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November 03, 2010

Cisco Dives Deeper into Social Media Customer Care with SocialMiner

A while back I wrote about 4 "Non-CRM" CRM companies that have the influence to really shake things up when it comes to Social CRM: Google, Apple, Amazon and Cisco. Today Cisco announced a couple of applications that support why I think they are going to be serious players in the space.

Cisco SocialMiner is a social media monitoring tool that adds queuing and workflow capabilities to deliver interactions coming from social channels more efficiently to customer care agents. And while SocialMiner can be used stand-alone, the power of it increases when used in tandem with Cisco's contact center technologies. Cisco also announced Cisco Finesse, which is a desktop app that leverages Cisco Quad social software capabilities to pull information from traditional and social channels into a single, customizable view.

Free to all current Cisco Contact Center customers, SocialMiner uses algorithms to go monitor social sites such as Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn and YouTube for keywords and phrases important to customers. The software then filters the most relevant ones, and forwards them onto a customer care rep who can handle the situation,

These products have the potential to have serious impact in fulling integrating social media with traditional customer support processes, and in fact could help to shape better, more effective processes - and in doing so create better customer experiences. I don't I'm going out on a limb here in saying that, because anything that makes communications between customers and customer care agents better, has to improve the customer's experience.

The whitepaper I did with TheSocialCustomer.com (The Social Customer Engagement Index) included results from a survey of customer service professionals. And the companies who have seen the most positive results from utilizing social channels to serve customers had a few things in common:

  • They have been interacting with customers via social channels for over 2 years
  • They have actual customer service agents engaging customers online, not just pr/marketing people
  • They have integrated social channels into customer service processes, not just using them as separate communication channels
  • A larger % of their interactions with customers come over social channels, compared to those who saw no measurable benefit from using social channels
  • They interact with customers across more social channels on average when compared to those finding no measurable benefit from social channels

So it would seem that the more companies can integrate social with traditional from a customer support perspective, the more positive the results will be for both the customer and the company. And so Cisco's new products have the possibility of making it easier for companies to more fully integrate social and traditional - which should be good news all around.

Having talked a couple times with John Hernandez, VP and GM of Cisco's Customer Collaboration Business Unit, this is not just going to impact large enterprises. Even smaller organizations will be able to take advantage of these products. One of the companies included in the press release is Zone Labs, a small online seller of health-related products. According to the release, they are planning on using SocialMiner to launch their social media initiatives - and for better customer engagement. I hoping to get a conversation in with Zone to learn more about this, as I am really interested in how a smaller organization is able to use these services.

One last thing John mentioned, which I think may have a really interesting impact on customer service/experience engagement - Cisco is also introducing a rich media capture platform that will support recording, live streaming and playback of all kinds of media types. So rich media interactions between customer and agent should allow for improved experiences. Also, Cisco is inviting third party developers to create apps on top of this platform. So you will see companies leverage these rich interactions from a business intelligence perspective to analyze conversations (sometimes in realtime) in order to provide the right information, in the right format, based on the context of the interaction.

This is the kind of stuff that could really show the power of social media from a business process perspective, and show immediate returns from a customer retention perspective. While the focus is still on social media from a marketing perspective, many are beginning to see how using social to build deeper connections with current customers can be the best marketing you can do right now.

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