Event musings - Oracle Modern Customer Experience Chicago

Denis Pombriant Profile picture for user denis_pombriant April 11, 2018
Oracle's tsunami of product announcements come at a time when CRM needs a reboot. Oracle is well positioned for when customers are ready to move - which should be sooner rather than later.

modern customer
Oracle made a smart decision a few years ago to get out of the verbal food fight of CRM. So far they’re the only software company to do so and while they’ve sidestepped the food fight, they’ve doubled down on the essence of the competition—focusing on the customer experience or CX as they have branded things. This week at its Modern Customer Experience event in Chicago, the company unveiled its latest efforts at improving customer experience with a stream of new software and improvements.

Perhaps a better interpretation of CX would be Customer Expectation, which Oracle seems to explicitly understand based on the pronouncements of Vice President and Chief Customer Experience Evangelist, Des Cahill who said in a statement:

We are focused on helping our customers remove barriers that prevent their employees from focusing on the customer and creating epic experiences. The latest innovations within Oracle CX Cloud Suite will empower marketing, sales, commerce, and customer service professionals to lead the changes and advance their careers.

That said, there was still an imperfect note in Oracle’s implying that a customer experience should be “epic” when so much other research shows that a vendor can get very far in customers’ eyes by simply delivering on the run of the mill blocking and tackling implied in the vendor-customer relationship.

But this can be easily overlooked as too much hustle. Moreover, we live in interesting times in which many things are being made over thanks to analytics, machine learning, and omnichannel functionality. So why not aim high?

To Infinity and beyond keeping customers loyal

Among the innovations Oracle presented to customers, press, and analysts in its inimitable information avalanche style are Oracle Infinity and Oracle CX Audience designed to help marketers collate data from numerous sources to derive insights into customer characteristics such as behavior. Understanding behavior throughout the customer lifecycle gives vendors an edge in building lasting and mutually beneficial relationships.

Ironically, this announcement was made on the day Mark Zuckerberg began testimony in Congress over his company’s handling of user data that was abused by Cambridge Analytica. It’s logical to assume that future iterations of Infinity and products like it will need some amount of re-thinking in light of that news. But Infinity and Audience could be important as examples of customer data handling done right or at least better.

An expanded and more scalable loyalty platform was another offering to catch my attention. Oracle’s efforts in loyalty stretch back to the days of Siebel so the company is no stranger to loyalty as a concept. As Oracle gladly admits, customers continue to change and it says the new loyalty solution empowers marketers to engage and delight users with personalized loyalty programs. I didn’t see the loyalty solution in action but my hope is that it does more than award and track points for purchases. Tomorrow’s loyalty needs to turn its attention to rewarding engagement, which this solution should be able to do with a little steering. 

Sales - the real winner?

The biggest departmental “winner” based on new features could be sales. A slate of useful tools that make selling easier by helping reps to be more precise debuted at the conference including,

  • AI-based sales intelligence, designed to help focus forecasts and concentrate attention on the most winnable deals,
  • Deal management which optimizes pricing and helps to increase the probability of winning deals by providing easy to understand graphical instructions to reps.
  • Complex territory quota management for sales teams with overlapping territories including analytics that provide insights into quota and forecast progress and more.

There are also improvements, enhancements and new announcements in commerce, the fourth branch of CX/CRM that is gaining altitude throughout the industry.

Oracle is applying AI to customer acquisition and search to enable brands to anticipate and connect on multiple levels with customers in the active process of making a purchase. Additionally, products for ISV partners also focus on improving B2B commerce.

Finally, customer service introductions include a new virtual assistant and video chat capabilities designed to get customers the right answer faster in a variety of service modes.

My take

There’s a lot more to the announcements made in Chicago this week and Oracle has output at least 5 major releases. The collective impact can be summed up as comprising much greater use of analytics in ways that can materially improve day-to-day operations in the front office.

These announcements come amid the sobering realization that many, if not most, businesses today don’t optimize their use of technology-mediated front office business processes as described by a recent CSO Insights report on selling. But this should not be seen as a counter indicator. Rather, it speaks of the huge amount of white space still in the marketplace.

We may be deep into CRM’s second decade but those organizations that adopted early need to face the reality that they need to renew their commitments. Those that still have not adopted—and the research shows that despite purchases many businesses are at best half-hearted users—should begin facing the fact that from here that as marketplaces accelerate, opportunities recede at light speed away from those who stand still.

The new products announced in Chicago and throughout the industry this quarter are a call to action. There’s never been a better time to engage with front office technology and for some this might be the last opportunity.

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