Mobility and collaboration tools are literally, as we speak, changing the way we do business at a lightening fast pace. Short, quick interactions are where it’s at and consumers are driving businesses farther and farther into this form of communication – and smart companies are jumping on board quickly. John Hernandez joins Brent Leary to discuss where communication and collaboration in the business world is currently at – and where it’s headed.
Small Business Trends: I would love to get a little bit of your back ground before we jump into the whole area of where we are today with customer collaboration.
John Hernandez: Sure, my background has been, for the last 15 or 16 years, customer service contact center application development. Now, more importantly, it’s in the collaboration space with customer collaboration from B2C to B2B communication.
Small Business Trends: Maybe you can tell us where things stand in regards to what customer collaboration means today.
John Hernandez: The four key areas we see really driving change are:
• The whole explosion of mobility.
• The use of video as a collaborative tool between businesses and customers.
• The whole area around virtualization and how you can virtualize not only the desk top for your employees, but also in the Cloud for application use.
• The use of social and how you incorporate that into collaborating with your customer base.
Small Business Trends: How has collaboration changed since the smart devices have come out, and social networks have really proliferated, now that everybody is actually on them?
John Hernandez: Just the explosion of those devices have enabled a whole new application development area around how companies communicate and collaborate with their customers. Embedding collaborative tools right inside of an app now is pretty straight forward. You can escalate that application use into a collaborative video interaction, a chat, an email, an SMS or a phone call, and have full context and transparency as well as policy and security built in. So that is really starting to take off in the mobile space.
Small Business Trends: Are we now in the age of the collaboration center when it comes to customer service?
John Hernandez: I fully believe so and not just the core contact center agents, CSRs as they are sometimes called, but also subject matter expertise inside of the broader corporation is getting engaged with customers.
Small Business Trends: How are tools like the Cloud enabling this transformation to a collaborative experience?
John Hernandez: One piece of the cloud is all around social. Not only are consumers realizing that social is the back door to many companies, meaning that they do not have to navigate the call center but can simply send something out, either a Facebook post that’s publicly accessible or Tweet or a LinkedIn post or Yelp or whatever it might be.
Then the other piece from the corporate perspective is just accessing these applications. They are changing very rapidly using a cloud format to absorb that technology change.
Small Business Trends: What are some of the new challenges being brought on by this environment?
John Hernandez: Expectations every quarter, it seems, are raised to a new bar with a new device coming out or a new application being seen as the latest and greatest from our consumer world. As that continues to accelerate, it does put pressure on to understand which of those things are important from the customer service perspective.
Small Business Trends: Do you think that the customer service agents job is more challenging today? Or is it about the same, just different challenges?
John Hernandez: I think it’s getting more fun. I have seen a rise in agent satisfaction where they are actually happy to use some of these things like Facebook and Twitter. Now, from managing all of the interactions and multitasking, there are definitely some folks that prefer to be single interaction focused. So I think it is up to employers to understand the skills of their employees and put them into the right role to do their work. But for the most part, I have seen a rise in people having fun in the job these days.
Small Business Trends: Are you hearing from your customers if the philosophy of collaborations vs. the call center is seeing tangible benefits at this point?
John Hernandez: I was talking to a customer about how they’re surveying customers differently now, using social to get un-filtered feedback on customer satisfaction, or using SMS text messaging in the simple way of getting quick feedback from their customers. The days of a long survey and email, or long voice prompted IVR input on surveys; those things are starting to diminish from what we see. Very quick interactions are behind a rise in both net promoter score as well as customer satisfaction.
Small Business Trends: What are the big benefits to the actual end user?
John Hernandez: The benefits of the actual end user are just the simplifying of how they engage with companies. Not being force fed into, ’This is the way we have always done business so you need to engage with me in this fashion.” That really is the consumers that are driving corporations do that. And the smart corporations are jumping on it very quickly.
Small Business Trends: So if we were to look out maybe a year or two from now, what are we going to have at our disposal by way of collaboration services to assist the customer in having a greater experience?
John Hernandez: The big thing for the consumer will be a more proactive nature. The ability for corporations to understand the consumer at the time of need and what service they require, as opposed to the consumer having to reach out. That will be the huge benefit to the consumer population.
On the corporation side of things, it is going to be all about simplifying technology use. It is going to be around collaborative insights, to map insights to consumer needs, to drive business growth. So it will be a win-win for both.
Small Business Trends: And where can people learn more about how Cisco is playing a role into bringing all of this change in?
John Hernandez: Yes, a good place to go is a web page that is set up on Cisco customer collaboration.
This interview is part of our One on One series of conversations with some of the most thought-provoking entrepreneurs, authors and experts in business today. This interview has been edited for publication. To hear audio of the full interview, click the right arrow on the gray player below. You can also see more interviews in our interview series.
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