Cisco Listens and Learns

Having a robust listening system in place to drive loyalty among its customers and partners is nothing new to networking software giant Cisco Systems, which set up its customer satisfaction function in 1999. But it was over a year ago that the company decided to strengthen its approach to voice of the customer (VoC) by creating the Listening Services Center of Excellence to centralize the various listening posts from across the business.

“At Cisco all of the employees carry a badge that has our company values on it. One of those values, which is part of our DNA, is customer success,” says Karen E. Mangia, director of Cisco Systems’ Listening Services Center of Excellence. “We use VoC to measure how we’re doing against that cultural value and make it real to every single employee in the business.”

The 34-member strong listening center consists of three teams that are responsible for listening, analyzing, and integrating VoC learnings back into the business. “I like to think of them as a group of people who are so brilliant they could tell a senior [executive] something about the business that they don’t know already,” Mangia says. “To me, it’s not just about saying we have a program; the real value is it is about what we can learn from it.”

Easy does it

Mangia explains that Cisco’s listening posts gather input from customers and partners globally, making it possible to identify themes. For example, the company learned that the “ease of doing business” with Cisco is a loyalty driver. It also learned through VoC, however, that the business wasn’t delivering as well as it could in that area. So Cisco launched a formal action plan that included everyone across the organization, including the CEO. It ties specific projects to drivers that impact the ease of doing business with the company. It also launched custom online dashboards that staff can use daily to monitor ease-of-doing business results. Executives also receive a weekly email highlighting customer comments specifically regarding the ease of doing business with Cisco.

The company has also made a significant effort in the introduction of its programs to “close the loop” with customers and partners about how it’s using their feedback. “When we connect back with them, it builds future loyalty,” Mangia says.

Another initiative that the listening center led based on VoC input was the streamline navigation of Cisco’s support website, allowing customers to more quickly access information and resolve problems. As a result, 81% of technical support issues are now resolved online, leading to cost savings of hundreds of millions annually.

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