Welcome to an on-going series of interviews with the people behind the technologies in Social Business. The interviews provide insightful points of view from a customer, industry, and vendor perspective. A full list of interviewees can be found here.
Charlie Isaacs, eServices and Social Media Engineering, Alcatel Lucent
Charlie Isaacs has a track record of R&D leadership, starting with GTE (eventually became Verizon), where he served as Vice President of Engineering and headed a group of over 200 engineers working on Government and commercial applications. Following GTE, Mr. Isaacs held R&D leadership positions at Answer Systems (acquired by Computer Associates), and served as Chief Technology Officer at Broad Daylight (sold to Primus) and at Primus Knowledge Systems until Primus’ acquisition by ATG. Charlie served as Chief Technology Officer and Chief Customer Officer at Kana Software, Inc. Mr. Isaacs holds a B.S. degree in Electrical Engineering from the University of California at Santa Barbara and an MBA from California Lutheran University. When Charlie left KANA in 2009 and prior to joining Alcatel-Lucent, he developed and delivered a Social Media strategy for two different companies. Charlie has over 15 years of CRM experience.
1. Tell me in 2 minutes or less why Social Computing is changing the world for your customers?
Charlie Isaacs (CI): Our customers are recognizing that their customers are extremely well-armed with information required to get the best deal possible, and to make the best buying decision based on accurate and trusted sources–their friends, influencers, and trusted advisors. Our customers are recognizing that they have to need to possess the same information that their customers are using, which includes information about their competition. They also know that their customers have zero tolerance for a bad customer experience and will go elsewhere if they can’t get instant help on a problem that arises, or if anything in the buying process becomes difficult. Our know that they need to use every channel and every vehicle possible to respond to their customers needs because each demographic relies on a different social communication mechanism, and some demographics might jump from channel to channel and social outlet to social outlet. At the same time we are finding that we (Alcatel-Lucent Genesys) have an unfair competitive advantage because when the customers have a huge issue they just want to talk to a human immediately, and few companies offer every channel and every social capability combined with instant voice communication.
2.What makes social computing disruptive?
(CI): Social Computing is disruptive because it is a huge equalizer. Companies selling products and services no longer have the upper hand. If they are selling a crappy product or service the word will get out immediately. Talk about transparency–companies become transparent whether they want to or not. This is disrupting the way companies do business, they way consumers shop, and the way customers are supported.
3. What is the next big thing in Social Business software?
(CI): The next big thing is product-orient social. (I call it object-oriented social, but I have been accused of being a nerd for doing so.) With product-oriented social technology the product is aware of who you are, why you are standing in front of it, and what you are trying to do with it–and the “product” will help you accomplish your goal. For example, if you are standing in front of a TV set at Walmart and you can’t find a store clerk to help you, you should be able to wave your mobile phone across the TV and have it deliver a custom menu that provides you with answers to your questions. The menu should allow you to find an expert instantly (anywhere in the world.) It should help you buy the TV and have it delivered to your house. This “next big thing app” should provide you with comparison shopping and if it finds a cheaper TV down the street at Best Buy, you should be offered a coupon by Walmart to keep you in the store. The coupon should allow you to price match, give you loyalty points for buying the TV, or whatever the analytics indicate that the offer should provide to you at that moment. The next big thing app should automatically scan your friends network for others who have bought this TV (depending on privacy settings) and you should be able to reach out to that friend for a review or for help understanding how it works. And finally, after you have bought the TV, if it breaks a year later you should be able to scan that TV with your smartphone again and it should give you troubleshooting steps or information about your warranty or service.
4. What are you doing that’s disruptive for Social Computing?
(CI): We have built that next big thing app I described earlier. We have this application in the cloud and running on the iPhone and the Android and we have three customers currently in pilot with the technology. We are learning a lot about what is working and what is not by listening to these customers. In addition to having built that next big thing killer app, we have delivered our Social Engagement Server technology to several customers and they are using it to listen/monitor/engage their customers. We take a slightly different approach from other vendors because as I mentioned before we have an unfair advantage by having such a strong voice and video infrastructure. As you know, customers tend to gravitate to “instant gratification” and that instant response is still voice and/or technologies like Facetime. Our approach is also different because we treat each Social Message as a task, and put it through our global task manager and allow each Social Task be governed by a Business Process that allows you to do things like assign SLA’s, escalation points, leverage Workforce Optimization/Management, and of course locate the right expert for that Social Message.
5. Where do you see technology convergence with Social?
(CI): I see it converging in Daly City, California where our Engineering Lab is located. Seriously, technology provides the “bus” that Social rides on. As technology improves it will provide a more seamless link between humans and their surroundings. You need great technology to accomplish Social, but you also of course need process and people to make it happen. If you don’t have a solid technology foundation you can’t do Social. For example, all of the components and ingredients to provide the communication channels for your customers to communicate with each other and with you as a product provider need to be in place and those require great technology. The ability to handle, track, measure and provide feedback into every Social interaction requires great technology.
6. If you weren’t focused on Social Computing what other disruptive technology would you have pursued?
(CI): My Dad is a Pediatric Pathologist, and he has saved countless lives through his research and his diagnostic abilities. When I was young he talked me out of becoming a Doctor because of the malpractice issues and, ironically, because of the long hours he worked. Ha. Well, so much for the long hours argument. What I am currently doing won’t save people’s lives, or necessarily improve life on our planet. I eventually want to work myself into a position where I can spend more time developing cool technology that will benefit mankind, or help solve a technology problem for a non-profit that is working for a great cause. I started my career by working on technology that benefited the world and would sure like to end my career by doing something that will really make a difference.
7. What’s your favorite science fiction gadget of all time?
(CI): What’s amazing to me is that some of my favorite Science Fiction gadgets have already become reality. The Jetson’s videophone was in our labs years ago. The Star Trek universal translator is pretty much here in our labs with our speech technology. My favorite gadget is probably more of a group of gadgets. I am going to go off-road on this because you are probably expecting me to pick a Star Trek, Dr. No, or Star Wars gadget. Turn on your corny filter but I have always been intrigued by the 6 Million Dollar Man technology. I think we should be able to rebuild people that way, and we are getting closer to it. My Senior project at UC Santa Barbara Engineering school was a robotic arm that accepted speech commands like “up” “down” “plate”. I visited my Dad in the hospital one day while he did the rounds and was touched by a small girl with an amputated arm and I knew that she would never be able to pick up food in right hand again. I though, I am a freakin’ Engineer, I should be able to fix this. So I guess what I am getting to is that I really love the idea of “bionics” and the ability to rebuild people and make them better.
What do you think? Got a question for Charlie? Add your comments to the blog or reach me via email: R (at) ConstellationRG (dot) com or R (at) SoftwareInsider (dot) com.
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