Putting an Ear to the Ground

Customer Experience
Customer Experience
2013 Customer Champion Karen Mangia, director of listening services, Center of Excellence at Cisco, listens and acts on customer and partner input.

To borrow a line from Joni Mitchell, Cisco's Karen Mangia has seen customer feedback from both sides now.

In a prior role as a Cisco sales leader, she and other members of the sales team were responsible for following up on customer survey results when the technology giant fell short of customer expectations in different areas. For the past two years, Mangia has led Cisco's voice of the customer efforts as Director, Listening Services Center of Excellence where she has combined her background in sales with an operational bent where she's responsible for implementing customer feedback into systematic and process change.

"I speak 'sales' and I speak 'ops' and most people can't do both," says Mangia. "It gives you a really different vantage point of what you need to do to be successful."

Mangia and her 47-person team at Cisco are responsible for gathering, analyzing, and presenting the voice of Cisco's customers, partners, and employees to all corners of the organization. Mangia's ability to understand customers' pain points and make this visible to Cisco's executives has been the key to her success-and the company's.

For instance, Cisco discovered a few years ago through verbatim responses to customer surveys that a fair number of customers were complaining about the challenges of doing business with the company. This led Mangia and her team to begin posing specific questions about the difficulty of doing business with Cisco throughout a variety of customer and partner listening posts. Additional feedback that was gathered and analyzed prompted Cisco Chairman and CEO John Chambers to launch the Ease of Doing Business with Cisco program for which Mangia directs all activities.

"The best thing about this process is that partners and customers alerted us to issues that we didn't even know about," Mangia says. For example, customer feedback led Cisco to improve the access to and navigation of the company's support website. Simplifying website navigation has resulted in a dramatic reduction in customer support inquiries. In fact, 356,000 cases have been avoided each month, resulting in total cost savings of more than $300 million annually.

Mangia has also shrewdly applied different technologies to help Cisco gather, analyze, and act on customer feedback. In addition to conducting customer and partner relationship surveys using technologies from Walker Information, Cisco also conducts on-demand surveys using technology from Verint Systems. The on-demand surveys are created based on an emerging theme that emanates from a customer satisfaction survey. The on-demand surveys are then targeted at a particular customer group with specific questions. Cisco also uses sentiment and text analytics tools from Clarabridge to analyze and then act on customer and partner comments in social media and other channels.

"Text analytics help us determine when things are going really well, which helps us to recognize the ingredients for success," says Mangia. The opposite is also true. "People who give us low scores also give us a lot of feedback on what isn't working well. It helps us to direct where we spend our time. It gives us a lot more context," Mangia adds.

Cisco also gathers feedback the old fashioned way-by listening to what customers, partners, and employees have to say in conversations with people from the company. "I call it formalizing the backyard barbecue conversation: 'Hey Bob, what would you think if we launched XYZ?'" says Mangia.

One of the things that make Cisco's voice of the customer program work so well is that the company has truly engaged executive sponsors at the highest levels of the company. "When you hear your CEO talk about your company's voice of the customer program in quarterly meetings with Wall Street analysts and in town hall meetings and you also see people a layer below using this information in their reports and presentations, it demonstrates that it's engrained in the culture," Mangia says. "They're not just talking about it; they're doing something with it. Because our leaders are so visible and vocal about it, this has built a cadence into the structure of the program. It has reinforced it in so many ways," she adds.