Thursday Jan 21, 2016

Expected vs. Experimental Customer Service Channels in 2016: Part II

By Daniel Foppen, Senior Principal Product Manager, Oracle Service Cloud

Recently we provided an overview of the distinctions between expected and experimental service channels as well as a framework for evaluating experimental service channels heading into the new year. Now we dive into specific channels to explore in 2016!  2016 is shaping up to be a year of the platform-messenger-platforms.  You may be wondering what I mean by a ‘platform-messenger-platform’? Let me explain…

More than likely, you have heard about messenger platforms by now. WhatsApp is used daily by nearly a billion folks globally to send text messages, videos, pictures, and emojiis to individuals or groups. Facebook Messenger has 700 million active users and WeChat has 650 million active users (largely in China). Just these three messenger platforms have 2.3 billion active users. That sheer scale is mind-blowing, but these three are followed by other messenger applications such as Viber (250M active users), Line (200M active users), and SnapChat (100M active users).

Often customers ask me where we see the market heading and which channels will be important. Yet, we all have to acknowledge that it is difficult to accurately predict the future as we live in a very dynamic world. However, do not despair; I do have a hunch about what will happen this year with messenger platforms… Ready for it?  At least two of the three big messenger platforms will become Platform-Messenger-Platforms!  Now that we have the big bold prediction off my list, let’s go a bit deeper.

The three channels I am observing with greatest interest now are WhatsApp, WeChat and Facebook Messenger. I expect that in 2016 we will experience a change from these just being messenger apps to these becoming full-fledged platforms.

WhatsApp is huge! It has over 900 million active users.  When there is such a large part of the population using that platform extensively day in, day out - it is only logical to see interest in using WhatsApp as a service channel. Why not? It makes perfect sense to open up a mobile chat thread with a customer service agent around a certain issue and find that conversation still open the next time you have a problem. Great customer experience, great agent experience, right?

The trouble is that I see virtually no businesses offering WhatsApp as a viable engagement channel yet. I believe the reason is simple: the owner of WhatsApp does not want it to become an engagement or service channel. When businesses use WhatsApp to broadcast messages to a group, the account is blocked. There are limits in the max number of incoming messages – anecdotally found to be around a couple of thousand incoming messages per minute. WhatsApp does not have a public API and there is no technical documentation, no API limits, nor SLAs. While Twitter documents its API thoroughly, WhatsApp does not provide any documentation. To me this raised questions about the viability of WhatsApp as a Service Channel. For example, when you post a comment on Pinterest on a company’s board, you do not necessarily expect a reaction from the company. However, when you ask a company a question over WhatsApp (or SMS, or email, or live chat for that matter) you do expect an answer. It is difficult to meet these expectations if you cannot rely on the WhatsApp platform to give answers to your customers.

WeChat is a different story. With currently 650 Million active users, it is slightly smaller than Facebook Messenger is. It is primarily used in China, but expanding into other Asian markets. The reason I am looking at WeChat, is that I believe we can learn a lot from how WeChat is used today and apply that to forecast how Facebook Messenger will expand its scope in 2016.

WeChat is tremendously popular in China. In China’s  large cities it has a penetration rate of 90% and is rapidly transforming a very large share of the society’s communication habits. I am a WhatsApp user, but I see it as a messenger platform. I use it to send messages to family, colleagues, friends and a few groups.  Sometimes we share pictures and videos, but that is where it ends.

If we look at WeChat, at first glance, it pretty much does the same thing as WhatsApp. However when you look further you see a whole range of other applications that are provided within the WeChat platform. Recently someone working at a large consumer brand showed me on his iPhone how they are offering customer service in China using WeChat. At first sight, just opening a conversation with the brand seemed rather familiar, but when you are also presented with a range of menu options related to that brand conversation, it became clear it was much more than a messenger thread. Customers can open a mini e-commerce section within the WeChat thread where they can buy products and pay for the goods using the WeChat payment service. Users get targeted offers within their conversation.  They can play branded games inside WeChat. They can get routed to technical support within WeChat, etc.

When you look at it from that way, it becomes obvious that when a messenger platform starts including marketing capabilities, e-commerce shops, customer service capabilities and PayPal-like services, we can hardly call it just a messenger platform anymore. According to this article, services like ordering (and paying for) taxis, collaboration tools, banking, crowdfunding, dating and job boards are also part of the WeChat platform. When a messenger platform becomes so broad in scope that it becomes a little internet within a messenger app, I believe it becomes a Platform-Messenger-Platform; a whole platform within a messenger platform.

Moving to Facebook Messenger. Now Facebook Messenger is a core component of the wider Facebook platform. Where in the past public messaging on friends’ timelines was the norm, people apparently have started to become more sensitive and privacy aware, and sending private messages through messenger is gaining popularity. The fact that using Facebook Messenger within the Facebook app is not possible anymore (you have to download the separate messenger app) shows that Facebook is driving users to the messenger app. Voice calling has been added to it recently. In the United States, a payment service has been added and businesses are encouraged to start delivering customer service through Messenger. As well, Facebook has made good SDKs and documentation for the Messenger Platform available for developers.

I believe that when looking at how WeChat is increasingly becoming a platform, we can only expect that Facebook Messenger will be broadening its scope similarly in 2016 and become a fully-fledged platform within the messenger app.

What that means for customer service professionals is an interesting question:

  • What does it mean to have zero control over the engagement channel you choose to add to your multi-channel strategy?
  • How do you make sure that these conversations are connected to your broader customer record and interaction history from other channels?
  • How will these changes effect customer service engagements?
  • By when will customers interact with your brand (view and evaluate products, buy them, get support for them, recommend them) solely through platforms like Facebook, WeChat, WhatsApp, etc.?
  • Will you even need a website, email and telephone channel by then?

These are interesting questions to ponder.  Let us know your thoughts to continue this conversation in the New Year!

Wednesday Jan 13, 2016

Save $500 on Modern Service Experience 2016 in Las Vegas

By Lauren McKay, Social Media Manager, Oracle Global Events

Oracle’s flagship customer service event returns to Las Vegas, April 26-28, 2016. Attend Modern Service Experience, presented by Oracle, to participate in hands-on workshops, see product demonstrations, and network during interactive breakouts that will showcase best practices to help turn your customers into brand advocates.

Register by Sunday, January 17 to take advantage of the lowest conference price.  On Monday, the conference price increases $500, so be sure to take advantage of incredible savings while they last. Need to justify the expense to your management?  Download the Justification Email, tailor it to fit your needs, and send it on for approval.

Why should you attend Modern Service Experience?

Outstanding service is the number one reason customers recommend a business. Are you doing everything in your power to differentiate your brand? Customers now expect unified web, social, and contact-center experiences. Are you keeping up?

Attend Modern Service Experience to:

  • Hear how Oracle Service Cloud customers deliver consistent, positive customer service across channels including the web, live chat, co-browse, social, and phone.
  • Discover how to provide personalized, reliable, and adaptive service, delivering the right answers at the right time.
  • Learn about the latest that Oracle Service Cloud offers and how integration with sales, marketing, and commerce applications can help differentiate your brand with modern customer service.

In addition to rich customer service content, you’ll have the chance to hear thought-provoking keynote speakers and hear the about Oracle’s direction from leading Oracle executives.

Bring your colleagues! Modern Service Experience is being co-located with 3 other conferences: Modern Marketing Experience, Modern Commerce Experience, & Modern Sales Experience. Invite your peers in Marketing, Commerce or Sales to join you and save even more with our group registration pricing.

For more information on the event, visit the Modern Service Experience website, and be sure to join the conversation on Twitter, #ServiceX16.

PS: Did you attend Modern Service Experience in 2015? Then, you’re eligible for a special alumni discount. Use code Alum15 when registering to save even more on registration.

Tuesday Jan 05, 2016

Expected vs. Experimental Customer Service Channels in 2016: Part I

By Daniel Foppen, Senior Principal Product Manager, Oracle Service Cloud

Few would disagree that in the last decade we’ve seen an explosion of new communication channels and are facing a dizzying array of modern channels consumers use to interact with organizations.  In addition, how to deal with this tremendous increase is as much a challenge for marketing as it is for customer service departments. Customers do not simply have one channel they always use. They have a range they use depending on the circumstances. Some of these channels are expected, while others are experimental channels.

Expected channels, are channels customers expect to have available for them. It is implicitly understood that these are reliable and customers can count on them when the situation requires it. They expect to get a timely, accurate response to their inquiries. Typical examples of such channels are phone, email, live chat, etc.

Experimental channels are – as the name implies – less robust and reliable. They can be experimental for different reasons; e.g. because it’s a new platform increasingly used by consumers to interact with each other, because availability is out of control of the organization, because the organization’s structure and processes are not ready to support this channel, and so forth. Typical examples are video chat, WhatsApp, Instagram, Pinterest, etc.

Some experimental channels mature over time and become expected, established service channels (i.e. Twitter and Facebook). Other channels fade away, for example Orkut or MSN Messenger.

Clearly, there is a risk associated with investing in experimental channels. In addition, it is not always easy for organizations to decide on the right balance of expected vs. experimental channels. So how does a business decide whether, when and how to add experimental service channels to the mix? We would encourage asking the below questions before making any decisions…

1. Where is the channel on the Hype cycle?

New technologies typically go through an initial hype phase. When considering channels, it is important to consider where the channel currently is on the ‘Hype’ cycle.  If it is too early, expect a decrease, slow growth or steady decline to occur. Vetted, strong channels will gradually emerge, grow and become mature with a bit more time.

2. Can this channel be embedded into a multi-channel service strategy?

Adding an experimental channel as a silo-ed stand-alone channel can be easy. However, it is important to be able to embed new channels as part of a multi-channel strategy. Consider how to give agents access to a unified, connected interface where they can interact with customers in this channel, but at the same time have context around who the customer is, what their purchased products are, what previous interactions they have had, etc.

Similarly, also ask how to store the conversation thread from this channel so that the next time the agent uses an expected channel like email, phone or chat, the context of the interaction in the new channel is made available for agents. In addition, consider how to establish service levels for this channel. Is it possible to design service processes and workflows for inquiries coming in through this channel?

3. Can this experimental channel actually become an expected channel?

With many experimental channels, there is little control early on, but some channels are easier to adopt. Twitter for example has clearly indicated that they encourage using their channel for delivering customer service. Their Public APIs are robust and well documented. Many software vendors have integrated Twitter with their software. Public APIs are not always the case, so this is definitely something to analyze.

Now that we have provided an overview of the distinctions between expected and experimental channels as well as a framework for evaluation for experimental service channels. Look out for Part II, where we dive into specific channels to explore in 2016! 

Monday Dec 21, 2015

Oracle CPQ Cloud Is All About Customer Success at Oracle OpenWorld 2015

by Greg Swender, Product Marketing Director, Oracle CPQ Cloud, November 2015 

If you weren’t able to join us October for Oracle OpenWorld, we missed you! Luckily, there’s plenty of time to plan for the Modern CX Conference in Las Vegas this April. You won’t want to miss sessions with an even sharper focus on Oracle cloud solutions and Oracle CPQ Cloud. In the meantime, I’d like to share a few Oracle CPQ Cloud customer highlights from the event.

Our Customers Are the Best

First and foremost, I thank each of our customers who presented, participated in panels, spoke to media, or shared lessons learned within our ever-larger customer community. The loudest voices at the event were those of our successful customers. This trend started with Mark Hurd’s Monday keynote, in which GE Oil and Gas CIO Jim Fowler discussed the successful deployment of Oracle CPQ to replace a legacy quoting tool and become a more flexible, productive enterprise.

Increased productivity was a common customer theme at OpenWorld. Whether it was NOV discussing how CPQ dramatically reduced the need for allocation of scarce engineering resources on standard orders, or how Carefusion sales reps now spend less time on manual, administrative, and other “non-selling” activities—Oracle CPQ customers clearly get more value-added activity from internal resources. And since CPQ Cloud is a direct enabler of your sales process, more activity equals more sales. Who doesn’t need that?

User adoption, and best practices for increasing adoption, was another theme. Nowhere is user adoption more critical than within channel sales deployments. Oracle CPQ Cloud customer Fanuc shared how our easy-to-navigate, intuitive, and graphically rich UI helped drive user adoption. Another happy customer, Flowserve, shared a key to driving Oracle CPQ usage across distributor channels. Flowserve published steady streams of ERP information to Oracle CPQ—items such as lead times, inventory level, or order status. Access to this data, often locked within fulfillment systems and unavailable online, significantly improves channel interactions with end customers and boosts revenue for everyone involved.

Both of these themes connect with one more—the power of enterprise connectivity. Nearly every customer presentation included how Oracle CPQ Cloud has greatly increased the value and adoption of their CRM investment—whether that CRM is Oracle Sales Cloud or another choice. In fact, Oracle CPQ is proud to serve many of Salesforce.com’s largest customers and Oracle plans significant investment in this relationship for both the near term and foreseeable future.

This joint Salesforce.com/Oracle CPQ solution has proven especially valuable to those customers with an Oracle ERP solution. Integrating CPQ Cloud with Salesforce.com and Oracle E-Business Suite (EBS) enabled Schneider Electric, one of the largest companies in the world, to reduce order-entry times from hours to minutes in several global business divisions. Schneider Electric is only one of many Oracle EBS customers driving meaningful ROI through integrated Oracle EBS/CPQ Cloud and Salesforce CRM solutions. For more Oracle CPQ customer success and upcoming events, visit www.oracle.com/cpq

Be sure to mark your calendar for even more Oracle CPQ Cloud-focused sessions and extensive best practice discussion at the Modern Sales Experience in Las Vegas, April 26-28! 

Six Tech Trends That Will Affect Field Service in 2016

Year-end predictions may not always end up ringing true, but as we wrap up 2015 it’s worth taking a few moments to discuss how technology trends will continue to impact field service in the year to come. Some of these will look familiar – while others will be new or sound far-fetched – but it will be interesting to see how these play out over the next 12 months. It’s also a good time for field service organizations to take stock of where they stand technologically and how they’re prepared to meet the next generation of field service.


Service expectations are shaped by technology

The customer experience continues to be the linchpin of differentiation among price-competitive industries. Technology is a main driver of what customers expect in terms of service, and nowhere is this more evident than field service, the most personal of all customer interactions. Look for a constant focus on mobility as both consumers and field service organizations continue to migrate away from the desktop.


Internet of Things and Big Data get strategic

We’ve been talking about these two for a while now, and they’ll continue to be top of mind as businesses learn how to harness the power of both. IoT has matured from devices that merely connect or identify themselves to devices that can meaningfully engage and add value to business processes. Big Data will evolve, too, as a vital part of a holistic field service strategy. It’s the difference between saying “I’m here,” “I’m here, and this is how I can help,” and “I’m probably going to need to go there soon.” A lot of Big Data’s value to field service involves predicting the need for a field service visit before a problem even occurs.


Wearables finally happen (with an assist)

We’ve been waiting for wearables to prove their usefulness in field service, and it looks like a strategic partnership with augmented reality and video technology might be the answer. Paired with these technologies, smart glasses could be used to assist techs with complicated diagnostics or repairs, new processes, and even enhance safety by providing warnings or recall information.


Self-driving cars…sort of

Self-driving cars are having a moment, and while we can’t ignore it, we’re not ready to say that field service will be an early adopter. However, many of the on-board technologies that are already in use today – collision avoidance and maintenance alerts, for instance – could have significant impact on fleet management costs, with significant savings on insurance, maintenance and replacement. As organizations with large fleets upgrade their vehicles, look for these technologies to become part and parcel of field service’s day-to-day.


3D printing

With arts organizations, public libraries and products like Glowforge putting 3D printing within reach of more people, it’s all but inevitable that field service will find a way to leverage the technology – for instance, enabling a field technician to print a necessary part onsite rather than having to leave and come back or reschedule the appointment. The ability to print parts will also have impact on how businesses handle inventory, so it will be interesting to see how field service technology software responds to the opportunity of 3D printing.


Field employees become all knowing

Perhaps that’s overstating things a bit, but as businesses look for ways to differentiate through service, field technicians will be empowered to do more than just fix, deliver or install. Because mobile employees are often the only company representatives that customers meet in person, they will naturally get questions and requests outside the scope of the original task. With access to real-time information and knowledge repositories at their fingertips, field employees will continue to be on the front lines of the customer experience. And, as field service organizations begin to leverage some of the tech tools mentioned here, mobile employees will need be more tech-savvy in order to understand and perhaps troubleshoot the high-tech devices they’ll come to rely on. With tools like IoT, near-field communication, wearables and more in play, employees must have a comfort level beyond that of just a user.


Read more about how tech trends are set to impact field service in 2016 and beyond on the Oracle Customer Experience blog: “The Top Tech Trends Impacting the Future of Field Service Management” by Stephen Fioretti and “The Internet of Things is Here – Is Your Field Service Organization Ready?” by Christine Friscic.


Tuesday Dec 15, 2015

5 Essential Types of Field Service Visibility for Manufacturers

IDC Manufacturing Insights analyst Heather Ashton, in a recent blog post, discussed how emerging technology – particularly enterprise mobility – is helping manufacturing organizations meet rising customer expectations for superior service. Just as in traditional business-to-consumer scenarios, stellar customer service often hinges on the moment when a manufacturing organization is engaging with customers face-to-face – during a field service event.

“In the manufacturing sector, from high tech to industrial, much of the focus to date has been on equipping the field service technicians with the types of technologies…to enable faster, more precise, repairs that can also leverage experts who may not be physically with the equipment in need of repair,” says Ashton.

However, she also suggests that just having sophisticated field service capabilities for enabling technicians in the moment is not enough if you want to truly excel at customer service. “But, what about the other part of customer satisfaction, namely visibility into the status of a scheduled repair or site visit?”

Visibility into the status of a scheduled repair or site visit – for all stakeholders involved – is absolutely a critical component of a modern, customer-focused field service strategy. However, Oracle believes there are actually five types of field service visibility you should seek out if you want to be a customer service leader in the manufacturing sector (and drive surprising efficiencies along the way!).

1. Parts and Inventory: At the most basic level, a field service management solution should only assign work to a field service employee that has all the necessary parts and equipment to perform the necessary repair. However, what happens when the employee arrives on site only to find an unexpected scenario requiring an entirely different set of parts? That field service representative needs the ability to quickly determine the availability of the actual parts required to perform the fix, and a means for ordering those parts and scheduling a follow up visit if the part is not available at a nearby depot or on a team member’s truck.

2. On-Demand Knowledge: Having access to knowledge and context about a customer and their service history is important. But beyond an individual customer, field service employees need context for how a particular problem has been solved in the past, or how to troubleshoot when faced with a certain set of circumstances. Even better: a field service management solution should be able to understand which knowledge articles or manuals are most likely to be helpful for a particular job type, and automatically make that knowledge available at the exact moment it is needed.

3. Team: Dispatch teams can easily get visibility into the status of field service employees. However, what about field service team leaders or managers and dispatchers who spend their time away from the back office – out in the field, in the action? Most solutions today enable peer-to-peer collaboration between field service employees embedded directly in a mobile application. However, these highly mobile supervisors need a tool that blends the best of both worlds – offering dispatch-level, air traffic control views on a mobile device but also the capability to communicate directly with employees (in either a one-to-one or one-to-many style) to support tough jobs in progress or reorganize the schedule as the day unfolds.

4. Scheduling: Whether it is a customer scheduling or changing an appointment via an online, self-service portal or a contact center agent booking an appointment on behalf of a customer, it is important to provide a precise commitment to all parties. Gone are the days when it is acceptable to tell a customer someone will call them 48-hours prior to the scheduled appointment – only to offer a 4-hour appointment window! Customers and agents can leverage the visibility provided by data-driven field service solutions to schedule appointments much like booking a flight online – choosing the exact day and time that’s convenient for them and knowing the service will actually happen at that time.

5. Man/Machine Merge: The Internet of Things is rapidly becoming a standard element of field service operations in the manufacturing sector. Machines that self-diagnose or even predict future breakdowns drastically reduce time-to-resolution. Most field service management systems can accept an alert or work order generated by an asset, and dispatch the appropriate technician with all the right parts to fix the issue. However, what happens when a person also notices the problem, calls customer support and a separate work order is issued or another appointment is scheduled for the exact same problem? This dilemma highlights the need for manufacturing field service organizations to have complete visibility into both machine and human-generated service requests in a single view, and a process for removing duplicates from the system before two field service experts show up to fix the same problem.

If you don’t already have a plan for achieving all five types of visibility in your current field operations, it’s worth having a conversation with your team about which types of visibility would help them work more efficiently and deliver better customer service.

Thursday Dec 10, 2015

The Internet of Things is Here – is Your Field Service Organization Ready?

With billions of devices and sensors already connected, and that number increasing daily, it’s safe to say that the Internet of Things is disrupting life as we know it. Think about it – our every step is tracked via wearable fitness trackers. A smart thermostat can automatically adjust heating and cooling to optimize energy efficiency. Traffic patterns influence the way a smart traffic signal operates throughout the day. And, much like in our daily lives as consumers, the Internet of Things offers new opportunities for organizations across all industries. For organizations that provide services in the field – whether at a customer’s home or business – these opportunities can lead to significant boosts in operational efficiency and new levels of customer engagement and satisfaction.

By leveraging data constantly collected from connected devices and sensors, these organizations can better predict when services will be required and eventually, shift to a more proactive maintenance and repair model. This will not only reduce asset downtime and allow organizations to be more efficient in their field service planning, it will positively impact customer relationships. Imagine: before you even realize your air conditioner is broken, a field service technician is knocking on your front door to fix it. Or better yet, imagine that before the air conditioner ever even had an issue, the manufacturer predicted a problem and dispatched a field service technician to prevent any downtime at all.

Your field service organization can achieve smarter, streamlined field operations thanks to IoT, but you must start developing your IoT strategy today. Ready to get started? Check out our guide, Three Things That Your Field Service Organization Needs to Know About the Internet of Things (IoT), which outlines the top things you’ll need to know in order to start implementing a successful IoT strategy today. Download it here.

And, for more information on modern field service management with Oracle Field Service Cloud, visit www.oracle.com/goto/field-service.

Tuesday Dec 08, 2015

Transform Modern Social Service with Customer Communities

By Michelle Brusyo, Senior Product Manager, Oracle Service Cloud

Today’s consumers are more connected to social channels to support their daily lives than ever and they are no longer just looking to brands’ Facebook or Twitter sites directly for service. They are seeking help from their peers for quick and easy answers. Modern consumers are looking for ways to self-serve more often than using any assisted service channel according to Forrester Research. Companies are recognizing this social service trend and are using customer communities as another platform to enable customers to self-serve. In a December 2014 Gartner Research note, Nine CRM Projects to Do Right Now for Customer Service, Michael Maoz, Vice President, Distinguished Analyst writes, “Gartner clients who are successful in this space are still seeing on average a 20% reduction in the creation of support tickets following the introduction of peer-to-peer communities.”

Consumers are increasingly drawn to the customer community support channel because it provides insights and perspectives that add to the information they’re able to gather from company-provided content. By participating in peer-to-peer forums, customers feel empowered to share their experiences, helping others solve problems and make better purchasing decisions. As a channel, Community has become too important to consider separately from the rest of the web service experience.

In looking at social service trends and benefits, it’s important to strategically think about the customer community implementation and planning process. While launching a community can seem daunting, it can be easier if you think about your customer community as a core part of the web self-service experience and build your strategy from that viewpoint. We also recommend that as you get started, you gather internal teams to talk through these top questions that arise when planning for a new or revamped community:

  1. How can we ensure that our community look and feel resonates with customers?
    One of the top reasons we revamped our Community product in August 2015 was to make it easier for companies to quickly stand up a community that shares the same look and feel and uses the same tools as well as resources across the entire Web Service experience. This way, the experience looks the same across all elements of the customer service journey.

  2. How will our customers know about our new community? 
    As a first step towards creating an active community, you’ll need an internal champion. Many companies define a new role of ‘Community Manager’ to take on the responsibility of owning the strategy, promotion and moderation oversight. Once you’ve given ownership of this channel to a champion or team, seed the community with early activity from key customers, industry leaders, expert employees, etc. Promote the community across your web properties as well as organize social media and email marketing campaigns to advertise to your customer base.

  3. How do we approach moderation and agent participation?
    It’s a difficult balance to allow for honest, authentic customer conversations, while still maintaining the ability to guide and moderate that content. Some things that help companies do this well include the creation (and publication) of clear community guidelines so visitors know what type of content is and is not appropriate to post. Moderation strategies work best when the goal is maintaining a safe, friendly and productive environment.

  4. How can we ensure our customers looking for help have easy access to this great peer-generated content?
    This is one area where companies have historically struggled because communities typically exist as a standalone, separate experience. With this approach, customers would need to navigate away from the company’s content in order to access information posted in the community. By thinking of communities differently, combining the community and web self-service experience, companies like Oracle Service Cloud are changing the way customers access community answers from anywhere in their service journey.

  5. How can we use community data and insights to make our customer service experience even better?
    When companies approach communities as an integrated part of a connected, cross-channel service experience, a wealth of new analytics become available. Think about the types of insights you’d like to get from the ways your customers utilize the community as compared to, or in addition to, other channels. This type of data can provide powerful insights about potential knowledge or information gaps as well as customer preferences.

These days, support communities and web self-service really are two sides of the same coin. It no longer makes sense to maintain these customer engagement platforms separately, as the real benefits emerge from the combination of both experiences being available to customers in a seamless fashion. Customer communities will only continue to grow in popularity as the trend of greater reliance on self-service channels continues. If you’re not providing a platform to support the conversations customers want to have with each other, you’ll miss a huge opportunity to guide and participate as well as utilize your customer community as a self-service channel or knowledge source.

Click here to download the full Expert Guide to Powering Modern Customer Communities.

Monday Dec 07, 2015

Connecting Your Business with Oracle CPQ Cloud

Tim Lavers is a CPQ Strategic Account Director with the Oracle CPQ Cloud team. He has over ten years experience of selling into Tier 1 companies and discusses CPQ below:

Throughout my sales career I have been involved in solution selling. This has ultimately involved creating sales bill of materials (BoM) for the customer based on their requirements. This BoM would vary size and complexity depending on the solution required by the customer.  Nearly always the BoM would include a number of different elements, or parts, that combine to form an end product to match the customer’s needs. This becomes part of the “quote” for the customer.

In many organisations the system, or systems, used to produce these quotes are often disconnected with either the sales systems or back office delivery systems. Many companies put their trust in spreadsheets and home grown solutions for this critical activity in the sales process. This can result in a number of issues including incorrect quotes, misunderstanding, in-correct orders, re-work and ultimately, dissatisfaction on the part of the customer.

I was dealing with a large customer recently and they had this exact issue on a global scale. At the last count they had fourteen, yes fourteen, separate systems from lead-to-quote.  The customer had various tools, products and processes (involving complex financial deal calculations and validation) that were very time consuming. Their siloed systems resulted in decreased sales productivity and lacked strategic sales opportunities, which ultimately lost them business.

Oracle worked with the customer and a partner to implement Oracle CPQ Cloud (CPQ), a solution that allowed this customer to automate and accelerate the lead-to-quote process. The need to configure, price and quote is obviously not new but having it fully automated and integrated with other key systems is the key to enabling many businesses to generate more revenue, and to drive productivity and profitability.

The key to success at this organization was to give the sales agent a seamless integrated CPQ solution that meant they felt they were simply using their CRM solution rather than two solutions. By having a seamless integration of Oracle CPQ cloud with their CRM solution the started to see improvements in adoption, consistency and accuracy of their sales organisation. Ultimately this increased the credibility of the sales organisation as a whole and, obviously, helped them hit their targets.

With 50% of deals going to the first vendor to respond (insideSales.com) speed to quote is paramount.  Early CPQ adopters have seen 27% shorter sales cycles (Aberdeen Research) which lead to more quotes being delivered faster and more ultimately more revenue.

This customer saw the following benefits:

  • 2.5 week average quote time reduced to a just a few hours
  • 100% pipeline accuracy across the business
  • Cross and upsell capabilities to maximise revenue
  • Better deal accuracy with built in optimisation calculations leading to larger and more deals

Do you have similar problems

Feel free to look here: Oracle CPQ Cloud for solutions to optimise your sales cycle, Oracle CPQ is native to most major CRM solutions. 


Thursday Dec 03, 2015

Delivering Effortless Knowledge Everywhere

By Jodie Knox, Principal Product Manager, Oracle Service Cloud 

In today’s digital economy, customers want effortless engagements and answers to their questions regardless of how they connect with a brand. The challenge is now there’s a broad mix in how customers want to reach your brand from self-service, voice, email, social media, or even live video chat. Complications come when customers receive different information or customer service experiences depending on the channel they use to contact you. In order to deliver the right knowledge, at the right time, knowledge must be everywhere; it must underpin the entire customer experience. 

In fact, according to Forrester Research's September 2015 report Vendor Landscape: Knowledge Management for Customer Engagement, "Knowledge delivered to the customer or the customer-facing employee at the right time in the customer engagement process is critical to a successful interaction," wrote Kate Leggett, vice president and principal analyst, Forrester Research. "When done correctly, deeper knowledge can be used to personalize an interaction, increase customer satisfaction, reduce call handle time, lead to operational efficiencies, increase customer engagement, and ultimately drive conversion and revenue."

So how do we provide knowledge everywhere? In a way that is consistent, yet easily accessible to customers and agents when and where they need? It all starts with understanding our audience, and delivering consistent answers across all channels and powering knowledge everywhere in the context of their interaction.  For more insights, check out these…

Five Tips for Delivering Customer Knowledge Everywhere

Tip 1 – Create a single knowledge platform and deliver Relevant Answers from all sources

Delivery of consistent answers across all channels requires knowledge to support both customers and agents in a single platform. The use of the term platform is important; understanding you may have multiple repositories, however content should be displayed or delivered in one single view. Ideally customers should be able to see all content related to their question in one single interface, regardless of where the content is actually located. It’s critical to understand that providing customers with relevant answers goes beyond your curated knowledgebase. Knowledge can come in the form of customer community posts, documents such as manuals or technical specs, customer forums, and social sites such as Facebook or Twitter. Enable your customers to find relevant content in one single view regardless of its location. By taking advantage of federated search, organizations can find and display knowledge in one single interface regardless of where it is located, including the knowledgebase, other content stores and social sites.

Tip 2 – Optimize your content

Delivering knowledge everywhere is not only about offering knowledge, but offering the right knowledge at the right time. Optimizing your content is a critical step. Optimizing knowledge starts with thinking about your content in the context of the targeted audience. Knowledge should be written with the voice of the customer in mind - use your customers’ language – not company jargon.  Providing content in the context and language of the customer interaction will ensure customers find the answers they are looking for the first time. Online knowledge should be tailored to customer segments when appropriate; this will not only help to improve self-service success, but will also help improve search results. Additionally, think about utilizing a knowledge search platform that captures learning based on content relevancy and customer interaction to provide your customer with the best possible answer, while simplifying search query. 

Tip 3 – Deliver the Right Knowledge to the Right Audience, in the Right Channel

Delivering knowledge everywhere means extending your knowledge to where your customers want and need it. The modern customer is very mobile; customers are more likely to visit a website via a mobile device as their first option for support. Which means your customers will expect to be able to contact your brand through their mobile device. Putting knowledge in the hands of your customers on their mobile devices is now even more important than ever. Knowledge must be extended beyond self-service pages. Knowledge widgets and REST APIs can be used to embed knowledge where it’s needed – directly in a product, appliance, game console and mobile app. Go beyond self service pages to make knowledge accessible from any device or system your customers may be using when they need information.

Tip 4 – Empower customers

Knowledge everywhere, includes pulling as well as pushing knowledge. Leveraging your customers’ collective knowledge of your product or services can provide substantial benefits. Enable customers to discuss, rate and subscribe to answers within your knowledge. Allowing customers to provide feedback and rate your knowledge will not only help to improve the quality, but it can help to understand the value or gaps in knowledge content. Taking it one step further through customer communities, helps customers become knowledge contributors. Social knowledge learning captures collaborative interactions in the community. Connect stakeholders – such as content authors or community members – who can provide the most relevant and engaging responses. Harnessing learning’s from your community can also help to create dynamic knowledge articles for your customer facing service agents.

Tip 5 – Mind the gap; Continually improve

Knowledge everywhere is only effective if the knowledge you deliver is satisfactory and useful for your customers and agents. Keeping knowledge consistent, current, and effective throughout your organization means you never stop monitoring the quality of your knowledge. Utilize analytics reports to understand which articles have the highest and lowest deflection rate, which answers are being used most frequently, or even which answers aren’t getting viewed at all. Eliminating unused or ineffective answers will help users find the right information more quickly. Identify gaps in knowledge by assessing usage and success rates, and also by looking at customer and agent searches to understand which search queries aren’t yielding results. Once content gaps have been identified, it’s important to prioritize efforts to fill the gaps. Since it’s unlikely your knowledge base will ever be completely free of content gaps you’ll want to continually focus on addressing the highest priority gaps.

When knowledge is enabled everywhere and maintained properly, it can transform the customer experience. An excellent customer service experience means that customers get a satisfactory answer to their questions quickly and effortlessly. 89% of customers surveyed by Accenture[1] said that ‘speed of response / resolution’ was the most important aspect of customer service, regardless of the channel. Empowering your customers and agents to efficiently and easily answer questions with consistency will not only result in greater customer satisfaction, but loyalty!

[1] Accenture 2013 Global Consumer Pulse Survey

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