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Cisco keeps its finger on customer loyalty pulse

If a customer isn't happy, odds are Cisco knows about it. The networking giant is pursuing an aggressive customer loyalty strategy that has a key technology component.

Networking equipment giant Cisco Systems Inc. is utilizing an aggressive customer loyalty measurement system to track success with customers and build performance-based incentives for employees.

An increasing number of companies gather and weigh loyalty data to help determine strategies, but San Jose, Calif.-based Cisco is taking customer satisfaction tracking to new heights.

Case in point: Steve Cunningham's job title. He's Cisco's director of customer listening. That's not exactly a position every company fills.

Cunningham said that every one of the firm's 34,000 employees receives a bonus if they meet customer satisfaction goals that CEO John Chambers creates annually. Workers also carry loyalty-oriented objectives printed on their identification cards to remind them of Cisco's desire to push customer satisfaction to the top of its business processes.

"It's hard to measure customer loyalty efforts in dollars and cents but, historically, this is where Cisco gets a lot of its guidance with what to do next, what products to build and which problems to solve," Cunningham said.

Beyond job titles, bonuses and ID cards, Cisco has invested in technology to gauge up-to-the-minute customer loyalty stats.

For the last three years, Cisco has worked with Indianapolis-based customer loyalty research and technology provider Walker Information Inc. to get a better idea of just how happy its customers are. The networking equipment manufacturer currently operates what Walker calls the "Cisco global satisfaction reporting tool," a Web-based system that allows every worker at the company to access a database of customer information presented as a variety of reports.

Here's how it works.

Cunningham said Cisco sends satisfaction surveys to every one of its "high-touch," or dedicated account team customers, and about half reply. The company has also begun sending surveys to its channel partners (45% respond) and even less frequent equipment buyers (10% reply).

The survey results are loaded into a database that resides inside Cisco's firewall, and users access the Walker system to track how far the company and its individual divisions are progressing toward meeting annual goals. Employees can also view preset status reports or run ad hoc queries against the database to break down satisfaction data and identify or address problems.

"Using [the Walker system] has been an effective method of baking customer satisfaction into the very DNA of the company," Cunningham said. "Having the data at people's fingertips 24/7 in real time is a lot more effective than having someone stand up and deliver a presentation once a year."

Prior to signing on with Walker, that was how Cisco distributed loyalty data to workers, he said.

Walker is currently marketing a slimmed-down version of the system it built for Cisco under the name SmartLoyalty. Cunningham said Cisco's internal system exceeds the functionality of SmartLoyalty in several areas, most notably in its ability to import roughly 60,000 new customer data sources each year.

FOR MORE INFORMATION:

Send your question about customer loyalty to expert Michael Lowenstein

Article: It's really (almost) all about the data: Optimizing loyalty initiatives

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