In this edition of head to head comparisons, we are going to compare Polycom and Cisco. This review will not focus on one or all of the phones or other hardware, but on the two companies’ profiles as a whole, as well as what you can expect as consumer.

Info Compared Cisco Systems, Inc. Polycom
Year Founded 1984 1990
Head Quarters Location San Jose, CA, USA San Jose, CA, USA
Patents ~ 2900 issued/pending ~ 850 issued/pending
Recent Awards Cool IT Challenge, Greenpeace International;
World’s Most Ethical Companies, Ethisphere Institute;
World’s Most Admired Companies, Fortune Magazine;
Top 20 Highest Rated Companies Hiring Interns, Glass Door;
A Better World Award,
Triangle Business Journal,
Gartner Supply Chain 24, Gartner
Leader in Room-based Videoconferencing, Forrester;
Edison Award for Innovation in Media and Visual Communication;
Favorite Conferencing Product, Rave Awards,
Best New Audio Conferencing Product, Best New Videoconferencing Product, and Best Overall New Product awards at InfoComm 2012, Rave;
CRN Channel Chiefs 2012,
CRN Women of the Channel 2012
BBB Rating B+ (Click Here for BBB’s page on Cisco) D (Click here for BBB’s page on Polycom)
Product Warranty (standard) 90-day limited 90 Days for software, 1 year for hardware
Customers include 100% of the Fortune 100;
95% of the Fortune 500;
415,000 worldwide
8 of the top 10 U.S. hospitals
the world’s top 12 pharmaceutical companies
Top 10 universities worldwide
8 of the top 10 U.S. universities
the world’s top 5tentertainment companies;
90% of the world’s top 20 e-Governments worldwide
The world’s 10 largest banks; largest bank in Turkey
6 largest insurance companies
the world’s top 5 auto manufacturers;
the world’s top 3 aerospace companies
End of life warranty 5 Years 2 Years
Global Footprint 470 offices in 160 countries 76 offices in 34 countries
Major Divisions/Acquisitions LinkSys, WebEx, IronPort ViVu, Accodent Technologies, Destiny Conferencing
Major Products Cisco RealPresence, Cisco United Fabric, Unified Management/Data VVX Phones, SoundStation IP Conference phones, OTX, Siren Codecs,
Number of Employees (direct) ~71000 ~3,974
Partner Certifications Cisco Certified Partner
Cisco Managed Services Certified Partner
Cisco Specialized Partner
Cisco Authorized Technology Provider
Cisco Registered Partner
Polycom Partner Categories
Polycom Distributors
Polycom System Integrators
Polycom Service Providers
Polycom Technology Partners
Polycom Developers
Polycom Solution Advisors
Types of Customer Service & Support Offered Product Support, Downloads, Contacts/Support Cases, Services, Tools, Community, Blogs, and Security Forums. Licensing & Product Registration, Self-Service, Account Management, Documents & Downloads, Knowledge Base, Help Request, and Community.
Diversity of Offerings (Products & Services) Services & Products including:
Application Networking Services Cloud & Systems Management
Data Center & Virtualization Services
Enterprise Network Services Security
Storage Networking
Unified Communications
Unified Computing
WebEx Collaboration
Services & Products including:
Environment based offerings
Products for Microsoft
UC Infrastructure
HD Telepresence & Video
Voice Solutions—Conferencing and Desktop
UC Software Applications & Accessories
Professional Services
Customer Care Services
Partner Services
Scalability/Flexibility of Offerings Products and services categorized by Small Businesses, medium Businesses, and Enterprises and Service Providers. Products and services categorized by Environment
Company Values -Core values include: integrity, respect, open communication, and accountability.
-World’s Most Ethical (WME) Company 2008-2013
-Code of Business Conduct
-Ethics Tools like
Ethics Decision Tree
Corporate Governance Principles
-Code of Business Ethics & Conduct
-Ethics hotline available to all employees for anonymous reporting.
Loyalty Programs Cisco Customer Loyalty Customer Reference Program

A few things this chart leaves out. Both Polycom and Cisco are giants in the IT world. They make not just phones but servers and other appliance hardware to move, manage, and store data across the cloud. Their most expensive products can be over $100,000.

Company Image, Culture, & Atmosphere

Both Polycom and Cisco have committed to having a diverse workplace environment that balances work with fitness and leisure. Their “C-Level” staff has often worked for the other company because the business is so specialized. Both companies have a worldwide footprint, and many employees also move up the ranks from international to global positions. Both Polycom and Cisco are publicly traded companies, and they have made major acquisitions of other companies, hiring on their talent as well as acquiring the patents of the newly acquired companies.

Customer Service & Support

Polycom offers users a Support homepage, which includes a variety of different functions such as:

  • Licensing & Product Registration: for Activation & Upgrades, License Dashboard, Product Registration, and a list of Polycom products you have.
  • Self-Service: which includes Reference Guides and Policies, RMA (Return Merchandise Authorization) Requests, Your RMAs, Repair Pricing, Escalation Requirements, and your Service Requests.
  • Account Management: Warranty and Entitlement Lookup, Hardware Upgrades, Reports, Generate Welcome Letters, and Zero Touch Provisioning.
  • Documents & Downloads: information on Telepresence and Video, UC Infrastructure, Voice, Cloud and Hosted Solutions, and Strategic Partner Solutions.

With each of these categories there is a Knowledge base and community included, too. The Community is large and includes a lot topics and information; however, it’s a bit dense which hurts navigation. Also, to enter the community and view any information, users need to make a username.

Additionally, from the Support Homepage, users can also search by products and document type (guides and manuals, installation, release notes, specifications, and/or technical tips and alerts). Users can also view topics that are new or popular here. For additional assistance, users can also choose to reach Polycom by phone (based on location—i.e. North & South America, Singapore, Asia-Pacific Region, Japan, Korea, and Europe, Middle East, and Africa)—or, a help request directly addressing the particular issue.

Separately, Cisco offers a similar type page breakdown; however, here the support is a bit more extensive.

  • With Product Support, users have the option of searching by product name or category (Routers, Switches, Wireless, Security, Networking Software, Phones (Collaboration Endpoints), Unified Communications, Application Networking Services, Cloud and Systems Management, Conferencing, Customer Collaboration, and more.
  • Past this, the Community aspect is more extensive and easier to navigate, too. Here, users can navigate by existing topics/posts, ask experts, or view videos and documents directly.

Differences: The biggest difference between the two support portals lies with Cisco’s inclusion of Tools—i.e. Product License Registration, SNMP Object Navigator, Bug Search Tool, Software Research (Cisco suggestions for supported products), Cisco Notification Service (email updates, security notes, and more), and Output Interpeter (troubleshoot). However, like Polycom, users do need to login to use tools.

Overall, Cisco offers more options for customer support; however, their customer service is not (help request online form) as direct as Polycom’s. Polycom benefits from a smaller infrastructure; therefore, the company is in a better position to address customers on a much more personal basis.

Diversity of Offerings (Products & Services)

Cisco offers users a slew of products and services that include and go beyond that of Polycom. Yet again, due to the size of Cisco, Polycom is able to better fit solutions for particular uses. For example, with Polycom, users are able to choose product/service by the appropriate environment—i.e. Mobile, Home Office, Work Office, Conference Room, and even a Theater. Opposite this, Cisco offers products and services only by the size of the user’s business (small, medium, and enterprise/service provider).

Regardless, in terms of sheer magnitude of offerings, Cisco is more broad and encompassing. Inversely, Polycom is much more focused on their strong suit—the RealPresence Platform. However, the company does offer more than this—i.e. UC Infrastructure, Voice, Professional Services, Customer Care Services, Partner Services, etc.

Company Values

Both Polycom and Cisco take ethics very seriously. Firstly, Cisco has been the recipient of the WME award every year since 2008 for displaying truly ethical actions. The company enforces a strict code of conduct which reinforces values like integrity, respect, open communication, and accountability. Additionally, Cisco also utilizes tools like the Ethics Decision Tree, which can help walk employees through a situation ethically.

Separate from this, Polycom also enforces rigid ethics policies too. As such, the company dictates Corporate Governance Principles, which ensure board and committee members adhere to the highest ethical standards. In addition to this, the company also imposes a Code of Business Ethics & Conduct Policy that extends to all business practices and employees. Past this, there is also an Ethics Hotline, which is available to any and all employees. From this hotline, employees are able to anonymously report any suspected violations of policies.

Cisco and Polycom both take Ethics very seriously. Both companies strive to display an exemplary image. Through rigid ethical policies, they’re able to do so successfully (for the most part anyway).

Loyalty Programs

Cisco Customer Loyalty is a type of rewards system, which can be managed from a dashboard available via web and mobile phones. From here, customers are able to view their rewards balance statements, redemption transactions, and monthly notification emails. Under this program, customers are granted loyalty points ($1.00 = 1 loyalty point), which are based on the purchase of Cisco products and services made. Points can be used for a number of things such as Educational offerings and events from Cisco’s Learning Network.. This includes learning credits, exam vouchers, labs, Advanced Technical Training, Learning Partners offerings, Cisco Technical Education, etc. In the future users will also be able to apply points in the Cisco Store. As a reference 100 loyalty points equals 1 learning credit.

Polycom features a Customer Reference Program, which depending on your level of involvement (low to high exposure), shares and promotes your experiences with prospective customers, the media, and industry analysts. In doing so, customers can gain more contacts and benefit from enhanced exposure (which can reinforce brand recognition). This can be a great tool for smaller businesses to branch out and really build their company image.

In Conclusion

Cisco and Polycom both offer a slew of products and services. Though Cisco may have the edge as they are a larger entity, Polycom’s approach is driven more by personability. This can be seen in the little differences between the two moguls. For example, Polycom’s break down of offerings compared to Cisco’s, Cisco’s customer support options compared to Polycom’s, etc. Inversely, Cisco has vast resources which render the company more than capable of providing quality products, support, and service. Cisco is able to offer a wider range of products and services, as well as include more extensive customer support tools; therefore, customers are likely to have fewer serious problems. However, if the customer is looking for  more approachable and personal approach, Polycom may be better suited for them.