I’ve always been passionate about building better customer experiences and transforming the relationship between suppliers and customers has been at the heart of the last 20 years of my career. The advent of Cloud and “As a Service” offerings has put Customer Experience (CX) firmly on the map and raised the expectations that customers have of their vendors. And rightly so. With customers no longer being locked into long-term contracts or having to commit to the lifespan of a network infrastructure, companies need to demonstrate value quickly and repeatedly. We find ourselves working to win our customers’ business every day and, quite frankly, I wouldn’t have it any other way. In this construct, the relationships we forge with our customers–and the experiences we create every step of the way–become paramount.

The global COVID pandemic we’ve faced in 2020 has accelerated the need for–and value of–a differentiated customer experience. The recent IDC Vendor Spotlight report “IT Supplier Customer Experience and the Acceleration of Your Digital Transformation,” sponsored by Cisco, confirmed that, in an unpredictable and rapidly changing world, the vendor-buyer relationship has dramatically shifted from transactional to collaborative.

Having studied several Cisco customers’ experiences throughout the pandemic, IDC noted how the IT buyers’ priorities have evolved as follows:

  • Engendering trust with customers is head and shoulders above other priorities for addressing the challenges of COVID
  • Buyers must select suppliers that will act as true collaborators, providing strategic and tactical guidance as they facilitate deployment of essential technology
  • Hands-on suppliers must have a deep technical foundation, a customer-centric approach, and a larger framework for developing digital at the enterprise level
  • Offering service levels that match client needs will be increasingly more important
  • Automation, self-service, and off-the-shelf solutions will help simplify IT acquisitions

According to the IDC Vendor Spotlight, “While customer experience had already climbed to the top spot on pre-pandemic surveys, the gap between it and the next highest priority has widened considerably.”

We now know that projects that were once on the backburner have been accelerated at an extraordinary pace, and customers cannot afford to navigate this complicated, uncharted environment with a vendor they don’t trust. When the playbook is unwritten, the team becomes even more important. Excellence is not preferred, it’s expected. In-person experiences need to be replaced or, at a minimum, married with the digital experiences that allow us to drive value at scale.

While this study was conducted in Europe, we know the challenges of digital transformation at speed are shared globally. This year has been eye opening for those who are willing to see the opportunity in front of them. Cisco has enjoyed a tremendous amount of trust with our customers and partners for decades, but we’re still up for earning it daily.

If you have ideas on how we can continue to build a better customer experience for you, comment below or email me at cxo@cisco.com.


Maria Martinez

Executive Vice President and Chief Operating Officer

Cisco Systems