2021 Customer Awards: Cisco Systems, Inc. - Best-in-Class: Community

2021 Customer Awards: Cisco Systems, Inc. - Best-in-Class: Community

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Company: Cisco Systems, Inc.

Company background: Cisco proves that amazing things can happen when you connect the unconnected. By creating long-lasting customer partnerships, Cisco works to provide solutions that fuel their success. In 1984, Len Bosack and wife Sandy Lerner, wanted to email each other from their offices at Stanford University, but the technology didn’t exist. This is how the multiprotocol router was born. Since then Cisco has shaped the future of the Internet by creating unprecedented value and opportunity for our customers, employees, investors and ecosystem partners and has become the worldwide leader in networking - transforming how people connect, communicate and collaborate.

Contact: Monica Lluis

Title: Global Community Manager Lead

Related URLs: https://community.cisco.com

Kudos Category: Best-in-Class: Community

1. Describe your community(s) and how you decided to start a community or grow/change it in the last year? (user request, Khoros suggestion, internal idea, etc.) What is the purpose of your community?

Cisco Community is renowned for crowdsourcing deep technical knowledge, product capability guidance and troubleshooting advice. As a result of becoming an essential, go-to resource for users, the community is the second-most visited Cisco digital property.

The emergence of COVID-19 dramatically changed people’s way of life. They switched from working and connecting with one another in-person to an entirely virtual experience. In response, Cisco Community launched a customer-facing Webex Community to help support this adaptation to a digital world. The Webex Community provided information and support to government leaders, businesses, and professionals, which allowed them to continue working, and teachers and students to continue learning remotely. Most importantly, Cisco Community allowed people to remain connected in a period filled with uncertainty. 

Since its launch, we’ve continued to build on the vitality of the Webex Community. 

Webex Community Ecosystem Expansion - As COVID-19 shifted the way we work, the need for virtual collaboration grew, and the number of meetings on Webex saw an increase of 230% all in a short span of a few weeks. Launched in the middle of a pandemic, the Webex portion of the community was a resource that people didn’t just want, it was one that administrators, adoption champions, and end users needed in a time of uncertainty. Webex built a home that has now grown to more than 100,000 unique visitors engaging every month. The massive growth of the user base is attributed to the growing proactive content being added each month, such as the “Walkthrough Wednesday” event series that walks administrators through new features, and the “Adoption Spotlights” events that hosts influential customers sharing how they use Webex in their organizations.  

Driven by the rapid growth of the Webex Community, we developed a larger community ecosystem that contains the Webex Beta Program, Webex Ambassadors, and Webex Experts. The Webex Beta program offers early field trials.  The Webex Ambassadors offers opportunities to get prestigious Cisco verified learning certificates for free. Webex Experts offers opportunities to meet with the larger BU and to co-create live events. The slogan for the Webex Community Ecosystem, “Level up your knowledge. Your network. Your voice.”, exemplifies our vision and commitment to our Webex customers. 

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Webex Employee’s Favorite Feature of the Month - The Webex Community empowers customers and partners alike by supporting successful product adoption. To accomplish this, Webex uses contests and giveaways to promote engagement in the community, while still supporting its larger business goals. In a new campaign called “Webex Employee’s Feature of the Month,” we created a new post to highlight a game-changing feature for those working from home – the Background Noise Removal. The post contained information on how this feature works, how to use it, and we invited community members to share how the feature is helping them stay focused at work. Each response to the post was entered into a giveaway for a free Cisco 730 headset. In three weeks, the post received 63,000 views and 536 responses. During that time, adoption of the feature increased from 1.75 million meetings to 4 million meetings.  

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The Power of Recognition - The community team is always looking for new ways to innovate.  One thing we value is learning how our work is improving the health of the community. The long-standing “Community Spotlight Awards” program highlights community members’ outstanding content and engagement.  On a monthly basis, award winners receive community-wide recognition via a prestigious badge that displays on their profile. 

Analyzing the award winners’ contributions three months prior and three months after they are recognized revealed that their community contributions (posts and replies) increased by nearly 22%.  When we added Webex specific Spotlight Awards, their contributions increased by 145%. Two of the Webex Spotlight awardees have been named Cisco Designated VIPs (our “Top Contributors” program) in 2021.  

In May 2021, the Webex team reflected on its first year of operation and hosted the Webex Community Birthday award show that highlighted the contributions of the Top 25 Webex Community users.  All attendees received a box of the latest Webex swag. 

Aha! Portal - The rise in customer adoption and usage of Webex , necessitated the need for a central product idea repository that has visibility to our product team. The launch of the Webex Community was the perfect time to provide a formalized way to capture the authentic voice and needs of our customer and funnel them straight to our product team. 

Cisco uses the Aha! Portal as a tool for ideas from employees and partners.  The flexibility of the Khoros platform made it possible to embed a public Aha! Portal directly into the Webex community.  This created a streamlined experience for customers and intake process for the product team, resulting in an improved the feedback loop for customers. We named it the “User Community Feedback Portal”.  Member use of the portal caught the Webex world by storm. Today, the User Community Feedback Portal has received nearly 3,000 posted ideas, and more than 300 of them have come to fruition.  

One idea that was particularly monumental was the Linux Support for Webex. This product idea was discussed internally in February of 2020 and was determined not a priority item by the product team. That very same idea was posted in the User Community Feedback Portal on the second day the portal was active. The Webex community rallied behind it, and the idea grew to more than 1,700 votes with 700 different companies supporting it as well as 200 partners. Upon seeing this interest and demand, the product team saw there was a true need. The community directly brought an idea that would shape the future of collaboration. This is only one idea out of 300 in the first year that has now manifested into reality. 

Webex’s use of Aha! proved so successful, adoption was expanded to the Customer Connection program, which houses the Cisco Community’s most loyal users. Leveling up the Webex Community’s usage and the inclusion within Customer Connection added extra weight to each vote, supporting the voice amplification mission of the Customer Connection program. 

2. Tell us about how you made it happen? Did you stage it first? Who got an early look? How did you drive adoption? Did you get executive buy-in? Did you have any key iterations?

Webex Community Ecosystem expansion - The Webex Beta, Webex Ambassador, and Webex Expert programs were separate and going through a restructure in the later part of 2020. It was a perfect time to give each program a new, refreshed look, feel, and meaning. Our team created the Webex Community ecosystem, where the community engagement acts as the foundation, with growing opportunities to level up your knowledge, your network, and your voice. Additionally, as members grow their engagement within the programs, they are required to give back to the community. As members level up in the programs, they are given extra community access and privileges.  

The Webex Beta program needed a new home that centered around engagement and exclusivity, thus we expanded a private area in the community-based Customer Connection program where the product team could host their betas and have real-time conversation and feedback with participants. The success of the Webex Community convinced leadership that the beta program could thrive in this environment. The beta program continues to evolve in structure, gather direct feedback and shape the future of collaboration. 

The Webex Ambassador and Expert programs included developing certification badges, a member directory, and integrations to pull those certifications to the community platform. In the coming months, the program is set to launch a new learning management system, providing more certifications for FREE. The Ambassador and Expert programs fall under the same leadership as the Beta program and the Webex Community. Thus, as the Webex Community grew and developed a reputation, it made sense to make the other disparate programs an opportunity for members to level up. Cisco leadership supported us and encouraged us to build a common culture within the community ecosystem. We continue to build a cohesive experience and seamless presence with the support of our leadership. 

Webex Employee’s Favorite Feature of the Month  – The “Webex Employee’s Favorite Feature of the Month” campaign was created in March of 2021. Under the leadership of the Webex Adoption director, a new initiative was created called Feature of the Month. When we heard of this, we wanted the authentic voice of the customer to be the centerpiece of the campaign. We want to hear HOW people are using the feature, and HOW it could be better.  

We worked with our product seeding department to secure 12 Cisco 730 headsets as a giveaway product for 1 random respondee of the dedicated FOTM post. Given the Adoption team wasn’t totally familiar with the benefits of the community, we had to walk them through what could be and pitched a bigger project that included an outreach email, how-to GIFs, and the community post. The adoption team created the emails and GIFS, and we created the post in community. We also worked with our social team to promote the “Feature of the Month” post and contest.  

Power of Recognition - The community has been hosting the “Community Spotlight Awards” for many years, and we know that our community members can feel the love. However, we never learned how this recognition affected engagement in the community. With new drilled-down data from the Webex Community, we were able to pull all the data from the first six months of award winners and recognize members based on their actions of posting and replying.  

Aha! Portal – The success of the “User Community Feedback” portal wouldn’t have been possible without leadership support and existing product adoption from our product team. We tried a few different iterations of connecting the portal to the community such as a link in a drop-down menu, but soon developed an embedded interface directly in the community. 

3. What were the results? Tell us how it impacted your customer experience or the outcomes you seek as a business. Please include metrics if possible.

Webex Community Ecosystem Expansion – The Webex Community ecosystem is alive and active, providing extended opportunities to earn FREE certifications, test features before they go live, and connect directly to the Webex product team. Thus, a knowledge sharing network was created, continues to grow and continues to influence product direction. 

Webex Employee’s Favorite Feature of the Month - We worked with the product team before launching the promotion to understand the best way to track the feature adoption. We later found that the number of meetings using the feature grew from approximately 1.75 million to approximately 4 million in the span of three weeks.  

Aha! Portal - Launching and managing the idea portal within our community has increased positive rhetoric from community members, who feel like their voices truly matter. One community member who initially critical of Cisco, has now transformed his opinion throughout the year. He posted “The community does a very good job in compensating/closing that gap …  since I can confirm that Cisco is listening to customer feedback, please allow me to remind you to share your ideas and suggestions on how to further improve Webex here.” It’s amazing to see how, with the implementation with of the portal, one of our biggest critics has turned into one of our biggest fans - and is consistently promoting the use of the idea portal with others. 

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