Earlier this week I wrote this post describing the new Spark offerings that Cisco announced at its Collaboration Summit event (disclosure: Cisco is a client of ZK Research). One of the more interesting elements of the announcement was “Spark for developers.” This enables application providers to build integrated solutions with Cisco’s workstream communications and collaboration (WCC) product.
At the event, startup Altocloud showcased its integration with Spark and, in doing so, became one of the first developers to take advantage of the Spark APIs. If you’re not familiar with Altocloud, the company offers a cloud-based customer engagement platform that combines predictive analytics with communication tools, such as voice, messaging, and video. I profiled Altocloud just after it launched in 2014 at the Enterprise Connect show. While 2014 was the coming out party for Altocloud, the product went generally available in March of this year.
The Altocloud solution actively monitors what customers are doing on a website, and then can proactively put a person in a queue to communicate with a live agent over various communication tools. When the agent connects with the person, he or she has all of the activity-based information, but also has the ability to share screens and continue to get contextual information to offer a uniquely personalized experience.
The Spark integration with Altocloud enables businesses to improve the way its customers engage with customers. Here is how the solution works:
- Altocloud uses its predictive analytics to identify visitors of interest on the organization’s website.
- Altocloud instantly sends alerts to an appropriate Spark room. Whichever team member is available reviews the message and responds to the customer.
- A new 1-1 Spark room is created, and customer contextual information is collected and placed in the room. The customer remains on the website and a chat window will pop up. The team member then interacts with the customer using the Spark user interface. The team member can also access the information from the Spark room during the call or any time after.
In addition to the live interaction, Altocloud created an “Alto-Bot” for Spark. If the user types “LiveNow,” Spark will show a list of the three most recent customers to visit the site. Users can also use the “Search” command to show a list of the customers currently online that matches search values, such as company, persona, or location.
I discussed the integration process with former Cisco Senior Vice President and current CEO of Altocloud, Barry O’Sullivan. During our conversation, O’Sullivan raved about how easy it was to work with Cisco as a developer. He told me the APIs were clean, easy to use ,and the support was first rate. This is a stark difference from older developer efforts Cisco had put in place.
What’s the difference between Spark for developers and other Cisco developer programs? The answer is Tropo and attitude. When Cisco pre-briefed me on the Spark launches, they told me that it leveraged many of the best practices from the Tropo team when putting the Spark Developer Program together. Although Altocloud is just one customer, it does appear that Cisco has hit a home run here. Also, Cisco has made it clear that developers are critically important to the Collaboration Group and will continue to invest in the developer program.
The Altocloud/Spark integration is a true “win-win” for both companies. For Cisco, it brings new uses cases to Spark and helps set it apart from the many other WCC services. For Altocloud, which also has existing integrations into Cisco’s contact center agent desktop Finesse, and its cloud-based contact center, the Spark integration gives the company access to the growing number of Spark customers. Given the number of Spark-related announcements at Collaboration Summit, this should be a rapidly growing number.