Customer Experience Challenge Met: Oracle

Oracle is the final company on the list, and they have responded as well. Do they meet the test? Well, they do have a portfolio of products that align with the claim, and that is something that no one else has been able to claim exactly. But I'd like to hear what you have to think about this one. David Vap, group VP for Oracle Applications responds.
Written by Paul Greenberg, Contributor

PG Note: Oracle is providing their take and this will close the series for now. Oracle is the one company that has aligned more than a product--in fact a complete product portfolio around their customer experience messaging. Today we have David Vap, group VP for Oracle Applications responding. I haven't dealt with David Vap before so this is the first time I'm "meeting" him too.

David, you have the floor. Let's see what you can bring.


Thank you for the opportunity to vet what CX means to Oracle, our customers, and it's relation to CRM. As an industry we are experiencing a "bandwagon" phenomenon. The danger of this is that the entire point of CX could be lost, transmuted, and confused. But on the flipside, if CX reaches buzzword status and gets overused, yet this leads to more organizations taking action and really thinking about what they should do to improve the overall customer experience, then I say let it happen.

It's glaringly apparent that the rate of recent technological change (social, mobile, cloud) has forever altered the ways that we consumers use technology. This reality greatly impacts how businesses must serve their customers. The new transparency this technology gives consumers is forcing businesses to truly consider the customer experience.  I agree that the concept of CX has been around for quite awhile, but I don't think that companies were truly forced to deal with it in the same way as they must deal with it due to today's empowered consumer.  (For an interesting read on the new consumer, check out Greg Gianforte's new book Attack of the Customer)  As vendors, it's our job to innovate, anticipating market shifts and to develop solutions that help our customers address these rapid changes.

It's also important to understand that a good customer experience is dependent upon far more than technology. Any business can implement new software, but without a cultural shift and leadership commitment inside a company, it won't create better experiences. But why? Because CX requires a holistic look at how a customer interacts with a company through the entire lifecycle, examining the people, processes, and technology that support and interact with the customer. Oracle is committed to partnering with our customers to tackle this challenge. This change requires a sense of organizational urgency and focus to understand the varied unique customer interaction journeys with the company. Only after the customer journeys are defined and a strategy is set, can technology be designed to create the desired experience.

While CX isn't just about technology, enabling great customer experiences at scale does require a wide range of software solutions. At Oracle we have been busy building a comprehensive portfolio of applications to meet this challenge. In fact, RightNow, which is one of Oracle's more recent acquisitions, has been a leading proponent of software driving excellent customer experience. Oracle is well known for leadership in the CRM category, which we view as a subset of the CX portfolio. We continue to broaden our portfolio of CX applications to meet market needs across marketing, sales, commerce, and service.

Why CX and why now?

Let's set the stage to explain why CX is in such demand right now and is taking precedent. Technology and the proliferation of devices, data growth, and high-speed networks are reaching a zenith. Social has matured into the mainstream. In 2012, Pinterest had the largest year-over-year increase in audience and time spent of any social network.[i] In the U.S, people spent 27B minutes on Facebook and 3.6B minutes on Twitter.[ii] The last five years has changed long standing behaviors forever – the way we chat, share, shop, and influence. We are always on, always sharing, and always aware.

Additionally customers' rising expectations and competition have spawned greater commodization of products and experiences from rapid copycat development, as well as new markets opening up global competition with low-cost manufacturing and distribution. On top of it all, media saturation on both traditional and social channels has everyone fighting for attention in more places.

The way businesses often respond to these changes is to apply the old approaches that worked in the past, but are now seeing marginal returns. Core go-to tactics? Get into a price war. Increase marketing spend on traditional channels. Reduce operational and support costs. These approaches lack the agility, insight and differentiation needed. At Oracle, we're working with our customers to create a different approach. We're highlighting just how critical it is to build a great customer experience. Research we conducted and shared with our customers has borne this out. We found that 26% of consumers post negative comments to social sites after a bad experience. In addition, 86% of customers stop doing business with an organization after just one bad experience.[iii] These numbers cause people to sit up and take notice.

Let's start at the very beginning

So where do we begin? We believe that understanding the complete customer lifecycle is crucial to developing an effective customer experience strategy. It's important for companies to appreciate their customers' unique journey. Organizations need to start by putting themselves into their customers' shoes. Companies must uncover the truth about what customers want, expect, and what matters most to them. At Oracle, we work closely with key leaders at many companies to rethink the customer experience from the outside in. We run full day customer journey mapping workshops where we focus on their customers, and how to create winning experiences for them. We spend an entire day bringing together both business and technology people focused solely on the experiences they want their customer to achieve. That's how it has to start.

We encourage companies to think about the customer lifecycle as a connected loop that moves through the stages outlined above. We know the model isn't perfect, but it allows people across business function silos to engage.  It's important to discover how to adapt their business to enable that journey, and then later to select and implement the best technology tools to provide the ultimate customer experience.

But we've found that one of the biggest hurdles for CX is not just the technology and the potentially complex implementations across channels and customer touchpoints. As discussed, the largest roadblock is the organization itself and the need to start embedding the customer experience at a cultural level. The "house divided against itself cannot stand" (Abraham Lincoln, June 17, 1858) rings true. For example, the VP of eCommerce cannot be in competition with the VP of Retail. There must be a new organizational harmony and a strategy in place for any CX initiative to succeed.

(Credit: Oracle)


Understand. Empower. Adapt.

Oracle's approach to CX has three core tenets: Understand, Empower, and Adapt.

First companies must UNDERSTAND their customer. But how? For some businesses it's difficult to harness the knowledge needed to understand how to better serve customers. Obviously technology can help fill the void.

At Oracle, we believe that in order to understand the customer, companies must take advantage of the data available about the customer and the business, both inside and outside of the company. This absolutely includes leveraging social data. To handle the expanding number of touchpoints, the volume and variety of customer information, organizations have to begin investigating business intelligence tools and analytics to offer more-targeted experiences.

Companies need to harvest the insight available about their businesses from this collective knowledge, which exists across all interaction channels, to better understand the business and customer needs, to improve overall operational efficiencies, and to deliver better experiences. One Oracle customer, a US-based consumer goods manufacturer, uses Oracle solutions to track conversations about its products on social channels and to listen and collect valuable feedback across the web. This helps the company maximize every opportunity to provide an exceptional customer experience. In addition, the technology enables the manufacturer to prioritize incidents and adjust accordingly, to provide customer service where it is needed most.

Secondly, organizations must EMPOWER customers and employees with consistent, accurate information that ultimately cultivates loyal relationships. We recommend managing this challenge by making self-service experiences easy and rewarding. Another Oracle customer, a large global travel company, is a great example of a company doing just this. We all know how unpredictable, and sometimes frustrating, travel can be. To ensure a seamless customer experience, this company provides customers with up-to-the-minute information, and Oracle's contact center solution provides the means, enabling superior multi-channel support regardless of how customers communicate with the company--via phone, email, or web. The solution dynamically changes based on the actions taken by the agent and on information known about the customer and product. The workspace delivers instant access to relevant content, at the right time and place. Agents are confident that they are always providing the most accurate information to the customer, which increases agent productivity and helps drive customer satisfaction.

And of course, empowering frontline employees with real-time, valuable insight anytime, anywhere enables them to more effectively engage, recognize, and reward customers in the context of interactions.

Thirdly, companies must continuously ADAPT to this ever changing market. We believe that the cloud can help, but how? By helping organizations adapt to fluctuations in demand with built in capabilities such as elastic scalability, robust redundancy, and extensible integrations. These provide more time to innovate for the needs of the business.

For one company, a US based tax preparation firm, the flexibility that a cloud-based customer experience solution provides, enables them to scale up operations during the critical and extremely busy tax season. As one might expect, getting workers up to speed quickly can be tricky, but is essential. This is especially true when a large portion of the support team is seasonal. Regardless, this information flow must happen seamlessly, so that the customer experience doesn't suffer. With the ability to scale its operations appropriately, this firm was able to increase productivity while simultaneously providing a best-in-class experience for its customers.

Certainly with increasing demand and more channel choices, businesses are now required to streamline cross-channel interactions and easily transition between transactions, conversations, knowledge, and people. A tall order indeed. Not to mention that increasing choices means increased competition and customer expectations. This requires that companies deliver highly personalized experiences based on deep customer insight, including the customer's own preferences and style. And to also continuously optimize and adapt these experiences in real-time based on insight gained from their intent, context, and behaviors.

Challenge Met

As discussed, customer experience is more than just CRM, but does encompass CRM. A good customer experience strategy creates the consistent, connected, personalized experiences that customers want, by transforming existing operational systems and infrastructure into a differentiated experience across the customer lifecycle.

It's important to recognize that a comprehensive CX strategy needs to support a broad set of technology:

  • Marketing. To manage the entire marketing cycle from planning and budgeting to execution and analysis; create personalized and contextually relevant experiences across Web, mobile, and social channels; and manage and integrate multichannel loyalty programs

  • Commerce. To providepersonalized customer engagement across touchpoints, connecting buyers with relevant products and services, providing consistent buying experiences

  • Sales. Tocreate and optimize sales plans, territories, incentives, and quotas; centralize customer information; notify sales users of any activity impacting their customers and deals; allow sales users to collaborate online; integrate key competitor and reference information; and manage lead scoring and distribution

  • Service and support. To unify service interactions across touch points and channels; get an accurate, current record of customers; reduce the time it takes to resolve customer issues; personalize responses to customer inquiries; and enable service both in the call center and in the field

  • Social. To listen and engage with customers across social media platforms; monitor, understand, and respond to consumers' social conversations; create, publish, moderate, and measure social marketing campaigns and engagement; integrate social interactions with customer service; and collaborate and build engaging applications and enriched social experiences across Facebook, social sites, and mobile phones and tablets

  • Data Management. To leverage customer data to deliver great customer experiences; create a single source of customer information; scale relevant content, search results, and merchandising across customer paths; and use rules and predictive analytics to make better decisions faster.

(Credit: Oracle)

Truth be told, Oracle is the only customer experience vendor that can claim it has every capability mentioned above available within a comprehensive customer experience portfolio offering. We believe that these tools address the customer experience challenge that companies live every day, by actually providing solutions to meet the imperative. More than just lip service, but actual working solutions. More than just branding or messaging, but real technology capabilities in use today.

Oracle is meeting the customer experience challenge every day, by giving our customers the knowledge, resources, and tools to identify their unique customer experience challenges and by helping to develop strategies to address those pain points. The real challenge for us is, and will remain, in helping our customers to achieve success with theirs.

[i] According to STATE OF THE MEDIA: THE SOCIAL MEDIA REPORT 2012 by Nielsen

[ii] According to STATE OF THE MEDIA: THE SOCIAL MEDIA REPORT 2012 by Nielsen

[iii] According to The 2011 U.S. Customer Experience Impact (CEI) Report by RightNow (acquired by Oracle in March 2012)

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