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Bringing Down the Silos

Release Date: December 1, 2020 • Episode #144

We talk about his often on the show and it can be a problem for companies of many sizes: the difficulty in breaking through the walls of corporate silos when trying to execute effective customer experience programs. So, how do we bring down those silos and get everyone on-board with your corporate CX effort? Steve welcomes guests Steve Cox, VP of digital lifecycle journeys, and Thimaya Subaiya, senior vice president of CX solutions, from Cisco to talk about overcoming barriers within the company to make customer experience programs effective.

Steve Cox and Thimaya Subaiya

Steve Cox & Thimaya Subaiya
Cisco
Connect with Thimaya
Connect with Steve

Highlights

Silos are organic.

(Thimaya) “So in my perspective, at least when I think about silos, silos are not something that is intentional. It’s organic. Over a period of time, companies don’t stop with either multiple different product each one of the leaders has their own agenda in terms of what they want to drive for their product with the customer… “
“…and breaking down silos is not about defining the agenda, trying to cater to everything. It’s not about you throw the entire kitchen sink into what your customer is going to get, because that’s exactly how you end up being super complex on the outside, because everybody has an agenda. Everybody has a playbook. And you try to merge all those playbooks together, abstracting out what is truly needed for the customers.”

Don’t listen only to your customers.

(Steve C.) “So we talk about, interestingly, that one of the most important parts of CX is listening to customers and then taking their feedback. I would tell you the same thing applies to stakeholders or your executive team. What problems are they trying to solve for and understanding that one of the most incredible parts I’ve found that CX helps deliver is it is a growth story. It is a retention story. It is a simplification story. You know, all of these things, if you do it right, it’s all through those. So you should be able to come in and show that the score leads to not only retention when you’re talking to sales, but new growth opportunities that it’s uncovering for you.”

The importance of diversity

(Steve C.) “So we have some very explicit programs we put in place that include, you know, diverse interview panels, to the requirement of all of our executives to spend time with people different from them across the organization, and a number of different programs that ensure that we’re holding ourselves accountable to this transformation, not just from a skills perspective… but also and ultimately the diversity and the type of people that we hire across the organization. It’s going quite well and we’re really proud of the progress we’ve made. But we know there’s a long way still to go.”

Transcript

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Steve:
There's this buzz word we've been throwing around that describes one of the biggest hurdles for CX programs in many companies.

Thimaya:
Breaking down silos is not about defining the agenda, trying to cater to everything, because that's exactly how you end up being super complex versus abstracting out of what is truly needed for the customer is the one single emotion which is extremely difficult to actually deliver on.

Steve:
Bringing down the silos on this episode of The CX Leader Podcast.

Announcer:
The CX Leader Podcast with Steve Walker is produced by Walker, an experience management firm that helps our clients accelerate their XM success. You can find out more at Walkerinfo.com.

Steve:
Hello, everyone. I'm Steve Walker. Thanks for listening to this episode of The CX Leader Podcast. It's my pleasure to be the host. On The CX Leader Podcast, we explore topics and themes to help leaders like you leverage all the benefits of your customer experience and help your customers and prospects want to do more business with you. We talk about this often on the show, and it can be a problem for companies of many sizes. The difficulty in breaking through the walls of corporate silos when trying to execute effective customer experience programs. So how do we bring down those silos and get everyone on board with your corporate CX effort? On this episode, I'm joined by two people who have experience in overcoming silos and helping to bring an understanding and appreciation of what the customer experience can do for their company. Steve Cox is the VP of Digital Lifecycle Journeys and Thimaya Subaiya is senior vice president of CX Solutions, both at Cisco, the well-known networking company based in San Jose, California. Steve, Thimaya, welcome to The CX Leader Podcast. Pleasure to have you guys on.

Steve C.:
Thank you.

Thimaya:
Thank you for having us.

Steve:
So I think I actually know a lot about Cisco and I think a lot of our regular listeners would as well. But maybe just for context, if each of you could talk a little bit about what your role is at Cisco and and how that relates to our topic of CX leader and what we're going to talk about today.

Thimaya:
So so I can start off with what my role is. So when we think about customer experience at Cisco it is not only how do we drive a customer success motion end to end across the entire company, but it's also about how do we bring in all the different services, right from implementation design all the way to actually delivering services and advisory services, combining all of that and bring that full force to our customers. So my specific role within the organization is I essentially have the entire solutions team and the acceleration team, which essentially means that we do everything right from defining playbooks, the management structures, what is our overall model look like? Do we need any kind of tweaks in the model is what is the different customer pain points? How are we addressing that? Is that a closed loop feedback within the engineering team as well as the sales organization and CX to make sure that it's seamless for our customers? And a whole principle is it's OK to be complex and timely as long as it's simple for our customers.

Steve:
And Steve?

Steve C.:
Great. So Thimaya referenced the acceleration component. So look at my function is how do we do customer success and renewal at scale? So for the three to four hundred thousand customers out there where you can't rely on a human touch. Think of all the type of capabilities we used to use exclusively for marketing. How do you apply that in the motion of post purchase to help all those customers become successful and stay customers?

Steve:
Yeah, Thimaya, you kind of mentioned it, but that's I think when we talk about breaking down silos, we talk about making it easy for the customer to do business with you. So you said it can be messy on the inside as long as it doesn't look messy on the outside. How do companies start going about the process of breaking down silos?

Thimaya:
So in my perspective, at least when I think about silos, silos are not something that is intentional. It's organic. Over a period of time, companies don't stop with either multiple different product each one of the leaders has their own agenda in terms of what they want to drive for their product with the customer. And there's no perfect customer experience notion or customer success notion. And breaking down silos is not about defining the agenda, trying to cater to everything. It's not about you throw the entire kitchen sink into what your customer is going to get, because that's exactly how you end up being super complex on the outside, because everybody has an agenda. Everybody has a playbook. And you try to merge all those playbooks together, abstracting out what is truly needed for the customers. That one single emotion, which is extremely difficult to actually deliver on because everybody has opinions. Everybody, whether it's hardware with the software, each one of those works in different ways and trying to figure out what it is that singular motion for your customer ends up being what we call we all reference a strategy, but it's extremely difficult to get to. And the best way to get to to get to it is listen to your customers. What's their feedback? What are they asking for? They may be asking for everything. They may be asking for very specific things. Start there. And that starts to define your strategy and strategy over a period of time, starts to get much more robust and by the end of it, at least get trying to 80 percent of what your customers need are.

Steve:
Yeah. And when you talk about strategy and how that actually plays out for the customer, there's a real element of execution there. And execution has to be done by the people that are working with the customer. So what are some of the ways that you guys have found to make that customer feedback really live within an organization in a way that it could drive change that's beneficial to customers?

Thimaya:
So a couple of things that we've done. First of all, I truly believe that execution drives strategy over time. So you need to figure out your execution model, because there are a lot of times when I walk into a situation and things are falling apart and everybody's trying to redo strategy. And I look at the strategy and it's actually a great strategy, but it fell apart as an execution and then start fixing the execution. Everybody's trying to figure out the strategy. Right. So from that perspective, when you think about how are we going to essentially bring the entire emotion together, how are you going to drive it together? I think there are two critical elements in that. Number one is customer success. Customer experience is all about people. As long as you have clearly defined roles, as long as there are communities that each one of them can tap into. And the community is basically essentially where you get all your information from, you get your playbooks from, you get how to go to market from. Then you start to drive a single emotion across all the people in various different roles. We commonly referred to it as organization blueprint, but other companies call it the organization model that all definitions but defining the role becomes the critical piece overall. And second is what is the console or the process that everybody is going to follow? And there are two ways of doing this. A lot of times some people say we're going to define a process, but processes can be tweaked. But the moment you back that up with a console, which is a technology based one interface, you are kind of forced to follow one singular process across the board. It could be here, could be in Asia. It could be in Europe. We're still following just one process. So technology can help define the working methodology and the process that each one of these roles follow. And I think those are the two areas that definitely would lead to a much better strategy.

Steve:
And Steve, maybe you could talk a little bit about ways that you can get employees excited about change. I mean, you know, you talked about how it's it's all about people, but people don't necessarily like to change what they're doing, especially if they're comfortable. What are some of the ways that you guys are finding to get people or employees who need to change what they're doing to meet customer needs? What are some of those ways that you're engaging them.

Steve C.:
Yeah, so I would you know, this is an extension of what Thimaya said, but I think there's three things that I would highlight. One is making sure everyone has an agreement around what success is, which leads to that that strategy. Hey, let's all agree on what the voice of the customer, what we want to accomplish out of that. And if you agree on the outcome and the success metrics, then at least you have an anchor as you work through the blueprints and those things to you. The key objective at the end of the day. The second part that we do is how do you generate the excitement we've invested a lot in? How do you create a vision? How do you bring it to life for people? And that may be in and things of the storytelling. It may be in the ways that we use videos and other thought leadership things, how to use analogies of other things that help people relate to it. Because oftentimes you're talking about an end state that is different from where they are today. And then that third part to get people excited is the power of CX as an industry and a discipline for themselves, personally. You get something that will create jobs in career trajectories that will open up doors for them. So how do you make it a personal benefit for them as well? So those are kind of three of the areas of how you bring people along to sort of look at the change as a positive.

Steve:
Yeah, I really like that. You know, the creating the vision and defining success. And I think the fact that if you're trying to make the customer successful and you're making the customer loyal, that's a pretty hard thing to argue against, is not being in the best interest of of the organization. Right? I mean, the customer's perspective can be a rallying point for change in an organization just by the power of of what you're trying to accomplish. And would would you guys agree with that?

Steve C.:
Definitely. That is that's the starting point of every conversation. I mean, that's why we're here, right?

Steve:
Yeah. And just getting that agreement around what is going to be good for the customer and how we can be successful around that can be very powerful. Do you guys have any stories about maybe where you found misalignments or where maybe where it worked well or where it didn't work so well?

Thimaya:
Yeah, I can talk about one of my first experiences coming to this organization. I was sitting down in one of the sales meetings and we had somebody we always like to hear from, people who would that with the customers in terms of what are they feeling, what are they experiencing? And this is a sales conversation, but slowly started to bleed over into the number of people that are talking to one person within the customer location. And that person was talking about how, believe it or not, they had about forty four people reaching out to them. And each one of them, believe me, had the best of intentions. Everybody was trying to drive towards like how how do we make it successful? But the person's biggest fatigue was trying to repeat the same thing in terms of their strategy, their vision, and where do they want to go and how quickly they want to go over and over and over again to these four four people. So I mentioned technology earlier. So we started to bring in technology to say at the time of sale, if you capture what is the customer's priority, what are they trying to drive? What does outcome, what is success look like for that? And then start to qualify that based on a timeline and expose that information to everybody automatically, you will see a lot of success with the customer. The second thing is when you look at all the different touch points, it's always better to have one person just be the relationship person with the customer and then coordinate within the backend across all the other individuals with exposing everybody to the customer. I think that was the second thing that started to truly have an impact. And over a period of time, we went back to that same customer. We mean, I kept in touch because for me it was like a great "ah-ha" moment. It was also one of those that helped us refine overall motion. We went back to the customer and funny enough, I thought the customer would say, you know what, the world is perfect, now. I have one point of contact. I get everything I need. That was the answer. His answer was actually, I miss talking to everybody else. But those things are going great. I'm not learning enough. I'm not hearing about new things happening in various different areas. So how can you, like, bring in some of these other people? So we have to tweak a model again to say, OK, every time you go, you're going to take a couple of additional people with, you know, you're going to coordinate the whole thing. You are going to take a couple of additional people with you who are going to like talk about what we are waiting. How can the customer in a wait, how can they drive things better, which exposes them to much more of what's going on with this very controlled message. So essentially, one of the big learnings, at least for me from there, was don't control the message to your customer. Meet them where they are in terms of what they want to hear and how much of it do they want to hear.

Steve:
All right. I'm having a delightful conversation with a couple of executives at Cisco, Steve Cox is VP of Digital Lifecycle Journeys, and Thimaya Subaiya is the senior vice president of CX Solutions. Both of them at Cisco. And we've really had a far reaching discussion. Steve, I'm intrigued with your title because I think digital has, particularly in the last eight months, has revolutionized almost every industry, some of it just out of necessity. But can you speak a little bit to what the importance of digital is today and breaking down silos and delivering good CX?

Steve C.:
Yeah, it's it actually connected back to your last question as well around how do you make create relevance of what we hear from customers back to the various roles as well. But I think stepping back, we first have to acknowledge there's a lot of major market trends happening at once that are interesting. So we talk about that… the reason CX emerged is we're now creating lifecycle engagement models, which is changing the way we need to organize and engage customers. We're creating new products, cloud different solution sets the way that the customers consume them and back to digital. They're all engaging with us completely differently through a digital go to market model of how we deliver information in different channels, how they want to engage instead of just people. It's the websites, it's the emails, it's social media, those things. I think it's important because it's actually the trifecta of all those three market forces happen at once that oftentimes creates all the complexity that we feel because it changes the way that we have our operating model, the way we measure success. All of those things are measured differently. One of the interesting things that happened over two years ago is when we formally created a CX organization, I sat in sales and I ran the digital journeys from virtual sales all the way through to renewals. And when we created this new function, they actually moved me into CX and my entire organization. And so one of the fascinating things that happened here was I naturally had to become a bridge to the expectations from the head of sales and marketing, the head of CX was your job is actually to connect it all. While we're creating different roles across the various functions. When you go to a scale motion that is driven by data and social channels and websites, you can't afford to create different functions across those. And so one of the fascinating things that I've been through over the last couple of years is I naturally have to figure out how I… my team can connect across those channels but deliver what is the relevance for the change? I mean, to have to sales, to engineering, to all the customer facing functions that sit in CX. And so that's what I look at my job. Yes, I'm held to accountability on the number of customers that progressed through stages of adoption and held through an accountability on renewals with no human intervention. But the main thing I'm trying to do is drive an experience that connects all the way from market through renewal.

Steve:
Any tips for just motivating people, you know, around what the potential of CX can bring to an organization? If I a… Say I'm a CX pro and my company doesn't get it. And, you know, I just I feel like I'm just having trouble getting people to think about the power of CX. Any… any wisdom you guys might share on that topic?

Steve C.:
So we talk about, interestingly, that one of the most important parts of CX is listening to customers and then taking their feedback. I would tell you the same thing applies to stakeholders or your executive team. What problems are they trying to solve for and understanding that one of the most incredible parts I've found that CX helps deliver is it is a growth story. It is a retention story. It is a simplification story. You know, all of these things, if you do it right, it's all through those. So you should be able to come in and show that the score leads to not only retention when you're talking to sales, but new growth opportunities that it's uncovering for you. When you go back to engineering, you're giving them the power of here's where you can invest your R&D into that, you know, the types of capabilities are needed most. So it goes back to ask the right questions, and you're likely to be able to bring some of the best answers to help bridge that divide with them.

Thimaya:
Just going to say that was great. But I'm going to add to that. First of all, for me, at least in my opinion, every single person with whom the company owns customer success. There's no one organization, there's no one individual, every single person and the company owns customer success. And the second thing, whenever I like look at the volumes of data around, like where we tend to have a bad customer experience to begin with and then we need to go in and sort things out. It always boils down to one key thing, which is implementation. The moment we did implement, like the last time I looked at the industry level, statistics not specific to any company in particular, but on average, 80 percent of adoption problems arise because of bad implementations. So focus on implementation. That's within the first three to six months when the customers just purchased the product automatically you can have a much more seamless experience because then to think about does this feature this capability or no. Or does this have this? Was the entire thing is not working. So my advice would be, number one, every single person needs to own customer success within the company and the second one is focus on implementation. Get the implementation right. It'll be a much smoother journey.

Steve:
We were just talking about digital strategy, Steve, and you said something that kind of triggered something in my mind. But, you know, with with so many people now interacting digital channels, how can you be sure who the customer is anymore? How can you make sure that you're reaching into all aspects of those relationships and making sure that you're getting a representative feedback from any given customer, given the fact that you might not even have their contact information yet?

Steve C.:
So. Well, to your point, the how you start to engage all these different roles and engage users, you need to engage the buyers, the sponsors, the executives and the expectation of the customer. You tie these all together in a seamless experience. So we put a very explicit, intentional focus on not only how do you start to capture all the different contacts, tag them for the roles of the engagement, but then also use those actions or whether it be within the online content or the actual people within Cisco to engage those customers at the right time, at the right information, to the right person. It is the biggest challenge we're trying to overcome in our digital scaling and probably represents why we're putting a substantial good majority of our new investment to go solve for it.

Steve:
But it sounds to me like digital could be part of the solution to that, too, is you're making sure that you're tracking and getting those contacts from the digital experience and then…

Steve C.:
You know well and yeah, and the thing is, digital can't do it without it and a human cannot do it effectively without it. So it tends to be we're solving it through digital, but we're actually supplying all that information for all the people so they can save them a couple steps and phone calls to go and meet with the right people. Unquestionable.

Steve:
And then, gentlemen, I know we were talking a little bit off the air here about kind of your company's commitment to diversity and inclusion and how important that is and everything you're trying to drive with the customer experience. And, you know, it really is important. It is part of culture. It is part of reflecting who the customer is. And Cisco has always been a leader in some of these issues. But I just… just because of your guys passion around this, I just wanted to make sure we touched on that, too.

Steve C.:
Yeah. So we have a number of business imperatives that we're driving on behalf of the company. And if you looked at those, actually the number one business imperative being driven out of CX is culture and talent. And we realize that it's not just to your point, you need to have people that show up the customer that look and speak like them. But how do you create that within your own organization, the way we operate so that we build the right products experience otherwise within. So we have some very explicit programs we put in place that include, you know, diverse interview panels to the requirement of all of our executives to spend time with people different from them across the organization and a number of different programs that ensure that we're holding ourselves accountable to this transformation, not just from a skills perspective it as needed, but also and ultimately the diversity and the type of people that we hire across the organization. It's going quite well and we're really proud of the progress we make. But we know there's a long way still to go.

Thimaya:
Yeah, absolutely. That's one of the things that's very passionate to us. And in fact, Steve was trying to get me to answer that question, but he is the executive sponsor of all four CX organization when it comes to diversity. And one of the things that's been so close to all of us within the leadership team is diversity in terms of gender diversity, in terms of ethnic diversity. We are looking at… Steve mentioned diversity balance, but we also have this proximity meetup where each one of us meets with at least two to three people within the organization and just shows from them what's going on. And in a way, I take that and translate that back into our customer experience. Also way we feel from our customers, we hear from our partners. And this time around we hear from our employees. And sometimes when we look at what the data tells us, what this is, what the anecdotal feedback is from each one of our employees, we realize that there's a disconnect and we're always taking action and making sure that we not only stand out, but we are leading the way in that.

Steve:
Well, that's really admirable, and I just based on what I know about Cisco, I'm not surprised. I know in my own hometown, the you know, the probably the two biggest corporate players in Indianapolis are Cummins Engine and Eli Lilly and Co. And I know from locally being involved in the business community, they've really taken the leadership in our community on that. And it really has to be the most sophisticated organizations that are involved in driving those kinds of systemic change. So congratulations on on that. I'm not surprised, but I am delighted to hear it. All right, Thimaya and Steve, you've reached that point of the The CX Leader Podcast where we always ask our guests to give take home value. This is something that our CX pros at the end of this podcast can take right back to their office and improve what they're doing for their customers and their organization. So I'll give you each a shot at providing your best tip for our CX pros.

Thimaya:
First of all, thank you, Steve, for having us. And my entire thing here would be there's no such thing as a perfect customer experience motion. You just have to simplify, do what's right for the customer, and it's going to take time to refine the model, but get started somewhere.

Steve:
I think that's perfect. It's about progress. Steve, what's your take home value? What's your best tip?

Steve C.:
Well, it may appear self-serving, but I'm going to tell you, invest in digital early. Not only does it be your path to scale, but investment in digital also tends to be the way to unearth a number of the other sort of data challenges, process challenges. It becomes a way to go in and validate the business model as a whole. So invest early and often in digital. You will pay dividends down the road.

Steve:
Yeah, boy, a lot of people have figured that out in the last eight months or so with COVID, right? If you weren't invested in digital before, you are now. Steve Cox is the VP of Digital Lifecycle Journeys and Thimaya Subaiya is the senior VP of CX Solutions, both of them at Cisco. It's been delightful to have you gentlemen on the podcast. I hope you'll come back. But in the meantime, if any of our listeners want to continue the conversation, can they find you on LinkedIn or do you want to put some contact information out there if anybody wanted to connect?

Thimaya:
Both LinkedIn as well as Twitter.

Steve:
All right. And Steve?

Steve C.:
Yup. Same here, come find me. Let's have a discussion.

Steve:
Hey, well, thanks again to both of you for being on the show. I really enjoyed having you both on.

Thimaya:
Thank you, Steve.

Steve C.:
Thank you, Steve.

Steve C.:
Keep up the great work. And if you want to talk about anything else you heard on this podcast about how Walker can help your business customer experience, feel free to email me a podcast@walkerinfo.com. Be sure to check out our website, cxleaderpodcast.com, to subscribe to the show and find all our previous episodes, podcast series, and contact information so you can drop us a line. Tell us how you think we're doing or maybe even have a suggestion for a future podcast. The CX Leader Podcast is a production of Walker we're an experience management firm that helps companies accelerate their XM success. You can read more about us at Walkerinfo.com. Thanks for listening and we'll see you again next time.

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