Collaboration Solutions

4 Posts authored by: bfady

A few days ago, Paul Stockford (analyst with Saddletree Research, research director at the National Association of Call Centers (NACC) and fellow blogger here) wrote an insightful post on the state of Social Media in the Contact Center.  Paul shares data that reflects a slow-burn adoption to date.  It's a topic I've been meaning to write about for a while now, so thanks Paul for the perfect lead in!


I've coined a phrase to describe a common theme I see when trying to understand why it has been a slow ramp; it is about the complexities of formalizing the interaction channel.


When customers engage a company by phone, through the web, or in person, there are a series of explicit and implied promises on both sides.  These are interactions with you and your company.  You are formally engaged - committed to acknowledging, responding, resolving, and delivering on the explicit and implied promises of value and satisfaction.


When someone tweets #insert_your_company_name, what are the explicit and implied promises?


On one hand, it's easy to say the service promises are all the same, regardless of the interaction channel.  Same customers, same company.


On the other hand, when you look closer at the nuances of Social Media, I'd suggest it isn't so simple.  A subtle, but important distinction is that these are largely comments about you and your company.  Another important point, you need not be a customer to say something about anything.


In the world of Social Media where anyone can participate, anywhere, anytime, and no relationship is required, the real business decision is do you engage?  Do you formalize Social Media as a means of doing business? Sometimes? Always? Never?  Then if you do, are all of the promises the same?


All the satisfaction and loyalty experts tell you to care deeply about what people say about you.  They are right, you should.  That is, however, very different than committing to respond and engage the way you do when contacted directly.


I also offer this opinion: seldom today does anyone commenting about a company in Social Media expect a formal response.  And if they do, it is clearly a different expectation than engaging that company directly.  After all, if I tweet about a company in a personal profile, who am I talking to? What do I expect in terms of a response? resolution?


And therein lies what I see as a critical driver of the slow-burn adoption of Social Media in the Contact Center.


Social Media is largely a megaphone today. Companies talk about themselves or things they think are interesting.  People talk about themselves, their experiences, their likes and ideas.  Excluding forums for a moment (if you count that as Social Media), it has not yet evolved to a widely recognized means to ask for something of someone not defined as your friend or follower.


It is my personal opinion that in order for Social Media to really ramp in the Contact Center context, there needs to be a way to formalize it as an interaction channel.


  • Links need to be made between individuals Social Media profiles and companies those people hold relationships with.  Let us not forget that while younger generations seemingly participate in Social Media with little regard for privacy, I personally think it will still be a while before this becomes the norm for the majority of populations. 
  • Companies also need to be tooled to efficiently and accurately discern "about you" and "with or from you." 
  • And of great importance, companies need to be able to do so with great scale - which probably means automated analysis and intelligence.  Lots of ways to listen to just about anything in the "social-sphere" right now, but not many ways to efficiently harness and manage it all. 


I believe only when these things happen easily and work well, can organizations begin to effectively formalize Social Media as an interaction channel in which they can do business with customers (current and future!)


Until then, as Paul says, I too think we're in for the marathon.


Director, Operations
Customer Interaction Network
and the Contact Center Unification Framework


Migration versus Transformation

Posted by bfady Dec 23, 2009

A series of recent customer conversations mixed with the "clean slate" rituals of an approaching new year, nay, new decade, bring me to the topic of this post: Migration versus Transformation.


Most businesses I've talked with about Cisco Unified Contact Center (UCC) are users of legacy technologies.  Having been through the change here at Cisco, the discussions always center around what is different.  Topics range from IT resourcing to how the agents activities change and everything in between.


The answer to those conversation, not surprisingly, is "It depends."  Sure, there will always be some nuances in how things are done in different systems, but my point is much bigger than the tools themselves.  There is a fundamental decision that is made.  The decision to simply migrate versus the choice to transform.


When I say "migrate", I am talking about lift and shift.  Like for like.  This is the comfortable route - you know what you do today and you want to continue it tomorrow.  This is the fast path, relatively speaking.  This is the walk before you run frame of mind.  Get the old stuff unplugged and run the services from the new gear, then we'll really figure out how to make it sing once we're familiar with it.


On the other hand, transformation is, well, not like for like.  It is not doing tomorrow what you do today.  It is not walking, but rather leaping ahead. Transformation done right can generally take longer.  The pay off, well usually far greater too; better customer experiences, new capabilities, greater efficiency and productivity, etc.


Given the pace of technology and innovation, it seems anyone investing in new technologies and architectures would inherently make it a transformational journey.  Why invest time, money, effort into such change only to not unlock and leverage new capabilities and ways of doing things?


Topic for another day I suppose, but it also seems all too common that when migration efforts conclude, transformation programs for the same environment are seldom the next order of business.  "Now the new stuff is in and working, we've got other bigger fish to fry..."


Ironically, most go through technology changes latching on desperately to their processes and ways of old.  All too often the process of gathering business requirements for a new technology project turns into a laundry list of how everything works today.  You are instantly handicapped.  Why is it that everyone can cite 5 examples in less than 60 seconds where old technology causes bad process in their world today, but when asked to re-tool a process based on how new technology works, heels dig in?


Now it's your turn!  I'm interested in hearing how you have executed on the transformational mind set.  How have you mitigated the arguments of time to implement, comfort, and change management risk to get organizations and individuals to lean in, to transform?


Director, Operations
Customer Interaction Network
and the Contact Center Unification Framework

As our connected lives get more entangled - web collaboration sessions going, a stray email here, an offline IM comment there, twitter feeds on your mobile device - the tendency to be "always on, always connected", in all modes of communication is clearly on the rise.


Outside of the workplace, a quick glance at todays news stories has plenty of stories about the implications of the connected life.  From the tragic headlines of auto accidents, to the broadcast of public of new laws banning the use of devices while behind the wheel; we easily get the point - there is a time and a place for multitasking.


I am not convinced the same clear view is held in the contact center world.  Dave Brown @ seems to see it the same way too.  Check out his recently published SSPA news article on "The hidden cost of Multitasking in the Support Center."


It has been my experience that there is not always a benefit of agents supporting multiple channels simultaneously - much like what Dave Brown describes.  In high volume operations, our contact center has reverted back to dedicated agents for the various channels of interaction.  ...And that's the key for us, High Volume.


Outside of our "Americas" operations, staffing is largely driven by the number of hours and the number of languages we support - not the volume of interactions.  In those environments, not having agents support multiple channels of communication simultaneously is simply prohibitive.


As someone with an operations "care about", efficiency, effectiveness and productivity are all very important to me.


As an employee and shareholder at Cisco, I am happy when market share and sales are up.  I get excited when new capabilities and features open new markets and sales opportunities.  There are lots of things to be excited about when I look at Cisco's Unified Communications solutions future; anywhere, anytime, any device, any channel, multichannel - you name it.  I'd love for Cisco to be your multichannel contact center capability provider.


As someone who is an employee, shareholder and has a strong operations care about ... I want to make sure these capabilities are not naively shoe-horned in and then miss expectations - but thoughtfully applied to create value to your business and your customers.  


If you are thinking about multichannel and multitasking in your contact center, keep in mind a favorite saying of mine these days "Just because you can does not mean you should."   If you're already doing multichannel and multitasking, I'd ask you to share your experiences - where you find multichannel multitasking works and where it doesn't.


Director, Operations

Customer Interaction Network

and the Contact Center Unification Framework

Hi everyone - Brian Fady with Cisco here.


I'm quite happy to see the focus Cisco is putting on developing communities and leveraging Web2.0 technologies to bring people together - the development of this Collaboration Community and others under the Cisco Community Central umbrella look great.  I am also excited about jumping into the mix to hear your perspectives and experiences, and to share mine.


I've been at Cisco since the fall of 1997, just before we started getting serious about Unified Communications (and a whole host of other things.)  Before Cisco, I spent time with IBM in a division that was called the PC Company, focused on supporting their Think Pad product line.  Prior to that, I was in retail management with an athletic retail company called Finish Line, Inc.


In my tenure at Cisco, I've always been in a customer facing organization, and always tied to Contact Center.  I've grown up with the industry and technology - from agent to leadership.   Along the way, I've lived the transformation that came with introduction of IP telephony and Unified Communications in the contact center.  We're now starting to experience the next wave of innovation with social media, video and the dissolving boundaries between corporation, contact center and customer.


Day to day, I have responsibility for defining and managing the services for one of Cisco's main contact centers - the Customer Interaction Network (CIN).  The CIN operation provides contact center services for over 20 groups inside Cisco.  Covering the globe, we're handling roughly 600k interactions a quarter and spanning 17 languages.


In addition to CIN Service Management, I also lead an effort at Cisco that we're calling the Contact Center Unification Framework.  This framework provides guidelines, standards, practices and governance to every contact center at Cisco.  It answers the essential question "What does it mean to be a contact center at Cisco?"  We've been developing and evolving this framework for a little over 2 years now and beginning to see some real traction with it.


I look forward to joining the conversations out here.  As a leader at Cisco, and as a customer using our own technologies to run our business, I hope to bring a unique point of view spanning operations, management/leadership and strategy.  And I really hope to learn some best practices from you!




Director, Operations

Customer Interaction Network

and the Contact Center Unification Framework

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