Visualizing what you hear: Getting to engagement and action

Posted on October 24, 2012 5:19 pm by | Customer Service | Monitoring | Social Media

Cisco Systems CMO Blair ChristieCisco Systems unveiled its Social Media Listening Center today at its Executive Briefing Center in San Jose. The small group of tech analysts and influencers in attendance—and others participating through Facebook and Twitter—heard an important concept repeated throughout the presentation:

Helping employees visualize what people are saying about your organization in an easy-to-comprehend, at-a-glance format is a vital step toward engagement and action with customers.

Cisco CMO Blair Christie (left) and others made sure to point out that the eye candy—six high-resolution touch-screen panels displaying various views of Cisco-related social media data—was the visualization part of what the company has implemented internally and is marketing externally. The screens include (copied from Cisco’s own blog post about the event):

  • Social Media Customer Engagement—Highlighting CiscoLive conversations and engagement
  • Twitter-based global heat map—Where? Real-time global tweets are displayed
  • Social Media Influencers—Who? What influencers are tweeting about Cisco
  • Product Family Landscape—What conversations are happening around both Collaboration and the Data Center and Virtualization architectures
  • Social Media Word Cloud—Highlighting current trending topics

Most of the screens were touch-sensitive: Tap the icon of an influencer, for example, and his or her profile appears on the right side of the screen.

Cisco can configure just about any kind of monitoring to appear on the six screens. They can, for example, display information about a particular customer visiting the Executive Briefing Center on any given day. Other listening centers have been set up around Cisco, each tailored to display information about specific topics, ranging from customer issues to internal-only topics. Christie herself plans to have a screen outside her office showing the latest messaging about Cisco. The biggest opportunity, according to the panelists answering questions during the event, is in identifying customer service and support issues.

But even more important is the process that engages employees in the conversation once a post or issue has been identified.

A listening team—not unlike the staff that monitors Dell’s Social Media Listening Command Center—watches the activity and forwards relevant messages to subject matter experts (SMEs) in the company who can answer them. More than 1,500 such SMEs have volunteered and been trained to engage those who have asked questions, complained or raised issues.

The average response time for answering such messages, according to data displayed on one of the screens during the presentation, was 12 minutes.

Heat map from Cisco Systems' Social Media Listening Center

Christie, noting that the expectations for social engagement may not be as high in the business-to-business world, said customers have responded enthusiastically to the quick replies, adding that contact centers (aka call centers) increasingly are becoming part of the entire enterprise. While there will always be a need for a call center, the best responses come from knowledgeable employees.‘s David Alston—the company’s Radian6 is a key data source for the Cisco Social Media Listening Center, along with Cisco’s only Social Miner product—added that most companies view customer service operations as cost centers; they are measured based on efficiency (that is, how quickly a rep can get a customer off the phone). Call centers, he said, are “not about engagement or the chance to build long-term relationships.”  By giving call-center reps and employee advocates a clear visual view of the conversation, “We have the opportunity to change the idea of what a call center is.”

That visual view is one of the key elements Cisco brings to the table based on its success with digital signage. But taking advantage of that opportunity goes well beyond the deployment of bright, colorful screens displaying useful, meaningful data. Christie emphasized the importance of training versus “letting employees loose without a plan.”

The real issue is adoption of the technology inside the organization. You’ve got the data. You’ve made it easy for employees to understand what the data is saying. Now, what processes will you put in place to create meaningful engagement with the customers, influencers and other stakeholders whose messages the system has teased out of the data? A lot of companies spend substantial sums on tools that let them monitor social media, but leave employees out of the equation.

Listening—via tools like Cisco’s impressive Social Media Listening Center—is a vital step, but without getting trained knowledge workers engaged in the conversation, it’s all just input without action. Cisco Systems is figuring it out. How’s it going at your company?

Note: On Friday, I’m interviewing Jeanette Gibson, Cisco’s Senior Director of Social & Digital Marketing, for an FIR interview about the Social Media Listening Center.)



  • 1.Great recap of the event! Thanks for your attendance, it was great seeing you!

    LaSandra Brill | October 2012

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