Good products, good service. It seems like a simple formula. Cisco Systems has the broadest product line in the networking industry. It also has one of best teams of partners who service and support the company's products. Those are two reasons customers are willing to pay more for Cisco products.
Around 95% of Cisco's products are sold through more than 30,000 systems integrators and value-added resellers, an indirect sales channel that can make or break a vendor if it provides poor service and support. Only Cisco's largest customers--those with the most complicated networks--buy directly from the company. For the rest, the large number of well-trained Cisco channel partners is a key factor in staying with the vendor.
Cisco encourages its partners to get specialized training and rewards that expertise with special discounts and designations. It closely monitors and analyzes its partners work to ensure high quality. The easy availability of trained service and support personnel can make a big difference to customers and helps to keep Cisco on top of the market. "They have the best channel partner program in all of IT, period," Gartner analyst David Willis says.
Another edge: There are thousands of Cisco-certified engineers, making it easier for IT departments to find and hire employees already trained on Cisco products. That's not always true with products from other vendors. The ability to quickly find staff to monitor and manage Cisco gear is one reason John Wade, CIO at Saint Luke's Health System, says he'd think long and hard before moving away from Cisco to another networking vendor, even if the price was right. "We can save $50,000 on this," he says, "but if we've got to retrain the whole staff, what's going to be the five-year cost?"
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