Reengineering Customer Service – Building Strong Relationships Through Listening and Collaboration
By Stephanie Spada-Oracle on May 13, 2014
Oracle’s business has changed dramatically in the last decade as we moved beyond the database sector and pursued a larger vision of becoming the world’s number-one provider of enterprise software. That same journey also drove us to rethink and, ultimately transform, how we relate to our customers.
While we continue to evolve, I wanted to share this journey with you and set the stage for our conversations that will follow.
When Oracle acquired PeopleSoft in 2004, we ran into an unfamiliar challenge. How would we convince a skeptical customer base arriving via acquisition that we were serious about defending their interests? Specifically, how would Oracle’s style, which was built on industry leadership in the database sector, mesh with customers accustomed to dealing with a more collaborative and people-centric company?
Realizing that we had to forge new types of connections with customers and demonstrate a more collaborative approach to working with them, we took action ‒ making a significant investment in creating a single unified company strategy around customer programs. This approach would integrate all aspects of the customer experience, including service and support, contract negotiations, account management, and more.
Oracle, known for our engineering expertise, went to work on building a new way to relate to customers. Our mission was clear. To sustain growth and boost loyalty, we needed to:
- Set up listening posts. We began to scour our customer base worldwide for opinions, implementing regular Web surveys, focus groups, and executive advisory boards to find out what we need to do better. Additionally, we conducted marketplace studies and solicited observations from individual employees interacting with our customers. Next, we looked to better engage CIOs, a key constituency ‒ creating a CIO Advisory Board has become an indispensable source of guidance and a sounding board for new ideas, ranging from recommendations on potential acquisitions to improving account management.
- Learn to collaborate. It was increasingly clear that our legacy culture of dictating the terms of customer relationships was simply not conducive to long-term growth. Today, Oracle’s focus on collaboration fuels sales by encouraging and creating a sounding board for customers’ ideas that drive change.
For example, one of the concerns that we have heard most often over the years was that it is very difficult to do business with Oracle. Specifically, contract negotiations can be too complex and prolonged. We’ve listened and responded with a new master agreement that standardized and simplified contract processes, allowing for better collaboration and streamlined negotiations. Quotes and deals are approved faster under the new system, which uses tools that simplify workflows and deliver full transparency and greater efficiency.
- Refocus sales team. One of the first things that we heard from customers, specifically CIOs, was that Oracle needed a fresh approach to account management, one that provided more consistent and transparent coverage. Listening to these concerns, we created a more customer-focused account management model and strengthened our account teams with new advisors, support resources, and executive sponsors to provide relevant industry, business process, and technical expertise as well as greater continuity.
- Move beyond transactions. Oracle, like many other enterprises, built its business in many ways on an approach to customer relationships that can feel very transactional. Customers demand more, however, and rightfully so. As consumers in an increasingly digital and connected world, we have come to expect anytime, anywhere service and intelligent business relationships – fueled by the power of sophisticated analytics. This consumer trend extends to the business-to-business sector in which we operate.
Today, while still dedicated to growing our business, we are focused on working in tandem with our customers to help them solve increasingly complex challenges and move their businesses forward. Restructuring our sales team also enabled us to launch a more effective strategic planning process – a multi-year framework designed to improve alignment between Oracle and its customers, and sharpen our focus on our customers’ business and technology objectives.
- Transform support. Fast, efficient product support always ranks at the top of customers’ list of requirements. Knowing that customer support can make or break a relationship in our business, we rolled out new practices and tools that have significantly improved customer support services and are enabling us to move from a reactive, break/fix mindset to proactive support engagements that anticipate and address issues before they become critical. For example, we instituted a new service request process that establishes an early warning system that quickly identifies and resolves issues affecting numerous products at the same time. In addition, our recommended software updates are easier to review and directly deploy thanks to integration of My Oracle Support and Oracle Enterprise Manager Ops Center 12c.
- Measure progress. Today, Oracle increasingly uses big-data analytics to discern and gather critical insight from customer feedback and link customer success and satisfaction measures with revenue growth. We regularly track how improvements in satisfaction and customer referencing drive further engagement and sales. We also systematically analyze all types of customer feedback, from Web surveys and executive council meeting content to discussions on social media.
Higher levels of listening and collaboration are helping Oracle replace arms-length transactions with more intimate partnerships that are the foundation for strong and long-lasting relationships. Our efforts are bearing fruit by helping customers to innovate, become more efficient and agile, and get greater return from their IT investment.Catch you next time,
Senior Vice President and Chief Customer Officer