A social opportunity was knocking but it was hard to hear, buried under thick layers of social noise and harder to reach by the right people with the right message. Cisco knew customers wanted to engage and were using social media tools to ask questions and share about products and services. But  knowing what people were saying about Cisco and their purpose for saying it, required a strategy that met both needs.

Cisco assembled a team that would listen for and support  a customer from their first social media post through the entire engagement. Members of Social Listening, Global Contact Center and Virtual Sales teams all met to discuss what it meant to develop and nurture a social channel.

The team’s initial instincts were right. Customers do use social media to research products and just as critically they use it to purchase.  Research from the IBM Institute for Business Value analysis – CRM Study 2011 illustrates the potential and possibility of meeting customer expectations.

Perception Gap

The team met to develop a pilot that both created a social listening strategy and the framework for managing the relationship. To isolate conversations where customers are talking about intent  can be difficult when a brand, like Cisco,  receives over 1.9 million mentions per year.  To faciliate precise listening, the pilot leveraged a new social listening approach, developed by the Social Media Listening team, called the ABCs and 123s.


The ABCs represent action-based-conversations, like but not limited to:

  • Support – Request for help resolving real-time issue (support)
  • Question – Question that doesn’t require support resource (tech docs)
  • Critic – Insult that merits brand management consideration (PR)
  • Buzz – Praise from Cisco brand advocate (marketing)
  • Lead – Pronouncement of near-term purchase decision (sales)

And the 123s designate their priority. This framework enabled the team to quickly sift through the social noise to identify those customers reaching out to Cisco.

Of course, listening for purchase intent is only the first step. Routing that conversation to a team that has the experience and understanding to engage with the social customer is another big component of this effort.  Managing the sales opportunity is a critical and immediate goal but the longer-term vision is to develop and cultivate a social leads channel that nurtures both the quality and value of the social interaction.

Interacting with prospects on social media requires a different approach than a more traditional channel, where the initial interaction is focused more on providing product information and answering questions than a scripted sales pitch.  To that end, we leveraged LivePerson’s Click-to-Chat to allow Global Contact Center Agents to more easily engage with prospects on the platform on which they are connecting with Cisco.

The workflow for the pilot from monitoring social leads to lead qualification and then onto SalesForce required the collaboration of three teams and three different systems:

  • Social Listening team uses Radian6 to monitor, tag and route social media conversations
  • Global Contact Center Agents use Click-to-Chat to invite prospects to join a private chat and get qualified
  • Virtual Sales Account Managers (VSAM) and Partners use SalesForce to manage contacts, sales opportunities and leads


One of the defining features of the pilot is the level of collaboration and sharing of ideas and suggestions within the three teams. Identifying social media conversations, where the customer is expressing purchase intent can be difficult when you are sifting through millions of posts. It requires a deep understanding of how customers talk about Cisco products and services.  But with help from the Global Contact Center Agents, VSAM and the experience of the Social Listening team, our social listening approach continues to evolve and improve.

We are only 2 weeks into the pilot and nearly two-dozen conversations have been tagged. An automated method has replaced a manual routing process, and prospects have been engaged on Click-to-Chat. Just as importantly, has been the collaboration within the teams, illustrating the unique and demanding qualities of social media and its ability to level siloes and fully engage teams across business units and geographies.

If you’d like to learn more about the pilot, please contact me, Charlie Treadwell, (gtreadwe@cisco.com), George Metrik ( gmetrik@cisco.com) or Jennifer Roberts (jennirob@cisco.com)