Oracle presented its vision for customer experience this past week at its annual event for marketers, called Modern Customer Experience 2019, held in Las Vegas.
Customer experience means the sum of all touchpoints a customer has with a brand. Because creating a great experience is easy to describe but difficult to execute well, let's dive into the challenge.
Why customer experience is hard
Think of the phases through which typical customers may pass as they research, buy, and use products or services. We call this process the customer journey. Here's a simplified, three-phase customer journey that applies to both consumer and business-to-business purchases:
- Learn: The potential buyer researches products, talks with friends, and may go to a physical store. At this early stage, the buyer refines their requirements and tries to find the right product or service to purchase.
- Buy: After researching competitive options and buying choices, the consumer finally makes a decision. The act of buying may be simple as pressing "Confirm Order" on a website or complex as signing a contract and issuing a purchase order on behalf of a large company. Either way, the buyer starts a transaction that culminates in payment for goods or services.
- Use: Having made a purchase, the buyer consumes the product or service, perhaps requiring customer service or support. Ideally, this happy buyer will tell friends or colleagues about their great experience.
We go through this process whether buying toothpaste at the grocery store, sunglasses online at Amazon, or issuing a million-dollar services contract to implement a new computer system.
The end goal of customer experience is creating happy buyers who feel positive toward the product and brand, thereby driving loyalty and repeat purchases.
In the modern digital world, data helps sellers understand the buyer and what they care about at each stage of the customer journey. Therefore, data is crucial for companies to understand their customers' behavior and thus improve their customer experience.
Data offers an indirect means for brands to gain an empathetic understanding of consumers. With the right data, brands can infer what the buyer cares about and what they want to do. In other words, data is key to unlocking our understanding of the buyer's intent. When done right, personalization based on data feels natural and not creepy to buyers.
This explanation is short and over-simplified but gives you a sense of why customer experience is complex and hard to solve.
Oracle's customer experience strategy
Given this foundation on the basics of customer experience, Oracle's strategy for customer experience rests on three pillars:
- Aggregate and manage customer data from both online (digital) and offline (for example, point-of-sale data from brick and mortar store purchases) sources.
- Build accurate and highly detailed customer profiles based on that data.
- Use their software platform to personalize customer experiences across every stage of the customer journey from pre-sales to purchase to customer service and support. Oracle calls this series of personalized experiences or customer interactions "micro-moments."
Oracle summarizes this broad strategy in the following diagram, showing that real-time personalized customer experience requires data, content used to personalize messages, AI to predict which content is most appropriate for every consumer at each point in their buying journey, and specialized software applications to deliver personalized content such as "next best offers" and product recommendations.
The following graphic shows the building blocks needed for what Oracle calls the "Experience Economy":
Oracle brings these pieces together in their CX Unity data platform. The next two slides present the elements of this platform and a high-level view of how data flows through it:
As you can see, the CX Unity platform brings together data from multiple sources, operates on that data to make it useful, and then provides the results to other applications in the Oracle suite.
Given the importance and depth of data when creating personalized interactions that support customer experience, it's worthwhile taking an additional look at Oracle's DataFox product. This slide sheds more light on the kinds of data Oracle aggregates and how it operates on that data:
Eventually, all this data lets seller create personalized experiences for each buyer as they move through the buying lifecycle:
It should be obvious that achieving the right customer experience involves many parts. I asked Steve Miranda, Oracle's executive vice president of Application Development to comment on this: "It's amazing the number of pieces and data to deliver activities that customers just think are simple. There is so much complexity behind the scenes."
A similar theme emerged during a meeting with Oracle's executive vice president for CX Cloud, Rob Tarkoff, and the company's chief marketing officer for CX, Des Cahill. They described integration across departmental silos as a key challenge that customers face when implementing a program of customer experience.
During a presentation, Manoj Goyal, group vice president for CX Unity, summarized the challenge of customer experience: "The customer sees a conversation. However, the brand sees a series of discrete micro-engagements." He explained that data is the link between isolated customer interactions and building a system with sufficient context to suggest the next best action to customers.
These points are consistent with themes that have emerged during my many CxOTalk discussions with the world's top innovators and operating executives.
Redefining how we interact with customers requires organizational transformation and that means culture change. As with most aspects of business, customer experience is a people thing.
Disclosure: Oracle paid most of my travel expenses and is a CxOTalk partner.