Cisco Cultivates Community Through Collaborative Self-Service Support

Customer Service
Customer Service
Users and experts help shape and create content, enabling Cisco's effort to boost loyalty and personalize the online support experience.
Gold: Customer Service Optimization

Business Boost: Last year, customers resolved 390,000 issues per month, deflecting 84 percent of support cases and saving Cisco millions of dollars in call center costs.

For many customers, the decision to purchase doesn't solely revolve around product features or cost because the customer experience rarely ends at the point of sale. Most customers prefer to do business with companies that also offer dependable customer service throughout the entire customer journey. With this in mind, Cisco Systems, Inc. set out to bring collaboration into the service and support mix, measurably boosting customers' and partners' online support success.

In its move toward improved customer service support, Cisco decided that future success would hinge upon Web ease, speed, and increased sources of knowledge. Cisco's team noticed that the best service sites were easy to navigate, recalled the customer's identity, tailored content by tracking online behaviors, and supplemented self-support with forums. With these aspects in mind, Cisco established its goals around simplifying and personalizing the Cisco Support Website's self-service offerings, growing a robust community to mobilize networking and social wisdom, and bringing agents explicitly into the fold.

To bring these goals to life, Cisco's Smart Web Technology Group (SWTG) and its Smart Web Community Management Group (SWCMG) aligned to form an established team dedicated to user experience, customer interaction, and analytics. These two departments combined their expertise in order to develop a community that focused on both self-service and peer service offerings. By engaging users and allowing them to help shape the site and its content, Cisco has created an environment that welcomes knowledge from both users and experts. The support community not only discusses issues, but also contributes content, rates answered questions, and attends or replays webinars. This initiative also employs leaderboards, which reflect Cisco's recognition program's drive to incentivize customers and experts to answer questions, share solutions, and contribute content.

"Today we see great opportunities to engender a true "One Cisco" Web experience by joining with other teams to ensure all the parts fit together," says Glenn Schleicher, director, Cisco Smart Web Technology Group (SWTG). "For example, we place links to current forum discussions right on top of each product support page. Why? Because someone over there may have just answered a nagging installation question."

For Cisco, support and community play mutually reinforcing roles. This symbiotic relationship has helped to build loyalty and fortify the sales value proposition by helping customers resolve issues efficiently and engaging them in change. In 2012, Cisco's 4.1 million unique monthly visitors resolved 390,000 issues per month, deflecting 84 percent of technical issues online, thereby saving Cisco millions of dollars and customers hours of call time. "Truly loyal" customers with service contracts also saw significant improvements, rising to 83.5 percent, versus 24 percent and 27 percent loyalty expressed for Cisco's two major competitors.

Cisco's effort to craft an easier, more personal Web experience has also made support more widely accessible, as this uniform, worldwide experience offers identical advantages for every user. By logging in when visiting Cisco's website, individuals can now immediately link to product pages they frequently view, see a personal download history and corresponding new releases, start "one-click" downloads, check support case status, or open a new case. By offering personal dashboards with "hot links," Cisco has managed to turn Web histories and preferences into a powerful asset for finding answers quickly.

By constructing single and collective customer views to improve support, site logins continue to increase. Since October, Cisco support site has seen a 64 percent jump in visitors who log in to the support home page each month, allowing the site to track the customer's behaviors and interactions. Remembering each individual not only takes customers to the right destination in fewer clicks, but also creates a personal connection, while the site's simplified navigation saves users time, extending this widely accessible support to the device of the customer's choice. In the end, personalization also boosts customer retention, as they are constantly welcomed by the fact that each interaction allows Cisco to get to know them even better.

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