Cisco Connection Online (http://www.cisco.com) may be the highest performing Web site in business today. Fast Company put together a guide to some of its most popular features:
The system's Troubleshooting Engine has been available since last summer. Using artificial-intelligence software, it poses a series of increasingly detailed questions to help customers diagnose and fix specific hardware problems. "We pick areas where people have repetitive questions," Solvik says. "We catalog our knowledge about those areas and use AI to dispense it."
The Web site's Software Library lets customers upgrade code electronically. More than 90% of all upgrades now happen this way. That's 20,000 upgrades per week. The system automatically alerts customers when they make mistakes (if, for example, they select software that won't run on their hardware).
Email Bug Alerts transmit information about software problems within 24 hours of their discovery. The Web site includes a weekly summary of outstanding bugs and a "bug navigator" that lets customers search for information on specific problems. "This is a direct electronic link into the engineering organization of our company," Solvik says.
The Status Agent allows customers to check shipping information on their orders. This is one of the site's most popular features. Each order's electronic record includes a FedEx tracking number and a hot link to the FedEx Web site.
Marketplace is the heart and soul of Cisco Connection. It allows customers to order products over the Net. To use Marketplace, customers sign "electronic commerce agreements" that legally equate their online orders to traditional purchase orders. Web customers see up-to-date price lists and available options. When a customer places an order, the system automatically generates the appropriate discounts and links orders to the right sales rep to generate commission payments.
"This is a breakthrough application in the business-to-business context," Solvik declares. "We're building a $2 billion runway for electronic commerce."
A version of this article appeared in the Feb/Mar 1997 issue of Fast Company magazine.