This content is part of the Conference Coverage: Everything Enterprise Connect 2024: News, trends and insights

Cisco releases Webex AI Assistant for office, contact center

Cisco brings AI Assistant for Webex to Enterprise Connect. Analysts break down the timing and potential for the new features available for office collaboration and contact center.

Webex users got a big infusion of generative AI today, as parent Cisco released the AI Assistant for Webex that spans both office collaboration and contact center.

Webex previewed the AI assistant last October at its WebexOne user conference. Today's general availability release includes added features for both office collaboration users and contact centers.

The Webex AI assistant summarizes meetings; indicates presence in meetings, such as when an attendee steps away; summarizes Spaces chats among team members; detects tone of chats, and suggests to commenters how to improve tone and phrasing; and enables users to query meeting content with questions. These features are available now. In May, Webex plans to add a translation tool that can toggle among 100-plus languages.

Webex's contact center AI tools, currently in beta, build on the above-mentioned features. They also include virtual agent chat summaries, handoffs to human agents and the ability to identify agent burnout, which can trigger actions such as giving the agent a break or assigning them to a less-intense digital channel. Contact center managers will be able to see generative AI (GenAI) reports on trending topics for which customers are reporting problems and predictive customer satisfaction scores.

Cisco AI Assistant for Webex screenshot.
With concise chat summaries, Webex's contact center AI assistant attempts to solve the problem that vexes everyone who calls customer service: Having to restate your problem and personal information to the human after already giving it to the chatbot.

Webex also released connectors to common service and CRM applications such as Salesforce, ServiceNow and Microsoft Dynamics 365, which feed more customer data into its GenAI tools.

More quality data to feed large language models (LLMs) is what GenAI tools need, said Dan Miller, founder of Opus Research.

"Everybody's bringing GenAI and LLMs into the world," Miller said. "The ones to watch are cutting to the chase and saying, 'This gets down to the quality of the data.' The idea of garbage in, garbage out does not go away just because somebody said, 'Oh, you put this all into the LLM, you write the right prompt, and it does the right inferences and it answers the question.'"

AI future not evenly distributed

With these features, it looks like Webex is trying to catch up to competitors such as Microsoft Teams, but analysts said generative AI is still in its nascent stage, so the idea of "catch-up" is not quite accurate. Many cloud software and services vendors are still in the process of figuring out how much -- and where -- to deploy GenAI. They're also monitoring the improvement of LLMs and must decide at what point that improvement equals value for their users.

Zoom, another Webex competitor, aims to lead the field in GenAI innovation and roll out a lot of features, Miller said.

But Webex's strategy of rolling out AI features matched to specific customer needs should not be overlooked -- especially for contact centers -- said Shelly Kramer, analyst at TheCube Research.

"This is a marketing challenge, not a technology challenge," Kramer said. "Cisco has so much to offer on the contact center front ... but Cisco is playing in a market where people don't naturally think of them as a contact center solution."

Cisco and Webex have developed their AI features with data transparency in mind, said Anurag Dhingra, CTO and head of engineering for the Cisco Collaboration Group.

Webex uses a combination of LLMs for its GenAI tools -- including its own for meeting transcriptions. The company adopted what it calls a "responsive data policy" and posts updates as it changes large language models, what data it uses to train the model and how it tests AI features as they're built.

"We'll continue to push those tests, so people can figure out what's going on under the hood," Dhingra said.

Webex released its contact center AI and collaboration tools in conjunction with Enterprise Connect 2024.

Don Fluckinger is a senior news writer for TechTarget Editorial. He covers customer experience, digital experience management and end-user computing. Got a tip? Email him.

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