Why Listening Really Matters to Cisco

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John Chambers CEO of Cisco

Photo Credit: CNME News

Long-serving Cisco CEO John Chambers (19 years in the role and counting) still has some new tricks when it comes to creating greater engagement around the Cisco brand.

Find out what strategic engagement really means to Cisco – and how the company connects with their customers around the world. For this Fortune 100 company, strategic branding really begins with listening. Here’s why:

“Cisco CEO John Chambers has often cited the importance of listening to the customer as the key to Cisco’s success as a brand. ‘If you listen to the customer,’ Chambers says, ‘they will tell you everything you need to be successful.’”

That’s according to Karen Mangia, the Senior Director of the Listening Services Center of Excellence (LSCOE) at Cisco. In her role, she oversees the importance of active listening across the partner and customer channels, as well as internally.

BulletProof Branding by Chris Westfall According to Karen, listening to customers (and then doing something with that feedback) is how Cisco finds “true north” – that direction and focus for current events, and future strategies.

And that true north can’t come from the inside out – in other words, it’s not about what Cisco wants customers to say about the company.

The real story is what customers, partners and employees say about the company.

So, where did the idea for the Listening Center come from?

“About three years ago,” Mangia explains, “we started hearing in a variety of surveys and feedback tools – ranging from actual customers coming into our executive briefing centers, comments on surveys, and other methods –we started hearing this idea that it was becoming difficult to do business with Cisco.

“We weren’t necessarily asking specific questions about ‘ease of doing business,’ but it started emerging as a theme.

“The really important thing to do was to find out more: what was driving the perception [that doing business with Cisco was difficult]?

“So we started asking some questions through a variety of listening vehicles about that [difficulty].”

Customer satisfaction is a top priority at the company. In fact, customer satisfaction is a driving force behind the company’s bonus and incentive structure – for every employee worldwide.

And the surveys – both internal and external – were telling a similar story. Doing business with Cisco was becoming more and more difficult – whether as a customer, partner or employee.

Poor survey results begged the question: what drives that perception of the ease of doing business with Cisco?

Think about the Cisco customer for a second. That customer is trying to get their equipment on time – the right equipment at the right time, exactly as promised and expected.

When a customer has a support issue, no matter what piece of gear or software, that individual has expectations. And, for a Fortune 100 company like Cisco, those expectations can be high.

The customer wants to know that if there’s a service issue or question about the equipment, the person who picks up the phone knows exactly what is installed at the customer’s premise.

The customer wants to know that the service representative knows the exact terms and coverage for the service contract, for example.

Think about that for a company that has multiple locations, multiple data centers, and multiple video conferencing facilities. Managing complexity is now woven into your branding. Because managing and meeting expectations is key to making your brand bulletproof.

Expediting the service process hinges on insight and expertise that acknowledges the customers’ situation – and that level of detail and awareness is as much a technological challenge as it is a personal one.

Not many businesses have the layers of complexity found within Cisco. But perhaps you are wondering if your organization has the kind of insights needed to meet your customers’ expectations. And, if you’re not wondering about customer expectations, you should be.

Are you really listening? Because your customer has the message you need to hear!

Listen to what changed at Cisco, as they began listening not only to customers, but to their partners – the resellers responsible for selling, installing and servicing a large portion of Cisco’s business:

“What we discovered,” Karen explains, “was that we had this very homogenous viewpoint of what ‘ease of doing business’ meant.

“We sort of thought ‘ease’ meant the same thing for everyone.”

Have you ever experienced a moment of unexpected clarity, when you listen to your customers? At Cisco, allowing customers to participate in the definition of one of their core principles created a significant change in their business processes.

BulletProof Branding on iPad by Chris Westfall is on iPadFind out more about how Cisco reshaped their brand through effective listening, in BulletProof Branding. Featuring a foreword by Ted Rubin, this is the hold-your-handbook for strategic marketing in the digital age. If you want to create engagement, and be heard beyond the likes, tweets and pokes, you’ve got to understand the new rules for customer engagement. Today, customers on social media are armed and dangerous – that’s why you’ve got to have a bulletproof brand.

Golden Gate Bridge image by Camille King. Used under creative commons, some rights reserved.

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