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Gordon Young
Editor-in-chief at The Drum

How Cisco used social to build a bridge to its customers

Cisco was highly commended in the ‘Best Social Media Customer Service Strategy’ category at The Drum Social Buzz Awards 2019 with its ‘SocialBridge’ initiative. Here, the team reveals the challenges faced and the strategies used to deliver this successful project.

The challenge

In the past at Cisco, social media was often seen as a publishing channel to amplify brand messaging rather than as a platform for real engagement and conversation with customers. Due to fears about encouraging negative public comments, teams hesitated to reach out to engage directly with customers and comments, questions, and feedback often went unanswered.

This all changed in September of 2017, when the SocialBridge was formed.

The strategy

To fundamentally change Cisco's approach to social customer care, the SocialBridge Team developed a crossfunctional, data-led, and customer-focused strategy.

Central to our ability to provide high-quality expert answers is our cross-organisational collaboration with diverse teams of subject matter experts (SMEs) around the world including customer experience, engineering, product teams, technical support, sales, customer research, and more. Through these partnerships, we’re able to leverage the expertise of our talented staff to provide precise and high-quality answers that distinguish our social care from typical standard customer service responses.

Key program features include:

Care Tool – Our new social care tool launched September 9, 2019. The implementation includes an AI model which allows us to identify more customer engagement and sales opportunities, threading of messages into engagement cases, rule-based prioritization of incoming cases, deeper tracking of performance and optimization metrics, and more.

Artificial Intelligence – In partnership with our CX and Digital Marketing data science teams, we have worked to build AI models that help us to identify more actionable engagement opportunities, to streamline processes, and easily add to our knowledge base with every question answered. These models are helping us to engage more customers than ever before.

Surge Alerts and Crisis Communication Workflow – In addition to using surge alert notifications to identify when a social crisis may be emerging, we have developed a crisis communication strategy to address social crisis situations. Working in partnership with a company-wide network from our legal, HR, communications, security teams, and more we utilize a crisis workflow to notify key stakeholders, strategize our response, communicate the strategy to our global social teams, and carry out the execution of crisis resolution plans when necessary.

Relationship Building – We engage with customers on lighter touch posts to start conversations and build relationships. These personal connections go a long way with customers, and they love when we reach out.

Process Mapping – Workflow building, and process mapping exercises have allowed us to steadily optimize our process and decrease our response times to an average of 30 minutes. With the recent implementation of our social care tool, we are working to enable even faster response times.

Custom Tagging and Reporting – We have developed custom tags allow us to quantify and analyse every customer conversation and interaction across products, inquiry, sentiment, keywords, and topic of interest allowing us to provide key insights back into the business. We began this tracking earlier on after our team inception, to maximize the amount of data we’ve had to learn from as we have developed and optimized our team.

Global Language Scaling – We currently support customers in English, Spanish, Portuguese, and Filipino and are actively working to scale our language capabilities around the world to additionally include Chinese, Japanese, Spanish, French, German, and more.

Keyword and Dashboard Optimization - We have focused on continuous optimization of our listening keywords and dashboards to help care agents surface support and relationship-building opportunities; our recently implemented keyword structure will allow us to analyse social data more deeply and surface more engagement opportunities than ever before.

Intent Modelling & NPS – Through our unique listening capabilities we have been able to marry our intent modelling with social listening to enhance our SEO performance and provide deeper insights into our Net Promoter Scores

Command Center Station – Our core command center collaboration area is located in our San Jose headquarters with plans to scale across all regions.

The campaign

We launched our SocialBridge initiative, social command center, and social insights program in 2017. Utilizing best-in-class Sprinklr listening tools, the SocialBridge team listens and responds to customers in the channel environments where they are talking and interacting across 7 channels including Twitter, Facebook, Instagram, YouTube, Reddit, Cisco Communities, forums, and more.

The SocialBridge team has created a unique process to answer customer questions and concerns through collaboration with a company-wide network of subject matter experts. Over the past year, we have worked to streamline our process and expand our program so that we can engage with more customers than ever before.

We utilize our Sprinklr listening tools and meticulously refined keyword lists to identify potential engagement opportunities around the world including complaints, feedback, technical questions, and more. Our specialized Sprinklr dashboard aggregates opportunities where we have either been tagged (through mentions and direct messages) or our keywords have been mentioned.

Once an opportunity has been found, the SocialBridge team researches potential answers by referencing our library of technical documents, our website, Cisco Community, and other internal resources. If we cannot locate the answer, we reach out to our network of specialized subject matter experts through our care tool, which routes opportunities based on expert specialty and availability. Once an expert answer is received, the SocialBridge team prepares and sends the response to the. Next, we apply our custom tags so that we can track the impact and scope of our interactions, and we monitor for customer replies and follow up questions.

In September of 2019, the SocialBridge launched our usage of the Sprinklr Modern Care Tool, a social care tool. This allows for faster identification of customer engagement and sales opportunities, threading of messages into engagement cases, rule-based prioritization of incoming cases, integration of AI models for identifying opportunities, and deeper tracking of performance and optimization metrics.

By implementing the care tool, we are now able to identify several SLA metrics and work on optimizing our process, which is already leading to a reduction in our response times, an increase in conversations addressed and sales opportunities identified, and more.

Since our inception, our team has been able to change the sentiment of many customer conversations from negative to positive and even captured and delivered feedback from customers to product teams for implementation.

Each month, the SocialBridge team provides our stakeholders with the current feedback, question themes and insights from our customers. Our team implemented customers feedback recently in our new initiative to go green with our packaging.

We noticed through our listening efforts that customers were complaining about Cisco’s product packaging practices and sharing stories of our excessive use of plastics, papers, and boxes. We shared this feedback and data with our leadership as part of a collection of customer feedback from various sources. In response to this customer feedback, Cisco launched a new initiative to implement new greener packaging in the next fiscal year.

To celebrate and share the news with the customers who tweeted their concerns, the SocialBridge created a video to share with our users announcing our exciting plan to go greener. We posted the video, tagged the users who had expressed concern, and let them know that Cisco had listened, and their feedback truly made a difference. We received an incredible response from users in this example and do every time we demonstrate that we are listening to their feedback and using it in order to drive change and innovation at Cisco.

The results

Since launching in September 2017, the SocialBridge network of experts has steadily grown and our collaboration has seen continued success, including:

• Listening across 47 million Cisco-related conversations, an average of 8 million per month.

• Over 2,000 direct customer interactions and issues resolved.

• 27% of our interactions and conversations are proactive and listening-based.

• We have driven a 45% sentiment change from negative/neutral to positive across all of our conversations, which speaks directly to the impact we are having on the customer experience.

• We have driven a 49% increase in user interactions across @Cisco, our major Cisco handle.

• We have driven an increase in customer engagement through a 50x increase in messages exchanged with customers directly.

• Our efforts have resulted in a 5.3 ppt increase in net positive sentiment overall.

In the end, our proudest achievements are the relationships we've built with customers as we celebrate their wins and provide them with support. In one exchange, a customer named Mike tagged us saying that he was struggling to study for his CCNA exam while balancing his family life. We offered friendly encouragement and Mike thanked us for helping him to feel "more motivated than ever!" It's exchanges like this that mean the world to us and keep us moving forward to keep pushing the program to new heights of innovation and customer care.

“With the implementation of our SocialBridge and sophisticated social listening technology, we’ve been able to capture moments that matter to customers like we’ve never done before. Cisco’s SocialBridge has been able to capture feedback and insights that have led to changes across campaign strategy, content creation, and competitive advantage. The team has also put a crisis management capability to ensure that our brand, employees, and paid media efforts are protected. We’ve seen a 40% increase in sentiment change in conversations this team has engaged with increasing our customer satisfaction, expectations, and experience.” – Devin Hood, director of digital marketing, Cisco

This project was highly commended at The Drum Social Buzz Awards 2019. Click here to register your interest in 2020's awards.

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