Unified Communications

Cicero's Garner Offers Wealth of Knowledge about the Evolving Customer Experience

By Paula Bernier, Executive Editor, TMC  |  October 15, 2012

This article originally appeared in the October 2012 issue of INTERNET TELEPHONY

IP-based communications, social media and mobile communications are changing the face of the contact center and the customer experience at large. To learn more about the changing tide, INTERNET TELEPHONY recently spoke with Mike Garner, chief customer officer with Cicero, Inc. (News - Alert)

Prior to joining Cicero, Garner founded and was the president of SOAdesk, a customer service technology company that was acquired by Cicero in January 2010. He also led more than 7,000 service reps to record-setting revenue, client satisfaction and profit marks over his operations career at both Verizon and Afni.

What has been the most important development in the customer contact/customer experience space in the recent past?

Garner: I would say that real-time intelligent service delivery (SOA delivered) is a recent development. That's squarely where we play by the way. One-click access to information, safe delivery of everything a remote worker needs on any device, and automating the filling out of forms in the insurance space (huge time saver for the employee and customer, etc.) are a few examples.

How have IP-based networks affected the call center – customer interactions at large?

Garner: It is providing cheaper communications such as having one line versus two. I recently spent some time with the CIO of a call center company with 600 agents, and he literally has everyone using Google (News - Alert) voice for their phone system, an unreal cost and ease advantage and the reporting is coming along to enterprise grade. [That’s a] pretty strong inflection point, perhaps where the barriers to exit from some locked in/proprietary networks and carriers and suppliers starts to get pretty low. It puts the customer back in charge.

Speaking of customers being in charge, how is the widespread use of social media impacting customer care and engagement?

Garner: Customers get informed and inform without direct help/investment on the part of the company more and more. You need to get Q and A out there, so it finds its way into the communities where the customers are. Facebook or Twitter (News - Alert) updates are good. People will find the updates on a Bing or Google search easy enough. Put it out; they will find it.

How is marketing changing?

Garner: I think it's more about helping customers find answers, understand options and allowing them to understand why you're in business versus just what you happen to offer. It's not changing fast enough. Don Peppers, who sits on our board of directors, just came out with his new book called Extreme Trust, in which he discusses how building trust should be the cornerstone of any valuable marketing program. Look at Coca-Cola's linked and liquid marketing YouTube (News - Alert) videos. They actually explain how and why they market like they do. Total transparency. Very cool. In Simon Sinek’s Start with Why, he writes that people don't buy what you do; they buy why you do it.

How is CRM changing?

Garner: One has to understand that CRM is not about having a million points of light/data about me or each customer. It's about being able to get at/use/deliver better experiences and value based on that information. It's more about analytics and real-time delivery of only the relevant data to the employee and customer.

What new tools and practices are businesses using to better leverage their own and/or outside data to target, engage and deliver to the customer?

Garner: Integration is the key. You can't wait for the rewrite to Web/mobile. It shouldn’t matter where data resides, just that you can get to it, shape it and repurpose it fast for use in context to what the customer and/or the businesses/employee is trying to accomplish.

This is the very reason we exist – disparate systems. There is good logic built into many of these applications/systems already, but there is no data sharing, or it's limited. These walls create painful disconnects that prevent 100 percent first time yield, shorter times to resolution or accurate decision support – both in self-service and employee-assisted channels.

Decision support tools such as IBM’s Watson or Convergys' (News - Alert) Dynamic Decision use the CRM data and the real-time inputs from an interaction or online interaction to provide the best options for customers and employees. This is why Amazon service delivery rocks – personalized recommendations in a blink. Zappos advertisements are personalized to your last visit with them online in ads on other sites you visit elsewhere.

One of the prerequisites is that you need to get at all the data and deliver data integration. You need to infuse that data with logic/intelligence and then you need to present that best next action, question to ask, action to take to the employee or customer in real time and in an easy to use format. 

Edited by Braden Becker