As Cisco re-focused, reorganized and became stronger and leaner in the past two quarters, maintaining trust with our customers and partners was always front of mind for me.
For more than 25 years, Cisco has systematically and passionately invested in customer relationships and developed a reputation for doing whatever it takes to deliver on our commitments. We operate as our customers want us to: as business partners, not just as a vendor. We’re in it to win together and drive shared business success.
That philosophy is a big reason why Cisco consistently ranks No. 1 among technology vendors for overall performance and quality of products and services in studies of customer satisfaction.
It’s also a big reason why our customers have stood by us as we faced challenges in the past year. I have been consistently impressed – and humbled – by how many customers have told me they want Cisco to succeed; to continue to innovate and to be an even stronger business partner than before.
Recognizing the power of those trusted relationships also made us more resolute in the face of competitors who consistently broke their promises as if that were the norm in business today. I’ll say more about that in a moment.
Management guru Tom Peters once offered a simple formula for building trusted relationships in business: “Under promise and over deliver.” Sounds simple, but has a wiser piece of business advice ever been given?
Delivering on time, and with the quality promised, is how you build trust. It’s true of individuals and it’s true of our relationships with companies and elected officials. What I know after many years in this business is that it’s especially sacred in the technology industry.
A 2011 study by communications group Edelman revealed that people trust technology vendors more than banks; more than the pharmacists who supply their medications; more than the media that inform their view of the world and more than the grocers who feed their families.
Three things have the biggest impact on establishing that trust: high quality products and services, honest business practices and company ethics. That’s how great relationships and industry-leading reputations are formed, and it’s how we at Cisco chose to run our business. We set high standards, and we do what we say we will.
For example, in the past 18 months we’ve unveiled numerous industry-changing technologies and immediately enabled customers to capitalize on those innovations. Among them:
- Cisco announced the latest version of its flagship switching platform, the Catalyst 6500 on July 12, 2011. It became orderable on July 12, 2011 and began shipping in volume only 48 hours later on July 14, 2011.
- When we launched CRS-3 on March 9, 2010, we said it would be available within two quarters, and it was. Within one year, 80 service providers worldwide had deployed the CRS-3 as their network foundation.
Cisco customers know to expect this level of consistency but it’s important to realize that not all technology vendors hold themselves to the same standards, especially when the networking sector is under scrutiny.
Some vendors have repeatedly broken their promises, and still somehow received credit for their vision! (You can read more about how one vendor has over-promised and under delivered here.)
Vision doesn’t mean much if your track record of execution is murky. No amount of future promises can make up for failures in execution. Over-promising and under delivering does not result in a strong reputation with customers. Execution will.
Cisco will make an important technology announcement on September 12 that will advance a strong technology vision. But more importantly it will be about real products that customers can deploy immediately.
As we continue to commit to delivering business value to Cisco customers, we also plan to live up to the words of Richard Edelman, whose firm wrote the trust study I mentioned earlier.
On the eve of its publication, he said: “Trust is no longer a commodity that is acquired but rather a benefit that is bestowed, earned through action, reinforced by transparency and engagement.”
I couldn’t agree more.