Cisco Systems (NASDAQ: CSCO) is adding support for social media to its customer call center product portfolio.
With additional features like social media customer care, multimedia capture and storage, video-enabled customer care and an open agent desktop environment, Cisco's Unified Contact Center product portfolio acquired from GeoTel in 1999 will be renamed Cisco Customer Collaboration when it is formally released in November.
The product refresh has been under development for more than a year and is currently in beta, said John Hernandez, Cisco's general manager and vice president for Customer Collaboration, who claimed a head start in integrating social media on rivals like Avaya (NYSE: AV) and Alcatel Lucent's (NYSE: ALU) Genesys unit.
In traditional contact center solutions, social media such as Twitter and Facebook are "segmented from the core contact center," Hernandez told eCRMguide.
Cisco got the idea to do more with social media when a company manager saw a customer call center problem on Twitter and resolved it before the customer could call Cisco support. "We looked at that and said, 'Wow, proactive care,'" said Hernandez.
Hernandez said social media makes it easier to gauge whether customer expectations have been met, and it also makes cross-selling and up-selling easier. It's also easier to tell if competitors' customers are satisfied.
Cisco held a webcast this week with beta customer Comcast, which uses Cisco Contact Center technology to unite its disparate call center infrastructure.
Cisco may be best known for its networking hardware, but it is also "investing quite heavily in software," said Hernandez, who cited nine software acquisitions by Cisco just since January 2009. The Cisco Customer Collaboration project also marked a move to an agile development environment.
The goal of Cisco's software business, much of which is incubated in the company's Emerging Technology group, is to "make the network as a platform that much more powerful," said Hernandez.
The Customer Collaboration project also drew from other areas within Cisco, among them Tandberg and Physical Security for video and multimedia capture.
Contact centers are about a $4 billion market, said Hernandez, who added that social media customer care could greatly increase the size of that market. Cisco owns 14 to 20 percent of the market, with a goal of reaching 50 percent, he said.
Pricing for Cisco Customer Collaboration will be available when the product is released in November.