Listening to Customers
By Ross Daniels, Director of Marketing, Cisco Systems
Eighty-nine thousand miles--over three times around the earth. That's how far a colleague and I have flown in the last year to meet face-to-face with our channel partners and sales teams at Cisco Customer Collaboration sales summits in over a dozen countries on four continents. Why so much travel? We host these regular, regional events around the globe for two primary reasons. The first is to share information--such as our latest product capabilities, roadmaps, and how businesses are succeeding with Cisco contact center solutions. Equally critical, however, is our desire to listen to the invaluable information provided by our sales teams and partners--from themselves and on behalf of customers.
We also work directly with end-customers as part of our "Agile" development process. Agile prescribes regular, close collaboration with customers to solicit their input and feedback on new products and features. This interaction can be as often as every couple weeks, allowing us--if necessary--to adjust a new feature to ensure it's fully meeting customer requirements. Close interaction with our customers also gives us prompt notice when we've finished a new feature, allowing us to be as efficient as possible with our development resources.
We listen to our customers in other ways, too, such as through our Customer Collaboration Board of Advisors and the Cisco Collaboration User Group. Regardless of the vehicle, however, our goal is always the same: to be as responsive as we can to our customers to help them meet--and exceed--their customer care business goals.
What about businesses themselves? How can they listen to their own customers? Social media is one obvious example. Cisco was the first contact center vendor to offer a social media customer care solution--Cisco SocialMiner. With SocialMiner, businesses and organizations can proactively respond to customers and prospects communicating through public social media such as Twitter, Facebook, or other open forums. Businesses can also identify potential new customers they might wish to reach out to. A perfect example of this is the nutrition company that enjoyed a four-fold increase in revenue from social media sources within six months of deploying SocialMiner.
Quality management and analytics applications provide more ways for businesses to listen to their customers. Contact centers handle thousands upon thousands of customer conversations a day, but unfortunately much of the business intelligence that could be gleaned from those interactions is never used--because it is either too expensive to capture or too difficult to mine for useful information. Cisco MediaSense solves these challenges by recording conversations on the network--simplifying the architecture, lowering costs, and providing optimum scalability. MediaSense provides an efficient platform for capturing conversations between businesses and their customers, with built-in playback capability and open APIs that enable powerful analytics and quality management/optimization solutions from Cisco technology partners. Imagine an automated application that can detect a rising stress level in a caller's voice and alert the customer care agent (and supervisor) while providing suggested mitigation. This is happening today, thanks to MediaSense and our partners.
Customer care representatives also play a key role in the listening equation. While this may seem patently obvious, think back to the last time you had a conversation with an agent who didn't seem to be listening to you. How could that be? Today's agents are often scrambling to access information from multiple sources--sometimes at the expense of giving the caller their full attention. Cisco Finesse--our state-of-the-art Web 2.0 agent desktop--addresses this challenge by creating a personalized, easily-customizable "cockpit" that gives customer care providers quick and easy access to multiple assets and information sources without having to leave the Finesse interface. This enables agents to resolve caller issues faster and with more accuracy, and to give callers their complete attention. A financial institution with strong focus on online banking is enjoying faster implementation of new and custom applications with Finesse, allowing them to listen to customers more effectively--while enjoying lower maintenance costs.
Listening to customers takes will and effort, but that's how many companies differentiate themselves from the competition. You may not need to circumnavigate the globe, but think about what you can do to get closer to your customers.