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Cisco VP: ‘Customer Experience Drives Emotional Connections’

Joseph Bradley is passionate about purpose. Without it, says the global vice president of Cisco’s IoT, blockchain, AI, and incubation businesses, customers have no reason to engage with your brand.

Bradley, an applied futurist who helps companies navigate leadership principles for the digital age, lives on the cusp of innovation. He built the foundation for Cisco’s IoT strategy and the company’s Internet of Everything practice while serving as the leader of the research and economics, strategic communications, and operations functions of Cisco Consulting.

Prior to joining Cisco, Bradley was president at Uptake Technologies, CEO at C3 Communications, and vice president/general manager of AT&T’s Data Communications group.

Here, Bradley talks about why it’s important for companies to find their purpose if they want to connect emotionally with their customers.

1. What is one marketing topic that is most important to you as an innovator?
It’s not technology and it’s not your brand or your company culture. For me, the most important thing is finding your purpose, and I don’t mean making money. There’s nothing wrong with making money; all businesses need to profit. We all need to breathe, too, but it’s not our purpose. Without purpose, there is no passion, no cause, no fundamental reason for innovation. And there is a business case for purpose.

2. Why is this so important?
A quarter of all humans live without electricity. More people have access to a mobile phone than a toilet. … The daily tragedy that fuels my purpose is that 15,000 children die every day due to poverty. We have incredible technology at our disposal and yet we have not solved some of the world’s greatest challenges. Finding the solutions starts with simply asking the question: What is your purpose?

[For example], I have an engineer in my organization whose purpose was to help save the endangered rhinos in South Africa. … [His passion for conservation led to the development of] Cisco’s Connected Conservation solution, which will deploy some of the world’s most sophisticated technology to help our planet and communities. The solution leverages digital infrastructure, artificial intelligence, hybrid cloud, digital workplace, and cybersecurity. But this never would have happened if someone did not have a clear and passionate purpose.

3. How do such connections improve the customer experience?
Customer experience drives emotional connections, not the other way around. One of the best examples I’ve seen of emotionally connected customers was when my wife and I moved to Chicago a few years ago. I gained a completely new level of understanding and respect for emotionally connected customers when I saw the long line of people in the winter standing outside in sub-zero temperatures, waiting for the debut of the new iPhone.

Harvard Business Review explained in an August 2016 article that an emotional connection matters even more than customer satisfaction. In fact, emotionally connected customers are more than twice as valuable as highly satisfied customers.

4. How will this improve the effectiveness of marketing?
Studies have already shown that customers who engage in an omnichannel experience are much more emotionally connected and therefore consistently more profitable. The key is to correctly identify the particular element of the customer experience that connects with the emotional motivation to buy. The effectiveness of marketing is improved by the ability to establish an emotional connection.

Tesla has the highest customer loyalty of all car brands. Electric vehicle owners are the most loyal car owners, but Tesla customers are also driven by a belief and desire to help the planet. They are loyal at the purpose level.

For employees, enabling the power of purpose creates a multiplier effect. Millennials will represent 75% of the U.S. workforce by 2030. Deloitte’s 2019 Global Millennial Survey found that 40% of Millennials who plan to remain in their jobs beyond 2020 say their employers have a strong sense of purpose beyond financial success.

Glassdoor found that among workers ages 18 to 35, 75% expect employers to take a stand on equal rights, climate change, immigration, and constitutional rights. And Horizon Media found that 81% of Millennials expect companies to publicly pledge to be good corporate citizens. Employees who are engaged are more loyal, and the business case for purpose is here to stay.

At Cisco, our employees have identified giving back as one of their “moments that matter.” Time2Give is a global program that gives our employees five days of paid time per year to volunteer, in addition to any paid time off or vacation they already have. Employees can choose where they contribute their Time2Give. By empowering our people to take time off to volunteer, we’re collectively helping to change the world through active participation in our communities.

Bonus question: What is your favorite activity outside of work?
I enjoy car collecting and spending time with my dad at various car shows.

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