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Creating a Stronger Connection With Customers using Inclusion and Diversity

- February 26, 2010 - 3 Comments

One of the questions Cisco sales teams ask themselves is how can we continually improve our business with our customers. Often the answer lies in the relationship between Cisco and our customers.  

Customers want to do business with companies that understand their culture (both the company culture and the local, national culture), and they want to do business with organizations that have shared values. 

Nikos Gerogiannis, Cisco Service & Support Manager in Emerging Markets, is talking to his customers about inclusion and diversity during quarterly business reviews.  Instead of focusing solely on facts and figures, Gerogiannis and his team include non-direct business elements including Inclusion—how we leverage diversity by bringing together a mix of unique individual backgrounds to collectively and more effectively meet our business objectives and Diversity—the Collective mixture of differences and  similarities including but not limited to race, color, religion, national origin, sex, sexual orientation, gender expression, age, physical abilities, culture, occupation, position, education, work, and behavioral styles and the perspectives of each individual shaped by his/her nation and experiences.  

This move has created an open conversation between Cisco and our customers, as they share both the concept and experience of team spirit.   For example, one customer wants to leverage Cisco’s inclusion and diversity practices in their own business.   Another customer wants to start to change the perception that their customers have of them and are looking to Cisco to find out how we are doing this so they can model this same perspective for their own customers.   

As a global company, Cisco makes an investment in inclusion and diversity creating a positive impact within Cisco.  We have the opportunity to share our insights with our customers and partners.

For our customers, especially those in emerging countries, a key vendor like Cisco sharing these best practices and insights helps our customers feel supported by the people of Cisco and our technologies.   Do our customers want to replace local workers with foreigners?  No, of course not! We have the opportunity to change the conversation to enable our customers to leverage these inclusion and diversity practices and replicate them within their own companies and cultures.  The end result?  Better employee satisfaction and performance, as well as closer connections to their customers and business partners.

Really tapping into the culture and shared values is resulting in even closer business relationships.  Our customers are recognizing that Cisco truly operates as one team.  Leveraging our technology, Cisco is able to showcase the “team behind the team” and enable our customers to see that our diversity mirrors their own cultural norms.  We have been able to showcase best practices across our regions.  Customer satisfaction is increased, and customers consider us valued and trusted business partners.

When asked how Inclusion and Diversity can make a difference in Cisco’s business, Gerogiannis said:

Nothing is impossible. Everything relies on will, collaboration and team spirit – and inclusion and diversity is all about that.

So what are your thoughts on how inclusion and diversity drives relationships and the business?

By Peggy Wolf, Program Manager, Cisco Services

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  2. Thanks for the insights, Liz. I think we have incredible opportunities in Emerging Markets to introduce new models for inclusion as a business driver. I hope to be able to share some stories of what we are doing on this blog and also learn from others. Partnerships are key to success.

  3. I have been working with North American, mostly US and Canadian companies for about 18 years now on diversity pertaining to sexual orientation and, more recently, gender identity/expression. I have noticed a swell in interest in porting some of the successes of what we've done in the States, particularly with employee business networks, to other countries...most of them in Europe. This activity has taken the form of maximizing the effectiveness of the group as a collaborative and revenue-enhancing force for the company by the creation of e-communities...something that would be a natural fit for Cisco. Beyond this, there are countries emerging as leaders in this area of inclusion in somewhat surprising places (or not): South America comes to mind. Argentina recently legalized unions of gay/lesbian partners and other South and Central American companies have open and inclusive workplace policies in this area (a complete list of who and what is easily obtained). China has potential in this area...which is not as surprising as you might think. Having been there, I know there is the Chinese Way which means one must be deliberate in ones actions, but there is a growing awareness, like the US circa 1975, that this is a population about to make its voice heard.So...I think that there is a definite row to hoe using diversity and inclusion initiatives and particularly education and ERG connectivity programs that Cisco should be tapping into.