Siemens Fuses Social Media and Unified Communications

30 Nov 2010

Anyone who's read my articles in the past couple years knows that I'm quite an advocate of social media and the impact it's having and will continue to have on our communications, not only in the consumer world, but in the enterprise and contact center as well. Social media will change the way we get information, reach experts, solve customer service issues, and connect inside and outside of our companies. One of the first enterprise communication vendors to embrace social media was Siemens Enterprise Communications (SEN). Siemens set a pretty aggressive timeline of new products and innovations around unified communications, and the integration of UC and contact center capabilities with social media tools.

At VoiceCon San Francisco in 2009, many of us viewed Mark Straton's first-of-its-kind demo of OpenScape's integration with Twitter, which illustrated productivity and collaboration concepts of unified communications and social media integration. Mark showed how someone's status in OpenScape can be changed based on information posted in Twitter, such as "in a meeting." Siemens followed this up in March 2010 at VoiceCon Orlando with an OpenScape Contact Center and UC integration proof-of-concept demonstration with Twitter and Google Latitude, where it previewed new concepts of monitoring, routing and handling social media interactions in the contact center, as well as automated location-based presence.

At that time, Siemens introduced OpenScape UC Server 2010, and in July added a packaged integration solution for the OpenScape UC Server/UC Suite - OpenScape Fusion. OpenScape Fusion provides a range of open integration capabilities and offerings, including UC integration and deployment solutions, featuring new social media integrations with Twitter, Google Latitude, and other public social media sites. Under the OpenScape Fusion umbrella are Siemens' existing range of business portal integration and CEBP/business application integration capabilities and open integration-focused programs such as the company's SDK and developer program.

According to Siemens, OpenScape Fusion Social Media Integration is "a set of customer-driven integration solutions that enable companies to leverage social media into their existing communications framework. Technologies such as the OpenScape Fusion Software Developers Toolkit (SDK), open Social Media Application Programming Interfaces (APIs) and Siemens' unique OpenSOA Web services software architecture are combined to deliver social media solutions that make sense for your organization."

It's clear that organizations need to start integrating social media channels into their contact center and customer care strategies. Siemens commissioned research that found that 70% of consumers want to interact by social media, but only 30% of companies are ready for it in terms of strategies, policies, and processes. The study showed that:

  • 80% of survey respondents believe that businesses should review social media sites to see what people are saying about them
  • 70% of consumers surveyed want to be able to leverage social media sites to see real-time availability of company experts in technical support, billing, etc.
  • 58% of consumers surveyed feel that regular communication with businesses via social networking sites improves their loyalty to that business.

Siemens introduced OpenScape Fusion Social Media Integrations to help enterprises integrate filtered social media into business communications strategies and solutions and to integrate social media/social networks into enterprise communications processes, tools and technologies. It makes sense for enterprises to utilize their contact center agents to address social media, and for the contact center to become the focal point for all customer interactions spanning sales, service and in some cases, marketing opportunities. By integrating social media with the contact center, contact center agents can treat these interactions like any other interactions, and social media becomes another customer contact channel.

The OpenScape Fusion Social Media Integration for Contact Centers incorporates real time information from Twitter to help companies monitor, analyze, route, and report on tweets about their company and products. Using OpenScape Fusion Social Media Integration, tweets can be analyzed based on keywords and/or hashtags, using a variety of monitoring services for social media. The tweet is routed to the most appropriate agent using OpenScape Contact Center's skills-based routing engine; social media becomes another skill that is part of the agents' skills routing profile. The agent receives the interaction information on their agent desktop screen, and the social media interaction can be personalized by providing the agent with information about the customer based on contact information from Linked In, their Twitter history, and location information from Google Latitude, for example. Going the next step, since these interactions are handled by contact center, they can be tracked and reported on, just like other contact center interactions.

While Siemens isn't the only vendor offering these capabilities, it is the most open, enabling organizations to use their choice of tools, such as Radian6, Lithium, Tweetdeck, TwitterScraper (a SEN-developed prototype). The company notes that its solution is different based on its ability to support open standards and integration to other products and vendors, such as WebEx, IBM, Microsoft, Cisco,, etc. By unifying unified communications and social media into one desktop interface, agents can see aggregated user presence across all media including social media, making it easier to do functions like click to call/click to conference from Twitter dialogs, for example.

This open, standards-based approach focuses on media where enterprise users and customers congregate - not on proprietary closed social networking systems. Siemens will add more packaged integrations based on customer demand.

Siemens is also differentiating itself by integrating social media with its unified communications solutions. For example, Twitter information can be integrated as a window in the user's OpenScape UC portal, and users can send tweets and direct Twitter messages by clicking the Twitter icon next to their name, view information about their Twitter followers, and click to send a "direct message" or reply, or even do a click-to-call using OpenScape.

What's really different is OpenScape UC's ability to monitor your Twitter stream and interpret the content of tweets for context-sensitive rules to pick up key words in order to change your presence status and preferred device. For example, if you tweet "I'm in a meeting" or "I'm at lunch," OpenScape will change your presence status to busy and change your preferred device to be your mobile phone. Users can define rules in OpenScape to automate routine tasks. For example, a rule could be set up so that when the word "conference" and a time are identified, OpenScape would create a conference and send a conference request with dial-in information to the Twitter IDs identified. If you tweet that you need to meet with Becky and Barb, the OpenScape conference bridge can set up a call with them.

While this is a great concept, it's unclear how useful and effective the use of changing ones status based on tweets will be. Automating routine tasks is great, but using Twitter as a source of the data on which to base this may be a stretch. But as Twitter grows in popularity, Siemens may find other ways of using the data in tweets to help workers be more productive and efficient at their jobs.

As usual, Siemens is seizing upon a new market trend - it was the first telephony vendor to integrate with Microsoft LCS/OCS, and now the company is demonstrating its foresight regarding the power of social media and how it can be integrated into our enterprise communications tools and processes. Will Siemens be able to grab attention and market share because of this? Possibly - if the company does a good job of marketing and getting its message out there. It's a good message - let's hope people are listening.

This paper is sponsored by Siemens Enterprise Communications.


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