At Oracle OpenWorld Day Three, It's All About the Customer

SAN FRANCISCO—The focus was on the evolution and future of customer experience Wednesday morning at Oracle OpenWorld here, as David Vap, the company's group vice president of product development, took the keynote stage. With greater commoditization, a digital media explosion, and the rise of global competition, it's becoming harder for businesses to differentiate themselves in the marketplace, Vap said. As a result, companies need to re-evaluate their approach to customer experience, and make it a priority in their overall business strategy.

"Based on recent research, we know that twenty-six percent of customers will go online and post a review if they've had a negative experience with a brand, and eighty-six percent of consumers will stop doing business with a company after a negative experience," he said. "Even more interestingly, research has shown that sixty-nine percent of employees are not actively engaged in their jobs. With that said, how can you expect them to deliver great customer service?"

While more than 91 percent of brands claim that they want to be considered customer experience leaders, only 38 percent have a formal CX platform, and only 16 percent have an advanced platform, according to Vap. "Companies need to start bridging the gap between thought leadership and action leadership," he said. "They need to start stepping it up."

One of the biggest challenges companies face, Vap explained, is that there is not enough communication between silos. Marketing, sales, and service teams remain disconnected, making it difficult to deal with customers across different channels and meet their variable needs. "The truth is, customers don't care if your company has disconnected silos. If they're dealing with one company, they want their interaction to be streamlined, regardless of silos," Vap said.

To resolve the issue, Vap encouraged companies to adopt flexible infrastructures, and look for technology that can enable the delivery of desirable experiences to their customers and that is cloud-ready. Vap turned to Oracle's customer experience portfolio to demonstrate the interconnectedness and agility he believes to be critical for streamlined success, and listed the company's five pillars of customer service: marketing, commerce, service, sales, and social.

"Social is significant enough to be a standalone pillar in its own right," he said, "but it must be said that it plays a crucial role in each of the other four. It's woven into all the other functions, enabling them and allowing for internal collaboration and unity."

Oracle Senior Vice President Reggie Bradford echoed Vap's emphasis on social, revealing recent research that says that 72 percent of online adults use social networking sites, and of these adults, one out of three prefer to contact brands via social media, not phone.

"We've all heard the news that by 2017, the CMO will spend more on IT than the CIO. What this means is that there is a need for a hybrid to develop between marketing and technology. There are overlapping functions, so collaboration—and the technology to foster this collaboration—are essential," Bradford said.

Bradford also touted Oracle Social Cloud, the company's social relationship management tool, and discussed the integration of Oracle's Social Relationship Management solutions with Eloqua. "Through this partnership, we're offering the industry's only connected digital platform that will deliver real-time, relevant, targeted information on a global and local level," he said. "We're creating a unified platform that services all of the marketers' needs, because without such technology, the gap will remain."

Working to eliminate this disconnect between marketers and technology, Tesco Chief Information Office Mike McNamara and Chief Marketing Officer Matt Atkinson also presented their company's new customer experience strategy together, sharing the stage to drive home their collaborative mission.

"Technology is transforming retail," McNamara said. "Digital natives make purchases in whatever way seems most convenient. They're 'bilingual' and move flawlessly from the technological to the physical world. That means that if you want to win in this world, you have to ride the digital wave."

Atkinson explained that the future of technology is a world powered by cloud, in which technology will enable customers to share their world automatically across devices, and companies will have to stop thinking about customers in individual silos, instead thinking about one customer in multiple experiences.

"Brick-and-mortar stores, for example, are not going away," McNamara said. "It's not going to be a battle between physical and digital, between social media and traditional marketing. It's about the emergence of a blended world."

Tesco's clothing store, F&F, is already embracing the need for an integration of the digital into the physical. Stores in the United Kingdom offer traditional try-on and buy experience, but also invite customers to try things on via their "magic mirror," which allows the customer to see how clothing would look on through a digital display, even if the item isn't available in the store. Stores are also equipped with computers that invite customers to order items not currently in the store on the spot, and collect their merchandise the next day.

"For us, it's about finding ways to seamlessly integrate technology into traditional experiences. Customers like the fluidity of scanning a physical product and automatically adding it to their digital shopping list, or 'liking' a recipe on our social sharing platform and then using our product finder app to find all the ingredients in our store," Atkinson said.

"It's all about the customer now," he said. "It's all about making it as simple as possible and as effective as possible to make their experience a great one."

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