We had the pleasure of speaking with Andrew Carothers, the Digital Customer Experience Leader at Cisco. With a remarkable career spanning marketing, communications, and customer support, Andrew shares his journey to becoming a CX executive, the importance of data and customer understanding in the first 100 days, and Cisco's current and future CX strategy. Additionally, he discusses the crucial balance between digital and human-driven customer experiences in a rapidly evolving landscape, measuring success, building partnerships, addressing pain points, utilizing customer feedback, and envisioning the future of CX.
What advice do you have for someone's first 100 days as head of CX or CS?
Andrew emphasizes the importance of focusing on data and customer understanding during the initial phase. For CX leaders entering an existing organization, identifying all data sources and bringing them into a cohesive data lake is crucial. Understanding customer personas through direct interactions with frontline staff and creating customer advisory boards helps CX leaders gain valuable insights into customer needs and pain points. CX executives can set the stage for successful CX initiatives by building a data-driven and customer-centric foundation.
What does your CX strategy focus on currently and in the future?
Cisco's overarching CX strategy centers around developing a connected, personalized, low-friction customer experience. This long-term journey involves bringing different business units under a unified CX approach to ensure seamless experiences for customers with multiple products. Additionally, Cisco's focus lies in making it easier for customers to do business with them. Emphasizing digital channels like email, social media, and community engagement allows customers to access support and resources on their terms. Balancing digital convenience with human interactions enables Cisco to meet customer preferences and deliver a comprehensive CX approach.
What is the balance between digital and human-driven CX?
With an increasing number of customers seeking digital-first experiences, Andrew highlights the significance of delivering support and resources through digital channels. Cisco aims to provide a vast array of digital resources, from user guides to troubleshooting videos, catering to customer preferences and availability. However, the company acknowledges that human interactions remain essential for more complex scenarios and personalized assistance. The key lies in offering a seamless blend of digital convenience and the option for human support, allowing customers to choose the mode that best suits their needs.
How Do You Measure Success With CX?
Andrew Carothers emphasized that measuring success requires a multi-dimensional approach. He mentioned three main types of metrics his team employs: operational metrics, business-focused metrics, and metrics related to business impact. Operational metrics include tracking unique visitors, overall visitors, and engagement across various digital channels. Business-focused metrics assess customer behavior, such as speed of adoption, which measures how quickly customers move through the different stages of product adoption. Lastly, metrics related to business impact consider renewal rates, cost avoidance, and the overall impact on customer support.
What pain points do you have leading a CX or CS team?
Leading a CX or CS team can come with its own set of challenges. Andrew emphasized the need to address the pain point of connecting across silos in large organizations. Building a holistic customer experience can be complex, especially for products acquired from various sources. Andrew shared an example where customer feedback prompted Cisco to create a consistent security approach by unifying their security products' experiences. Acknowledging customer feedback and leveraging it to bring about positive change is a key aspect of successful CX leadership.
How do you establish partnerships and gain buy-in with the C-suite?
Connecting across silos and building coalitions in large organizations can be a significant challenge. Andrew highlighted the importance of joint identification of problems and fostering collaboration between different teams. He explained that involving stakeholders and co-developing solutions based on customer feedback helps build buy-in and evangelizes the CX strategy across the organization. Ultimately, CX's ability to report to the C-level has been shown to yield the most significant impact on customer outcomes.
Do you have an example of utilizing customer feedback to improve your company?
Customer feedback is a valuable resource for improving company processes and offerings. Andrew shared examples of how customer feedback led to significant improvements, such as Cisco's adoption of an enterprise agreement for security products, enhancing the customer experience by streamlining interactions. Customer feedback helps identify pain points and informs strategy and decision-making, leading to more customer-centric solutions.
What is the future of CX and CS?
Andrew likened the current state of CX to a teenage phase, where the discipline is growing and trying to find its place in organizations. He predicts that in the next 5 to 10 years, CX will fully mature into its own distinct function, reporting primarily to the C-level. With an increasing focus on customer experience, Andrew envisions CX to be a separate discipline from customer success, emphasizing a holistic approach encompassing the entire customer journey. Furthermore, he expects CX to become even more prevalent in the business landscape, leading to specialized degree programs and more books focused on CX.
About Andrew Carothers
Andrew Carothers started his career in marketing, specializing in public relations, communications, and investor relations. He joined Cisco over 16 years ago when the company began its transformation into a subscription-based business model. As Cisco shifted its focus, it became clear that a dedicated CX function was essential to provide a connected, personalized, and low-friction customer experience. Andrew was one of the pioneers who laid the groundwork for the CX function at Cisco, which has since grown into one of the largest CX teams in the company.
- International Customer Experience Award 2021 (4x)
- US Customer Experience Award 2022 (2x)
- TSIA Global Star Award 2021
- Cisco Best of CX Award 2021
- Author, The Publicity Handbook (McGraw-Hill) - Fortune Book Club selection
- US Customer Experience Award Steering Committee, Founding Member
- Member, Customer Experience Professionals Association
- Kellogg School of Management Executive Education Manager Development Program
- Univ South Florida Muma College of Business DE&I Certified
About CX Chats
CX chats is an interview series with Ben Holland, where we talk to industry leaders in the field of customer experience and customer success. Each interview dives deep into the insights from each leader and highlights how they became successful, tips for aspiring CX professionals, and their thoughts on the future of CX.