Don’t Risk Losing Customers: Embracing Cisco’s Approach to Customer Experience Across the Channel Previous item How SMB VARs Can Protect... Next item Competing with DVARs Takes...

Customer experience has been a long-time discussion in most industries – especially in hospitality and retail – but have IT resellers and channel distributers really embraced the approach? By 2020, price and products will be less important than how a customer feels about working with you, according to Rhonda Henley, sales director for Cisco’s Public Sector Partner Organization. If this is the case, the entire IT channel ecosystem needs to evaluate its customer experience approach.

Recently, at a Comstor executive partner event, Henley shared that 25 percent of all customers who have a negative experience will not return for their next purchase. Of those 25 percent, an amazing 86 percent will never return. According to Henley, Cisco realizes that it costs six times more to gain a new customer than to keep an existing customer, so it is heavily investing in all things customer experience and is focused on changing the customer experience (CX). Every organization engaging with Cisco, whether a Distributor Value-Added Reseller (DVARs), an IT Value-Added Reseller (VAR) or a systems integrator must understand the vision and the road map that Cisco is using for CX.

“Why are we changing? Customers are expecting it. They demand additional consumption models, flexibility, and a partner that understands and anticipates their every need,” Henley said. “The customer expectation has changed, and we have to change how we deliver what they consume. It’s certainly an evolution for Cisco, and we want to ensure that our partners, big and small, understand where we are going.”

Cisco is approaching CX as a philosophy, a team, and a portfolio with a new revenue model that will address accelerating recurring revenue growth, annual recurring revenue, incremental annual recurring revenue, and attrition.

VARs should understand that customers put a premium on timely, tailored touch points, and they value delivery throughout the entire relationship lifecycle. As Maria Martinez, Cisco executive vice president and chief customer experience offer, pointed out at the Cisco Partner Summit, the goal is to “Be customer obsessed; be the trusted experts; and be extraordinary together — one team with Cisco, no seams. Get that right and customers can feel it, they will trust Cisco and its partners, and they’ll be loyal.”

By shifting to that mindset, VARs reduce the risk that their customers join that 25 percent of dissatisfied customers who choose not to purchase again.

“When they choose, use and love Cisco, that means they’re a customer that will renew, and that is good for our VARs and other partners,” Henley said. “Every time a customer renews, you have an opportunity to get deeper into a thought leadership and partnership model with them.”

Cisco has created a series of training modules on its Sales Connect site to share what the company refers to as its CX “racetrack.” Henley said that in addition to learning what Cisco refers to as each “pit stop” along the racetrack, partners can learn about the opportunities that are available to them in each module.

Cisco’s CX program is designed to create opportunities at every pit stop and incrementally. There will be new opportunities for partners to increase services and product sales, to differentiate, and for partners to expand their portfolios to capture predictable life-cycle incentives. Cisco also is creating CX certifications and specializations and working toward the unveiling of the culmination: The CX portfolio and incentives at Cisco Partner Summit 2019.

“Over the next year or so, whether it’s our partner programs, our incentives, or even if it’s in some of our investments, like MOUs, there will be some tie in around this racetrack,” Henley concluded. “Today, it’s not good enough to sell something. We must make sure the customers are consuming what they’re buying. If they don’t, when it’s time to renew, we could see that customer become part of that 25 percent, because they didn’t see the value in it.”