Cisco isn't a traditional CRM company. It's known more for its networking capabilities than for anything else, though it sometimes partners with CRM providers like Salesforce.com or Microsoft. But it's making a move into the CRM space with SocialMiner, a social media monitoring tool that puts listening capabilities to work by delivering social communications directly to customer-service agents.
When I spoke to Ross Daniels, Cisco's director of Market Management, Collaboration Solutions, he noted that marketing groups drive the use of social media at most companies. (A few months back I shared results of a social media survey by Digital Brand Expressions that found 94 percent of respondents included marketing in their social media communications plans.) But is this the right approach? Cisco doesn't think so. As Daniels said:
Companies are good at pushing marketing messages out there, but they're not always as good at listening to feedback. Customer care has typically been an afterthought.
Cisco thinks connecting social media to customer care, and specifically to contact centers, has the potential to drive increased customer satisfaction. (Cisco's view isn't surprising, considering the company is a big supplier of contact center solutions.) It does make sense. Many companies have invested considerable resources in their contact centers, in equipment, staff and processes designed to resolve customer issues. And contact centers have already moved beyond dealing strictly with phone calls, to also handling e-mail, chat and other customer interactions.
Thus Cisco is making SocialMiner available, at no cost, to its existing Cisco Contact Center customers. And it introduced SocialMiner along with two other contact center solutions: Cisco Finesse, a desktop application that pulls information from traditional and social channels into a single, customizable view, and a network-based media-capture platform that supports recording, playback, live streaming and storage of media, including audio and video, with rich recording metadata.
How does SocialMiner work? Daniels explained it scours social sites like Facebook, Twitter and LinkedIn, as well as blogs and wikis, looking for keywords and phrases important to customers. It then prioritizes them and sends them to customer-service agents or other folks who can best respond to them, using existing queuing and workflow processes. The system can be "trained" using filtering technology to fine-tune its searching capabilities so, for instance, it returns only information associated with The Flip video camera (another Cisco product) not other kinds of flips. The whole approach is "much more organized and scalable than what we see in most existing [social media monitoring] tools," Daniels said.
SocialMiner was tested by Cisco's Consumer Products team and by some of its channel partners and other companies including Zone Labs, the creator of the Zone Diet. It sounds like Zone Labs used it as a standalone application rather than linking it with contact centers. It looked for social media mentions of fish oil, one of its products, and responded to questions about benefits of fish oil with a message that, while not overtly promotional, included a link to an information page on its website. By monitoring click-throughs to the information and ordering areas of the site, it "could directly attribute revenue to a Twitter campaign," Daniels said.