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The We’re Listening Blog Series: Transforming the Partner Experience with Cisco

The “We’re Listening” blog series has always focused on what Cisco is hearing from both our customers and partners, and the improvements we’re making to the customer and partner experience. However, the partner experience deserves unique attention for the critical role that partners play in our business ecosystem.

Within Cisco, we have a huge focus on the Partner perspective and how to optimize success for our partnerships. As Vice President of Cisco’s Worldwide Partner Organization, Maria Cannon is responsible for the strategies that develop and enable Cisco Partners.  I’ve asked Maria to join us for an expert view on what defines a successful partner engagement, and what Cisco is doing today to transform the partner experience for greater success for both our partners and end customers. 

Maria Cannon_Cisco_April2013 By Guest Contributor Maria Cannon

Partners are a key part of Cisco’s strategy to deliver successful outcomes for our end customers. Cisco depends on a global network of Partners to provide scale, skills, and capabilities at both local and global levels. Attending partner events around the world, including the recent Partner Summit in Las Vegas, Nevada, I have the fortunate opportunity to meet and speak directly with many Cisco channel partners.  While the details vary, the general theme coming from these conversations is the same: customers are evolving their business models and have new technology requirements aligned to whole business solutions. Read More »

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The We’re Listening Blog Series: Software Quality – We Heard You!

In this month’s We’re Listening blog post, I have a number of updates on Cisco’s progress to improve software quality, and how we’re using your feedback to make improvements that will most impact your experience buying and using Cisco software. As part of my leadership responsibilities for customer and partner experience, I have the opportunity to work with the teams that are transforming software quality at Cisco, and ensure that their efforts align to your top concerns. Read on for the latest, and join the conversation by commenting with your thoughts.

In 2002, John Chambers was giving a keynote presentation at an annual Cisco user conference, and in typical John style, he wasn’t holding back on the tough issues.  In front of thousands of attendees, he admitted that our customers were more dissatisfied with the quality of our software than with any other aspect of our products.

At the time, our Customer Satisfaction (CSAT) score for software was well below Cisco’s overall CSAT score.  Our customers expressed concerns that our software quality was inadequate, with complaints ranging from too many customer found defects (CFDs) to being unaware of what software release to deploy.

Since then, our software CSAT score has improved by 12% – but we’re not going to stop there because we know there is room for additional improvements. Last fiscal year, we introduced Software Quality Transformation (SQT), a company-wide program to make Cisco’s software quality best-in-class, improving our customers’ experience and supporting Cisco’s business goals. SQT initiatives are focused on three principles:

  • Building quality products by leveraging 25 years of software development experience to accurately predict software defect rates, implementing standard release readiness criteria, and testing our products and solutions in-house via the Cisco-on-Cisco program.
  • Delivering a quality experience for our customers through world-class support services and powerful online tools.
  • Measuring quality by constantly listening to customers and responding to their needs.

There are multiple initiatives and best practices in place to support each of these principles; they range from predictive metrics that ensure quality in our development process to ongoing improvements to our Technical Support services for a quality end-to-end experience. Let’s look at some of the key steps we’re taking to ensure consistent quality products and experiences.

Building Quality Products:

Universal Release Criteria (URC)

URC is a new policy designed to provide consistent and objective release readiness criteria for feature releases. The policy applies to all Cisco products and associated software releases, and employs supporting checkpoints and measures that will be included in Cisco’s product development process.

Cisco on Cisco

Leveraging Cisco IT, we deploy, operate, and test our own solutions in a real-world environment before they are released to customers. This not only helps us identify and eliminate CFDs, but also helps Cisco’s salespeople experience the user benefits firsthand.

Delivering a Quality Experience:

Smart Software Selection

Customers can access Smart-Selection capabilities on for help in planning their software migration strategies. The system also reports back to Cisco salespeople so that we know which customers have adopted the recommended software releases and which might be at risk from not having taken action.

Software Research Tool

Through multiple customer feedback channels, you’ve asked us to help you select the right software for your needs, so we developed the online Software Research tool. Now you can access customized Cisco-suggested releases which will make it easier for you to run your business.

On January 9, we also turned on the Cisco-Suggested Release option on the Software Download site.

If you use these options, please consider providing feedback via the online form located at the top-right hand corner of the webpage. Your feedback will greatly help us evolve the Research Tool site to be of optimum value to you.

Measuring Quality and Responding to Customer Needs:

Despite all this progress, there is still opportunity for improvement as we work to increase software satisfaction scores. We are constantly following up on low scores and using customer feedback, whether via social media, surveys, advisory boards or emails, as a means of continuous and ongoing improvement.

“Ease of use” of our products is an important thread we see from your feedback. As recently as 2009, we received feedback  that our products looked different from one another and didn’t work together as well as they should. We also heard that many tasks were overly complex and difficult to accomplish.  Since that time, we have put a lot of effort into creating a common look and feel across our products. We have also done a lot to modernize and optimize many of the features and capabilities delivered by that software.

The feedback you’ve provided has sparked some of our most recent improvements to the software quality experience, such as the Software Research tool mentioned earlier. Another improvement was made in response to feedback about process deficiencies around Release Note Enclosure (RNE), i.e. documentation of bugs within products. We created a strategy to address the process deficiencies as well as an appropriate cross-functional response; now you have accurate and useful information about real and potential problems with Cisco products, both software and hardware, available within the Bug Search tool.  In an effort to continue the dialog on RNEs, you can also rate them, so be sure to keep up to date and share your feedback within the Bug Search tool.

These improvements would not have been possible without the insights our customers offer us into the end-to-end experience they have with our business and our products.

We think all of these changes are making an impact – the customer satisfaction scores are up, and the feedback that I personally hear in customer meetings is much more positive today than it was 5 or 10 years ago. But we need to constantly validate that we’re focusing on the right issues and making the right changes. I encourage you to reach out to myself and the team with your thoughts – are we headed in the right direction? How would you rate Cisco’s software quality, and what changes do you want to see in future?  Please send any questions or feedback you may have to

We are committed to improving Cisco’s software quality and you can expect me to share our journey with you. Thank you for your time to help us improve, and see you next time on the blog!



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The We’re Listening Blog Series: 3 Way RMA Process Speeds Up Service Contract Updates

Over the past few months, the We’re Listening blog has brought you ongoing news about updates to our RMA processes, and the improvements keep on coming. I’ve asked Jim Fuller, Senior Director of Services Entitlement, to return to the blog to share details on the new 3-Way RMA process.  The new process represents a significant improvement for many of our customers and partners, and in the spirit of the We’re Listening blog, was undertaken by Jim’s team in direct response to customer and partner feedback. Share your thoughts on other ways we can simplify your interactions with Cisco, and your suggestions may end up as new capabilities featured on the blog!

jafuller By Guest Contributor Jim Fuller

Our partners provide constant feedback to tell us how we can improve their experience doing business with Cisco. One of our partners’ number one requests is to help them create an RMA via a single step, versus opening a support case with Cisco to remedy contract updates as a result of RMA transactions.

We heard your feedback, and if you’re a partner who “self-spares” (spares inventory from your depot) or a customer who contracts with a partner who self-spares, your Return Material Authorization (RMA) process just became easier. We’ve introduced Partners 3-Way RMA/Self-Sparing.

With this new process, service contracts are automatically updated with the associated serial number swaps when processing 3-Way RMAs.  Available now, the new capabilities provide the following benefits:

1. Delivery of an automated RMA process that supports 3-Way RMA transactions at the time of RMA creation

2. Two serial numbers can now be entered at the time of RMA creation for those partners that self-spare, via the Service Order RMA Tool (SORT):

  • The serial number of the claimed defective part from customer network
  • The serial number of the spare part used by the partner to replace the claimed defective part on the customer’s network

3. Ability to minimize or even eliminate partner overhead to monitor and coordinate contract swaps

Previously, the Partner Self-Sparing model was not systematically supported making equipment difficult to track. Without a standardized process, contract and installed base updates had to be performed manually via a support case process. Now, systematic contract updates will occur at the time of RMA shipment reflecting the spare part (replacing the claimed defective part) on contract, making it easier to do business with Cisco and drastically reducing support cases.

To date, more than 175 partners globally have been enabled, with an RMA success rate of 95%. In FY14, we’re focused on reducing contract cycles and the number of customer escalations even further.

Please contact your Cisco Partner Support Development Manager (PSDM) for further information about enabling these new capabilities in support of your 3-Way RMA/Self-Sparing needs.

Jim Fuller

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How We’re Making It Easier to Do Business With Cisco

The We’re Listening blog series has tracked some of the new programs and capabilities Cisco is introducing to make it easier to do business with us. The corporate Ease of Doing Business (EoDB) Program drives many of these improvements, so I’ve invited EoDB executive lead (and Cisco EVP of Operations) Randy Pond to discuss some of the accomplishments and upcoming plans that will make it easier for our customers and partners to do business with Cisco.  Among those are:

  • Improvements to software licensing, including big changes to the product license registration page that allow customers to complete more self-service licensing transactions, and the roll out of the new Cisco Software Central portal, a one-stop shop for all your software licensing needs
  • Creating a more consistent negotiation and deal approval process globally
  • A renewed focus on our partners’ experience
  • Stronger focus on the role of User Experience design and philosophy in every Cisco product, policy, and process.

pond_crop By Guest Contributor Randy Pond

We’ve made it no secret that Cisco aims to become the #1 IT company. And while our development teams are hard at work to bring you exciting new technological offerings in software, cloud and security, there’s another critical piece of the equation – delivering an exceptional customer experience. This is a huge priority for John Chambers and the entire leadership team, and it boils down to consistency and simplicity. Over and over again, I’ve heard customers say that doing business with Cisco can be a mind-warp of changing policies, too many steps and new obstacles to deal with. This has to change. Today, we have teams across every function at Cisco concentrated on finding and making the changes that will have the biggest impact on your customer experience. Read More »

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The We’re Listening Blog Series: What Are We Doing About the #1 Task on

When I think about what we’ve done recently to improve our customers’ experience with Cisco, the Cisco Support Website immediately jumps to mind. The web team actively consults customers and seeks new ways to improve the web support experience. I’ve invited Glenn Schleicher, who leads the team, to discuss our software download initiative and the impact our customers are seeing.

Glenn Schleicher By Guest Contributor Glenn Schleicher

As we try to fully appreciate how online pain points affect you, stories like this one really stick with us.

The “Overnight Wiring Closet” Remedy

Imagine that you are Cisco partner “Bill,” who shared this method for getting large UCS software images:  At the end of his day Bill would leave his laptop in his last customer’s wiring closet, start the download for the image he’d need the next day, hope it wouldn’t be interrupted overnight, and then retrieve the laptop in the morning before traveling to his next customer’s network upgrade.

Surely Cisco can do better than that in distributing software for its product lines. Read More »

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