In response to many requests to feature more business-to-business (B2B) content at our events, next month’s Outside In: A Forum For Customer Experience Professionals will feature several B2B keynote presenters, including Randy Pond, EVP of operations, processes, and systems at Cisco Systems. In preparation for the event, I caught up with Randy to talk about his keynote and the importance of championing the voice of the customer at Cisco. Check out a preview of Randy’s session in the below Q&A, or join me in Los Angeles, November 14th to 15th, to hear Cisco’s full story.

Q: What gets in the way of delivering the right experience to your customers?

First, in some areas, I believe we lack consistent policy and practices in the business that we can inspect, enforce, and govern.  It’s a combination of the legacy of our entrepreneurial spirit, drive to market, and speed to market. The second is related to the fact that we have a regular influx of acquired companies that we have to embed into our offering, scale into the marketplace, and turn loose to our customers. This can get us into trouble when we may not have the same sense of urgency when we release products. As well, there is a big push on the sales team to get new products moving and out to customers and a big pull from our customer base to get these new offerings in the marketplace. And that stretches our ability to make them as effective and easy to use as we would like. 

Second, we are one of the more complicated business models that exist today. Not only have we spread our innovation machine across 50 business units but also we’re no longer just a products and services business; we’re an as-a-service business as well. If you look at our offerings today, they’ve changed pretty dramatically in terms of what we’re bringing to market.

Some of the impacts of moving from a product and services business to an as-a-services business transition have been difficult; from order administration, pricing, and billing to metering and monitoring the ongoing business. We recognize the market is moving and so we’re moving quickly too. We have a two-year road map that closes the vast majority of those gaps, and in the meantime, we’re honest and transparent with our customers and partners about what we’re doing to solve their most pressing business problems. 

Q: How does your company put a business value on customer experience?

At Cisco, when we look at the value proposition of the customer experience, for us it’s tied to the fact that there’s a high correlation between customer experience and loyalty. We also know that loyalty is strongly correlated with recurring spending with Cisco. For our customers to come back over and over again, to place a high enough value on the relationship, the loyalty factor has to be high. The No. 1 way to drive that is via our Ease of Doing Business (EODB)work and improving the experience inside of the enterprise when customers reach out to work with us. The value for Cisco is extremely high, and it’s measured first by the experience itself (i.e., EODB and the quality of their interactions) and second by our ability to impact customer loyalty and keep it high.

Q: What are one or two of the most critical activities your organization performs that enable you to deliver a great customer experience?

In the operations, processes, and systems (OPS) organization, we focus on customer listening and its evolution  our ability to gather information, convert the information into intelligence, and integrate findings back into the business.  This is inclusive of our work in social networking and ensuring contextual feedback remains alive on a regular basis to dynamically stay connected with our customers, resulting in very high value to our business. This helps us to understand where we are at any point in time, and with our finger on the pulse, we can quickly tell when a customer might need a more high-touch model for a short period of time. 

I am also very focused on improving the EODB for our customers along with my business partner Joe Pinto, SVP technical support services. Together, we drive the EODB platform that shows our commitment to ongoing listening to our customers, partners, and employees and delivering solutions that make Cisco fundamentally easier to do business with; whether it’s their experience in SW quality, HW quality, lead-time management, pre- and post-sales support, or the interaction they experience with our website. Because we manage this work centrally through a small team of executive sponsors and project leads, we are able to make quicker progress on our customers’ biggest concerns in the business and our ability to drive change in a way that shows we’re willing to make the investment in them. To be our customers’ partner of choice is top of mind at Cisco.

Hear more from Randy Pond at the Outside In: A Forum For Customer Experience Professionals, November 14th to 15th, in Los Angeles. Or join us in London, November 6th to 7th at the Outside In: A Forum For Customer Experience Professionals EMEA for more insight into the importance and value of voice of the customer programs.