It’s getting warmer every day in Silicon Valley, so I started my summer reading early with a science fiction classic, Isaac Asimov’s “I, Robot.” I found myself both chuckling and finding contemporary resonance.

We’ve all heard people’s concerns about AI and automation: “Will my job become redundant?” “Will I progressively lose control?” Asimov speaks to these questions.

His robots and supercomputers are products of human engineering, progressively sophisticated and expansive in application, starting with the care of one child, ending with the economic management of global regions. And they are all encoded with a raison d’etre that is altruistic at face value: to help humans and society progress, while doing no harm to either.

Better together

Asimov’s themes on technology and human society got me thinking about how we approach AI and automation at Cisco. We use a “better together” philosophy, same as we’ve used for all our innovations: Hardware and software combine in solutions greater than the sum of their parts. Technology paired with services deliver proven business outcomes.

“Gadgetry will continue to relieve mankind of tedious jobs” –Isaac Asimov

Now we’re pairing our greatest capital and innovations—human and digital intelligence—to create automated technical support capabilities that help your workday and your business progress. We’re eliminating the “burdens” of repetitive, labor-intensive tasks that consume too much of your time. We’re hoping this creates more space for you to engage in higher-level thinking and activities.

Zero-touch RMAs

Let me give you an example: Zero-touch return material authorizations (RMAs).

Virtually all our customers use RMAs. This past quarter, a third of the RMAs we processed were automated: customers opened a case for a hardware failure and provided a serial number, and we did the rest. No forms, no back and forth.

For devices on the Cisco Intersight cloud platform, we get proactive. Here, there’s no human interaction. Our telemetry detects, validates, and analyzes a fault, triggers a service request for a pre-authorized RMA, customers respond to an automated email alert and a fresh device arrives on their doorstep.

Happy because it proactively picked up a disk issue and we had a drive delivered to us.

-Financial services customer, Australia

Will RMAs ever be 100% automated? No. And here’s why. Sometimes we need to analyze a complex failure more deeply to understand exactly what is needed. Our digital intelligence “knows” when to bring a live Cisco engineer into the equation. That’s “better together.”

The system dynamically noticed the problem, then created a trouble ticket on its own.

-Manufacturing customer, US

In all, zero-touch RMAs can save up to 80 hours, start to finish, per device. How many RMAs do you request per year? Asimov’s robots are not needed for this calculation. What could you do for your business with that extra time?

In all, zero-touch RMAs can save up to 80 hours, start to finish, per device.

The zero-touch RMA is one example of how we’ve merged the collective intelligence of our technical experts based on 16 million customer interactions annually and 100,000 artifacts (and growing) into digital intelligence capabilities.

Access to the right information at the right time has never been so fast, fluid, and easy—and we strive to make it more so. Watch this space for how we are speeding up information exchange and problem resolution through automated exchanges with a natural conversational flow.

In the meantime, let me know your thoughts on how automation and AI are helping you … and what books you’re reading this summer.


Rajan Panchanathan

Vice President, Product Management

Customer Experience (CX)