Cisco Blogs

Trust, Relationships and Reputation: How Cisco Differs from the Competition

September 12, 2011 - 17 Comments

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 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.

In an effort to keep conversations fresh, Cisco Blogs closes comments after 60 days. Please visit the Cisco Blogs hub page for the latest content.


  1. Cisco leads while other vendors follow.

  2. Chris,
    Are you hurt..? hope are you not..
    your “Ouch” makes me say that…

    As a CCIE you are.. shouldn’t think in that way..and you may or should know that there are 1000 plus unique features Cisco that no other vendor supports till this day.!

  3. I’d like to have been a fly on the wall at the strategists offices in Cisco prior to this being released as they tried to figure out what reaction this would provoke from Juniper.

    Being a Cisco Employee, I have mixed feeling about this campaign i think it’s right but also reflects the “New” Cisco …

    To me Cisco is an amazing company, sure we have missed some execution points recently, but we DO deliver when promised…. It’s a good thing we are educating our customers on others failures to execute… I’ve sat by and watch every Juniper announcement create a media frenzy; while we innovate and no see reaction from the market…

    Go Cisco.. The only way is up from now on !

  4. I have been working with Cisco products for over 20 years, and I have seen the downgrade; not in technology but in the delivery of the products. This is really what’s hurting Cisco; above talks about the 6500 shipping in 48 hours, being able to order the same day, that’s great why can’t you do this for all your products. I have seen almost all of the new products annouced, we get our customers exicited about them, then try to order them to find out thay are 6 months away; what’s the point?!
    Customers want what they want when they want it. Don’t annouce product until it’s ready to ship! Works for Apple. 3-6 months in technology is too long to wait for a product, that is why (and price) Cisco is loosing market share. Too much focus on Stadium, Social Media, blah, blah, when your bread and butter is routing and switching (in general), then it’s still a hard sell at that to explain to the customer why they should spend double for the equivalent type product from Cisco versus the competition.
    As a shareholder as well I am dissappointed at the direction Cisco is going, how can such a big Company with so much capital be doing so poorly in the market place. It’s time to do more with less Cisco, less products, more focus and innovation, and lower costs. IMHO

  5. “First they ignore you, then they laugh at you, then they fight you, then you win.”- Mahatma Gandhi

  6. Cisco has set the bar for innovation and product performance over the last 2 decades. I think Cisco has however wavered in their focus of innovation in a few products lines. An example product line is wireless. Customers like myself, are looking for innovations in WiFi client device management and improvements in IP Services over WiFi (video conferencing& voice) while roaming.

    This is the kind of innovation that I don’t see and would like to see more of.

    I will continue to use other vendors for tactical deployments of network products in areas where Cisco is lacking. But I continue to look to Cisco as a key partner in deployments where it counts. I just hope that they are as invested in those products as we are.

  7. Thanks for your thoughts, Chris. I respect your concerns, but I think you’ll find that a lot of your fellow CCIEs are more fired up than ever about Cisco’s innovation machine. It’s only a couple of months since we were together with 16,000 customers, including many CCIEs, at Cisco Live in Las Vegas, and the feedback we got on where we’re taking the network and our innovation was phenomenal.

    When asked to comment on the value of our architectural strategy and innovation, 99% told us they felt Cisco was delivering increased reliability and security. 95% said they loved that our products are increasingly designed to work together in architectures. 85% said Cisco is effectively addressing new business model demands, and 76% said they felt Cisco was helping them to adopt new Cloud, video and mobile technologies faster.

    We may disagree on the right way to compare our strengths to those of our competitors, Chris, but if there’s one thing we should be able to agree on, it’s that Cisco’s investments in R&D (which, by the way, exceed the R&D budgets of all of our networking rivals combined) are delivering innovations that solve real customer problems.

    It’s that innovation that has led customers to put us in the #1 or #2 position by market share in 16 of the 18 markets in which we compete.

    Best regards,

    Rob Lloyd

  8. Confused. You talk about building trust, and then you (as a company) turn around and openly bash your competitor? Seems a bit… childish, no?

    Cisco must be really getting worried that the “familiarity factor” doesn’t sell hardware like it used to, in order for them to sink to a level that just screams desperation.

    Cisco used to rise above the mud-flinging by offering a superior product. Now that they simply don’t have the best product on the market, they’ve done what I never thought they’d do… take a direct stab at a competitor. Even the “good enough network” thing was a stretch for Cisco, but I understood that they’re feeling the pinch. But to outright call out a competitor? Weak.

    It’s also amusing how Cisco has hit all the social media sites to “define” their new phrase. Eg:

    Do your PR people have NO material to pull from anymore? Has the Cisco product line REALLY become THIS watered down?

    Sad times for Cisco… it must be painful being the 800lb gorilla with no innovation getting chopped down by competition.

    • Chris,

      The cartoons from Juniper have been okay for all these years,right?

      HP’s direct copying of Cisco’s Borderless Networks material. Actually, HP didn’t even have a Enterprise class switching portfolio since the 3com purchase in 2009 and now they say their taking market share from Cisco because they own 12% of the switching business. Is it really taking market share when you gobble up other small competitors to form a very distant #2 or #3 in the switching space.

      I for one am glad to see Cisco finally starting to push back and educate the public on empty promises and common misconceptions pushed by these lesser vendors.

      • The Juniper cartoons ended years ago, when the company matured into a real player, and rebranded. (Amusingly, they’re still accurate, though.)

        The simple point is that Cisco looks very desperate with this new marketing.

        “The rule of thumb is never compare down because it degrades your position.”

        You’re talking about gaining market share via acquisition. Hmm. Airespace, Catalyst, PIX.. I’m not sure you want to go down THAT path.

        The funny part is that there has been no empty promises. Juniper responded the best way they possibly could – by shipping QFabric right on schedule, as promised. Promised and delivered. Ouch.

        • Chris. Come on! “On schedule, as promised!” Really?

          As Yankee analyst Zeus Kerravala pointed out in Computerworld yesterday, “Cisco is correct when it says that Juniper’s QFabric/Stratus data center technology is late to market”

          Beyond late, the QFabric that Juniper said is available now has fewer capabilities than promised and is built with off-the-shelf chip technology. Though Juniper has touted interoperability, QF/Interconnect and QF/Director will not interoperate with other vendors’ technology and are proprietary down to the packet format on the wire.

          In the meantime, Cisco has continued to deliver network innovation while protecting our customer’s investments with a standards-based approach. IT organizations recognize the value this delivers: Cisco has amassed over 15,000 NX-OS customers. That’s the difference between making promises and executing as promised.

          David McCulloch
          Director, Corporate Communications

  9. Good gob.people should know the truth

  10. I really like our renewed aggressiveness regarding our competitors!

  11. In terms of trust, I’m reminded of presentations Scott McKain gave at two of the Cisco partner events I attended. Scott’s exhortation was: “Your customers don’t want you to make it right. They want you to get it right – the first time.”

    That’s resonated with me, and it is basic to how we do business. Nobody’s 100% perfect, but the intention and commitment to do the right thing counts for a lot in relationships. It means not just talking the talk, but walking the walk.

  12. With so much mobile technology and alll of the advances i think security will build trust