger contact centers to move to the cloud. The focus is on delivering a customer experience that is more proactive, predictive and personalized.”

In discussing the urgent need for CX improvement, Tawakol cited an often-referenced Bain and Company study that revealed a tenfold disparity in perception between how brands view their customer service and how customers saw it.  Their survey of 362 firms found that while 80% thought that they delivered “superior service,” only 8% of their customers shared that belief. In an internal Cisco survey of 700 contact center executives across 7 nations, 79% agreed that customer experience has a significant impact on business results. But he sees the real question is “how do we create those experiences that help us produce the results we desire?” These are the conversations that his team is having with their customers as we collaborate with them to better understand their business needs.

The Cisco enhancements include: 

  • The integration of new cognitive capabilities powered by Voicea and Google Cloud’s Contact Center AI (CCAI) designed to enable a company’s agents to evolve into “super agents.” Cisco’s emerging strategy empowers front-line personnel to benefit from AI-enabled features built using best-in-breed technology. The Voicea integration leverages accurate speech-to-text technology to provide a real-time call transcript and summary to automate agents’ call wrap-up, saving time and ensuring no action item goes unaddressed. Cisco has also made sure that call highlights can be automatically synched with CRM applications so that agents and supervisors have all customer information in one place. --- Tawakol joined Cisco in the fall of 2019 after the acquisition of Voicea, where he had been the Founder and CEO. He notes that the proprietary technology, which includes features from both Voicea and Mindmeld and incorporates CCAI-enabled features such as Conversational IVR and Bot Virtual Customer Assistant, is intended to “augment the skill of the agent instead of replacing them.” The program, which is now in something akin to a beta testing phase, helps agents rapidly surface answers from an AI knowledgebase. This is complemented by AI-enabled self-service capabilities that leverage AI and NLU to improve experiences for both agents and customers. Customers calling in now have an easier path to resolve simple requests while agents are relieved of repetitive tasks that can easily be handled by an IVR, chatbot, or virtual assistant. This in turn leads to improved agent satisfaction and reduced agent turnover, which according to a Global Data survey, are the leading benefits of deploying AI technology in a contact center
  • Webex Experience Management, Cisco’s first AI-powered customer experience management solution was formerly known as CloudCherry before the company was also acquired by Cisco last fall. It allows companies to perform a meaningful analysis of their customers’ feedback and journey experiences across their company, following customers across 17 different channels and assessing areas of improvement to build loyalty. Web Experience Management incorporates a customer experience journey tool that provides visibility into customer survey responses in real-time while the agent is interacting with the customer via a call, chat, or email. It will put real-time customer sentiment data at agents’ fingertips, empowering them to truly personalize their engagement with the customer with greater awareness, creating better relationships and business outcomes. To add to their knowledge, they can view a timeline of a customer’s historical journey experiences plus their Net Promoter Score and Customer Effort Score ratings, along with other key metrics.
  • Webex Contact Center Enterprise was introduced near the end of 2019 at a Cisco event in Australia, designed to provide a easy-to-follow path to the cloud with limited disruption for larger contact centers. It is a cloud solution created in collaboration with Cisco’s larger enterprise customers that enable companies to scale up to thousands of agents while providing feature depth and security. It also incorporates common components that mitigate the risk for existing customers and offers an extensive set of APIs to allow customization with third-party applications. Webex Contact Center is now available globally it is owned, managed and operated across Cisco data centers on four continents and adheres to the company’s stringent security and privacy standards. 

All portfolio enhancements are under the aegis of Cisco Webex. This includes Webex Contact Center, the new Webex Contact Center Enterprise and single-platform Contact Center. The purpose is to create a single global platform that provides cognitive collaboration and single subscription convenience for businesses of all sizes. The AI technological upgrades and Webex Experience Management are integrated into all Cisco Webex contact center software. The SaaS offering allows for theme reviews, more comprehensive what-if analyses and an improved ability to ask customers the right questions in surveys.