Making Self-Service Self-Evident

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Cisco's Glenn Schleicher makes sure the company's self-service technologies are designed to meet customers' needs and expectations
Customer Service

When Glenn Schleicher joined Cisco in 2010 as director of the Cisco Smart Web Technology Group, his mission was to elevate Cisco's customer self-support capabilities. Although Cisco had self-service technologies in place including websites customers could visit to find information, it was becoming increasingly difficult for the technology giant to keep the systems fresh with content as it acquired other companies. To address these challenges, Schleicher placed Cisco's customers at the center of these efforts.

"When I first came into the role, there were a lot of people collecting lots of metrics around productivity," Schleicher says. He decided instead to focus on metrics that are important to the customer experience.

"I put metrics in place that measure time to completion and customer success. Can they complete a task in five minutes or less? If they couldn't, we failed. I was new to the organization, so every customer complaint hit a raw nerve."

As a Cisco Support Engineer who has spent parts of his 20-plus year career at Cisco in both engineering and customer support roles, Schleicher knows how stressful it can be for customers to find the product information they're seeking. "Even before I joined the company (in 1993), I was a customer calling Cisco and I understood that perspective very well," says Schleicher.

Since joining the company, Schleicher has personally handled hundreds of customer support cases and he's learned a lot about troubleshooting approaches for Cisco's self-serve mobile apps and websites that work and don't work. He's also drawn on his experiences as a consumer to blend in best practices he's picked up from other companies that deliver exceptional customer support, such as Amazon.com.

"Customers remain our true judges"

Even as Cisco's self-service capabilities have won awards, including a 2013 Gartner/1to1 Media CRM Excellence Award for customer service optimization, Schleicher has maintained his mantra that "customers remain our true judges."

To help ensure that Cisco is providing its customers with the type of mobile and web self-service support experiences they're expecting, Schleicher and his team analyze 300 global customer survey responses each month along with behavioral information on the company's website to evaluate their journeys and experiences. If it takes customers longer than expected to complete a task, Schleicher and his 264-person team take a deep dive to determine whether any process or system changes need to be made.

"It's very eye opening to see a customer go down a path you don't expect," Schleicher says. "You might expect them to click on a link but instead they go down a rat hole. These insights have been very impactful," he adds.

Schleicher also spearheaded the creation of a customer and partner advisory board to turn customer input into change requirements. "Part of it is recognizing that most of the people who use our website are below management grade, so the skill sets we look for on the board are people on the IT architecture side or other direct users," says Schleicher. "They've given us some brutal but really good feedback."

For instance, search capabilities for the self-service website have been an issue for customers as Cisco's content continues to expand. "People complain about the amount of time it takes them to find the right content," Schleicher says, noting that the company is using these insights to take steps to make improvements. "Listening without follow-up is almost worse than not listening," he says.

The customer-centric approach taken by Schleicher and his team is paying dividends for Cisco and its customers. The deflection rate for the self-service website has risen from 76.2 percent in 2010 to 83 percent in 2014. Meanwhile, customer satisfaction ratings are at an all-time high and mobile app downloads have risen 89 percent annually.

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