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Forrester Groundswell Awards 2011 Submission - Cisco Social Media Technical Support

Opportunity

Since 2000, Cisco Support Community (CSC) has offered community-based, peer-to-peer support for our enterprise, medium-sized and small business customers across all of our product areas. CSC has grown exponentially, quadrupling in size over the last eighteen months, and become one of our most strategic channels for Web-based support.

Our business and individual customers - particularly those in younger age demographics and in emerging economies - have been shifting their time spent on the Web to social media, such as Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn and YouTube, accessing them multiple times a day on average. On these sites, our customers are not only sharing personal updates and "socializing" but also, increasingly, engaging in conversations about Cisco products and technologies.

As we look to engage with our next generation of customers around the world, we have recognized social media as a significant opportunity for listening, having two-way conversations and providing technical support. Advances in social media platforms and tools as well their ease of integration with Cisco's existing support community have opened up new opportunities for us to stay connected with our customers and extend our community beyond Cisco's immediate reach.

Solution

To address this opportunity, we launched new technical support channels on leading social media in late 2009 to build a more social and persistent community for peer-to-peer support. Modeled on and integrated with Cisco Support Community, these new communities on Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn and YouTube provide direct access to Cisco experts for learning and knowledge sharing, foster issue resolution among customers and serve as vehicles for critical technical support announcements and updates from Cisco.

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Facebook: Facebook offers our customers a large, informal and social environment in which they can engage in peer-to-peer technical discussions. These discussions cover the entire technology spectrum for Cisco, ranging from seeking help with creating configuration backups and troubleshooting slow connections on 2590 Series Switches to Cisco Certifications and VPN configurations. With more than 94K members from 20 countries and with 1.5M monthly post views, Facebook has become an integral part of our overall community-based support strategy. As expected, our Facebook community is helping us reach our next generation of customers. Close to 90% of our Facebook users are 34 years or younger, and over 50% of them come from leading emerging economies such as India, Pakistan and the Philippines. To keep users engaged and ultimately drive cost savings benefits for Cisco, we constantly experiment and innovate. The following are examples of our innovation:

  • Access to Cisco intellectual capital: We host a monthly event called Cisco Support Community Facebook Forum that provides our customers with an opportunity to have direct dialogs and Q&As with Cisco support engineers, product specialists and technical leaders on our Facebook community; customers get trained & build technical relationships with Cisco right on Facebook.
  • Customer listening: We mine Facebook community conversations and utilize polls to listen to customer sentiments and concerns.
  • Community building: We host contests on Facebook to help users connect with one another; personalize the community and increase user affinity and loyalty.

Facebook app: Our Cisco Support Community Facebook app is a clear example of our next generation tools, aimed at bringing technical support to customers instead of the reverse. With more than 15K installs and 7K monthly active users, this app enables our users to view and follow hot support topics in our community. They can browse recent and popular discussions, click through to CSC to read whole discussions, share them with Facebook friends and follow important topics or experts to be notified of any updates, all without leaving Facebook. The app has generated excellent customer engagement on both Facebook and CSC. We are already working on the next version of the app to provide even deeper access to CSC from Facebook.

Twitter: Our Twitter-based support helps us connect with customers on time-sensitive information or requests. Our 3K Twitter followers appear to be more experienced in networking technology and concentrated in North and South America. They are avid Twitter users and frequently post questions addressed to @cisco_support in search for immediate answers. We have established a loose eco-system with tags such #ciscosupport that helps customers discover other tweets in the eco-system and broadcast support questions and answers openly.

LinkedIn: Our LinkedIn support community marries one's professional network with technical support discussions. This is our newest community and only six months old, but it has quickly acquired more than 2K members. Technical knowledge is shared through each member's existing professional relationships, amplifying the effect.

YouTube: Our community's YouTube channel enables syndication and portability of technical content shared via videos. Our videos include deep technical lectures, how-to guides and content from customers themselves. These videos can be re-posted anywhere and accessed by customers on any device. Our YouTube channel has more than 1.5K subscribers with 72K upload views in total.

Customer Impact

Since the introduction of our social media technical support, we have seen clear evidence of improved customer satisfaction and engagement. In a recently conducted survey on Facebook, 70% of our users expressed satisfaction over the responses they had received for their questions posted on our Facebook community. Our Facebook Forum sessions with experts have been a quick hit among our users. We regularly receive 200-300 RSVPs for every expert event, and our Facebook pageviews typically increase by over 50% on the day of the event, indicating a tremendous customer interest.

Customers appreciate our efforts to drive timely issue resolution on social media. For e.g. on Twitter, we had this conversation with Simon Wright (@SlackerUK) regarding the Cisco Nexus 1000V product. Simon is a VMWare consultant and a Cisco UCS installer.

SlackerUK: "is the 1000v supported on the same hosts it manages yet? Thanks"

cisco_support: "thanks for Tweeting! Share your question with us @ Cisco Support  Community @ http://bit.ly/b72db2 #ciscosupport"

cisco_support: "Thanks for the question. We've posted it at https://supportforums.cisco.com/thread/2044873  #ciscosupport"

SlackerUK: "thank you, and thanks to those who answered, very helpful."

Business Impact

Over a relatively short period of time, we have expanded our social media presence significantly, reaching new customers, sharing Cisco intellectual capital and fostering peer-to-peer support across the Web. Our social media strategy for Cisco Support Community has resulted in considerable cost savings for Cisco.

Cost Savings

According to a conservative estimate, our community-based support on Facebook and Twitter is saving more than $400K+ annually. This is expected to grow significantly over time.

Low Investment & High Returns

Social media platforms have reduced our new user acquisition cost substantially. We have been able to acquire, connect with and engage more than 100K users with very minimal investment in tools, technologies and personnel. We are likely to have an extended reach to more than 2M users worldwide as a result of Facebook's and Twitter's social graphs and network effect. Low cost tools such as Sprinklr and Radian6 have made it less costly to manage and drive the growth of support on social media. Our financial returns from social media have already far exceeded our investments to date.

Conclusion

Social Media has changed the model of our technical support, making it more open and potentially much more cost-effective. With social media, our customers own their support experience - with or without Cisco. We have successfully extended our community-based support to leading social media platforms with innovation, brought new customers into our eco-system and quickly achieved a financial payback.

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