In the Cisco Collaboration Connection event for Asia Pacific early this week, I had the opportunity to try newly designed Cisco collaboration products, as well has have in-depth discussions with senior executives from Cisco.  And  I was also able to observe the response from the partners and customers I met from across APAC, including China, India, Singapore and Indonesia, and exchange my thoughts with them as well. I feel that the DNA of Cisco is changing, from technology-centric toward customer experience focused, starting with the collaboration business. Here is evidence beyond slogans on their Power Point slides.

  • Design. When people talk about the design of Cisco’s collaboration products, usually it would be with words like high-tech, standardized or professional, but seldom about fashionable design, beauty, simplicity, or ease of use – attributes  typically used to describe the leading consumer electronic appliances from Apple or Samsung. Now, with the latest product announcements, it’s totally different, and Cisco has won several Red Dot industrial design awards in 2014.

For example, Rowan Trollope, Senior VP & GM of Collaboration Technology Group, showcased that how DX80 – Cisco’s desktop collaboration offering, has impressively, with attention to details, integrated several user-centric design features into one collaboration meeting device: multi-touch screen support help users work on several tasks in parallel for improved productivity, a purposely built video camera has high-definition quality for video experience,  four directional microphones embedded in the device reduce background noise for better audio communication quality – even the color of the product surface has been changed to “Oslo White” which is more appealing  to end users than Cisco’s classic grey.  Cisco even innovated the design for cable connectivity and upper covers – you can easily assemble the device by yourself within one minute and start a meeting, using the meeting applications pre-integrated into the OS of the device.

  • Intelligence. The intelligence of Cisco’s product release covers two dimensions of customer orientation – collaboration hardware enablement and business operations optimization. SpeakerTrack60, a video conferencing device with two cameras enabled by intelligent audio detection with face recognition, can automatically turn to the speaker in the meeting room, and zoom in and zoom out in appropriate situation according to the position of speakers. This innovation can significantly reduce the manual support for meetings, and improve the interaction experience among the attendees.

On the other hand, the latest contact center solutions from Cisco have been integrated with main-stream social platforms, such as Weibo in China and Twitter elsewhere. Employees of call centers for various verticals, such as retail banking and financial services industry for instance, can automatically detect the potential requirements of a customer complaining in the Twitter, interact with individuals proactively with the user profile populated by the system and video support, and arrange face-to-face negotiation. This could extend the pervasive personalized experience from only  the most important customers to every customer, which is becoming more important in the age of the customer.

Cisco still has a lot of homework to do. For example, it should further enhance its offerings around mobile devices to maximize user convenience.  It should think about the application scenarios of its products like DX80, and provide easy migration from legacy Windows-based business applications on onto its Android platform.  It should have better understanding of the competitive landscape in each region, especially China, and get prepared for the challenges from both regulatory environment and ambitious local competitors. And it should further extend education and support programs for its solution partners, so that they can grow up together to help clients achieve the business value of innovation.

While Cisco still has a long way to go on this journey of customer experience for its product, it is transforming itself in this direction, just as what IBM and Microsoft are also doing right now.

What are your thoughts? Do you think the competitors will be defeated by Cisco as John Chambers predicted?