Last quarter, we looked at the shift from multichannel to omnichannel, as well as the rich content that can be integrated into a Cisco Enterprise Contact Center. Cisco has a rich partner ecosystem which enables their software to do some extraordinary things, and that laid the foundation for moving them into this omnichannel world and focus on the customer journey. There was just one component missing and the last piece of the puzzle was unveiled at Enterprise Connect Orlando in March 2015: A new cloud-based service Cisco dubbed as Context Service

So, what is Context Service? The product manager describes it as a way of unifying customers’ journeys across time, mediums, people, processes and outcomes. Simply put, think of it as breadcrumbs of data that, when strung together, depict a clear picture of the journey a person traveled through to gain resolution to a problem or to gain new insight in their everyday lives. I add the latter as this service not only can and will be used for problem resolution, but also can assist in areas that are not necessarily started due to a problem. This service will allow a company to store data in the cloud on a particular journey a customer goes through and be able to stitch it back together to give an accurate depiction of what happened over time.

Let’s take a look at a real world example, then use it to explain the new service. But first, let’s tackle a couple of definitions.

Context Service is a data repository for metadata. The metadata is stored in what Cisco dubs PODs(Pieces of Data). These PODs contain structured fields and custom fields that are semi-structured, and each POD can be a maximum of 256KB. This sounds a bit small, but that really is a big size when you consider this is just metadata.

All right, so back to our story. Let’s say that you are driving home one night and you fail to see a stopped car and, by the time you react, it is too late; you rear-end the other car. You exchange insurance information, but you initiate your claim right from the scene using your smart phone and an insurance company’s application. Along with this, the sensors in your car detected your airbag deployed and called the police, but sent data to your car company though the smart services embedded in your car which is tied to your cell phone for data. The police come and take a report, which they send to your insurance company electronically. Thankfully nobody was hurt and the person you hit had minimal damage compared to your car.

The next morning, you call your insurance agent and he initiates a car rental for you while details are processed. Through the process, you access your claim from the website, your mobile app, as well as by calling into the insurance call center. You are also dealing with your car dealer who is fixing your car. Finally, things get worked out and your car is fixed and returned to you as good as new.

So, how does Cisco’s new Context Service fit into this situation and how does it relate to the customer journey? First, there is a unique set of data sent to the cloud that includes multiple components, one being the car sending information that an airbag has deployed. It has your VIN number and is associated with you when the car was purchased. This can be stored in your records so that it can be tagged to your service request. This was initiated not by you, but a concept that comes back to the topic of the Internet of Things. The insurance company stores your customer I.D., policy number and maybe photos of your accident along with details of what happened. A pointer and metadata is sent to Context Service with a link to the internal claims system regarding your claim as a request and a POD is written. The police report is electronically attached in the claims system to your claim, and again, metadata and links are sent as a new POD, but this time they are linked to your initial request.

In addition, the car dealer works with the insurance company as they are fixing the car and they have a B2B arrangement, so more metadata is generated with pointers and links to their system (which is stored in a POD linked to the initial request). When you visit the website, a POD is generated with your navigation and web requests are linked to the initial contact services request. Agent data, call data, mobile app data and car repair data are all sent to Context Service and linked.

Context Service Data Model


A week has passed and I’d really want to know the status of my car. I call the insurance company and get to an agent. During the IVR (Interactive Voice Response) process, I enter my policy and claim number. When I leave the queue and go to the agent on their desktop, there is a timeline of events depicting the customer journey through not only all of their steps, but also the journey of the car as it moves through all of its phases. The agent can see and click on the latest car link that presents them with the information that the car is in the paint phase and should be completed in two days.

This revolutionizes customer experience and lends itself to automated self-guided help. I could have easily played the state the car was in from an IVR allowing for a richer, deeper self-service experience; or I could have displayed all of this information in the mobile application giving the customer a rich data experience by displaying what is linked and making the dissimilar systems look like one cohesive unit.

In our scenario, we had two types of transactions; one where there was a
request where we associated PODs to and the second when the car sent information to create a POD without a request. Both of these types of transactions are tied to the customer and can be used to link the data. This is a true omnichannel experience and can give companies insight into their systems and customers.

Enabling them to modify processes that, from trending and analysis, may be flawed, but no one ever knew there were problems at that point. The data can also be analyzed by analysis engines to point out trends, customer events or areas of risk.

In part three, we’ll take a deep dive into the technical specifics and security concerns. In the interim, check out how CDW can help you strategize, develop, manage and maintain your company’s customer engagement center.

Related Content: The Customer Journey: A Look at Cisco’s Revolutionary Contact Center (Part 1).