Pandemic Challenges Companies to Master Customer Signals, Oracle Execs Say at Cloud CX Virtual Summit

Companies shifting their customer service agents to remote locations amid the COVID-19 pandemic needed, and still need, to master customer signals Oracle executives said at the Oracle Cloud CX Virtual Summit today.

"There was a massive disruption in business," said Rob Tarkoff, executive vice president of the Oracle CX and Data Cloud. "The shift happened in days, not months."

The shift created several questions for contact center operators: How to support employees who were suddenly remote? How to conduct business-to-business meetings that had previously been done in person? How to interact with customers in the changed economy where jobless claims were running in the millions.

For contact center operators, that meant it was essential to master customer signals, Tarkoff told the online audience. "We needed to be authentic. We don't know what the new normal will look like. We also needed to be more empathetic with customers."

For Oracle, the pandemic also meant big changes in some of its business. In New York for example, Oracle went from supporting one contact center with 300 agents to supporting thousands of agents for 39 different municipal agencies. Agents had to be quickly trained and needed a complete knowledge base to help answer the large volume and variety of questions worried New Yorkers had, particularly early in the pandemic.

"We went from a small to a large implementation, and we had to be able to respond quickly," Tarkoff said.

Oracle faced some of the same challenges in Los Angeles, though the use case was a little different. The city was issuing a debit card for COVID-19 relief, Tarkoff said. "We had to understand how to engage with customers in a way so that they understood the value of the program."

Other Oracle customers had other needs, so the company put together a portfolio of industry-specific solutions for everything from auto dealers to field service professionals, Tarkoff said. The company also has a broad array of technology offered through the company's cloud infrastructure.

The technologies are designed to capture customer signals and attributes to help customer service agents servicing customers' immediate needs and to provide signals for agents' next-best actions.

The contact center technologies include a digital assistant and knowledge management, both designed to help provide customer service without the need for a human agent.

"You want to make service the change agent of the business," Tarkoff said.

Ever since the pandemic hit, customer service has relied much more heavily on support via video, said Chris McGugan, Oracle's senior vice president and general manager of CX Service. "You need to leverage it to change the way you work. Video is here to stay. Everyone in customer service today is video-ready."

Though consumers are moving quickly to digital channels, voice isn't going anywhere, McGugan said. So companies can';t simply focus on video, they need to continue to provide strong voice support via their contact centers.

McGugan added that the pandemic caused businesses to become more efficient than ever before. That means agents having the right information at the right time. But, to have that information, companies need to ensure they have unified data that provides the agent with the right informationm such as a correct address for a repeat customer.

With that in mind, companies need to take steps to ensure master customer data files are correct, purging bad data and deduplicating files, he said.

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