With slot machines, getting three cherries typically pays off big. With Cisco Systems’ contact center business, the company needs merely one cloud-delivered cherry to win big by advancing its Cognitive Collaboration vision in its contact center solution.
This week Cisco announced its intention to acquire privately held CloudCherry to bring better customer experience management (CEM) capabilities into the Cisco Webex contact center. Founded in 2014, the Salt Lake City-based organization is one of many Cisco Investment portfolio companies. Cisco has an active investment arm that invests $200 million annually in startups in different stages of growth. Some of the vendors—such as CloudCherry—it brings into its portfolio, and others, such as VeloCloud, are purchased by competitors but provide Cisco with a strong return on its investment.
CloudCherry Provides Advanced CEM Capabilities
For those not familiar with CloudCherry, the company has an advanced CEM solution that offers tools such as predictive analysis, sentiment analysis, survey capabilities, customer journey mapping and APIs. As customer experience has grown in importance for differentiation in the digital era, CEM has become a top initiative for CxOs. There are a lot of vendors that participate in the broader category of CEM, but CloudCherry’s nearest competitors are companies such as Qualtrix and Satmetrix, which were acquired by SAP and NICE, respectively, so it makes sense that it too would be snapped up.
Customer experience management is a red-hot topic, and Cisco will use CloudCherry to make its contact center solutions smarter. Improving customer experience is obviously broader than just the contact center, but it’s often the starting point for customer interactions. CloudCherry expands the number of unified channels businesses can use to connect with customers.
The scope of even the most advanced contact centers is limited to traditional communications channels such as email, chat, calling, web browsing and social media. CloudCherry adds early- and late-state contact methods such as paid content, direct mail, search, online displays, surveys, loyalty programs and more. This might make CloudCherry resemble a marketing tech platform like Selligent or Adobe, but the difference is that it only provides inbound interactions and not outbound, which is consistent with the way contact centers work.
CloudCherry Complements Cisco Contact Center
Cisco’s current contact center solution addresses purchase and service, while CloudCherry adds awareness, consideration and expansion phases. This gives businesses a much broader view of a customer journey. Without it, the contact center would have no visibility into what customers are doing in those specific phases, increasing the chance of customer frustration.
Predictive Capabilities Come to CEM
In addition to increased visibility and insights, the combination of Cisco and CloudCherry enables businesses to predict what customers will do next and make the experience better through AI-based analytics. Companies are generating massive amounts of data today, and people on their own can’t find insights in the information the way machines can. Cisco’s Cognitive Collaboration strategy is based on using AI to find those key nuggets that create differentiation through proactive and predictive support.
Also, the integration of CloudCherry into contact center creates a single data source that can be analyzed instead of analyzing the silos and then trying to correlate the information after the fact. Experienced data scientists might have been able to do that a few years ago, but not today with large volumes of information being created.
Cisco should have a good understanding of how CloudCherry works because it’s currently a customer. As a company, Cisco has always taken customer satisfaction seriously because it’s one of the bigger components of employee bonuses. During the past few years, it’s shifted from C-Sat (customer satisfaction) to NPS (net promoter score); during a briefing they told me CloudCherry has had a significant impact on raising its NPS score.
Cisco Remains ‘Cloud First,’ but not ‘Cloud Only’
One last point: CloudCherry is a cloud-delivered service hosted in Microsoft Azure. Cisco continues to run the service in Azure and federate it with Webex Contact Center. However, customers of the on-premises or hybrid versions of the Contact Center solution as well as HCS customers will have access to the functionality. This is consistent with Cisco strategy; collaboration GM Amy Chang and other Cisco executives have reiterated that Cisco is “cloud first” but not “cloud only,” giving its customers a choice of deployment models. Also, Cisco fully intends to make the functionality available to other contact center vendors.
The customer experience era has arrived, and CxOs need to think broadly about this topic and make sure that they have a full view of what their customers are doing and saying. Any gaps in the customer journey will lead to frustration and the potential of decreased loyalty.
Zeus Kerravala is an eWEEK regular contributor and the founder and principal analyst with ZK Research. He spent 10 years at Yankee Group and prior to that held a number of corporate IT positions.