Building the CX Platform at Cisco, With Rachael McBrearty – CB68

Episode Overview

Rachael walks us through her path to provide Cisco with crucial information that created insights around Cisco’s customer base — and how she is building capabilities inside the organization to value customers, show impact, and focus on their priorities. 

About Rachael

Rachael McBrearty is Chief Creative of Customer Insights and Experience at Cisco. She’s responsible for identifying new ways to deliver value to customers while accelerating growth for a $50 Billion company. She’s a bit of a geek when it comes to analyzing customer data and loves turning insights into better experiences for customers.

After landing on Time Magazine’s Best Inventions of 2007, Rachael left New York City for Silicon Valley to be closer to the heart of technology innovation. When she’s not staying up-to-date the latest technology trends in the CX field, you can find her engaged in a DIY project that usually involves spray paint. 

Assessing The Work To Be Done

Rachael knew she had to find simple things that would make a big impact. Having been in previous roles at Cisco, though, she wasn’t starting completely fresh. First 60 days involved:

  • Who are the “go-to” folks internally to work with
  • What about external partners?
  • Who in the company is already using “customer speak” vocabulary?
  • Where do we sit in the organization in terms of permission and power to drive change?
  • What core customer segments need to be built?

The latter question was crucial because tech-driven, product-centric companies usually don’t build out customer segmentation early on.

In the first 90 days, she did bring together CX and marketing folks for a week-long series of events trying to get “their own house in order” before they moved to discussions with the broader organization. There were — happily! — models for customer lifetime value and other CX metrics, but they were largely being used in an ad hoc way by partners. People didn’t fully know the models even existed. That was a major early focus.

The Network Intuitive

This was a recent product launch within Cisco focused on opportunity targeting and understanding the specific buyers Cisco has. It was actually the first-ever time Cisco rolled out a program that really focused on where the sales team — a power core there — needs to “point and shoot.” The Network Intuitive has data visualizations and dashboards that can be useful to many departments, which means that Rachael’s team goes from “push” (trying to get the attention of others) to “pull” (others being interested). That’s adding value and getting the right to do the work.

The capabilities they’re continuing to build out include:

  • How the customer engages with Cisco
  • What points in the journey (experiences) matter most to share of wallet

Even though Cisco is predominantly B2B, they have found that emotion is a major driver in the process. While that’s logical, it’s not normative in B2B settings. They also did some research around “peak end role” — if an experience ends on a great moment, the customer is more likely to love the experience — and how to find those moments within the data.

They ultimately found key points within the data tied to customer buying patterns:

  • Attending events (i.e. trade shows)
  • Ability to find information (frustration levels increasing with more clicks/time spent on their various sites and portals)
  • Long-term brand campaigns vs. short-term brand campaigns
  • Support for installations and failures (how emotional is that?)

“The Leadership Team Doesn’t Care How The Sausage Is Made”

… they want to know about impact. Always remember that. The impact can take time to show, but you need to focus on quick wins and earning the right to do the work. As you’re doing that, you need to try your best to unite the leadership team. Their natural focus, based on their own incentives and KPIs, will be silo-focused. You are the duct tape of the organization. You bring/hold it together across more comprehensive customer-focused KPIs that touch all silos.

The Pay It Forward Question

What do you know NOW that you wish you knew THEN?

Rachael’s answers:

  • There’s a lot written about what to do, but make sure you and your team are ready. Focus on the softer skills associated with mindset shifts and change. Pay attention to your own core values and what builds you up. If you’re not getting that at work, shift to other values like family and friends. Work won’t always be successful, and it won’t always be the types of tasks you want to work on. So move your various eggs around different baskets. Be intentional in thinking that way.
  • Market hope and celebrate the small wins: This is crucial to avoid your team thinking it’s all heads down, deliverables-driven work.


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