Cover Story: A Paradigm Shift
While Cisco does employ traditional tactics that move customers and prospects through the demand-generation process, it now believes in empowering a customer to move through the process on his own. “We don’t tightly control all of the different stages of that process. We offer up content, we offer up relationship-building tactics and then we sort of trust the customer and the prospect to move through the process a little bit more under their own control—which they’re more inclined to do these days—and we also involve our partner community to a great extent,” says Ellefritz. “We really sell when we do demand-generation functions, predominantly through partner organizations, and increasingly what we try to do is give them the tools and the resources themselves to move people through that process.”
One tactic Cisco uses to support this self-navigation approach to serving leads is a click-to-chat feature. “I’d like to say that click to chat has enabled us to intelligently approach the right prospects on the Web site and, on the back end, intelligently route their inquiry to the best channel,” says Paul Martson, manager of marketing and strategy.
When click-to-chat technology initially was employed on Cisco’s site last year, it was as a reactive chat in which the customer initiated the interaction with a live representative by clicking a button. Although that worked, Martson points out that the proactive chat appears to be a better fit, enabling Cisco to pop open a window and engage a customer in dialogue with a call center agent based on a user’s behavior. This chat often can result in routing the lead in real time to an appropriate partner—something Martson says is very cutting-edge and produces more qualified leads. The goal is “to capitalize on the momentum of the chat and not let it turn into a lead that sits in the system for two weeks before someone calls back, but to forward it right then and there,” he explains.