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Data Utilization & Analytics

Defining the Customer Intelligence Platform and Why You Should Care

Have you ever been talking with a service person and had to repeat yourself?  Of course you have. We all have, and we all hate it. It still happens even in 2019 and when it happens once, that’s one time too many. When we engage with a brand, we don’t care how its service or marketing departments are set up. We just want our issues resolved, quickly.  When each and every interaction with a brand is an opportunity to please and delight that customer, forcing them to provide the same information again and again creates a terrible brand experience. The problem begins with the data! When every customer interaction operates as its own distinct conversation, each touch – marketing, sales, logistics, delivery, service, loyalty - produces more siloed data, making a single view of the customer impossible. Without a single view of the customer, delivering a great, consistent experience across the customer journey itself is impossible. Consumer Data Platform (CDP) Solutions Fall Short CDPs have emerged with a promise that they’ll enable marketers to unify their customer data across their organization, and activate audiences across the broader ecosystem to deliver consistent experiences across channels. CDPs are the latest step in the evolution of data management systems that use data from platforms such as CRM systems and data management platforms to help you get a 360-degree view of your customers, and deliver unified customer experiences. But, point CDP solutions generally fail to provide a unified customer profile to all systems across the enterprise. The key problem is they’re too narrowly focused and do not consider the entire end-to-end customer experience across marketing, sales, service, loyalty, commerce, etc. The customer information contained in a CDP is of value to everyone across the company, not just to marketing. In its October 2018 report “For B2C Marketers, Customer Data Platforms Overpromise and Underdeliver.” Forrester states that “CDPs lack crucial capabilities to solve for identity resolution, data hygiene, and cross-channel orchestration.” The analyst firm further notes that without these capabilities, CDPs “can’t meet enterprise B2C marketers’ expectations for personalized and targeted customer engagement.” The Next Evolution Is The Customer Intelligence Platform (CIP) CIPs incorporate anonymous, third-party data as well as first-party known data to provide a complete understanding of the customer. They have a layer of intelligence that uses machine learning for predictive models and recommendations to produce more powerful and actionable insights. CIPs share those insights with any other system to enable sales, service, marketing, commerce, field service, finance, social and others with more, better intelligence. For example, if a customer is interacting with a service agent to report an issue, it’s imperative the sales system informs the agent that this is a high value customer who just made a major purchase. Similarly, if a customer has an open support ticket, it’s crucial that marketing system informs the marketer to not to include that customer in a marketing campaign until their issue is resolved. It’s infuriating to get a marketing email from a brand asking you to refer a friend or consider an additional purchase, when you're having service issues. This approach enables the brand to optimize customer engagement and helps to improve customer satisfaction and increases customer lifetime value. The Oracle Customer Intelligence Platform The customer relationship with brands is in constant motion. As marketing, sales, commerce, and service professionals, we must adapt to these shifts or they’ll take their business elsewhere. At Oracle, we launched our customer intelligence system at OpenWorld 2018, called CX Unity. It's a behavioral, transactional system that allows you to dive into the key intelligence about your customers and use it to optimize a process, whether service, sales, marketing or commerce. CX Unity applies that data-driven intelligence to determine the next best experience by feeding those actions directly into Oracle and non-Oracle applications. The Power of a Customer Intelligence Platform Connected Customer Profiles Oracle CX Unity connects and unifies all of your customer data together in context, in motion, and in real-time, regardless of source or size. This ensures that each and every customer interaction is data-driven. Across the entire customer lifecycle, we are identifying and building profiles, capturing each customer’s key event data to help better understand passions, interests, needs and attentions. With built-in ID resolution, CX Unity unifies and resolves customer identities across all disparate systems to build a single, unified customer profile for each customer. It captures events based on behavioral data, not just profile ID’s that it collects, but it analyzes what those profiles are doing behaviorally at the granular, individual level in real time. Enriched for Personalization While most marketers’ view of the customer may stop and end here, there is so much more about your customers that you simply just can’t glean from various sources.  CX Unity has an enrichment layer that provides seamless access to the world’s largest 3rd party data market, the Oracle Data Cloud. You can learn much more about your customers such as geo-demographics, estimated net worth, family size, offline shopping behaviors, intent and much more. Augment your connected customer profiles with data enrichment that blends second and third party probabilistic data with first party deterministic data to provide a true understanding of your customers’ intent for hyper-personalization. Intent-curated Segmentation A single view of the customer is great. But, that view doesn't mean much unless it’s actionable. With built-in predictive modeling and machine learning algorithms, CX Unity provides deep, granular, segmentation-of-one scale across as much data as you want, in real time. With segmentation as a core offering, it allows you to centralize audience creation and then execute those audiences across your entire CX ecosystem. AI/Machine Learning is natively embedded, allowing you to pick the best audiences for your campaigns. Actionable Customer Analytics Detailed analytics provide a deep understanding on why something performed the way it did. Often, causality is still hard to identify when you are looking at terabytes of engagement data. A detailed root cause analysis helps you optimize your campaigns by taking actions straight from the analytics. Seamless Experiences After you decide what experiences you want to serve your customers, you have to actually deliver them. Customers don’t think in channels. They expect an individualized experience wherever, whenever and however they interact with the brand. Great experiences should be delivered through every channel - direct mail, contact center, email, mobile, social, your website, and through advertising channels like search and display. CX Unity enables one-to-one personalization at scale. Create faster time to value with out-of-the-box integrations and a push-button ability to build and publish segments into Oracle and non-Oracle applications. More and more, we see the most innovative companies are starting to compete on this type of holistic experience, and Oracle is the only vendor that has the pre-integrated and industry leading solutions across this entire range of CX. You don’t need to take our word for it, we were cited as a leader in The Forrester Wave™: Digital Experience Platforms, Q3 2019. Your customers deserve a great experience whenever they interact with your brand. CX Unity enables companies to deliver contextually aware and highly personalized experiences that delight customers whenever and however they engage with them, improving customer satisfaction and increasing greater customer lifetime value. For more information, visit oracle.com/cx-unity              

Have you ever been talking with a service person and had to repeat yourself?  Of course you have. We all have, and we all hate it. It still happens even in 2019 and when it happens once, that’s one...

Ask the Experts

How Intelipost Revolutionized the Logistics Industry in Brazil and is Coming to a Market Near You

Brazil’s freight market has been transformed thanks to Intelipost’s SaaS solution that’s managing a fragmented logistics network of over 70k companies. And Intelipost has no intention of stopping with the Brazilian market as they’re also developing with international scale in mind. In this Q&A, I interview Stefan Rehm, Founder of Oracle Cloud Marketplace Technology Partner, Intelipost. We cover the role that freight management plays in the overall customer experience and how new innovations like blockchain will further revolutionize the industry and push the envelope of what we consider to be a good experience. Q - Tell us about Intelipost and what makes your solution unique. Intelipost was founded by Gabriel Drummond and me in 2014 with the purpose of solving one of Brazil’s biggest logistics problems: the lack of a standard freight market, especially given Brazil’s vast size, combined with a large number of small delivery players made freight process management difficult. While the country has plenty of logistics companies, very few provide cross-country service and even fewer have transparent processes around pricing and tracking. We set out to fix this by building a single platform, SaaS solution to facilitate the management of the entire shipping process from quoting to reverse logistics and auditing. After 5 years of hard work integrating with the various transport providers, today Intelipost is a leading technology company in transportation management and intelligence, integrating e-commerce, marketplaces, retailers, industries, and carriers to provide total visibility of order statuses in a real-time schedule. Based in trustworthy cloud technologies, the platform currently integrates with 2,000+ stores and 350+ carriers, resulting in annual reoccurring revenue of $3M per year. Q - How does Intelipost help provide a better experience for eCommerce customers? An end user customer checks the status of their delivery an average of seven times throughout the process. With the Intelipost solution, shippers, such as e-commerce businesses, retailers, and wholesalers, can track all business deliveries and automate the associated order status notifications to keep customers informed throughout the entire shipment journey. Keeping the customer informed helps the Customer Service Line focus on proactive actions in the event of delivery problems and improve the final delivery experience. Q - Intelipost has also been part of the Oracle Global Startup Program. Can you tell us about that experience? This opportunity has enabled us to learn a great deal while collaborating with other startups that are developing solutions that will have a real impact on the market. We’re working closely with Oracle’s strategic professionals to develop new ideas that will improve business areas like sales and marketing, as well as expose us to new sales opportunities with Oracle. We’re very proud to be the first Brazilian company to launch on Oracle’s Global Marketplace Platform. Q - During your time in Oracle’s accelerator, you developed a blockchain solution that tracks an asset throughout the supply chain cycle. Could you provide some details on this solution and discuss why it’s disruptive? Last year we participated in the Logistics Tech Challenge, an event where 23 different possible uses of blockchain were detected in different spheres of transport and freight. Meaning that several gaps were identified that can be addressed through the use of blockchain. With our blockchain solution, we were able to deliver a faster integration time than our current solution. Blockchain also helps to simplify the process of auditing and validation and enables a more secure supply chain cycle that is less susceptible to fraud. Finally, by centralizing the transit information, anyone with the access key has full, real-time visibility into a package’s status along the route to its final destination. To better understand how Intelipost is leveraging blockchain, take a look at this video. Q - What does the next generation of logistics management look like from your perspective? Thinking forward, the next generation of logistics management is bigger than Intelipost and does not just depend on us. I believe we will have to work together with other companies and shippers to dedicate ourselves to the consolidation of the logistics community by building new technologies (like blockchain) and integrating them into the market in order to positively impact the overall customer experience.              

Brazil’s freight market has been transformed thanks to Intelipost’s SaaS solution that’s managing a fragmented logistics network of over 70k companies. And Intelipost has no intention of stopping with...

Customer Experience

The ROI of Visual Engagement

In my last blog, Humanize your CX Strategy with Visual Engagement, I discussed the positive impact that visual engagement can bring to a company’s omnichannel CX strategy. Let’s break it down further to understand the significant return of investment (ROI) attained from customer adoption of visual channels. Companies that adopt visual channels could expect to see a wide range of benefits. Higher Customer Satisfaction (CSAT) Research indicates that visual engagement is a powerful real-time concept that enables agents and their customers to reduce conversation clutter, better understand each other, and drastically save time in problem resolution. This drives an overall positive customer experience and leads to higher customer satisfaction (CSAT) rates for the company. Improved Net Promoter Score (NPS) Companies use CSAT as a foundational measurement to help aim for long-term customer loyalty. Companies often conduct frequent surveys of their high-value customers to ensure their continued product and service satisfaction. An important metric of such surveys is the Net Promoter Score (NPS). Visual channels go a long way toward increasing long-term NPS, initially originating from high CSAT. Reduced Visitor Abandonment Rate In the retail sector, a positive online shopping experience is often the most important factor when it comes to converting web site visitors into buyers. Companies make significant investments toward creating simple and seamless user experiences for their online visitors. By combining a great user experience with helpful services options, companies can significantly reduce visitor abandonment rates. Companies can increase their conversions rates by up to 2.5X with the inclusion of visual channels to assist the overall visitor experience. Reduced Customer Churn While it’s extremely rewarding for companies to successfully convert web site visitors into buyers, it is equally important to nurture, delight and retain existing customers through smart customer service. Research shows that companies have experienced 9.5X customer retention rates after the adoption of visual channels to differentiate their customer service, from competitors that lacked these channels. Higher First Call Resolution (FCR) Rate Imagine when a customer has to repeatedly call the customer service department on the same topic multiple times because their original problem wasn’t resolved the first time. It’s happened to all of us. This is a classic recipe for customer anger, stress, frustration and churn! The essence of visual engagement is all about being able to see, engage and resolve customer issues and goes a long way toward promoting first call resolution (FCR) and preventing customer callbacks. Increased Brand Recognition & Differentiation Adding visual channels to a company’s omnichannel portfolio can increase popularity, loyalty and brand advocacy from delighted customers through differentiated customer service. Higher Upsell and Cross-Sell Opportunities With companies reaping the benefit of long-term customer loyalty and brand recognition from visual channel adoption, sales and marketing departments are more empowered to upsell and cross-sell the company’s products. Companies in the late stages of maturity with visual channel adoption have experienced an impressive 81% higher year-on-year increase in revenue than their revenue prior to adopting visual channels. Conclusion As you can see, the bang for the buck with visual engagement is evident. Oracle Service Cloud recognizes the positive impact that visual channels bring to a customer’s omnichannel portfolio, and enables video chat, co-browse, and screen sharing capabilities to bolster the overall customer experience. For more information on the use cases, features and capabilities of these offerings, please refer the Video Chat Data Sheet and Co-browse Data Sheet or simply leave a comment and I’ll respond.  

In my last blog, Humanize your CX Strategy with Visual Engagement, I discussed the positive impact that visual engagement can bring to a company’s omnichannel CX strategy. Let’s break it down further...

Data Utilization & Analytics

The New Rules and Tools for Sales Success - It’s All about the Data!

Sales teams: Are you still sending out high-volume, impersonalized email blasts to potential customers? That’s no way to win and serve customers in today’s world. There has been a revolutionary shift in how consumers make purchase decisions. In today’s Experience Economy, it’s personalize or die. The Experience Economy is everywhere, and it means that consumers now want more than just the delivery of goods and services—they expect companies and brands to deliver an exceptional, memorable, and engaging buying experience along the way. These expectations aren’t just when consumers are shopping online or browsing through Netflix. The lines between B2B and B2C buying habits are blurring, which means B2B buyers now expect easy, B2C-like consumption. For them, the process of purchasing a complex machine or service needs to be as convenient as receiving groceries ordered online two hours ago. Price is no longer the all-important element in the buying process. Today, it’s just one element of that journey. Businesses have to earn the trust of their customers and establish deeper and more direct relationships with them. The Experience Economy Engine So, what’s the engine powering the Experience Economy's hyper-personalized buying journey? The answer is artificial intelligence (AI) and clean, smart data. The power of any AI application lies in the data it consumes. By tapping data-driven AI, forward-thinking organizations are making better decisions faster to meet their customer needs and bypass the competition. Adopting AI empowers teams, makes them more effective, and saves time by automating steps and predicting outcomes. For example, AI allows machines to take over mundane tasks such as filling in Excel sheets, monitoring orders, scheduling meetings, and qualifying leads so sales reps can focus on more important work: building relationships, winning new customers, and growing existing accounts. AI can not only identify leads, but also predict solutions and suggest products that a potential customer may need. It can help businesses digitally connect with customers through tools such as chatbots, which can help interpret buyers' questions and complete orders for them. By using AI to respond quickly and efficiently to messages, customers feel valued, which translates into continued engagement—and, ultimately, repeat business. Full-Circle Customer Experience In other words, those without this powerful tool are destined to be left behind. They will continue to have little insight about the lead they’re about to call or the company they are trying to do business with. They also won’t know if someone else in their seat two years ago already spoke to that potential customer. That’s not a good customer experience. While AI is a must-have tool, it’s important to understand that it’s only as good as the data feeding it. That’s why having clean, robust, and consistently updated data in your CRM and marketing automation systems is crucial for teams employing AI. For instance, basic data includes where a company is located, its size, details about past interactions, and whether it’s growing or not. This is important data to have and must be updated continually. Deeper, contextual data, however, will provide more nuanced and actionable information. For example, it can automatically inform a salesperson when an organization experiences a change that could trigger a purchase need and decision. Let’s say a company just hired a new chief security officer. A software security sales rep would want to know this right away. Why? Because new leaders typically want to shake things up and buying new equipment, software, or services is often a first step. An AI program would automatically give you a real-time alert on this change in leadership. This type of automated and instant information can be a goldmine for the professional sales rep because they’re able to deliver what the customer wants exactly when they need it. This is what winning looks like in the Experience Economy. The idea of jumping into AI and big data can seem intimidating, but the smart way to bring AI into a business is to start small. Most important, AI is a powerful weapon rendered useless if the data in the CRM and in applications isn’t reliable or accurate. So, get going by adding a little automation here, an AI widget that makes suggestions there. Slowly but surely, your organization will start getting deeper, real-time insights on buyers and will be ready to engage customers in an enhanced personalized experience that offers a unique competitive advantage. Click to read The Impact of Emerging Technology on CX Excellence. We surveyed 465 global CX professionals to understand how how emerging technologies such as the Internet of Things, artificial intelligence, digital assistants, and augmented reality will affect customer loyalty and brand performance within the next five years.  

Sales teams: Are you still sending out high-volume, impersonalized email blasts to potential customers? That’s no way to win and serve customers in today’s world. There has been a revolutionary shift...

Customer Experience Strategy

How to Thrive in the Experience Economy—and How Oracle CX Unity Is More than a CDP

Today’s customers—both B2B and B2C—are firmly in the driver’s seat of the “Experience Economy,” a once-in-a-generation shift of power from brands to buyers. Customers place more value in the customer experience (CX) than in the goods and services themselves—and they’re adopting new technologies to get exactly what they want, where, when, and how they want it. As such, their customer journey is no longer predictable and linear. The B2C and B2B worlds have morphed into B2Me, where friction can make or break your customer relationships. With customers driving the evolution of CX at breakneck speeds, how can businesses keep pace, let alone thrive? The answer lies within their customer data—countless data points from many different sources (sales, marketing, service, commerce, point of sale, field service, finance, community, social, etc.). The problem? Harnessing that data into a single, dynamic view of the customer so you can market to a segment of one, on an enterprise scale. Unpacking Customer Data Platforms Data is the currency of the Experience Economy. The ability to organize it, gain insights from it, and then use it as fuel to power contextual experiences across the customer journey—whatever path that takes—is critical.  Entering the scene in recent years are customer data platforms (CDPs). CDPs are software solutions designed to create a single, unified, and continuous customer database accessible by other systems throughout the organization. They should allow for a comprehensive view of each customer, yielding the ability to offer personalized content and customized delivery. They should be able to predict a customer’s future actions as well, allowing for more personalized experiences throughout the customer’s journey. CDPs are usually managed by marketers and are structured to support campaign management, marketing analyses, and business intelligence. But many enterprises are not achieving these results with existing CDP solutions on the market. Most CDPs are offered by startups whose solutions can address only narrow marketing use cases in either B2B or B2C scenarios, but not both. Most fail to create a truly singular view of the customer, as they are able to incorporate only marketing digital interaction data and nothing else. Their models and algorithms aren’t modifiable by the customer, providing a “one size fits all” approach that doesn’t work across industries and business models. More recently, we’ve seen the entry of enterprise content and CRM vendors into the CDP space that promise to deliver true CDP solutions. At Oracle, we think delivering an enterprise-grade CDP—a customer intelligence platform—isn’t about point solutions, content, or CRM—it’s about expertise in managing data at scale. It is an extremely difficult engineering task to corral demographic data, transactional data, and behavioral data and to integrate it across devices and channels to create a complete, connected, insightful, and actionable customer profile. That’s why thriving in the Experience Economy requires a partner that has data at the core of its business—and its solutions. More Than a CDP: Oracle CX Unity Customer Intelligence Platform  Oracle CX Unity helps enterprises thrive in the Experience Economy by weaving their disparate customer data—from marketing, sales, commerce, and service—into strategic intelligence. It merges online, offline, and third-party data to create a single source of real-time customer truth, helping eliminate the “blind spots” that prevent so many enterprises from better understanding their customers and delivering richer interactions.  What’s more, CX Unity goes one step further than the broader CDP market by applying built-in artificial intelligence (AI) and machine learning to prescribe the optimal experience within existing business processes. Here are some real-life scenarios that illustrate the Oracle CX Unity difference: You’re ready to execute a marketing campaign. Since Oracle CX Unity ingests service records, you might want to suppress customers who are having significant service issues, allowing their sole experience with your brand to be focused on their upcoming solution. You manage your company’s website and know that 70 percent of your visits are anonymous. Wouldn’t it be great to turn half of that 70 percent into known visitors? Oracle CX Unity can help.  Your customer Rick buys wine from your online retail business. In addition to knowing that Rick enjoys wine, a third-party data source from Oracle CX Unity tells you that he also likes fine foods, hiking, and travel. Now you can build a deeper, richer relationship with Rick by offering content and products that speak to all his preferences. You’re a sales representative for an insurance company that just released a new product. In Oracle CX Unity, you can see at a glance which existing customers are most engaged and have the greatest propensity for this new product. Offering a connected customer profile, comprehensive customer intelligence, and personalization across the entire customer experience, Oracle CX Unity allows your brand to drive at the same hypersonic speeds as your customers. Learn more about how Oracle CX Unity can help you create personalized, differentiated customer experiences.   Click to read The Impact of Emerging Technology on CX Excellence. We surveyed 465 global CX professionals to understand how how emerging technologies such as the Internet of Things, artificial intelligence, digital assistants, and augmented reality will affect customer loyalty and brand performance within the next five years.  

Today’s customers—both B2B and B2C—are firmly in the driver’s seat of the “Experience Economy,” a once-in-a-generation shift of power from brands to buyers. Customers place more value in the customer...

Customer Success Stories

Have You Joined The Experience Economy? Consider These 4 Tenets

Attracting customers and keeping them happy requires companies to do more than just churn out new and innovative products. It requires them to build a deeper understanding of how customers will consume those products, whether to grow their businesses or enrich their personal lives. "This is the essence of the 'experience economy, '" says Oracle Executive Vice President Rob Tarkoff, who is in charge of Oracle’s CX strategy and development. Unlike the industrial and service economies, “in the experience economy customers are the innovators in the way they engage with brands and how they use their offerings,” he said. To cash in on the experience economy, Tarkoff advises companies to adopt artificial intelligence to instantly capture data about their customers, apply analytics to that data in real time, and then immediately present relevant offers. “That will be your competitive advantage,” Tarkoff said. But to deliver such capabilities, companies’ “customer-facing business functions need to be silo-free, and connected to customers along a marketing, sales, service, and commerce continuum,” he said. Tarkoff shared four tenets of the experience economy: 1. Help customers discover exactly what they’re looking for—in the precise moments they need it. Exceptional customer experiences begin with “hyper-personalization,” a practice that goes beyond audience segmentation. Rather than target people based on common attributes or demographic groupings, companies need to capture their customers’ browsing patterns, content interests, and purchase histories in precise “micro-moments,” and then respond with tailored offers in milliseconds.  2. Facilitate ways for customers to engage with your company, on their terms. For Boston-based Radius Bank, “it’s really important to provide a community bank feeling, while also having state-of-the-art technologies to support a self-service, digital banking business model,” says Christina Shortall, vice president of customer experience. In addition to letting its customers across the US deposit checks and pay bills from their mobile devices, the bank’s website features a self-service searchable knowledge base, an automated email response form, and a chatbot named Rae. Using Oracle Service Cloud Digital Assistant, Radius customers can ask Rae how to open a savings account or find their tax documents. If for some reason Rae can’t answer their questions, the application triggers an escalation to a live agent.   Since rolling out the virtual assistant, the bank’s Net Promoter Score, a measure of a company’s customer loyalty, has increased 20%. 3. Let customers subscribe to your range of products, rather than make them pay to own specific ones. Can’t decide whether to buy an SUV for your family or lease a convertible for yourself? For about $2,700 a month, a 32-day minimum commitment, and a $575 activation fee, BMW will let you drive them both. The German carmaker introduced a tiered subscription service last April that lets customers switch among five or six different vehicles as many times as they want. The subscription covers insurance, maintenance, and roadside assistance. Using in-vehicle sensors, BMW tracks the mileage, fuel consumption, and fluid levels of each vehicle and then crafts a pricing plan that includes monthly allowances, with the ability to tack on fees if drivers exceed their subscription limits. “The business opportunity to build recurring customer relationships and predictable revenue streams is tremendous,” Tarkoff says. 4. Create an integrated service organization to build relationships with more loyal, higher-margin customers. At Brother International, the 65-year-old manufacturer of printers, sewing machines, and label makers, great customer service is becoming everyone’s responsibility. By consolidating its digital marketing, direct e-commerce, and customer service operations into a single customer experience center of excellence, the company’s customer-facing employees will be able to see, for example, new social posts as they come in from Q&As and reviews on the sites of its retail partners. Depending on the type of comment, a service agent, marketer, or sales rep can directly engage with each customer. “We’re able to see exactly which products or features our customers love, and which ones they’re having problems with,” says Jessica Campbell, program manager of customer experience at Brother. “We’re also able to see what those problems are, and then not only quickly resolve the individual incident, but also analyze all of the feedback from each of our customers so that we can either re-engineer our products or change the way we support them,” Campbell says. In the experience economy, every department shares ownership of the customer, Oracle’s Tarkoff says. “Whoever gets to the customer first,” he says, “needs to be given the tools and authority to earn her trust, win her business, and keep her happy.” Read the full article on Forbes here.      

Attracting customers and keeping them happy requires companies to do more than just churn out new and innovative products. It requires them to build a deeper understanding of how customers...

Ask the Experts

How Pierce Washington Helps B2B Organizations Create B2C-Like Experiences

Consumers were quick to adopt the convenience offered by online shopping, and now B2B customers want the same. Some products simply pair better together and that’s certainly proven to be the case for B2B commerce and Configure, Price, Quote Solutions. In this Q&A, I interview Austin Lowry, Vice President, eCommerce with Oracle Commerce Cloud System Integration Partner, Pierce Washington. He dives into what differentiates a B2B customer from their B2C counterpart and how Pierce Washington helps meet the unique needs of this customer group. We all know that retailers and merchants are facing major disruption. What are some of the biggest challenges and opportunities for more traditional B2B organizations? I think distributors are the businesses truly feeling that first wave of disruption, and it’s similar to what the retail industry has been facing for a few years now. Retail customers searching for a feature rich, more convenient shopping experience turn to Amazon because it’s a convenient, one-stop shop. Or they go direct to the manufacturer, which can provide a premium experience because of their intimate product knowledge. B2B isn’t that dissimilar as distributors, like Grainger and Ferguson, innovate on their eCommerce offerings. As a result of this success, Amazon has been finding its way into the B2B space while at the same time manufacturers are becoming less afraid of channel conflict and going directly to customers. That’s not to say that manufacturers are immune to disruption. Distributors and customers are comparing experiences, which make it easier to find local dealers, repair information, replacement parts, or to self-service the sales cycle online. These are experiences they leverage when given a choice. Product quality and cost are no longer the lone deciding factors for customers. What types of solutions are available for these B2B organizations? We are just now starting to see B2B point solutions come together to create connected experiences. eCommerce platforms that support B2B, Configure Price Quote solutions, and self-service portals have been in the market for over a decade as separate, disparate solutions. The change we’re seeing is these point solutions coming together to create a seamless customer experience. It’s great when a customer can request a quote, order a product, and check their order status online. But, do they really have to log into three different systems to do each task? Connecting these systems is the key to improving margins and the customer experience. Oracle is really leading this space in creating connected customer experiences. By putting these products under the CX umbrella, we’re seeing businesses provide the same experience regardless of the channel the customer interacts with. With new offerings from Oracle such as CX Unity, we can now leverage customer information across channels. The customer that requests a quote online can be provided a quote in the field by a salesperson, have a reminder sent about the open quote through email marketing, return to the website to complete the transaction, and then receive a confirmation follow up via phone. All of this happens with perfect information about who the customer is and how they interacted at every step along the way, with AI powering the next best experience. We know that B2B organizations want to offer more B2C-like experiences. How do you help them achieve this? When we talk about B2C-like experiences, it’s important to define what we want to borrow from B2C and apply to B2B. The two key concepts I believe B2B buyers are seeking are omnichannel experiences and the ability for self-service. Omnichannel in B2C essentially means that a retailer should provide the same experience regardless of the channel the customer chooses to engage. For instance, in-store and voice assistant experiences should be consistent because the customer thinks they’re the same. The B2B buyer has come to expect the same experience as that of B2C customers. They don’t care that your website and ERP systems aren’t the same. They want the ability to buy online, contact Sales to modify an order, and then check the status of all orders regardless of whether they were placed online or by phone. Further, when they go online to order replacement parts, they should be presented with options based on the seller’s knowledge of what that customer already owns. In the same way most customers have been trained by Amazon, they don’t need to talk to someone to self-service themselves. That may mean using search and guided navigation to find products or accessing order history through an online account to re-order products. Or, it may mean using a configurator to walk through a complex product configuration and order process. Your customers have a job to do and they simply want to do it as quickly and easily as a B2C buying experience. How does a B2B customer’s expectations of the buying experience differ from those of a B2C customer? While B2B customers want an experience that’s as fast and as easy as a B2C experience, you also have to keep in mind that a B2B customer is doing a job. While we as consumers may need easy access to our order history to reorder our favorite replacement water filter, B2B customers have tasks to fulfill, like restocking, maintenance jobs, or finding the exact replacement part required for a piece of custom manufactured equipment. In addition, B2B customers need an even higher level of personalization than B2C customers! B2B customers expect a product catalog, pricing, and even product content that are tailored specifically to them. They don’t have time to waste filtering through options that don’t apply or that may be wrong and end up costing time and money. This means that it’s even more important in B2B that all customer touch points and data be integrated. ERP, commerce, CPQ, CRM, service, and marketing teams and technology all have to work together to provide that unified experience. How does an integrated CPQ and Commerce solution address the needs of a B2B buyer? The combination of these two products allows the B2B buyer to speed up and streamline what may be a very manual and difficult process today. By guiding the buyer through the configuration process, they’ll have more confidence in the final purchase, which can be initiated when it’s convenient for them. Because Oracle has merged CPQ and Commerce into a tightly integrated solution, the experience a customer may have with a salesperson will now be fully consistent with their online experience. The product they configure online and request a quote for will be the same configuration that a salesperson would advise, discount, and return a quote on. This ability to request, review, and accept quotes that reflect their negotiated pricing without having to hunt down a salesperson is a huge step forward in the customer experience. Here at Pierce Washington, we have also automated Price Agreement negotiations through CPQ that can then be exposed to customers directly in Commerce. How does a well-integrated CPQ and Commerce solution improve internal business processes? The value of CPQ and Commerce goes well beyond the customer experience. Without these tools working together, businesses struggle to connect the dots in the sales process. Sellers have to fall back on manual processes, which are costly and error-prone. The self-service model also means shorter sales cycles and a lower cost of sale for sellers. What types of B2B businesses or product offerings are the perfect fit for a CPQ + OCC solution? Any business that wants to improve efficiency in the sales cycle by enabling customer self-service and by automating internal workflows is a good fit. The complexity of the goods being sold either by requiring configuration, complex pricing rules, or the generation of contracts or other documents only strengthens the need for an integrated solution. Some key verticals that can benefit from integrating these products include manufacturing, telco, and even financial services. B2B implementations are often complex. Do you have any guidance on how to get started? This is an area Pierce Washington has guided many, many customers through over the years. It starts with understanding what the functional requirements are for the website. Do you need real-time inventory or is a daily refresh sufficient? Do you have pricing tiers you can apply to groups of customers or do you need real-time pricing integration to solutions like E-Business Suite Advanced Pricing? Once we understand the requirements, we can walk through each integration and discuss options, methods, and technology. We begin every project with a Foundations phase to understand and document how everything will work before we begin our implementation. Austin Lowry is the VP, eCommerce at Pierce Washington. Austin has over 15 years of eCommerce experience; first as a practitioner running eCommerce at AutoZone and for the last 8 years working in eCommerce product management, sales engineering, and implementation consulting. He is responsible for the OCC practice at Pierce Washington.  

Consumers were quick to adopt the convenience offered by online shopping, and now B2B customers want the same. Some products simply pair better together and that’s certainly proven to be the case...

Customer Experience

Is SaaS eCommerce Really Ready for You?

Considerations for moving from ATG (or IBM & hybris) to Oracle Commerce Cloud This is the million-dollar question we’ve heard more frequently in 2019 from major brands and retailers with large IT teams that manage on-premise infrastructure and highly-customized licensed software.  Others license a “cloud” version and use a third-party hosting provider to offload some of the operational hassle and maintenance. But, all of them have struggled with their timeline of this inevitable decision. Some want to go headless and modernize quickly with APIs and services, others are looking to move to an all-new platform. The increasing urgency of these conversations in 2019 is because the cost and time to manage the technology is creating technical debt. This debt is dragging down the speed of innovation and the basic delivery required to keep up with new, disruptive competitors. So, when do you want to leverage a SaaS eCommerce platform like Oracle Commerce Cloud? Having these conversations is not sales-y in nature. Instead, unique recommendations are given depending on the brand’s goals, the stage of their eCommerce platform, and what they want to keep and leave behind from their stack.  Many of them have made major investments in our on-premise platform, Oracle Commerce (ATG) over the last 5, 10, even 20 years. They want to know what to do next. Even if you’re not on ATG or you’re using other licensed eCommerce software like IBM WebSphere or SAP hybris, this framework can help you. Your business chose the platform they did for a reason. It was stable and proven, flexible and extensible, and had powerful features and tooling. ATG in particular was a platform that propelled growth of the biggest brands on the planet, and they reaped the rewards from having a superset of capabilities. Common challenges Implementations were long and costly. Managing an upgrade schedule could be tedious and disruptive. Running the platform required expensive Java and ATG-specific expertise. And, the platform was designed during the first era of eCommerce, so the architectural model didn’t account for agility. There’s a lack of separation between front-end experience and backend capabilities. Limited architectural guiderails may have lead to overly-customized applications. These challenges have become the guiding development principles of Oracle Commerce Cloud. We’ve built a services-based SaaS eCommerce application unlike any other, and use our proven heritage to revolutionize how our customers do business. I’ll give you some insight to where we are, how we got here, and why leveraging Oracle Commerce Cloud may be the right move for you. Guiding Principles of Oracle Commerce Cloud 1. Make the hard things easy. Build end-to-end features. The on-premise product has a lot of great capabilities, but in many cases, it’s too hard to get them in front of the shopper. Personalization is an example of this in the on-premise product.  For example, it has a powerful customer segmentation engine. But, to actually build an end-to-end case, you need a range of skills, including database to extend the shopper profile to hold personalization data. You also need XML skills to update repository definitions, Java skills to capture interesting data, and front end JSP skills to put targeters on the page.  It’s too cumbersome. In Commerce Cloud, we do this a lot better.  It’s easier to extend data objects like the profile. It collects useful personalization data out-of-the-box and adding personalized content to a page is a drag-and-drop operation. Common tasks that took weeks to implement in on-prem can literally be done in minutes. Why is that important to us?  Obviously, it makes it easier for you to manage the day to day changes in your online experience.  But just as importantly, it frees your development teams from a lot of these day to day changes and allows them to focus on strategic differentiators. Personalization is one example. Built-in AI can supercharge your personalization to known and anonymous shoppers. Building experiences is now drag-and-drop in a beautiful business user UI. Preview is unified. Managing search is drastically streamlined. The notion of Projects is gone. We’ve also consolidated technology that used to require third party apps in to the single Commerce Cloud subscription cost. Features like AB testing, AI, SEO, CDN, image scaling and more are done in a single place within a single UI. You can also run B2C and B2B experiences in a single platform. Not only does Commerce Cloud reduce cost and complexity of your site, unification delivers better results for less work, informed by a single source of data. 2. Keep what’s worked, replace what hasn’t. Commerce Cloud is not just the on-prem product slapped onto an Oracle server and called a cloud solution, but it does share many underlying components with its on-prem sibling. Foundational code for services like catalog management, order, shipping, and payment structures, pricing, and promotions has been used extensively by high-volume customers and been battle-tested. We know these systems work. They scale so we can quickly build new capabilities on a rock-solid foundation, which contributes to the pace of innovation in the roadmap.  But, we’re not afraid to re-architect and re-implement parts of the system that need it. We put a premium on modernizing the interfaces between the product and our customers.  That’s why everything in Commerce Cloud is API-first. It’s also why; We provide Web hooks as integration points all throughout the product. The out-of-the-box customizable Storefront and Agent Console tools are based on open source JavaScript libraries. We support PCI-compliant extensibility through an embedded Node.js server. 3. Extensibility Everywhere We wanted to build a system that developers can love. The Oracle Commerce (ATG) on-prem product is a giant Lego set for developers. Almost every part of it is open and accessible, and you can make it do practically anything. That sort of extensibility is integrated on the Oracle Commerce Cloud Development team. While we don’t believe mucking around inside the JVM is what teams should be doing for real value, the goal of Commerce Cloud is to provide as much extensibility as possible and to bring the same kind of flexibility to Commerce Cloud as we have in on-premise. Commerce Cloud has a unique flexible model where its API-first architecture is natively headless and supports microservices architectures, if desired. Storefront customization is done via Server-side extensibility leveraging Node.js, to maintain upgradeability with our frequent push-updates.  We leverage standards-based frameworks like HTML5, CSS and JavaScript. And, we have adapters with plug-ins for low-code integrations to Oracle and third-party applications. Evolving the extensibility of Commerce Cloud will always be a key part of our roadmap. We already we have extensibility at the data layer, the business logic layer, and at the user interface layer. And yet, we always strive for more. 4. Eliminate barriers to adoption Lastly, we want to do everything possible to accelerate adoption of the platform and new features. Our push updates offer the opportunity to get releases into customers’ hands far more quickly than we could with on-prem. We want to make sure they can adopt them as quickly as we release them. Some of that revolves around making features easy to use and some of it involves a borderline fanatical focus on backward-compatibility. A lot of it comes down to making upgrades far easier than they are in on-prem today. One of the big advantages of cloud is we can apply patches and upgrades for you.  Another is that Oracle teams have access to customers’ pre-release and production environments.  That means we can do pre-release testing with select customer environments, giving us sanity checks to make sure an upgrade isn’t going to break your extensions or customizations.  It also means that if a problem does show up in production, we can often clone the production environment to investigate, which makes the process of reproducing and fixing issues far more efficient. Commerce Cloud is a true SaaS application offered in a flexible subscription model that allows customers to get going fast without the massive CapEx budget of the legacy days. Implementations are much briefer, business users have more control and access, IT has more ability to  impact the day to day business and get kudos for real innovation. We’ll call that a win-win. In a nutshell… These guiding principles help our customers change how they deliver and grow their business. With Oracle Commerce Cloud, you can: Run headless with services or leverage the entire platform. Enjoy total freedom to customize and extend the experience while maintaining upgradability. Enable business with all-new drag-and-drop UIs. Reduce cost and stack clutter with out-of-the-box features included in subscription. Gain more insight, control and automation with built in AI, AB testing, and reporting. Deliver mobile-first experiences with Responsive / Adaptive. Support B2C and B2B experiences in one unified platform, with a single toolset. Offload all security, compliance and performance requirements to Oracle. Shorter implementation times and elimination of upgrade management with push updates. Make finding expertise easier with modern, open standards-based development (HTML5, CSS, JavaScript). The results from our customers who have moved from ATG to Oracle Commerce Cloud speak from themselves. Check out some of their stories here, and reach out at any time if you’re interested in starting a conversation about what Commerce Cloud can do for you.    

Considerations for moving from ATG (or IBM & hybris) to Oracle Commerce Cloud This is the million-dollar question we’ve heard more frequently in 2019 from major brands and retailers with large IT teams...

Customer Experience

Humanize Your CX Strategy with Visual Engagement

Customer Service is the backbone of any company – large or small. An effective CX strategy focuses on empowering service teams with the right tools and training towards driving long term customer satisfaction and loyalty, while also ensuring the best engagement experience for the company’s web site visitors and customers. These factors are essential to the success of the company’s brand and revenue growth. Today’s customers expect to be able to engage with customer service agents from anywhere, on any device, and use their communication channel of choice. Therefore, it is imperative to provide them with a simplified, seamless and connected omnichannel experience throughout their engagement journey. To achieve a successful outcome, companies commonly seek to adopt a unified omnichannel platform that cohesively pulls together all channels under the same umbrella and intelligently enables seamless transitions from one channel to another, for service agents and customers. Leveraging visual engagement solutions within the same platform adds a personalized touch and ensures service differentiation while reducing confusion or miscommunication. What is Visual Engagement? Visual Engagement is a powerful, real time collaboration concept that combines video, co-browsing, screen sharing and/or screen annotations experiences. The augmentation of visual channels to a phone call or chat allows the agent and the customer to drive personalized, precise and rapid problem resolution. The concept hinges on the simple foundation that 'a picture is worth a thousand words' and is widely adopted across industry verticals that include Retail, Field Service, Finance, Telco and Healthcare. Industry Examples: Real Life Scenarios In recent years, there has been an increase in global adoption of visual engagement solutions among companies across several industry verticals. For retailers, the online shopping experience is often the deciding factor in converting web site visitors into buyers. Visitors navigating a retail web site to purchase a product frequently encounter situations that need clarification from customer service. Being able to self-serve using search capabilities on the web site and having the option of escalating to customer service to quickly engage with an agent in real-time aids in quicker problem resolution and customer satisfaction. In the field service arena, contractors or field technicians who are dispatched to remote sites for repairs solely rely on being able to engage with customer service through their mobile devices. These technicians often place a call into customer service for questions, and in complex repair scenarios, may need to engage through video with another technician, in order to show the problematic appliance or product. The combination of mobile and video chat come to the rescue here for a quick and satisfactory outcome, and can play a vital role in preventing the customer from returning the merchandise. Customers of financial institutions such as banks, brokerage firms, and insurance companies often rely on collaborative real-time engagement with customer service for form-filling assistance or co-navigating a complex section of the web site. Oftentimes, financial rules and regulations can be confusing to a customer. Thus, Visual Engagement in the form of co-browsing and video chat are effective tools that quickly assist the customer. Within Healthcare, doctor - patient engagement through video is becoming an increasingly common and preferred communication channel. Patients looking for clarifications to their medical conditions or prescriptions can quickly video chat with their doctor to obtain those clarifications without back and forth email exchange or miscommunications. SaaS companies also adopt visual engagement as an effective tool in on-boarding and training new clients to effectively replace onsite physical training by remote assistance, and lower on-boarding costs. Realizing the ROI of Visual Engagement Let’s review some of the common visual engagement benefits. Higher Customer Satisfaction (CSAT) Higher Net Promoter Score (NPS) Reduced visitor abandonment rate on web sites Reduced Customer Churn Increased Customer Loyalty Higher First Call Resolution (FCR) rates More Upsell and Cross Sell opportunities for the company’s products Brand recognition and differentiation Visual Engagement with Oracle Service Cloud I’ve compiled ­five core benefi­ts within Oracle Service Cloud as the top reasons to consider visual engagement in your service enterprise. Oracle recognizes that visual engagement technologies allow for an effective omnichannel customer journey, and offers a powerful value addition. With the least amount of effort, companies can easily procure and deploy video chat and co-browse for enhanced real time collaboration between their agents and customers. For the complete list of features, capabilities, and benefits associated with this offering, please review our Video Chat Data Sheet and/or Co-browse Data Sheet. No matter the industry or company size, direct communication with customers through visual channels humanizes the customer experience, by ensuring personalization and improves problem resolution and precision, which goes a long way in building customer satisfaction, loyalty, brand popularity and revenue growth for your company.      

Customer Service is the backbone of any company – large or small. An effective CX strategy focuses on empowering service teams with the right tools and training towards driving long term customer...

CX News & Events

Early Bird Pricing for Insight 2019 Ends in 3 Days - Thursday, July 11!

Don’t miss taking advantage of the early bird pricing for Insight 2019, the annual event for Commerce Pros, the official Oracle Commerce User Group! Insight 2019 will be at the Hilton Austin in Austin, Texas from August 26-28, 2019 and is the only event dedicated to Oracle Commerce and Oracle Commerce Cloud.  Join over 200 Oracle Commerce and Oracle Commerce Cloud customers, partners, product management, and other digital leaders in learning about the upcoming product roadmap, best practices, practical guidance, how-tos, innovations, and much more!  Take advantage of over 45 sessions, pre-conference training, hands-on Oracle Commerce Cloud lab, and 20+ hours of networking. More than 25 sponsors and exhibitors will be featured on site. Five keynote sessions have been announced, including Katrina Gosek and Ian Davis from Oracle CX Product Strategy and Oracle Commerce Product Management. Session topics include: Motorola Talks Oracle Commerce Cloud and CPQ Improving the B2B Experience Using Oracle Commerce Cloud Personalization with Oracle Commerce Cloud Preventing Ecommerce Payment Fraud PWA: The Next Generation Interface After Headless Customizing Oracle Commerce Cloud with Webhooks and Server-Side Extensions Leveraging Oracle Content and Oracle Commerce Cloud Together to Drive Improved Customer experiences The Secret to Using Oracle Commerce Cloud with Oracle CPQ, ERP, and Other Solutions When and How to Integrate 3rd Party Cloud-Based Microservices with Oracle Commerce Migrating from Oracle Commerce On-Premise to Oracle Commerce Cloud How 100+ Leading Retailers Are Investing in Digital Commerce And much more! To make things easy for you, the team at Commerce Pros has created an Advance Programs that you can use to plan your conference — one for Oracle Commerce Cloud customers and one for Oracle Commerce On-Premise customers. Oracle Commerce Cloud Advance Program: https://joom.ag/iLCe   Oracle Commerce On-Premise Advance Program: https://joom.ag/LLCe Register here before Early Bird rates expire at 11:59pmEST on Thursday, July 11!  Rates increase $300 on Friday, July 12.  Bring 3 team members and receive a complimentary 2019 Commerce Pros membership and save 10% on registration fees! NOTE: Hotel Cutoff at Hilton Austin is July 26: www.commercepros.org/insight/hotel For more information or to utilize concierge registration, email jesse.howard@commercepros.org

Don’t miss taking advantage of the early bird pricing for Insight 2019, the annual event for Commerce Pros, the official Oracle Commerce User Group! Insight 2019 will be at the Hilton Austin...

Retail & Commerce

Defining Headless Commerce

Over the last few years in helping companies roll out new commerce initiatives I’ve run into a conversation from some of my more technically advanced customers who tell me, “We want headless!” There’s been a lot of buzz in the market as well. But what does it mean to go headless? What are the advantages and the challenges? This is the first of a series of articles where I’ll talk with experts and examine the pros and cons of a headless approach. My goal is to empower my fellow commerce professionals to make the right choice for their team and for their business. First, let’s establish, what is Headless? I’m not talking about the horseman from “Sleepy Hollow.” Headless, or Headless Commerce, uses a commerce platform without a customer-facing front end. It delivers functionality via APIs and then the “head” is run by another system, like a Content Management System or a native mobile application. This is only one flavor of headless. Another option is a hybrid headless approach where you use your commerce platform to deliver web-based experiences and then use the APIs to enable new channels and experiences like augmented reality and IoT. Technical Drivers of Headless Technical teams are quite often overrun with requests for new features, performance improvements, and system stability requirements as well as technical debt. In turn, they’re usually working with a legacy, monolithic ecommerce platform that makes it hard to keep up with the needs of their business users. They see headless as a way to be more agile in how they handle their workload. When they see new technologies like React, they can pick their own front-end implementation to reduce time to deploy new features and acquire new skills and talent on their teams. They also see decoupling the functionality from the experience as a way to swap in new components more easily and with less integration. We all know the pace at which technology is changing. What is fast and cool today is slow and dated tomorrow. Technology churn is something these teams are always juggling. The move to headless gives them the power to change up components of their experience without altering others. This way, they can retain their core ecommerce system with the history of promotions and data that they have used for their success. Business Drivers of Headless Two main needs drive the business-side of the headless discussion: agility and differentiation. The need for agility stems from constantly changing customer expectations and the need to quickly expand into emergent channels, like voice assistants, mobile applications and third-party sales channels. At the same time, customer experience is key, so most companies want to have a unique interactive experience that doesn’t look like every other commerce store. The average business user doesn’t care how the technical team supports them to achieve these goals. They just need them to make them happen. But, they do care about having the tools to make changes on their own, quickly. Most business teams need to make these changes on their site in hours, days and weeks, not months or years. The traditional, monolithic platforms haven’t supported the speed necessary. In addition, most of the commerce business teams I talk to tell me business tooling is just as important as making the experience customized. If the tools they have are intuitive and easy to use, it makes their jobs easier and they can focus more on what to do, not how to do it. Speed and Flexibility Headless can be one way to get that result but it can also have its own drawbacks. It works well for teams that have a large development staff, or a partner on retainer to assist in the development of features and functions across their multiple systems, like the Commerce platform and the content management system (CMS). Teams also need to cover all their bases. Quite often, you may realize too late that a key piece of functionality is missing or not connected. In headless environments, business teams often find themselves playing hopscotch through different interfaces to do the simplest of site updates and changes. To launch a product on their store, they need to; add pricing and product information into the core ecommerce platform, upload imagery to a Digital Asset Management system, and then publish via a third party tool for their CMS. This can severely slow down their productivity and make it difficult to train new team members. How can you best use a headless architecture to truly improve your customer experience without a large development team or a mishmash of site management tools? We’ll discuss this over the next few articles where I’ll answer the following questions. What is the architecture for a highly successful headless approach? How can I easily add new channels to my system? Is my team ready for headless? What is the best approach to flexibility and speed in a modern commerce team? Click to read "What is Headless Commerce?" Click to Learn more about the Oracle Commerce Cloud            

Over the last few years in helping companies roll out new commerce initiatives I’ve run into a conversation from some of my more technically advanced customers who tell me, “We want headless!” There’s...

CX News & Events

Join this Webinar as Westrock Describe their B2B Online Commerce Success!

Listen to Westrock discuss their digital transformation triumphs as they transitioned into selling their products fully online! Join us to learn how WestRock Company, one of the nation’s leading corrugated and paperboard manufacturers and distributors, transitioned their sales approach for their smaller clients from manual, very labor intensive processes like phone, fax, email, and field sales reps, to a much more compelling, automated, and personalized experience for each of their customers by introducing B2B online eCommerce. Watch LIVE as our expert podcast panel discuss the business drivers that pushed WestRock to move into online eCommerce, the internal and external challenges associated with doing so, and ultimately the great value and benefit to both WestRock and its customers in making the leap… and see and hear all of this in just 30 minutes in a very concise and engaging audio/video broadcast! Click here to register today! Paul Zaher, VP eCommerce, WestRock  Paul joined WestRock in 2016 and leads the company’s Digital Customer Experience initiative. In this role, he is responsible for delivering new digital solutions for customers and employees and changing the ways that WestRock engages with its customers. Prior to joining WestRock, Paul held leadership roles at Dunkin’ Brands and Limited Brands. Jay Atkinson, Senior Principal B2B Product Strategist, Oracle Commerce Jay has been in eCommerce for over 18 years. He has spent time working as a retailer, consultant and product manager, doing design, development and strategy. Over the course of his career he’s worked with Sony, Ticketmaster, CVS, Home Depot, Costco, Office Depot and many others. His roots are in UX & Design, however, he is just as comfortable talking about code and servers.  Mike Graziano, SVP Sales, Marketing & Client Services, TAISTech Mike (“Graz”) joined TAISTech in 2012 where he leads the Sales, Marketing, and Partnership activities for the company. Major account wins under his tenure at TAISTech include WestRock, Lululemon, Vitamin Shoppe, CORT, Rue 21, Things Remembered and Visionworks. His eCommerce roots date to 1997, and prior to joining TAISTech, he held leadership positions at several leading digital agencies.  

Listen to Westrock discuss their digital transformation triumphs as they transitioned into selling their products fully online! Join us to learn how WestRock Company, one of the nation’s leading...

Customer Experience

CX Visionaries are Using Tomorrow’s Customer Engagement Channels Today

Oracle recently surveyed 477 senior CX executives form across the globe to discuss their firm’s customer experience capabilities and business results.  We wanted to understand the correlation between CX performance and the maturation of emerging technologies and validate the extent to which adopters are driving business success. Further, we also wanted to understand what distinguishes the leaders who are aligned with CX best practices.  We published these insights in a brand new report titled The Impact of Emerging Technology on CX Excellence: Insights from Oracle’s Global Survey of Customer Experience Visionaries. The "emerging technologies" we discuss are artificial intelligence and machine learning, digital assistants and chatbots, augmented reality and virtual reality, and the Internet of Things.     What Does it all Mean? The report discusses a broad spectrum of topics related to the use of emerging technologies for CX.  It's clear that brands are adopting these technologies at a rapid pace. You can use this report to better understand how and why organizations are applying these technologies to improve the customer experience and to create urgency within your organization to transform its CX technology portfolio, and learn from your peers how to maximize your success. If you’re interested in learning how Organizations are turning to emerging technologies to deliver the innovative, distinctive, and differentiated brand experiences that modern customers demand, download The Impact of Emerging Technology on CX Excellence – Insights from Oracle’s Global Survey of Customer Experience Visionaries, today.      

Oracle recently surveyed 477 senior CX executives form across the globe to discuss their firm’s customer experience capabilities and business results.  We wanted to understand the correlation between...

Ask the Experts

Worldpay and How Payments Can Impact the Customer Experience

Technology continues to shape the way we shop and conduct business. For consumers, the expectation is that the way we transact will keep pace with innovation, and remain seamless behind the scenes. In this Q&A, I spoke with Oracle Commerce Cloud partner, Worldpay, Spiros Theodossiou, SVP of Product. He shares insights into some of the changes underway in the payment industry and predicts what the future of payments may hold. 1. I think there is often a perception that payments just happen. You take out your debit or credit card, swipe or enter in the details, and press ‘enter.’ I imagine that it’s a bit more complex than this. Technology and payment methods are rapidly changing the commerce and payments landscape. If you accept payments, it can be more than a little bewildering and downright intimidating at times to try and keep up with everything you need to know. Consumers often don’t realize the number of steps and separate entities involved in their credit or debit card transactions. We just pull out our cards, things somehow magically work, and we continue on our way. The industry has done a good job of masking this behind-the-scenes complexity and making it increasingly seamless – but not perfect – to consumers and for businesses. 2. I’ve read that the average authorization rate for card-not-present transactions, or eCommerce, is lower than for card-present, or point-of-sale transactions. In your experience, what does the cost of declined transactions look like to businesses you work with? Also, what are Worldpay and others in the payment industry doing to improve acceptance rates? According to a report from Javelin Strategy and Research, false-positive declines impacted nearly 7% of all consumers – just in the U.S. alone last year. The large number of issuers and vague declined reasons can make authorization strategies difficult. Unfortunately, this means that many organizations are leaving lots of money on the table. Increasingly, artificial intelligence (AI) and machine learning (ML) are being incorporated into payment processing solutions to present information in the right formats to help organizations maximize approvals on their initial authorizations – thereby increasing their approval rates and getting a corresponding lift in revenue. 3. The annual Worldpay Global Payments Report highlights the increasing number of payment methods across the globe, varying from region to region and often country to country.  What are some examples of new and exciting payment methods for merchants?  And given that the common method of payment can vary from country to country, what does this mean for businesses that are thinking about global expansion?  Our most recent Global Payments Report, published in Q4 of 2018, reveals a complex payments landscape brimming with diversity. Alternative payment methods are rising to meet the needs of consumers online, led by digital wallets and bank transfers. Though its long reign of supremacy is nearing its end, cash remains the leading payment method at the point of sale. This multifaceted landscape opens doors for organizations to increase consumer satisfaction by offering the right mix of payment options that are most appropriate for a given geographic region. Digital wallets have vaulted to the forefront of payments by offering seamless convenience. We expect continued growth in China and a surge of adoption in North America to propel digital wallets to become the leading eCommerce payment method globally by 2022. Bank transfers are also growing in popularity as an online payment method. Factors contributing to the growth of bank transfers include convenience for consumers, lower costs of acceptance and fewer chargebacks for merchants. There is also a regulatory push from PSD2/Open Banking mandates in Europe, and a rise of banked populations in emerging markets. Being aware of payment preferences and differences in consumer behavior across geographies is key to anyone contemplating global expansion. 4. Do you see the world going cashless? There are businesses going this route, but there are also real societal concerns, prompting some cities to ensure businesses offer cash options. In some parts of the world – China's major cities, for example – mobile payments are already the preferred way to pay for just about everything as mobile phones and QR codes have largely replaced cash, and card schemes aren’t accepted by many smaller retailers. But, will using cash as a payment option ever entirely go away everywhere on the planet? It’s hard to see that happening in the short term, and perhaps even in the long term. But, who knows? That’s what makes this industry so fascinating. 5. If you had three tips for companies thinking about their payment strategies for 2019, what would those be?   Regarding payment strategies, the three primary areas of focus can probably best be summarized by what we like to call the three “Rs” – reach, revenue, and responsiveness. Reach – By introducing more payment options and acceptance currencies, organizations can engage more customers, enter new markets and expand their global footprint. Revenue – Companies need to leverage data more effectively to boost revenue. Data can be used to increase card authorizations and reduce the cost of acceptance. Responsiveness – Businesses can stay ahead of the curve with effective payment analytics and expert advice, thus becoming increasingly proactive and responsive to their customers’ needs and market shifts. 6. Lastly, what do we have to look forward to over the next 5 years in how we shop and make purchases? What was made abundantly clear from the research as part of our 2018 Global Payments Report is that in the next half-decade the ongoing adoption of digital wallets around the globe, such as WeChat Pay and Alipay in China, will be quite pervasive. We also see a corresponding rise in mobile commerce, or mCommerce, as merchants need to offer customers compelling mobile experiences. Research studies found that consumers are seeking a more luxurious and personalized service on their mobile devices, and are willing to pay a premium for it. What’s interesting is that this preference was strongest in emerging markets. For example, 62% of consumers in China indicated they would pay for a “five-star” service compared to just 37% in the United States. All of this means that understanding consumer behavior in different parts of the world, staying on top of payment landscape shifts, and offering localized, and even customized, payment experiences are important factors in the success of any global eCommerce business. Spiros Theodossiou is the SVP of Product at Worldpay. Spiros is responsible for defining and executing on the product vision and roadmap, aligning to the company goal of ‘advancing the ways the world pays.’ Spiros and the Worldpay team are focused on helping businesses grow by breaking through borders to simplify payments.        

Technology continues to shape the way we shop and conduct business. For consumers, the expectation is that the way we transact will keep pace with innovation, and remain seamless behind the scenes. In...

Customer Experience

Are You Ready to Shape the Future of Planning?

The planning and zoning landscape has changed dramatically.  The sharing-economy, increased focus on sustainability, shortage of affordable housing and demographic changes are affecting how communities are shaped and how cities are planned. The public’s changing expectations of customer service demands that interactions with government be simple and transparent.  Meanwhile, regulatory changes continue to impact all aspects of planning and zoning in your community.  In short, planning and zoning has entered a whole new era of complexity. Keeping up with these changes, especially when faced with resource constraints, is a constant challenge.  Meanwhile, the existing systems were not designed for many of the challenges you face.  I attended the American Planning Association's National Planning Conference in San Francisco in mid-April (NPC19).  There, passionate planners from agencies like yours acknowledged the importance of effectively leveraging modern technology to better serve the people who live in, work in, and visit their communities.  What I’m hearing from planners like you is that your legacy planning and zoning systems were never intended for this level and rate of change. And it's frustrating to try to address the future of your community using a solution from the past.  Because the real challenge is that we are working with an outdated toolset.   Oracle Public Sector Community Development But what if you could change all that?  What if together we gave planning and zoning the modernization it deserves?  And what if we could move from a chaotic set of complex inter-dependencies to a new normal of collaborative, inclusive, and transparent planning?  What if you knew your planning solutions addressed your needs because you contributed to their creation and evolution? Be a Visionary Partner Help define the Oracle Public Sector Community Development solution.  It was my pleasure to introduce the dawn of a new era of planning and zoning at NPC19.  It was exciting to hear planners validate how they can use modern technology and focused capabilities like spatially-enabled transactions, proximity-based public notifications, easy scheduling of pre-application consultation meetings, and visibility into hearing calendars for review boards to improve the planning lifecycle. As part of our continuous delivery of new capabilities, Oracle is constantly adding new features to this purpose-built cloud solution, designed specifically to address your needs.  Oracle is looking for strategic, visionary planners to co-create and contribute to its direction.  This is a unique opportunity to shape the future of planning and influence how Oracle's strong depth and breadth of technology including artificial intelligence, blockchain, machine learning, and other emerging technologies, is leveraged. Amy Lee demonstrates the latest Planning and Zoning capabilities at APA NPC19  Together we can tackle the questions that matter most to you.  How do we better engage the public and manage the planning application process in a way that is fair, transparent, and effective?  How do we balance growth and development with maintaining the community's vision amidst changing codes, policies, and practices? How do we leverage a modern, true cloud solution that is continually updated with new capabilities? What kind of planner are you?  What drives your planning initiatives? If you're a planner who is ready to address the challenges facing your community, to be a visionary, and to contribute to the next generation of planning solutions, then Oracle wants to work with you.  How can we reshape the future of planning together?  Our journey together starts here. Read the Oracle press release Local Governments to Modernize Community Development Read the brochure Building Government for the 21st Century  

The planning and zoning landscape has changed dramatically.  The sharing-economy, increased focus on sustainability, shortage of affordable housing and demographic changes are affecting how...

Customer Experience Strategy

How to Put the New X in Your CX

It’s one of the most highly discussed and universally lauded endeavors among leading brands among every industry. Deliver a consistent, frictionless customer experience from online discovery through digital or guided purchase and post-sales, or risk your competitive foothold. Yet, it’s not clear just how to execute on the goal of seamlessly connecting marketing and sales. With so many differing opinions and competing departmental mandates, it’s no surprise sales and marketing leaders struggle with where to start. Of course, there are other considerations too, including legacy systems, ineffective processes and workflows that can quickly take your CX from mediocre to unacceptable. I recently met with Kayleigh Halko, CX Product Strategist at Oracle. We had the opportunity to talk about this in detail during an informal interview. 1. Why is connecting sales and marketing so important for an effective CX strategy? Today, so much of the buying process takes place before a customer ever connects with a person at your organization. Customers now have endless options to find information and self-educate before they engage on a “channel” that puts the buyer on the radar of sales or marketing. That’s all before they become part of an official sales strategy or marketing campaign. It means that when a customer finally reaches out and asks for support in the buying journey, whoever gets to the buyer first – whether that’s a marketing professional or a sales representative – must be prepared to help. Connected sales and marketing becomes incredibly important in that context. Outside of technical considerations, bridging the gap between these two organizations with common goals and external messages is the most important aspect to get correct. 2. What are some of the disconnects across sales and marketing? How do they contribute to friction in terms of overall CX?                                             Historically, sales and marketing organizations have operated with different goals, processes and cultures. Marketing would focus on acquisition activities such as leads, MQLs etc. Sales would focus heavily on opportunities and contacts and other selling activities. These respective professionals developed industry-standard sales stages and progression models with clearly defined hand-offs; such as how a MQL becomes a sales accepted lead (SAL). You may get clearly defined goals for either sales or marketing, and possibly even high-performing teams on both sides with a deceptively “seamless” experience for the customer. But, that overall CX will break the moment a customer needs help if marketing and sales aren’t co-owners of the complete customer experience – not just their own piece in it. 3. What are the new opportunities to influence brand perceptions? Since so much of the buyer’s journey today is self-guided, this creates the first opportunity where marketing and sale teams can unite around go-to-marketing planning. The goal should be to deliver a unified message to the market that creates enough value for a buyer to raise their hand and express interest. Then, it’s up to the collective group to decide which new channels, whether mobile commerce, messaging apps, service or maintenance calls, deserve the most proactive attention. The second opportunity is to empower every brand representative on every channel to deliver the same value message, and also, to answer any question. This includes standard channels like a company’s website or the sales rep making the first call to a new lead. This also includes new channels. For example, perhaps the mobile commerce storefront allows a buyer to start a shopping basket online. Then, she calls a rep to help complete that order when it gets tricky to navigate the right SKU. Or, within their favorite messaging app, a customer asks for support, requests a link to an FAQ, and reorders a commonly purchased item. Or when a field technician is onsite, he can replace a part on a broken machine. But, he can also use his tablet to pull up a web catalogue to show the customer a retrofit upgrade to the machine that enables IoT parts ordering. This opens an opportunity that allows him and his sales counterpart to split the commission. 4. If a company doesn’t typically upsell to existing customers, why care about CX? Our world is shifting to subscription-based models across every industry. While many businesses won’t upsell or cross sell in the traditional course of doing business, customers want things on demand with the ability to re-evaluate their options as they go. This means that even when a sale is closed– it’s never really finished. That’s why you need to think about CX throughout the customer lifecycle. In the traditional linear view, marketing is concerned with the discovery phase. Sales would focus during the acquisition phase. Service or field service only care after the sale was made. But, because the buyer journey is now less linear, we’re seeing marketing and sales collaborating both with each other and also with the rest of the organization to play a larger role in customer success and ongoing engagement, even after the sale is made. In the Experience Economy, churn is no longer just for cable and telecom companies. 5. Should a company start with sales, or with marketing?                                     This is an important question and the answer will be different for every organization. Sales and marketing are both driving a buying experience, which is now part of a continuous process. The initial point of becoming a customer is a small moment of the buyer’s journey. What we really need to think about is how sales and marketing can work together to guide a buyer through a continuous journey while adding value in new ways at every touch point. The place to start is with a shared set of goals and a common strategy. That will determine where you’ll need to emphasize points of customer engagement. This may lead to a clear answer of whether sales or marketing will need to set the tone and take the lead when it comes to defining processes and choosing technology. 6. How should CX leaders merge the human and technology effort into a cohesive set of activities?                          When you think about how people and technology work together, first look at current processes. Ask why they exist.  Then quickly assess whether those processes work or require an update. Once you’re properly focused on the correct processes and behavior, the opportunity is for new technology to improve shortcomings or knowledge gaps. Another place to look is where technology can help to automate cumbersome data entry or manual processes so your talented sales and marketing professionals can focus on creative sales and marketing. Rather than view technology as a driver for behavioral change, why not use it as a way to support what you’ve already defined as the desired behavior? If you’re clear on this, start by searching for the right technology that works perfectly for your strategy, rather than adapting technology to fit bad habits. Forget about trying to force behavior to fit technology. One customer recently told me that she’s very focused on selecting the technology that she feels supports the commercial goals of her business. From there, her main priority is driving adoption for that technology and ensuring it’s used for the purpose it was intended. That is the fastest path to success. Check out some recent analyst reports describing Oracle's CX products. The Forrester Wave™: CRM Suites, Q4 2018 gave Oracle the highest score of any vendor in the current offering category. Gartner recognizes Oracle strong commitment to innovation in the marketing industry, and a continual drive to execute on our vision as a ‘Leader’ in the Magic Quadrant for CRM Lead Management. Oracle Named a Leader in 2019 Gartner Magic Quadrant for Field Service Management        

It’s one of the most highly discussed and universally lauded endeavors among leading brands among every industry. Deliver a consistent, frictionless customer experience from online discovery through...

Customer Experience

The Bots & The Bees – Digital Assistance for Superior Sales

“I’m running on fumes right now.”  “Wow, that customer I called was NOT happy.” “Ugh, I hate having to log interactions.” These are a few of the unpleasant thoughts many sellers express on a daily basis. I would know, because they were some of my own thoughts when I was in sales. Your sellers probably think the same, since most days they continue to perform the same processes from punch-in to punch-out like the noble worker bee. Upper management may brush off complaints like these, but that doesn’t make them any less valid. Times have changed, customer expectations continue to change, and so the nature of how we do sales needs to change. With the rise of AI building up to an explosive overhaul across all industries, early adoption of supplementary applications will be critical to improve a variety of sales aspects. I recently sat down with Michelle Brusyo, Sr. Manager for Oracle CX Strategy. We explored how providing a little assistance can turn any worker bee into hive royalty. Q: In terms of Artificial Intelligence, Chatbots, and Digital Assistants - can you explain how these technologies differentiate and/or work together? A: Artificial or Adaptive Intelligence (AI) often refers to a scope of analytics and decisions made by technology that’s beyond the capacity of the human mind. It can also describe a conversational interface to understand and communicate with someone through natural language processing. AI is the power source that enables Chatbots and Digital Assistants to understand the user’s intent. Knowing a user’s travel profile, personal preferences, meeting schedules, or prioritizing sales accounts are all examples of how AI learns to help provide a personalized experience. In terms of the difference between Chatbots and Digital Assistants, there is some nuance, but these terms are often used interchangeably. The main difference is that a Chatbot is usually a single-purpose, user-initiated computer program designed to simulate a human conversation. A Digital Assistant however is often multi-purpose, can be bot-initiated, and goes beyond simple conversations. Digital Assistants are powered by AI to make intelligent predictions and recommendations. Q: So Digital Assistants have a variety of use cases whereas Chatbots are often used for one specific use case, but both are backed by Artificial Intelligence. Can you tell me what the cause is behind the development of these innovative tools? A: The most important driver is to get things done easier and faster throughout the business. It’s about automating routine tasks – whether simple or complex – to improve productivity and free people up to do the work that matters. For example, imagine you’re a sales rep who’s still at home getting ready in the morning. You’re thinking about what your day is going to look like. What if you could just pick up your phone, verbally ask it for your ‘Sales Briefing’, and seconds later be scanning through a list of your open tasks, activities and opportunities for the day? Within seconds, you’d have a solid handle on what your day looks like without having to log in to anything or clicking around for information. That’s the type of automation that starts to simplify a sales rep’s day. As we go deeper on delivering those types of interactions, it starts to really free that rep’s time to shift their focus on the art of selling. Q: Okay, so it’s all about automation to handle the workload that eats up time. But how do you convince the sales teams to adopt and use the Digital Assistants to support their performance? A: There are two important concepts needed to ensure Digital Assistants deliver strong business value to the sales organization: It has to be significantly easier to use than the normal way of doing the tasks it aims to automate. Sales reps don’t have a second to waste on figuring out how to use something new; they’ll only do so if they can see an immediate pay-off. Your Digital Assistant has to be available 24/7, on any device, with nothing to install. Even better, if a sales team has already adopted collaboration tools; make the Digital Assistant an embedded part of that experience so it enhances existing tools vs. introducing new ones. Digital Assistants will be at their most powerful when they are embedded in the full employee experience, even beyond Sales. With all the data and context gained by creating a bot experience across multiple business areas, the Digital Assistant becomes even smarter and provides better insight and guidance. Imagine a single bot that an employee can interact with to get their daily sales briefing, plan a business trip, and submit expense reports. That is becoming the new, faster and simpler way to get things done, drive adoption, and again, free the sales team to focus on sales activities. Q: These capabilities could be useful, but they also sound like a real investment. Why would companies want to adopt these tools earlier on? A: What will your sales teams do with their time once they do no longer have to get out their laptop, log in, run a report, type in an update, etc.? We talk so much about how sales and customer expectations have changed and how reps need to deliver a different kind of value as a trusted advisor. This may be true, but how do you empower reps to do that? You do it by automating the grunt work and allow them to pursue more important tasks such as catching up on industry news, writing articles, helping a client build a business case for an expansion and so on. This will help them grow as a sales rep, which in turn will help them achieve real results for the company. Conclusion See how adding a bit of digital assistance will allow your sales teams to achieve better results, while improving their own individual performance and skill sets? These tools enable sales reps to learn more, do more, and have knowledge readily available, leading to benefits like improved productivity, employee satisfaction, and revenue generation. Stop buzzing around blindly and learn more about how Oracle may be able to help you build your AI and bot/assistant strategy in the resources below. This is a chance to invest in your own beehive to make the sweetest of all nectars ($$$). Learn More About Oracle Digital Assistant: Press Release: Oracle Delivers Personalized Digital Assistants for the Enterprise Oracle Digital Assistant Data Sheet Digital Assistant on cloud.oracle.com      

“I’m running on fumes right now.”  “Wow, that customer I called was NOT happy.” “Ugh, I hate having to log interactions.” These are a few of the unpleasant thoughts many sellers express on a daily basis....

CPQ

6 Myths About Configure-Price-Quote Debunked

By Graham McInnes, Senior Principal Product Manager, Oracle Configure-Price-Quote (CPQ) is more than just a sales tool, it's a path for business transformation. It gets sales teams out into the field, in front of customers, and closes deals faster. It can be used as a self-service tool for the end-user; it can support a robust partner/distributor ecosystem, and it can be used to speed sales cycles and ensure that promises become realities. The CPQ vendor ecosystem has exploded in recent years and with that growth so has the noise and misinformation. So let’s take a moment to debunk some of the myths that are floating around about Oracle CPQ Cloud. Myth: CPQ vendors are all the same. Truth: It is a crazy market now full of new upstarts, tentative alliances, crumbling partnerships, assurances/exaggeration, over simplification, and one-size-fits-all offers. A CPQ solution touches many facets of an organization, so not vetting a vendor thoroughly could lead to a spectacular failure. And this could mean many things, not just situation where the customer refused to sign off on the go-live. It could very well mean low user adoption by the sales team or that the data and the reports produced by the news are not trusted. The fact of the matter is that CPQ solutions are different—very different. Oracle CPQ is trusted by over 400 well-known brand names and used by more than 400,000 employees. You can trust us. Myth: Other vendors say CPQ projects are easy. Truth: Signing the contract is easy. Initializing an instance of the software is easy. Other CPQ vendors may minimize the importance of implementation and integration and then come back and attempt to rescope the project. This is the same thing as them providing you with a square peg and asking you to smash it through a round hole. Beware; sometimes the simplicity of the purchase leads you down the wrong path.   See how CPQ can benefit your growing business.   Myth: Oracle CPQ Cloud implementations are lengthy. Truth: Implementation can take as little as four weeks. The reality is that companies, systems, and processes can be complex, especially if a variety of solutions have been cobbled together to solve problems as they arise. We acknowledge this. Simplification and integration is what we are good at. Actual go-live timing depends on the scope of the rollout; what products are covered, which processes are included, what documents/reports need to be created, and what parts of the ecosystem need to be connected to gain value. We will work with you to determine what roll out plan is best for you. It may be a multi-phased approach with quick hits along the way or more of a “big-bang” approach. Whatever works for your business needs. Myth: Oracle CPQ Cloud is complex. Truth: We have a loyal customer base with ultra-complex product variations and world-class pricing complexity. But the reason Oracle CPQ is used by these businesses is not because the product is complex, it’s because the solution easily handles complexity. That doesn’t mean Oracle CPQ Cloud is complex. Our solution can comfortably handle both simple products/simple pricing scenarios and complicated products/complicated pricing structures. How you implement is your choice; you can start simple to achieve an early ROI and build up the use of CPQ as your business grows. It’s up to you. Myth: Oracle CPQ Cloud will force fit business process changes. Truth: You should never change your business to fit the capabilities of a particular application. If our competition is guiding you towards ‘Best Practices’ it may be that their CPQ cannot handle your particular business processes or needs. Rolling out a CPQ Cloud solution isn’t just “automating” certain specific process with a new tool. That only serves to shift your bottlenecks elsewhere because that process is a little faster. You need a CPQ tool that can communicate and share data with all your systems, supporting your company in how you want to do business, not the other way around. Myth: Oracle CPQ Cloud is a challenging product. Truth: A well-executed CPQ Cloud implementation introduces process efficiencies that touch many parts of the company. For many organizations, a CPQ project is the first time they have had the opportunity to map out their entire process flow including all parties involved, system challenges, approval points, wild card dependencies, integration and transition points, and commonly accepted process disturbances unique to the organization. This usually means organizational changes and that is challenging.  That doesn’t mean that CPQ is challenging or complex. In fact, CPQ is often the first part of a larger ‘get going, get better, get ahead’ initiatives at growing companies. Gartner positions Oracle CPQ Cloud as a leader. Read the 2018 Gartner Magic Quadrant for Configure, Price and Quote Application Suites report.    

By Graham McInnes, Senior Principal Product Manager, Oracle Configure-Price-Quote (CPQ) is more than just a sales tool, it's a path for business transformation. It gets sales teams out into the field,...

Customer Experience

True Confessions 2 – How One Brand Engaged Me After I Weaponized Social Media Against Them

My son plays youth hockey, which requires spending a lot of money on equipment and uniforms.   He and his teammates were excited about wearing their new hockey sweaters, which are fancy like the pros, with embroidered names, logos and numbers. But, when it arrived, it was extremely small. After squeezing into it, this thing looked like a tube top on him! Turns out that among his 15 teammates, 9 of them got the wrong size!  Major disappointment set in fast. Add to it a flurry of angry parents and coaches.  With the first game only 10 days away, we discovered replacement jerseys would take 3 weeks to be delivered! This is Unacceptable! If you read my luggage revenge story, you know this meant the manufacturer we ordered from would catch hell from me. This is a small firm and reviews matter. So, I blasted them on social media with a 1-star review. I was brutally honest, pulling heartstrings about how they screwed over an entire team of kids. After describing their business and customer experience failures, I vowed do everything in my power to kill off any future business for them with every sports club in the area, potentially inflicting thousands of lost hockey sweater sales. Within 48 hours, they replied to my review: "Hi Karl. We are sorry to hear that you did not have a positive experience ordering our product. Is it possible to share which store you purchased your product from, where you are located, and any information on the jerseys you purchased (and what happened) so that I can look into your situation properly?" This was a good start as they did everything right.  They read my review, asked me for details in public, and attempted to understand the issue. Therefore, I made the conversation private and sent them the details. Within 24 hours they responded. They nailed it. They made a firm commitment that they were working on the problem. They accepted blame, explained how the original error was missed, and acknowledged its snowball effect. Their delivery time was a 'conservative estimate.' They didn’t want to be wrong twice! They avoided any mention of cost and made it clear they were doing everything possible to get the product to the kids before their first game. They provided me with a timeline for an update, openly thanked me for my feedback, and closed on a positive note. I thanked them for their detailed response and candor. The next two days day came. Still no delivery. We arrived at the arena for our first game with the original sweaters in hand, ready to cut them up to make them fit if necessary. Just as the kids were getting dressed, their head coach walked in with two big boxes filled with replacement jerseys! Hooray!!!!!!!!!!!  The kids were thrilled, played great, and won their first game of the season. I mean, look at that face! I made it a point to send a direct message and relay my thanks for a job well done and send them the picture above. Then, I deleted my angry post and wrote a new review, reflecting the hard work that the company put forward. A couple of days later I got a reply. “Hey Karl, I hope that you enjoyed your weekend. Thank you for your understanding and for the update review. We really appreciate it. We are sorry again for the inconvenience caused by the sizing issue and are glad that we were able to resolve it for you. Thanks for the pic and good luck with the upcoming season.” I was impressed that they read my message and my review.  They were 100% on top of everything revolving around their business. All in all, it was an interesting, positive customer experience. So, I thought it would be good to break down how this company approached social media when it had been weaponized against them. They know what social media means to their business. Positive feedback and experiences make a big difference to their business model. They didn’t force a channel change on their customer. They didn’t shy away from a public conversation. They understood that articulating what’s happening is paramount to their customer. They don’t shy away from the hard realities of B2B2C businesses. They realize there is a customer at the end of the chain who though not your direct customer, is the end customer, and they matter. They were human, and didn't recite from a script or a manual. They engaged with a real person from start to finish. They never over-promised. They didn’t mention the costs associated to fixing the problem, and never ever put the financial aspects of the business over the customer experience or their end customer. They enabled people to fix the problem, not hide it. With the right solution, this technology gap could have been avoided. Of course human error can still creep into this. I recommend that through a unified commerce platform, and potentially an Artificial Intelligence (AI) platform, the order could have been placed without a human in the middle B2B. The AI could be used to validate the anomaly of 99% of an order being the same size, and flag the order for human intervention to help solve the problem. If you act like this company did, social media is unlikely to be used as a weapon against your brand. Click here to read the Gartner report and learn how social drives the relationship between customers and brands.      

My son plays youth hockey, which requires spending a lot of money on equipment and uniforms.   He and his teammates were excited about wearing their new hockey sweaters, which are fancy like the pros,...

Customer Experience

Oracle Named a Leader in 2019 Gartner Magic Quadrant for Field Service Management

We at Oracle are excited to once again be named a 'Leader' in the Gartner Magic Quadrant for Field Service Management, based on our ability to execute and completeness of vision. According to Gartner, the vendors in this report were raecognized based on how they “reflect customers’ new expectations in areas such as digital technician support, outcome-based service business models, and AI-driven scheduling and decision support. When assessing vendors, look for packaging of multiple technologies and proven results.” Gartner Leader Criteria Per Gartner report, "Leaders demonstrate a market-defining vision of how technology can help service professionals achieve business objectives. Leaders have the ability to fulfill their vision through products, services, ecosystems and solid business results in the form of revenue and earnings. They have strong partner programs, which are formalized and “gamified,” and they track proof of renewal every year. Leaders have significant, successful reference customer deployments in North America, EMEA and Asia/Pacific in a wide variety of industries, with multiple proof points above 2,000 users. They have a robust native scheduling engine that is scalable to thousands of employee and third-party technicians. They also have strong and innovative technology-based service enablers (such as IoT enablement, social collaboration, AI-driven decision support and chatbots), and end-customer engagement tools for, and coverage (either directly or through certified partners) of, all six categories of FSM capability. Leaders have many successful integrations with multiple systems of record (especially ERP and CRM systems) from multiple providers; and many deployments in multitenant deployment models. Other providers measure themselves against the Leaders and emulate their strategies and tactics. Leaders demonstrate market strength, based on installed-base depth, and they affect market trends in terms of all the criteria by which they are evaluated. Leaders’ software users often consider that they are gaining a competitive advantage over others in their industry." Learn more about Oracle’s position in this year’s Magic Quadrant and what the field service market looks like today by downloading the full report. Follow us on Twitter @OracleServCloud and @OracleCX for product updates and industry news. Gartner Magic Quadrant for Field Service Management, Jim Robinson, 16 April 2019 This graphic was published by Gartner, Inc. as part of a larger research document and should be evaluated in the context of the entire document. The Gartner document is available upon request from Oracle.      

We at Oracle are excited to once again be named a 'Leader' in the Gartner Magic Quadrant for Field Service Management, based on our ability to execute and completeness of vision. According to Gartner,...

Customer Service

Let’s Talk - How Customer Service Can Nurture a Five Star Conversation

When was the last time you enjoyed calling customer service? Were you pleased with the outcome of the conversation?  Was your issue resolved through that phone call? I would venture to say that for most customers, their experience with a customer service agent varies between memorable to not pleasant. As a leader in charge of a contact center, what are the forces driving these perceptions and what you can do to change them? Everyone would agree that a good conversation has positive effects, like an improved mood, for example.  When people have fun, their muscles relax and different parts of their brain react. However, more conversations are moving to digital channels and people are slowly forgetting how to have real conversations. At the same time, I believe we’re starting to see that people long to have meaningful dialogue and connect with other humans. Over recent years, technology advancements in the service arena have been improving self-service mechanisms within the customer service paradigm. Examples include Self-Service Portals, troubleshooting flows, Self-learning Answer Search, Virtual Assistants, Knowledge, Intelligent Advice, Communities and so forth. These have become a fixed staple of a savvy customer service strategy. Furthermore, new concepts such as predictive and pre-emptive service through the IoT have been added to the mix, driving self-service and automation even further. What does this mean for contact centers? Predictions about the demise of contact centers have been made for 15-20 years now. Nonetheless, many leaders have come to realize that contact centers are not going anywhere. In fact, live customer service is making a comeback although frankly, it never went away. The customer channel mix has broadened with new communication channels picking up momentum. But, customers will still continue to rely on people to solve their issues and get advice. As self-service and automation have accelerated over the last two decades, the contact center has gone through ruthless cycles of efficiency improvements. ‘Efficiency’ used to be the only factor taken into account when running a contact center. The metric ‘average handling time’ was the golden KPI. Entire consulting industries were invented to help contact centers become shining beacons of efficiency. The CRM software world followed suit and invested heavily in making everything as efficient as possible. Computer Telephony Integration, Scripting, Desktop Automation, Workflow, the 360˚ view, context from web interactions, handling multiple live chat interactions in parallel, call analysis, hot keys and so forth. All of these advancements have made the jobs of agents tremendously more efficient. Shaving off a second or two here and there over a long time has made everything more efficient. Diminishing returns However, there comes a point when a human agent can’t become ever more efficient in picking up the phone and solving a problem for the customer. This is where cracks in the efficiency mantra become visible. When agents have an ambitious average handling time target and corresponding incentives to adhere to, that’s the moment conversations become judged as ‘too long.’ Therefore, these conversations tend to be wrapped in a hurry. A likely result is the problem isn’t solved and the customer needs to call back another time. That subsequent call is a lost opportunity for a ‘first call resolution’, especially when pressured agents start connecting the customer to non-existent departments and the customer hears the dreaded "One moment please, I’m going to transfer you to the appropriate department" … beep-beep-click. The relentless drive to pursue more efficiency has created a world where very few customers can recall the last time they enjoyed calling customer service! We can do better! As customer service leaders, we need to aim higher!  Let’s try to get our customers to actually enjoy the conversation when they call customer service. Imagine what happens when two people have a conversation they enjoy! Trust is created. Then imagine the improvements to the perception of your brand! Just think about the conversations you have with your friends.  You listen and demonstrate the mutual respect and willingness to hear the other out. Wouldn’t it be great if we can do something that will increase the trust between your customers and your organization? A simple thing that helps build that trust is to encourage conversation and eliminate metrics that restrict conversations, like the average handling time measurement. Click here to learn how to build a next generation contact center! Empower your agents and master first contact resolution.     

When was the last time you enjoyed calling customer service? Were you pleased with the outcome of the conversation?  Was your issue resolved through that phone call? I would venture to say that for...

Customer Experience Technology

Keeping Score with Sportable Scoreboards

Thirty three years ago, Mike Cowen was sitting in the bleachers watching his son’s baseball game, when he noticed the diamond didn’t have a scoreboard. In fact, many of the places where his kids played sports lacked score-keeping devices. As a self-professed data geek, Cowen decided to invent a battery-powered, portable contraption that he could bring along to games. And with that, Sportable Scoreboards was born. From its start in a California garage to today’s 40,000 square foot facility in Murray, Kentucky, Sportable Scoreboards is home to 60 dedicated employees who are eager to see exciting numbers on the board. Their commitment to the company’s success has propelled Sportable to become one of the major players in the youth and high school market over the last three decades. To continue this momentum, Cowen, now chairman of the board, recently challenged his team to double its growth over the next five years. Sportable manufactures 6,000 made-to-order scoreboards each year for every indoor and outdoor sport imaginable. By doubling its production, Sportable hopes to positively impact twice as many communities across America. “There are hundreds of thousands of young people that are able to compete on an athletic field with a scoreboard that validates their experience and says ‘what you’re doing matters,’” Mike Daniel, Sportable’s president explained. “And quite frankly, that tells us that what we’re doing matters as well.” Sportable’s customers are our country’s communities. They are high school athletic directors and coaches with limited or non-existent budgets. They are parks and recreation departments who rely on government funding for their sports programs. They are parents and Little League officials who put on bake sales and car washes to raise money for a scoreboard. So how does a business plan to double in size in a market that may not be able to afford the product it sells? Sportable takes pride in meeting its customers on their own playing fields. To do so, the company created a Score Rewards program that helps schools sell advertising space on their scoreboard to offset costs. They also implemented a long-term finance program for more expensive models. But in order to double down on growth, Sportable realized it had to transform the way it operated, in hopes of finding efficiencies and cost savings that it could pass on to its customers. “We had to make radical change and radical improvements to get from where we are currently to where we want to be,” Daniel said. “We don’t want incremental change, we want to transform the way we address our business very fundamentally. There are inefficiencies, there are opportunities, and there are ways for us to reach our customers that we’ve never focused on before.” Sportable Scoreboards Grows and Transforms with Oracle SaaS Sportable recognized the need to up its game. Its front and back office software was outdated. The company was maintaining a dozen disparate, legacy systems that didn’t talk to each other. Costly to manage, the customized integrations between each weren’t sustainable for future growth. Each line of business was operating with duplicate records, process inefficiencies, and manual data entry. Cowen’s challenge to take Sportable to the next level led the company to retire its on-premises systems and overhaul its entire business – from marketing, sales, quoting, and customer service to finance, accounting, procurement, and order management – in a move to Oracle Cloud. “Our owner and leadership team decided that it was time for us to make a bid toward growth, and what we were seeking was a single source of truth,” recalled Micah Sugg, director of IT. This data transparency and accuracy has had an immediate impact at Sportable. By integrating Oracle Marketing Cloud and Oracle Engagement Cloud, website traffic increased and sales reps are pursuing higher quality leads. Order precision improved with Oracle CPQ Cloud and Oracle ERP Cloud, reducing waste and required man power. Oracle Order Management Cloud, Oracle Manufacturing Cloud, and Oracle Supply Chain Cloud help ease order fulfillment, shipping the right product to the right customer, quickly. For the first time ever, accounting and financial teams can access the same data as their colleagues in sales and service with Oracle Financials Cloud, eliminating confusion caused by thousands of duplicate records. Sugg’s IT department is also reducing costs, no longer relying on a third party for server maintenance and set-up. Freed from the day-to-day business system maintenance, Sugg’s team is increasingly focusing on product development, exploring IoT-enabled scoreboards among other emerging technologies. Additionally, this single source of truth enables Sportable’s management team to quickly generate reports for strategic planning. “We’ve really freed up time to be more intentional about where we’re going and what we’re going to do, because that intentionality takes time,” Sugg explained. Sportable has also transformed its customer experience, removing the barriers and complexity of finding a product that meets its customers’ unique needs at an affordable price point. The company can now guide each school or parks director through a simple quoting and order process, shipping a scoreboard–configured for lights, horns, and team colors–to the field or arena in just 10 days. (Its competitors take twice as long to deliver a product.) Should the customer encounter any issues with set-up or maintenance, Sportable’s service department is on hand 24/7 so the inquiring coach or parent can get back to what’s really important–game day. At the end of the day, there’s no higher priority than Friday’s hockey game or Saturday’s soccer tournament. A scoreboard is just one part of that experience, but it’s a profound one. “There's nothing better than going past a football game on a Friday night and seeing our scoreboard in front of thousands of people,” Cowen said. “We’re united by the fact that we all love kids, we love sports, and we want the best programs that we can offer. Sportable is a part of that. We feel very proud about that.” Learn more about Sportable Scoreboard’s business transformation amidst a growing youth sports market on Forbes.    

Thirty three years ago, Mike Cowen was sitting in the bleachers watching his son’s baseball game, when he noticed the diamond didn’t have a scoreboard. In fact, many of the places where his kids...

Customer Experience Technology

DaVinci’s Code to Blending Science and Art to Master Sales

When the name “Leonardo” is mentioned, most think of paintings such as the Mona Lisa.  Or, for those of us born in the 80’s, the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtle may come to mind as well.  But, taking hard shelled reptiles and one well-known masterpiece of a painting aside, there has never been a better example of the blending of science and art than in the creations of Leonardo Da Vinci, whose repertoire and accomplishments put most Nobel Prize winners to shame. He’s credited for inventing the parachute, helicopter and tank. He’s the epitome of a Renaissance man. It’s the blend of art and science that many tech and software solutions seek to appeal to the masses. Jobs did it with Apple. Elon Musk created Tesla. While these solutions have a function, the very aesthetic of their form is art, whether you’re looking at a car or an iOS. This balance of form and function, science and art, has also been the basis for the future of Sales at Oracle. We’ve had to evolve our thinking because buyers have changed. They’re savvier, smarter, and have more information at their fingertips than ever. So, we’ve had to become more than just a software solution based on analytics and quantitative research. We’ve tapped into the artistic imagination in order to give our sales customers tools to innovate. And, we’ve also mastered the new science of sales. Customers are the new innovators. The traditional sales model has been impacted by: Buyers disrupting traditional B2B sales models Growing preference for digital sales engagement and commerce Consumption shifting from ownership to subscription Therefore, sales leaders should enable and stabilize the scientific function of their Sales teams with an artistic form. This means leaders should enable more intelligent engagement, and provide seamless experiences and answers from anywhere. AI and Machine Learning can lead intelligent engagement by guiding sales reps through every stage. AI for Sales can give next best offers, best sales actions, forecast accuracy and deal acceleration. It can also give reps smart talking points to help them build intelligent conversations and story telling. Seamless experiences means connecting all experiences from leads to renewals. Going beyond the traditional, configure, price & quote solutions, commonly known for generating quotes and orders, Oracle CPQ Cloud goes deeper with deal management. Beyond solely winning the deal, CPQ takes an optimal risk and reward trade off to bring in the most revenue. “Deal Management takes a very pointed look at AI. We are interested in knowing what is the optimal discount percentage to actually provide optimal revenue.” – Chris Haussler, Director of Product Management, CPQ Cloud Go Beyond CRM Sales leaders should be able to provide answers anywhere, instantly. Oracle Sales Performance Management is the predictive quota planning and forecasting solution that is ranked as the leader in the 2019 Forrester Wave. Sales professionals can quickly update records and capture follow ups, including taking detailed next best actions recommended by AI. And now we can take it a step further with Oracle Sales Performance Management to help companies be more flexible, accountable and responsive to improve sales effectiveness and achieve targeted revenue goals.  If you want to be a bit more Da Vinci like in life, go beyond sales force automation and master the new science of sales, click here to read on.

When the name “Leonardo” is mentioned, most think of paintings such as the Mona Lisa.  Or, for those of us born in the 80’s, the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtle may come to mind as well.  But, taking hard...

CPQ

What CPQ Can Really Do For You – No. 12: Simplify the Complex

Do you ever feel that running, or working for a business, has become a really complex operation? The things and services that are sold need to have enough variations to give individual customers exactly what they need. Even the simplest of tasks can be made challenging by the layers of administration and the demands of others in your own organization. It can feel overwhelmingly complicated. But, there is something that can help. One of the overarching benefits of Configure, Price, and Quote (CPQ) technology is its ability to cut through the clutter that builds up in an organization’s processes by helping to simplify what you and your team need to do. When I speak to people about simplification, they often respond with “OK.  That’s very well and good.  But my business just isn’t simple.” This is a fair challenge.  Sometimes the sophistication of product combinations can be a true competitive advantage. Simplification is not the same as simplicity. It refers to the art of making things as simple as they need to be, and no more. It’s in line with the concepts of ‘Lean Manufacturing’ and I think it’s best exemplified by this famous quote from Steve Jobs. “Simple can be harder than complex. You have to work hard to get your thinking clean to make it simple. But, it’s worth it in the end because once you get there, you can move mountains.” Implementing CPQ is often transformative because it provides a lens through which to look at many processes and how they all link together. A well-designed CPQ solution that replaces older systems can strip away the layers of process inefficiency that build up. It ensures every team has just the information it needs to work at peak performance. Let’s consider the impact on the sales team. Simplification through CPQ means that selecting and selling the right product for your customer is a process that can’t go wrong. This is because; Bad product selections are eliminated before they cause problems for customers or back-office teams. Options can be limited to those available for specific customers at this specific moment, avoiding confusion and overwhelming them. Product training information is provided right when a salesperson is considering options, removing the need for folders full of reference materials that never get looked at. The benefits of simplification extend to other teams too. IT departments gain a degree of control without extensive investment because; Sensitive data is excised from sprawling spreadsheets and held efficiently in a central controllable system, reducing the risk of data breaches and inaccuracies. Cloud-based SaaS solutions are quick and easy to implement. Service levels of the core application are managed and assured by the vendor. No additional infrastructure is needed. Integration conforms to standards and highlights inefficiencies in data structures, driving a coherent architecture that moves data around the organization. Finance teams also find that CPQ can simplify their operations. This is because; It becomes easy for pricing analysts and deal approvers to see precisely what the deal means for the business. Facts can be clearly laid out, without obfuscation from Sales. Margin and revenue dashboards provide the right information to those who are authorized to see it. Deal management tools provide insight and comparisons with the contexts of history, the deal itself, or future predictions, without needing to set up separate, complex analytical tools. Approval process clarity ensures all necessary authorizations are in place. Workflow as a whole can be inspected, highlighting areas of process inefficiency. All approvals gain a full, automatic audit trail. We’ve talked before about the benefits of CPQ to downstream systems which all reap the benefits of the simplifications that can be made at the start of the process. CPQ provides the lens through which you can inspect your company’s products, services and workflow to get them into your customers’ hands. It allows to you to remove all the clutter from the beginning of the sales process so that the perfect arrangement and flow enables you to deliver your promises. CPQ gives your very own “Zen Garden” for business. Download Walpole Partnership's free, in-depth e-book: The Complete Configure Price Quote (CPQ) Guide for Sales Professionals. Learn about how CPQ can help beat your current sales challenges, choose the right system, and how it can simplify the complex.  Read the brand new Oracle eBook "3 Ways to Drive Sales With CPQ" Download the entire "CPQ Cloud's Top 12 Benefits" blog series by clicking here! * Originally published on walpolepartnership.com    

Do you ever feel that running, or working for a business, has become a really complex operation? The things and services that are sold need to have enough variations to give individual...

Customer Experience Strategy

2019 CX Checklist: How Well Do You Know Your Customer?

How can you keep your customers loyal? Neither products nor even price are the main differentiators anymore. The way to build loyalty and trust is by constantly providing customers with great brand experiences. The key ingredient to knowing your customers is to create a unified, intimate view of them. Just like any other relationship, once you understand what is important to the other, likes, dislikes, priorities, preferences, and many other things, you can form a bond that lasts. It also means admitting your own flaws and try to identify the areas you fall short. What do you already know right now about your customer? Where are your blind spots in their customer experience? Our 2019 checklist “How Well Do You Know Your Customers” will help you answer these questions. Checklist: How Well Do You Know Your Customers? What was their last purchase? When did you last talk with them? Do you know what they are saying about you? Did they use that special offer you sent? Are you able to identify them every time they are on your site or in store? Are they an unhappy customer? Do they have an open support ticket? Do you use all their data to personalize their experiences with your brand? Are you able to identify which customers are new and have high-potential for your loyalty programs? Can you identify your at-risk customers who are likely to leave for a competitor?   Why is a unified view of your customer important? Every customer is unique.  The way each of your customers engages with your brand is incredibly different. Without a complete view of your customer and how they interact with your brand, you can’t provide them with an experience that delights, entertains, and satisfies them. There is nothing more frustrating than receiving a promotional email when you’re in the middle of a messy support issue. There is nothing more impersonal than being asked to join a brand’s reward program when you have been a loyal member for years. It only takes one bad experience to lose your customer forever, and perhaps everybody they know as well. Fragmented data means fragmented experiences.  However, connected data with intelligence leads to connected experiences, helping you reduce churn by turning issue resolution into issue avoidance, opening new revenue streams. Providing a consistent experience across Marketing, Sales, and Service enables you to deliver customer-aware marketing to improve customer satisfaction by making happy customers happier, retaining at-risk customers, and winning back lost revenue from competitors.  To know your customers is to keep your customers.   Oracle CX Unity Oracle CX Unity is a Customer Intelligence Platform for real-time CX. It enables CX Professionals to deliver contextually aware and highly personalized experiences that delight customers whenever and however they engage with a brand. CX Unity consolidates offline, online, and 3rd party data into a dynamic and connected customer profile, and applies machine learning to contextually derive the next best customer experience. CX Unity checks 10/10 on the 2019 “How Well Do You Know Your Customers?” checklist. Read more about Oracle CX Unity.        

How can you keep your customers loyal? Neither products nor even price are the main differentiators anymore. The way to build loyalty and trust is by constantly providing customers with great brand...

CPQ

What CPQ Can Really Do For You – No. 11: Auditability

We previously touched on the importance of auditing pricing and deal construction processes. In our previous article on the benefits of putting your approvals into a CPQ system, we referred to the audit trail that can be logged and generated by a well-designed CPQ system. The benefits don’t stop there. In this exploration into the real value of CPQ, let’s go a little deeper into the many ways CPQ can assist your organization’s auditability. If you are in an area of a business that gets audited, we’re sure it’s not something that you look forward to. Being audited takes up a lot of time and can be stressful as something could be unearthed that gets your department into trouble. There is the chance that your practices could be exposed as ’in need of improvement.’  Finally, it’s a real pain to dig through old documents and folders to try and piece together the story of why someone did what they did, especially when it was several years ago.  We know audits are a necessary evil and are needed for an organization to prosper.  We all dread the thought that our company might be caught up in a scandal like, like price-fixing, ripping off pensions, insider trading or serious accounting frauds like Enron.  In fact, it was scandals like Enron’s that gave rise to stricter audit requirements in the early 2000s, like Sarbanes-Oxley (SOX).  This set a high standard required for internal controls, and exerted much tougher penalties for board members who fail to ensure that financial statements are accurate. The role of pricing decisions (e.g. who authorized what and when), and the accuracy of revenue reporting becomes paramount when evidencing compliance with audit arrangements such as this. Enter the CPQ to Slay the Audit Dragon At this point, a CPQ system can be the simple answer to your audit needs. All requests for discounts, and the way revenue is allocated across products and services are documented. All approvals can be attributed to an individual, time stamped and with reasons captured at the time of approval. More importantly, it provides the ability to show an auditor the entire history of a decision.  It connects the dots from a signed deal all the way to reported revenue at the click of a button.  This means you have nothing to hide and a clear understanding of the decisions. This is music to an auditor’s ears. It builds confidence in the process and means any anomalies can be quickly analyzed too. When you have all this information securely stored in the cloud under access control, with a tamper-proof process, that means it’s been designed with integrity in mind. It makes the process of passing an audit so much easier. All the anxiety and pain mentioned above just disappears. Auditors are no longer the enemy. You will find they can actually help advise on improvements to the rules in your system to make future audits even more enjoyable. Yes, that’s right, enjoyable audits! New Good Friend So CPQ is an auditor’s friend, and an auditee’s friend too. It doesn’t just apply to the big-scale audit requirements like SOX, but any organization that’s auditable.  Whether you’re a telecommunications company affected by IFRS 15, an organization impacted by GDPR, or any one of a thousand other guidelines, rules or quality policies that get checked - having data and decisions stored in a CPQ system will make you appreciate audits too. Read the brand new Oracle eBook "3 Ways to Drive Sales With CPQ" Download the entire "CPQ Cloud's Top 12 Benefits" blog series by clicking here! *Originally published on walpolepartnership.com  

We previously touched on the importance of auditing pricing and deal construction processes. In our previous article on the benefits of putting your approvals into a CPQ system, we referred to the...

Customer Experience Technology

Chatbot Requirements for Better Collaboration for an Evolving Field Workforce

Chat and chat bots are currently all the rage as a key interaction channel with customers. So why don’t more companies leverage them to enable field collaboration? I’ll bet you’ve been serviced online through some sort of chat channel.  You browse a website and research an item that you can’t live without. Suddenly, a chat window appears with a virtual or actual agent ready to help you. Chat serves your customers by being a proactive sales application or it can act as a halfway point for customer service situations that fall between a full self-service agent and a live voice agent. Most field workers use some form of mobile device chat capability to fulfill the needs of their workload.  These devices usually enable some sort of standalone chat/SMS capability that can be used in an ad hoc manner by the field. In fact, back office (e.g. dispatch) staff can also reach out directly to field workers via one-on-one mobile device chat.  As a result, companies that deploy chat solutions that are designed to improve the efficiencies of the field become at best, an afterthought, rather than a vital piece of the puzzle. The truth is that, as operations continue to evolve, a more efficient model is required that enables the field workforce to work more independently. This will likely include expanded remote capabilities to power flexible and omni-directional communications that will be required for success. Real collaboration requires a broad and integrated chat solution that connects field workers and the supporting back office teams in an intelligent and efficient manner.  The robust collaboration capabilities for the field workforce should support the following: One to One and One to Many Conversations – Field operations should be able to chat with other field workers, managers, and dispatchers.  These communications should be configurable per user or groups via permissions.  The ability to broadcast specific, one-way messages to the entire organization is key. Location Awareness – Collaboration communications capabilities should take location into account since all modern mobile devices are location aware.  This includes the ability for a field worker to send out a call for assistance to any colleagues within X miles of his/her current location.  Additionally, a dispatcher could send an urgent job request only to field workers currently within the job’s locale. Video Capabilities – The ability to share photos, attachments, and support live video makes issue resolution more efficient. When a remote colleague can view the issue at hand and effectively provide assistance to a field worker, this prevents the need to double-dispatch additional assistance, postpone or reschedule the job. Assignments and Transfers with Contextual Awareness – You want to support job assignments and transfers among field workers with full awareness of the required skillsets, work zones, and potentially other process constraints.  Resources and gear such as tools, set top boxes and spare parts should be easily transferrable among field workers without breaking any pre-defined business rules. Assignments and transfers can be done by dragging and dropping a job or an inventory object from the field service solution directly into an open chat session. Helpdesks – Helpdesks should be available and configurable to enable teams to staff a specific function, like dispatch, in a flexible manner. Demand and resource balancing can take place for any field requests for assistance.  A field worker needn’t reach out to a specific person. Instead, Helpdesk assigns a subject matter expert, representing a specific function to address the issue in a timely and effective manner.  Members of the Helpdesk can accept and close inbound requests and transfer chats among themselves as appropriate. Access Points – An effective collaboration capability provides convenient ‘access’ or launch points to communicate with the appropriate colleague, with full context, whenever necessary. This should be configurable so that companies can tailor capabilities to their particular and evolving operations processes. Metrics and Reporting – You’ll want to collect data around usage and provide robust reporting. Archive conversational content for future analyses.  Metrics can range from the number of field worker requests for assistance, to how often a work assignment was rejected, to the average response time duration it took to respond to a Helpdesk request. As proof that a field workforce collaboration-based chat approach can really deliver business value, some companies have reported that they have achieved: Up to 75% reduction in call volumes to the back office Up to 75% response time reduction for inbound field requests (based on the ability to support simultaneous chats versus single voice calls) Dramatic improvements (on the order of 20-25%) in dispatcher/back office staff to field worker ratios A collaborative chat solution both enhances your customers’ experience and can be a key capability to drive an improved employee experience in support of field workforce operations.  To ignore its use may negatively affect your customers and employees while damaging your brand. Is a chat-based collaboration capability something that your field workforce would thrive on?  I look forward to your comments! We Can Help! Oracle’s Customer Success Advanced Services can guide your success with your Oracle SaaS solution. We are 100% focused on helping customers achieve faster value and realization of business objectives. Find out more and contact us by clicking here. Build a chatbot within minutes by clicking here! #OracleFieldService #OracleSaaS #OracleEmp          

Chat and chat bots are currently all the rage as a key interaction channel with customers. So why don’t more companies leverage them to enable field collaboration? I’ll bet you’ve been serviced online...

Customer Experience Strategy

Modernizing the B2B Buying Experience

How can you keep up to date? By now we all know that in B2B, the sales experience is a bit dated; Formalities, long processes and impersonal selling. Now don’t get us wrong, we know that B2B selling is far more complex and grueling than it seems, but does it have to be? With the emergence of modern buyers, perhaps our strategies should change. Modern buyers It’s official, modern buyers are now less influenced by traditional sales and marketing techniques than ever, as well as being even more skeptical of whether you can deliver real value. These modern buyers are more educated and informed than that of their senior counterparts. They spend more time online and know exactly what they want to look for in a business they buy from. As 18-39 year olds come into job roles that allow them to be decision makers in a business, your strategy needs to change. This new demographic of B2B buyers, on average, complete 74% of buyer research online before initial contact. With this information, we should be providing rich content and information online now more than ever; constantly updating and updating it again to give buyers everything they need to decide, whenever and wherever they want it. There now should be an ‘always open’ mindset to your organization, something the B2B buying experience has been lacking. Make it easier! B2B sales need to be made easier on the buyer. Making more information accessible throughout the sales process also needs to be streamlined and made less complicated. Buyers today want everything to be more transparent, so they know they can trust you to deliver real value to their business. Streamlining the complicated process as well as giving access to things such as order history and instant payment makes the buying process easier and requires less complicated workflow. Giving buyers an easier experience is something B2B should really take from B2C in the coming age. Relevance As well as giving the buyers an easier experience, B2B could learn other things from B2C. With modern buyers, relevance is key. (No, we don’t mean that you should create “memes” to go with your business). The way to add relevance to the buyer experience is by leveraging the data that you possess on your buyers or leads and fortifying it with additional insights.  By leveraging that data, you have the ability to personalize the customer buying experience. You can anticipate what they want before they even know that they want it. This means that you’re more likely to convert leads into sales when the buyer trusts that you are on the same page as them. Never underestimate the power of relevance and similarities in your strategy. Market to the modern buyer and know your audience In terms of engaging the modern buyer, there is an imminent need to market like every customer is the most important customer to you. Buyers want more transparency. They want a trustworthy business. One way to build up that trust and relationship is to make them feel more important. Treating your buyers like a B2C would market to their customers is the way forward. Personalized and targeted messages based off the data your organization has are the best way to go about this. Once that relationship is built with the buyer through this, they are even more likely to return to you in the future, encouraging loyalty and keeping the retention of the modern buyer. What are you doing to ensure your organization has a great data strategy so you can provide them with the absolute best customer experience your organization is capable of? Read more about how B2B Marketing Depends Upon Relationship Building Click here to learn how to deliver preferred B2B customer experiences with agile technology. * Originally published on bpiondemand.com

How can you keep up to date? By now we all know that in B2B, the sales experience is a bit dated; Formalities, long processes and impersonal selling. Now don’t get us wrong, we know that B2B selling...

CPQ

What CPQ Can Really Do For You – No. 10: Insights Through Analytics

In the next part of our series exploring the benefits of implementing a Configure, Price, Quote (CPQ) system, we’re going to look at quote analytics, reporting, and the related topic of Artificial Intelligence (AI).  In the context of CPQ, we’ll see what they're really all about. When we consider the amount of data that passes through a CPQ system, it’s clear why many CPQ vendors are keen to stake a claim to the creation and automation of intelligence around all that information. Typically a CPQ system will hold or touch data on customers, selling prices, costs, product and part quantities, approvals and many others. When analyzed correctly, this data can yield great insights into many metrics. For example, win-rates and achieved prices could be inspected to help influence future pricing decisions. If you regularly win deals in a sector at or above a given price, then it may make sense to set discount limits to that price. You can also use the data inside a CPQ system to look internally and make your processes more efficient. For example, by tracking the amount of time a deal spends with different approvers or in different stages of its lifecycle, you can highlight bottlenecks. These may be due to inefficiencies or perhaps it’s just that your Finance Director is too busy to approve all the deals that he’s sitting on.  One solution is to empower someone more junior to make the decisions. One of the biggest complaints a salesperson has is when their deals take longer to approve internally than by customers! It makes sense to look at the facts, see if they have a point, then take appropriate action to get your business flowing faster. It's Still about the Data Within most CPQ systems there are a range of analytical tools that can help you extract insights. You can look to simple reporting where any attributes stored can be reported in a tabular manner and perhaps exported to a spreadsheet for deeper analysis and cross-fertilization with other data sets. This is fast, simple and gives most organizations the ability to get information out with ease. Beyond that, there are now many tools that can give you a real-time understanding of your data during the deal construction process. Using the example above regarding price optimization, you could present a scatter graph to your salespeople of ‘won’ prices in their sector or territory by deal size to let them make their own estimate of how much discount to give.  Or, you could even generate a simple regression curve to show the ‘best-fit’ of prices. These are useful insights that can help a salesperson make an informed decision. You can go further still with data-cube export functionality to allow the full CPQ data-set to be taken into a specialist Business Intelligence or data warehouse application. While this is incredibly powerful, it requires a specialist team to work with the tools and the data to get the best out of it. Personally I’m a little wary of vendors that claim to give full AI at the click of a button. Machine learning can undoubtedly bring huge benefits (although if, like me you watch too much sci-fi, you’ll know it can bring huge risks too!), and I am sure this area will develop. However, if you truly want to get deep and automated analysis of all your data, you need to be prepared to invest further in the specialist teams to set it up. If you too are wondering what the hype about AI in sales and marketing really means, I also suggest you read the wise words of Alex Low who articulates this so much more eloquently than I could ever manage. In conclusion, CPQ tools give a wonderful opportunity to gain insights into your customers, sales and internal processes Read the brand new Oracle eBook "3 Ways to Drive Sales With CPQ" Download the entire "CPQ Cloud's Top 12 Benefits" blog series by clicking here! Originally published on walpolepartnership.com

In the next part of our series exploring the benefits of implementing a Configure, Price, Quote (CPQ) system, we’re going to look at quote analytics, reporting, and the related topic of Artificial...

Customer Experience Strategy

True Confessions - How I Weaponized Social Media Against a Brand

For many years, I traveled internationally about 250 days a year, living out of various suitcases. My luggage was central to my universe.  When your itinerary makes many stops to different cities and countries, the return trip home without your favorite luggage by your side can be a living hell.  That’s exactly what happened to me and I used social media as a weapon when I went to war against one of my favorite brands.  Here’s my story. During some downtime at home, I took my favorite carryon bag to the store to get the handle fixed because it was coming apart. The store employees knew me well.  They also knew that I spent over a thousand dollars a year in their store, so they waived the shipping charge for the repairs.  They wrote up the job and sent me on my way. It’s the kind of great customer experience we all love. They know who I am, what value I represent and they go out of their way to make sure everything is easy for me.  Since a repair usually takes 2-3 weeks; I figured I’d have the bag back before my next trip. However, after a few weeks, I hadn’t seen it. So, I called the store and asked them to check on it for me. They said they’d get back to me as soon as possible. They called me later that day, informing me that my bag was destroyed! They were honest about their mistake, but the best they could do for me was to ship me the new version of that bag in 4 weeks. I had to fly again in two days.  The person on the phone seemed to have done his best, but I was still out my favorite bag, or any carryon bag for that matter. While they did everything they could to help me, I was not happy with the company, so I took my grievance to social media to make the exchange public. Using Social Media as a Weapon On the company’s main social media page, I brutally shamed them in my post. To make sure it got noticed, I called in my fellow road warriors to pile onto their misery. Within a day it was the most popular post on their page. People I didn’t even know chimed in. This post had real legs real quick! Two days later, they finally responded to the post by emailing me.  Big mistake.  When someone communicates with you publicly, do not force a change of channels, ever! Their email was a polite attempt to bribe me with a $50 coupon, to go away. Smelling weakness, I took their attempt to privatize the conversation and I posted the email exchange into the comments of my original post, calling them out on their shifty tactics. My fellow road warriors had a field day with this.  The company tried once again to privatize the exchange and sent me another email to placate me.   Once again, I posted the exchange and the Internet went after them even harder. They even had the audacity in their email to suggest, “If I have additional comments, feel free to mail us a letter.” Seriously.    In the interest of peace, I sent them a direct message with the precise details of where we were at the time, which included the following; I emphasized that I’d been a loyal customer for several years.  Their staff was fantastic and did everything to help me replace the bag. However, the replacement bag they offered was a terrible, low-quality product.  Compared to its predecessor, it was so cheap that “they should be ashamed to sell it to their customers.” They responded the same day that a member of their staff would contact me directly. I informed them I was traveling abroad for 2 weeks, but I gave them my details so they could contact me. They….never….contacted…me!!!  So, I unloaded vitriol on them via social media again.  This time, there was total silence. Two Weeks Later At a conference, I gave a presentation and mentioned this specific customer experience to the 500 attendees.  Moments later as I walked away from the room, I got a call from the company. The person on the phone made it clear, “I don’t know what happened. All I know is I’ve been told to try and fix it.” At this point, this ordeal had been going on for months. The person on the other end of the phone knew nothing about the situation. The company kept changing channels.  They desperately wanted to throw money at the problem and make it go away. Know When to Cut Your Losses While I would never be a customer of theirs ever again, I still wanted answers. Like, why had they failed so badly across the board in their processes? I was given nothing for my terrible experience but apologies, but this poor guy knew it was his job to fall on the sword, and he did it politely. At the end of the day, a store credit was sent to my store in NY for “any carry-on bag that you want.” A Tale of Warning Misunderstanding how social media works, or having it backfire against you can cause immeasurable brand damage.  One bad experience is all it takes to lose a customer. And remember, it’s not just that one customer. It’s every person that customer knows throughout their network. Further, when I researched this article, I found my comments from over 4 years ago. The Internet never forgets.   Technology can help a great deal, but only when companies are willing to change their policies to work in today’s experience economy. The instant you choose company policy over customer experience, you’ll feel the brunt of social media being used against you. Lastly, when I had a broken handle on one of their competitor’s bags, not once but twice, each time it was fixed in less than 48 hours and at no cost to me. They have a customer for life! Read about how social data can make your marketing better!                

For many years, I traveled internationally about 250 days a year, living out of various suitcases. My luggage was central to my universe.  When your itinerary makes many stops to different cities and...

CPQ

What CPQ Can Really Do For You – No. 9: 5 Ways to Reduce Administration

Show me a salesperson who craves more administration and I’ll show you someone who won’t hit their target. Admin is an anathema to most salespeople. Trying to avoid doing lots of admin might be one of the main reasons they moved into sales in the first place. There are five main ways that implementing a CPQ system can save administration time: 1) Rekeying Information CPQ is generally integrated with a Customer Relationship Management (CRM) system. So, it’s straightforward for all account information, names and addresses, etc., to be passed seamlessly from CRM to CPQ. In return, once the deal is in a CPQ system, the products, prices and status of the deal can be automatically synced back into the CRM. This reduces the need for careful updating of two separate systems, and it also reduces errors. 2) Forecasting In most organizations, forecasting is frequently dealt with in a whole team meeting where each person in turn states what deals they’re bringing in this week or month, and the value of them. It’s often necessary to treat forecasting like this so that a sales manager can inspect the deals and make their own judgment on whether they’ll really close, or not. I’ve seen this process reduced significantly in organizations that are disciplined in the adoption of CPQ. By putting the detail of a deal into a CPQ system and seeking approvals for non-standard elements in advance, salespeople and managers are more collaborative throughout a deal’s lifecycle, building confidence in it or challenging it in a more productive way. If the customer requirements change, all systems get updated and managers have more confidence in the data in the system. It’s a more straightforward process all round. 3) Quote/Proposal Creation Of course, a CPQ system will offer a major reduction in the administration required to generate a quote or proposal document. All deal information can be used in well-branded templates, allowing the time taken to create an accurate proposal to be reduced from perhaps days, to minutes. A sales person can spend their limited time crafting a personalized cover letter that will have impact.  Their time is better spent than collating details of the product or service, or searching around for the prices and facts of a deal. 4) Automated Approvals I’ve mentioned before the beneficial effect on approvals that CPQ can bring.  For many salespeople, chasing people to say ‘yes’ to a deal is a time-consuming and unnecessary overhead.  This can mean returning to the office to find people who are hiding behind voicemail or not responding to emails. Having a transparent and automated approval mechanism can highlight when approves are holding up deals. It can also breed a culture of support for salespeople if implemented correctly. 5) Order Processing Finally, once the salesperson has gotten the customer to say ‘yes’ and sign the order, they then have the challenge of getting the order processed. Without CPQ, this can be a manual system.  It’s just not right when you have to prepare internal order paperwork with more information and double check that everything is correct, when what you really you should be drinking champagne to celebrate! A CPQ system that is integrated with Enterprise Resource Planning (ERP) or order management can provide all the information that the downstream systems require…. fully validated, error free, and all at the press of a button. Overall, the streamlining of administration and moving it away from frontline sales can only be a good thing for an organization. I’ve heard sales people refer to themselves as ‘the highest paid admin clerk,’ which is both sad and frustrating. Take the tasks away, systemize them, automate them and let CPQ free your salespeople to sell. What are you doing to help unburden your salespeople from excess administration? Download the entire "CPQ Cloud's Top 12 Benefits" blog series by clicking here! Click here to learn more about Oracle CPQ. Originally published on walpolepartnership.com  

Show me a salesperson who craves more administration and I’ll show you someone who won’t hit their target. Admin is an anathema to most salespeople. Trying to avoid doing lots of admin might be one of...

Ask the Experts

Enable the Experience Economy with Visual Configuration Technology

By Marc Murphy, Chief Executive Officer at Atlatl Software Digital transformation has forced massive changes in how we need to think about Customer Experiences and how to meet those rapidly changing expectations that persist in our consumer lives.  These new expectations are disrupting the traditional B2B sales model. Atlatl Visual’s product, integrated with the Oracle CX platform, is extends the customer experience via 3D and Augmented Reality. Don’t provide customers with an analog sales experience in a digital word! Our online experiences have influenced B2B customers to expect the same type of B2C experience they have in their day-to-day life. In terms of the value of Visual technology, B2B environments are finding applications of this technology is providing tangible in the e-commerce space. This has led to a growing set of visionary companies that are embracing Visual and AR technology in the sales and marketing segment of the value chain. B2B products that are more often larger, more complex, and harder to sell outside a physical space (ie showrooms, shop floor, plants, etc) are seeing significant ROI from the potential of Visual Configuration integrated with a robust Oracle commerce platform. Atlatl Visual and Oracle CPQ In the industrial and manufacturing space, Atlatl Visual recently introduced the concept of a ‘digital twin.’ This means creating a digital version of a product that can be designed, configured, and virtually ‘poked & prodded’ in the sales process at a fraction of the cost of creating the physical product.  Additionally, this digital twin becomes extremely accessible to a larger audience of prospective customers.  This virtual sales experience increases the reach and speed to companies and customers, while decreasing the costs of the sales process.  Why Visual & AR has changed the experience economy Customer journeys are changing.  Visual and augmented reality changes the customer experience by providing an immersive and differentiated sales and buying experience for Sales and consumers alike.  Brands that take advantage of this innovative technology will create competitive advantages over traditional, antiquated, analog processes. Virtual product in the physical space provides intuitive product confidence.  The color, fit, finish, dimensions and space constraints are all present in the AR experience. Sales Efficiency: Speed & Accuracy = TIME Tangible ROI:  Time Savings & Resource Savings Higher conversion rate on deals up to 40% Higher productivity from your sales team Speed to close Create an Immersive Sales Experience with Atlatl Visual & Oracle CX Selling products in the environment in which they are used (or ‘in-situation’) is a major element of the proposed value for Visual & AR technology embedded into Oracle CX.   Imagine the power of seeing a tractor in a construction site,  a conveyor layout in a plant, or medical equipment arranged to fit in an operating room!   This ability pushes the sales process of complex products outside of the constraints of the physical world sales meeting and begins to establish the visual and virtual environment as the preferred point of sale experience. We believe that this will start to eliminate barriers that exist in geography and capital by having ‘virtual’ dealers that can be anywhere around the globe with the same access.        

By Marc Murphy, Chief Executive Officer at Atlatl Software Digital transformation has forced massive changes in how we need to think about Customer Experiences and how to meet those rapidly changing...

Ask the Experts

The Journey to Customer Data Best Practices

By Sanjeev Kumar, Global Head, Oracle CRM/CX at Tata Consultancy Services Everybody talks about getting a “360-degree view” of the customer, but the fact remains that most businesses today struggle to get even a fraction of that view. This inability to unlock the full potential of data deters many businesses from gaining a complete understanding of their customers. In too many organizations, customer data is trapped inside departmental silos. Each group has its own systems and databases, and each one captures different slices of information about a particular customer. Such fragmentation makes it nearly impossible to piece together a unified view of the customer. The other problem is that companies don’t focus on the entire customer journey. In most cases, departments only look at their part of the overall experience. For example, if you’re in sales and marketing, you may have little or no knowledge of your best customers’ most recent service inquiries. At best, you end up with an incomplete or vague understanding of your customer. That’s not good enough. Fragmented Data Means Fragmented Experiences If you don't have a holistic understanding of all your interactions with your customers, you’re probably giving them a disjointed experience. If your marketing system isn’t integrated with customer service, your customers may feel like they’re dealing with two entirely different entities. Customers confused by this disconnect will lose trust in your brand as it only takes one bad experience for a fickle customer to go elsewhere. It’s also about missed opportunities. If you don’t have a full view of your customer, you can’t effectively execute cross-sell and up-sell programs that expand wallet share. Without a full and accurate understanding of your customer’s needs and expectations, you’ll have trouble gathering and understanding the insights you need to create the “next big thing” that could transform your long-term business prospects. Break Down Data Silos! How do you get what every marketer strives for – that unified 360-degree customer view? Start by taking a broader, more strategic view of customer data. Your customer data is a key business asset that should drive your organization’s growth and competitiveness. Look beyond merely capturing and storing your customer data.  Focus on the entire value chain by embracing how data can be identified, assessed, shared, understood, and used. A well-executed data strategy will rapidly move your organization up the customer data maturity scale. Data maturity ranges from “siloed” on the low end – where there is little to no data sharing nor analytics – to “self-optimized”, which nurtures a mature customer data management practice that takes advantage of an internal and continuously expanding data ecosystem data where insights are shared freely across the organization. New tools and technologies will help you tear down these silos and pull in a wider range of customer data across your enterprise. Race to the Modern CX Cloud with TCS and Oracle Every Industry Will Be Affected New business models and services are emerging like Nest, Netflix, Air BnB, Uber and Spotify. These brands use real-time data insights to drive customer experience & growth. They use real time data and mobility technologies to provide great customer experiences and are disrupting staid industries. The three tenets that inform smarter CX are 1) connected data and 2) connected intelligence, which fuel 3) connected customer experiences. Each layer feeds each other to drive real-time actionable insights for superior customer experiences. The Oracle CX Cloud Suite is based on these three tenets to provide smarter customer experiences. But Wait!  There’s More! To generate a true 360-degree view, however, you’ll need to get even more data. This means integrating data inside your enterprise with third-party data from business partners and other outside sources, including social media, news feeds, and even IoT sensor data. Oracle CX Unity, a new customer intelligence platform that will be embedded with Oracle CX Cloud will drive customer insight by combining 1st part data within organizational walls with 3rd part data from Oracle Data Cloud  (Oracle data cloud is largest 3rd party data marketplace). Take Action Once you get the data and insights, how do you put them into action? This is where new technologies like artificial intelligence and machine learning are changing the game. Sales teams can engage an AI engine on top of your data to recommend optimal actions for specific customers, increasing the chance to convert any given opportunity into a win. Consider your typical mobile phone shopper who is also an active social media participant. What if you could tap into that history when a customer contacts your call center? Now you can provide an instant offer that the customer might not be able to refuse – even if you didn’t originally plan to sell that person a phone. Always remember: real time-insights based on relevant data sets will have far powerful recommended actions for customers, giving brands an avenue to provide superior customer experience and create a lasting relationship with customers. Moving to a customer data-centric model can be a big change for an organization. To adapt, some need to radically change how they drive behavior around capturing, sharing and governing information in the enterprise. Creating a customer analytics and insight team to harness the potential of customer data can give you a big head start, as well as defining the technologies to build a world-class customer analytics capability. What’s the first thing organizations should do to conquer CX in 2019? To find out, come see us at this year’s Modern Customer Experience conference in Las Vegas, March 19-21.      

By Sanjeev Kumar, Global Head, Oracle CRM/CX at Tata Consultancy Services Everybody talks about getting a “360-degree view” of the customer, but the fact remains that most businesses today struggle to...

CPQ

What CPQ Can Really Do For You - No. 8: Asset Based Ordering

Asset based ordering (ABO), which is sometimes referred to as Subscription Ordering, is a powerful capability that extends the reach of CPQ. For businesses that sell subscriptions, recurring licenses, support agreements or modular solutions, it can allow these transactions to be handled effectively beyond the initial sale and gives great scope for managing renewals. Critically, it also provides the capability for up-sell and cross-sell opportunities to be captured, delivering enhanced revenue and profit for those who implement it well. First, let’s understand exactly what ABO is. To take a B2C example, imagine that at home you have a fixed telephone line contract with your provider. You’ve had this for several years. Then, your old TV breaks down so you go out and buy a shiny new 60” 4K HDR TV. Naturally you want great content to watch. Your phone provider also offers digital TV services, so you call up and you add a basic TV package to your contract. Three months later you receive a letter that advertises the start of the new football season.  Your football mad son pesters you to add a ‘Sports Package’ to your TV contract. You agree to a discount with your provider based on extending your original contract for a further 12 months. A year later, you see that another provider is offering an even better deal. You call your provider up and either they agree to terminate your contract, or they offer you a discount for a renewal. ABO allows the provider to use their knowledge of what services you have and your contract status at any time so they can offer you an appropriate product, service or contract. It can also calculate any adjustment to pricing. Finally, it can also issue the correct instructions to supporting systems so that they can move, add, change or delete the records for each asset. In the earlier example this might show as an ‘add’ for the TV service, a ‘change’ to add the ‘Sports Package’, another ‘change’ to the contract length, and finally, a ‘delete’ should the contract be terminated. The key benefits of working with an ABO capable system is the ability to manage all these transactions in a sales facing system. Traditionally, these contract changes were a back-office maintenance process, disconnected from the customer-facing sales or service teams. For industries like telecoms, it’s invaluable to have this information linked in to the sales tools where ABO provides a crucial advantage in terms of giving a customer the right deal at the right price. The benefits aren’t limited to telecom companies. Any organization that sells subscriptions, license contracts or support agreements can benefit. Software companies, facilities management companies and maintenance providers are all examples of the type of businesses that can use ABO technology to its maximum potential. Finally, a good CPQ system should allow ABO to draw information from different sources - a CRM opportunity, an ERP system or an asset database. By using all this information and being smart about the logic of how it drives buyer behavior, ABO can be a fantastic asset to many organizations. Download the entire "CPQ Cloud's Top 12 Benefits" blog series by clicking here! Read about Oracle Subscription Management Cloud * Originally published on walpolepartnership.com

Asset based ordering (ABO), which is sometimes referred to as Subscription Ordering, is a powerful capability that extends the reach of CPQ. For businesses that sell subscriptions, recurring licenses,...

Customer Experience Strategy

Top 6 Technology Innovations and Trends for Field Service in 2019

A few years back, the digital marketing world was abuzz with a new concept called the “micro-moment.”  It describes the single, critical bursts of digital customer touch points that help to determine how that journey ends. It’s a sound concept to understand the customer journey and the tipping point that leads to a purchase, engaging them at the right moment to complete the purchase. Sometimes that touchpoint is so obvious it’s often overlooked – for years. Let’s take for example service organizations that require field service technicians to complete a customer transaction. We’ve all dealt with house alarm or cable providers to companies that service our air conditioners. Unfortunately however, the longer the customer relationship, the more likelihood there’s a history of frustration that erodes customer loyalty, increases churn and customer acquisition costs. But, just as digital transformed commerce, field service is transforming into a customer-focused line of business by understanding customers across every service and digital touchpoint to maximize loyalty and customer value. It’s an exciting shift when routine field service visits turn into memorable customer experiences and increased satisfaction. So, what exactly is fueling these changes? What does it mean for service providers and customers? Our 2019 list of top field service innovations spotlights what’s new and what’s next. 1. Automatic Dispatch and Internet of Things Ten years ago, being proactive in field service was a dream. But today, millions of connected devices provide companies with valuable data that help predict when field service assistance is needed and can diagnose problems before customers even realize there is one. This trend is fueling a new type of service interaction that re-sets the bar for customer experience and customer expectations in field service. 2. Machine Learning and Artificial Intelligence Machine learning (ML) utilizes statistical techniques that allow systems to learn from data as it runs. ML is a vital component to a new generation of routing and scheduling capabilities that improve service using a time-based, predictive, self-learning routing engine. In addition, ML optimizes other aspects of field service including job assignments without human intervention.  AI is wrapped around this to allow customers and employees to access information via chatbots and receive personalized recommendations relevant to the service call. 3. Automation For a manufacturer, automation inspires visions of robots and assembly lines. To a marketer, it means building complex, dynamic digital marketing programs that engage audiences until a desired action takes place. In field service, automation enables service reps to be more efficient and drive revenue.  Key customer and inventory data connect to front and back office applications that allow people to ask questions and get answers without speaking to a human – freeing up valuable time for higher value customer interactions. 4. Mobility Field service has always been mobile to some degree. What’s changed is the proliferation of customer mobile devices and the customer data that field service technicians can leverage to re-define the experience they deliver to customers. With real-time and offline data, field service technicians can deliver value-add services directly from their mobile device without the customer calling the service department back to order those same services, enabling a seamless and smooth customer experience. 5. The New Millennial Field Service Worker Baby Boomers are retiring. Gen X is in upper management and Millennials are filling the Boomers’ void. These new field service workers are natural collaborators, results-focused, and have a very different view toward customer experience compared to the Boomers they’re replacing. They provide the perfect vehicle for effective onboarding while setting the stage for delivering exceptional service – digital. But don’t kid yourself. Even though technology is being used to reshape field service, customers are still behind the preverbal driver’s seat as they demand more from the companies they do business with.  The key to success is marrying the right technology and people to effectively transform your field service in line with customer expectations. 6. Customer Data Centricity and Monetization As the field service industry shifts to a predictive maintenance model, leaders will continue to drive productivity and ultimately, revenue, through new technology investments. This means honing their data analytics capabilities around customer insights and connected devices. According to Aberdeen, best-in-class organizations that adopt next gen Field Service technology typically see service profits increase by 18 percent, customer retention increase by 42 percent, and SLA performance increase by 44 percent! Conclusion New and strong customer expectations have changed the game for field service organizations.  The new technology landscape allows service providers to either truly impress or disappoint.  Successful companies will deliver on the set of new customer expectations by removing the friction from all digital and in-person touch points to provide seamless, informed interactions to customers. To learn more, download The Future of Field Service and the Connected Mobile Workforce Read how DISH Network is serving up field success!          

A few years back, the digital marketing world was abuzz with a new concept called the “micro-moment.”  It describes the single, critical bursts of digital customer touch points that help to determine...

Customer Experience Strategy

What My Dog Has Taught Me About Loyalty

I left Chicago for a mundane, less colorful suburban town in order to have more space to grow a family. It wasn’t done without resistance. For I had never been sure if I was the sort of person that could be ‘suburban.’  The months that followed were challenging and I realized that I longed for something, but was unaware on how to find that elusive thing I sought. Looking back, I realize that I was simply longing for another connection, and I soon gained one. That connection came in form of a street dog. I picked up Elsie at the CACC and I credit her for teaching me almost everything I know about Loyalty. The loyalty Elsie and I have for each another is something that brands wish they could bottle and market to consumers. This may sound  far fetched, but read on to learn how companies should be more like my Elsie in order to build their customer loyalty. 1 - Listen Since the first day we locked eyes, Elsie has always had a great way of making me feel like I’m not just being heard, but am being listened to. Customers expect the companies they interact with to listen to them. With all the white noise that digital has given way to, consumers are bombarded with a constant stream of commotion. But when they stop and interact with your brand through a purchase or opening an email, the most important thing you can do is let them know you are listening to them. You can do this by making sure their interaction with you seamless, is on the channel of their choice, and is easily accessed whether it be through social media or your site. 2 – Predict Needs Elsie and I may not speak the same language, but many times words are unnecessary. It’s actions that we need.  Whether it’s extra time on the couch with her on Saturday mornings watching episodes of Law and Order, or her nudging me to take her for a stroll in the warm weather – she always knows what I need and what would make me feel better, often before I know it myself. The act of being proactive and predicting needs came second nature to Elsie. It’s something that may not be intuitive to companies, but with tools such as AI and predictive analytics, companies are able to dive deep into insights to understand behaviors, in order to create the perfect experience for customers.  Simply put, AI will analyze information and sees patterns where one’s eyes may not. 3 – Personalize Elsie has always been a social butterfly.  With her by my side, I wasn’t shy about getting to know neighbors and we soon found ourselves with a booked schedule filled with doggy playdates and walks about town. But she never forgot how to make me feel special. She greeted and interacted with many people, but I’ve always known I was her number one. Consumers want to feel that when they need an item or service that you can not only fill that need – but also you can go beyond it. Hyper-personalization is key to driving impulse purchases, increasing revenue, and building on trust. This trust will lead to ample opportunities for your organization to gain repeat buyers and cross sell. These are three simple reasons on how to build loyalty with consumers. I believe one thing that’s  important whether it’s a loyalty program or any connection at all is emotion. These three points I refer to; listening, predicting and personalizing, all built my emotional connection with Elsie.  This in turn built my loyalty for her and vice-versa. Ultimately, what you want as a consumer and as a company is the give and take of information that goes beyond the transactional to frame an engaging relationship based on emotion. That’s the start of ‘Loyalty.’ If you want to see more pictures of my dog, feel free to email me – but if you’d like to know more about customer loyalty, check us out on Oracle.com If you happen to be attending Modern Customer Experience make sure you stop by Theater 7 on Wednesday, March 20th at 2:10 pm for our session on Oracle Loyalty Cloud Up Close Download the eBook titled "Industry Experts Share Their Predictions for Customer Loyalty" which features 7 loyalty trends that are sure to shake up the traditional points-for-purchases scheme.            

I left Chicago for a mundane, less colorful suburban town in order to have more space to grow a family. It wasn’t done without resistance. For I had never been sure if I was the sort of person that...

Ask the Experts

Sometimes You Have to Say No to Customers

One thing remains perfectly clear to me in this world and that’s no one likes being told no!  This is especially true for customers. In a world where we’ve been told, “the customer is always right,” it comes as a shock when they find out that, actually, no, they aren’t always right. In my opinion, this in itself comes down to customer expectations and how they’re handled. Managing B2C customer expectations is vastly different to that of B2B, if not easier. B2C environments allow you to form clear and concise standards through quality marketing, messaging, and clearly defined offerings including Ts and Cs. It’s very rare you’ll ever have to tell a customer “No, we can’t do that” without solid evidence in T&C’s to back it up. There are rarely any human interactions unless it’s aftercare and damage control. Set Clear Expectations Now, in a B2B environment, the expectations can be very different from the beginning. For the most part, likely early in the customer lifecycle, there’s going to be some human interaction. What happens at this point is what clearly sets customer expectations, which need to be continually enforced. With B2B also comes a need for customer retention. As detailed in a previous blog post ''Quick Chat – Customer Acquisition vs. Retention', retention is key as even a 5% increase in retention rates can cause an increase in profits up to 95%. While a “do whatever it takes" attitude is very common, beneficial, and may create happy customers, it often results in some form of free offering to appease them. You may think you’re doing the best thing by pleasing customers this way, but what you may really be doing is damaging your brand, product and offerings. By providing freebies to any customer who asks, you’re actually implying that this particular thing doesn’t have much value anyway. This is especially true if it’s always the same thing that you’re discounting to multiple customers. By doing this, you damage your brand and give the customer an expectation that they can get more out of you. Straining Resources Sure, your organization may have guidelines of what and how much you can offer, but many are willing to blur the lines to give the customer what they want. Sometimes going that extra mile can have a detrimental effect on internal resources. People may end up stretched for bandwidth and work outside of their comfort zone. Strained resourcing can decrease the quality of work delivered and could potentially burn relationships with clients who have previously had an excellent experience with your organization. As much as we want to keep our customers and as much as they want to keep the belief they're always right, it just can't always be realistic. Are there specific instances when you’re ready to say 'No' to your customers? * Originally published on bpiondemand.com

One thing remains perfectly clear to me in this world and that’s no one likes being told no!  This is especially true for customers. In a world where we’ve been told, “the customer is always right,”...

CPQ

What CPQ Can Really Do For You - No. 7: Maximize Sales Opportunities

Many CPQ projects that start with good intentions for sales somehow change into ‘an administration efficiency project’ along the way. While that’s a great benefit of implementing CPQ, let’s keep looking at the way CPQ can drive sales opportunities. CPQ is often the salesperson's key portal into the world of their deals. Having the ability to present the right prompts and information to a salesperson at just the right moment opens up amazing opportunities for decision making. Thinking of this I was reminded of Bill Gates' speech at Comdex in 1995 (now I really am showing my age!) He introduced the concept of “Information at your fingertips.” This was a powerful message. As I moved into a career in sales, I kept coming back to the disconnect between Gates’ vision and the reality of a laptop, which was big and heavy, had a slow, beeping modem with a wire plugged into the wall, and disconnected software. My conclusion was that Bill's fingers must have been a lot different than mine if his fingertips could reach all the information I would need to make a good decision for my customer. Fast-forward a mere 22 years and it really does feel like the vision has come true for salespeople equipped with cloud-based and mobile enabled CPQ systems. Smart Decision Making with CPQ is Here…Now There are many examples of how CPQ can enable smart decision making for a salesperson. One is the ability to recommend cross-sell and upsell opportunities to the sales representative as they’re building up a deal. Product marketing departments can easily specify configuration rules that show recommendations for extra products and services that complement the main product a salesperson adds into their CPQ quote.  These are often higher margin items that really unlock the potential profit in a deal. Recommendations can be softer too.  For example, highlighting price-breaks for higher quantities ordered has just enough information to drop into a sales conversation to prompt further discussion.  Being in the customer's interest reinforces your reputation as a trusted advisor. Once products or services have been configured in a deal, it's very easy for CPQ to enable the right pricing decisions to be made by a salesperson. Smart deal management tools can enable historical pricing trend information to be shown to a salesperson just as they are deciding at what price to bid. Win/loss pricing data from the past can be brought into view, represented graphically, or, giving a win probability figure that can help the salesperson decide whether to push harder for a higher price or to discount to win. It's even possible to link sales commission systems into CPQ to help a salesperson maximize their own earnings opportunities. If your compensation plans are well designed and they drive the correct behaviors, then this can be an amazing multiplier on performance, resulting in happier salespeople and happier management. The key to any successful CPQ implementation of these smart decision making tools is to have good data and a clear understanding of what decisions you want your salesperson to make. Companies like Amazon in the B2C space understand this perfectly. If you look at the sophistication of their recommendation engines ('People who bought this also bought….', 'What did other people buy after viewing this item….' etc.), the mechanisms are the same as those that can be implemented for B2B in CPQ. If you know your customers well, understand the logic in the buying decisions, and have the data to back it up, CPQ can help you maximize the revenue, profit and chance of success in any deal.  It will finally put the critical information into the fingertips of your sales teams Download the entire "CPQ Cloud's Top 12 Benefits" blog series by clicking here! * Originally published at walpolepartnership.com

Many CPQ projects that start with good intentions for sales somehow change into ‘an administration efficiency project’ along the way. While that’s a great benefit of implementing CPQ, let’s keep...

Customer Success Stories

How DISH Network Has Reinvented Itself Over and Over Again

DISH Network is on a mission to connect people and things. Over the past 30 years, the Fortune 250 company has chosen to reinvent itself, responding to evolving consumer expectations in an on-demand economy. By putting its customers first, DISH has  disrupted the telecom industry and changed the face of other markets in the process. Historically, we know DISH as a satellite TV company. But, changing consumer preferences and the advent of triple play services (Internet, phone, and TV), cord cutting options (i.e. ditching cable), and over the top media (OTT, i.e. streaming), threatened that business model. Forced to transform or risk extinction, DISH expanded its offerings with Sling TV, the first live and on-demand streaming service that forced streaming rivals to follow suit. DISH continues to push the envelope by investing in areas like a national Internet of Things (IoT) and 5G wireless network, and smart home services, among others. To support these new business initiatives, DISH also worked to transform its service department into a customer-centric business unit. Backed by the Oracle Field Service Cloud, the company gained efficiencies and increased its mobile resources’ productivity. With the deployment of Oracle Field Service Cloud, DISH increased technician productivity by more than 10 percent, saw a 55 percent reduction in technician overtime and experienced a significant increase in overall employee engagement. These efficiencies have helped DISH maintain a customer focus as seen in its consistently high net promoter score, and manage its core businesses better, serving as a platform for DISH to take on new lines of business. As a result, DISH began to earn awards including the top J.D. Power score for in-home service technician satisfaction and overall customer satisfaction. This transformation of DISH’s fleet of highly-trained, service-orientated, and power-tool wielding field service technicians has the company uniquely poised to tackle another budding business model–smart home services. Thanks to our obsession with next generation devices and connectivity, the smart home appliance market is estimated to experience record growth over the next few years. IoT-connected devices will increase from 9 billion in 2017 to 55 billion by 2025. As the complexity of household products intensifies, so too will our need for field service technicians–those skilled in installing, repairing, integrating and providing customer education for everything from smart washing machines to IoT-connected refrigerators. Enter DISH. Unlike many smart home appliance manufacturers, DISH’s technicians can arrive at any doorstep in the country in less than three hours. Oracle Field Service Cloud’s predictive and self-learning technology allows DISH to readily scale and schedule thousands of field technicians in real time. The company’s workforce is currently installing smart home systems, assembling grills and exercise equipment, and repairing appliances for clients like Amazon, KB Home and Samsung. DISH’s business transformation is a story about agility–being able to leverage existing resources and technology to invest in new revenue streams as the market shifts and reacts to evolving customer preferences. DISH’s transformation was the focus of a Convince & Convert webinar last month. Host Jay Baer interviewed David Troll, VP for Smart Home Services and Robb Origer, VP for Field Operations at DISH. To learn more about their business transformation, give the webinar a listen.  Read the eBook on how DISH Network is serving up field success!

DISH Network is on a mission to connect people and things. Over the past 30 years, the Fortune 250 company has chosen to reinvent itself, responding to evolving consumer expectations in an on-demand...

CX News & Events

Register Today for Oracle's Premier Commerce and CX Event!

Don’t miss Oracle’s premier Commerce and CX event — Modern Customer Experience 2019 in Las Vegas from March 19-21, 2019! Join Oracle Commerce and Oracle Commerce Cloud customers, partners, product management, and other CX leaders in learning about the upcoming product roadmap, commerce and CX innovations and best practices, and much more! Take advantage of over 200 sessions, pre-conference training, interactive exhibit hall, networking, and customer appreciation events. Whether you’re a B2C or B2B digital commerce professional, you should attend Oracle Modern Customer Experience 2019. Different experiences have been prepared to help you take your commerce expertise to the next level. To make things easy for you, we’ve created two quick look guides that you can use to plan your conference — one for Brands and Retailers and one for B2B Manufacturers and Distributors. MCX 2019 Conference at a Glance for Brands and Retailers MCX 2019 Conference at a Glance for B2B Manufacturers and Distributors The conference formally kicks off Tuesday afternoon, but we have a number of don’t miss pre-conference events on the morning of Tuesday, March 19, including: 9-11am: Oracle Commerce Cloud Customer Breakfast (limited space!) Email jeri.kelley@oracle.com if interested. Pre-Conference Education: 8:30am-10am: Oracle Commerce On-Premise Workshop 1-2pm: Oracle Commerce Cloud for Business Users 1-2pm: Oracle Commerce Cloud for Technical Users We also have networking events starting Tuesday night, including our Oracle Commerce User Group Cocktail Party for customers from 4:30-6:30pm right before the Welcome Reception and Exhibit Hall Opening. Interested in attending? Sign up here.  On Wednesday, March 20, our morning Commerce General Session will feature NYT Bestselling Author and Corporate Transformation Strategist, Keith Ferrazzi, and the latest innovations for Oracle Commerce Cloud and the CX Suite. The afternoon will include: Our Oracle Commerce and Oracle Commerce Cloud roadmap What’s Hot in B2B Commerce Oracle Commerce Cloud “Behind the Scenes” deep-dive demo and Ask the Product Experts session SEO, Social, and the Changing Commerce Channel Ecosystem How to use Oracle Commerce Cloud Design Studio to Create a Compelling Content and Commerce Experience. The Markie Awards celebrating standout customer experiences will be Wednesday night and is open to everyone, so bring your formalwear! On Thursday, March 21, we’ve got more commerce best practices and powerful customer stories, from the Power of Personalization and Testing, Considerations for International Rollout, and Migrating from Oracle Commerce On-Premise to Oracle Commerce Cloud to using Oracle Commerce, CPQ, and Service. Get your front row tickets to Modern Customer Experience 2019 with the code CXINSIDER for a discounted rate of $1295. 

Don’t miss Oracle’s premier Commerce and CX event — Modern Customer Experience 2019 in Las Vegas from March 19-21, 2019! Join Oracle Commerce and Oracle Commerce Cloud customers, partners, product...

Customer Experience Strategy

Quick Chat – Customer Acquisition vs. Retention

It’s already clear that the customer controls most everything in your organization. We are all becoming more customer-centric each day and we’re beginning to develop CX strategies to make sure it stays that way. But, defining what area of the buying cycle you want to invest in can be challenging. Customer acquisition & customer retention can both be very effective revenue streams to grow your organization, so which one should we focus on? Acquisition Now, we all know that acquiring new business isn’t cheap. In fact, acquiring new customers can be anywhere between 5-25 times more costly than retaining existing ones. So, is it really worth it? Perhaps keeping customers could be a better winning strategy. Retention Essentially, retention as a strategy creates you a loyal customer base. This loyalty incentivizes them to buy more and eventually become brand advocates! Even a 5% increase in retention rates can increase profits to up to 95%. Seemingly, this is the best strategy, yet it leaves the mind to wonder: can one exist without the other? The Balance Thinking logically, retention itself could not even exist without acquisition, so why debate either? Acquiring new business, whilst also treating your existing customers well by creating an end-to-end customer experience is the way forward, in a now customer-focused world. Through this, your acquisitions benefit in staying with you and you can work them down the funnel to become returning customers and advocates for your business. In all simplicity, treat your new customers with the same kindness and communication as you would your returning ones and give them reason to stay. What works best for you? Considering all organizations are different, evaluate your current processes and strategies and how these help your customers through their journey. Consider which type of customer would really benefit your organization and turn the most profit, depending on what your business objectives are. As well as this, think about how are you helping your organization create the perfect customer experience to encourage their loyalty and leave them wanting more? Click to learn more about the Oracle Loyalty Cloud * Originally published on bpiondemand.com

It’s already clear that the customer controls most everything in your organization. We are all becoming more customer-centric each day and we’re beginning to develop CX strategies to make sure...

CPQ

What CPQ Can ReallyDo For You – No. 6: Improve the Deal Approval Process

In many organizations, getting a deal approved can be a long and complex process. In the B2C world, we’ve become accustomed to instant decisions and fast turnaround. For example, I recently upgraded my iPhone to the latest model because I’m on the Apple iPhone Upgrade Program. If you haven’t seen it, you get a credit agreement for your phone, pay in installments, and then a year later can trade in the old phone for the latest and greatest. In the course of the upgrade, I had to be credit-checked. While the Apple Business Team consultant who assisted me sent my contract through for authorization, I waited for what felt like forever. While I wondered what would happen if I was rejected, I started thinking whether I could afford to buy the phone outright. Or, should I switch to a different manufacturer? Then again, maybe I’d just keep my old phone. Finally, the screen on the credit terminal lit up and a beautiful green tick appeared. I was approved and could upgrade my phone. Guess how much time had elapsed? Six…whole…seconds…. While I get excited about getting a new gadget, it made me realize just how much doubt and uncertainty a delay before approvals can cause. In a B2B sales environment, an approval delay can open the door for competition to get in. Or, it can be the excuse a customer needs to put off a buying decision. Often with these deals, the delay isn’t six seconds but it could be hours, days, weeks or even months. Good news! CPQ reduce or eliminate these delays. In CPQ, approvals generally mean one or more triggers (sometimes called ‘Reasons’), are conditions under which authorization must be sought by the salesperson to proceed. This could be approval for discount, for expedited shipping, or any other element of the deal that’s non-standard. Approvals via CPQ can be faster than using manual approaches. With one system containing the quote or the deal and the set of integrated triggers, people who give their authorization to a deal can be notified electronically and can sign it off very simply. They either follow a link into the CPQ system, or reply to an email notification that can put the decision back into the system. Cutting down the lag on paper-based systems, or non-integrated email approval is a big step forward for many organizations. Secondly, in order to make a decision, an approver generally needs both information about the specific item they’re being asked to consent to and contextual information about the deal itself. For example, a pricing manager is asked to agree to an extra discount, but doesn’t want to do this for public-sector clients. It’s clear they need to know the client sector to make a decision on price. CPQ approval systems can help provide this information by presenting a user/role-specific view of critical information on screen, or include key data elements in an email notification. Good CPQ implementation design will identify exactly what information approvers will need so they can find the facts out quickly and efficiently. A third advantage applies to clients who have complex approval processes. With a manual system for handling approvals, a salesperson can feel like their deal has gone into a black hole when it’s been sent off for authorization. They could spend valuable hours chasing approvers to sign-off on the deal. A good CPQ system handles parallel and serial approval chains, providing visibility of the deal’s progress to everyone involved, and updates when a deal is approved or rejected at any step to avoid wasting time. But wait, there's more! The beauty of this systemized approach to approvals extends to audit and compliance. A CPQ system gives a robust audit trail of who made what decision, when, and why. Having these records in a tight system can be the difference between passing or failing an audit. If your organization is subject to stringent requirements like Sarbanes-Oxley or recent accounting changes like IFRS15 for bundled contract revenue recognition, a rock-solid audit trail is invaluable. Just because organizations can create complex approval chains in CPQ, it doesn’t always mean they should. When gathering requirements for a new system, it can be tempting for everyone to want a say in a deal. When people get nervous because they fear they won’t know what’s going on, the control freaks take hold. We’ve seen systems where this complexity wasn’t managed out of the design, and the result was a tangled web of approvals that slows the business down. At least in CPQ, this complexity is visible. With the right techniques it’s possible to track and manage the bottlenecks in the process. Our own ‘Future-Proof CPQ’ approach covers improvements in this area, and it can really help ‘un-stick’ the business when approvals are still taking too long. Approvals form a vital part of the CPQ benefits story that we’ve been telling. If you want to get a big ‘green tick’ on your deals in the fastest and most compliant way possible, you probably need CPQ. Download the entire "CPQ Cloud's Top 12 Benefits" blog series by clicking here! Read more about how the Oracle CPQ Cloud can aid your organization.  *Originally published on walpolepartnership.com

In many organizations, getting a deal approved can be a long and complex process. In the B2C world, we’ve become accustomed to instant decisions and fast turnaround. For example, I recently upgraded...

Customer Experience Strategy

Loyalty Program Predictions for 2019

By Carrie Leader, Principal Product Manager, Oracle There is a stark dichotomy between the growth of loyalty programs and the steep decline of customer loyalty itself. Give many retailers credit for trying but they continue to struggle to differentiate on merchandising, pricing and promotions, and store design. As Forrester points out, “customer relationships are now the only remaining source of competitive advantage, which makes earning customer loyalty mission-critical in the age of the customer.” This highlights the critical importance of developing programs that help deliver on true customer loyalty. The Oracle Loyalty Cloud team collaborated with several of our application partners to forecast where the customer loyalty landscape is headed in 2019. The eBook titled, “Industry Experts Share Their Predictions for Customer Loyalty” features 7 loyalty trends that are sure to shake up the traditional points-for-purchases scheme. Here’s a preview of the predictions contained within: 2019 will see the unification of CX, digital transformation, and customer loyalty into a single strategy. Wifi-based loyalty engagement will be the easiest way to engage customers while they are shopping at your store. Nonpublished, “secret” tiers with highly valued rewards and experiences will be used to drive broader brand commitment. The consolidation of loyalty programs across retailers and service companies is coming as consumers become disillusioned by the sheer number of reward programs. Don’t miss a single prediction! View the full report here.

By Carrie Leader, Principal Product Manager, Oracle There is a stark dichotomy between the growth of loyalty programs and the steep decline of customer loyalty itself. Give many retailers credit for...

Data Utilization & Analytics

Selling Smarter and Evolving The Brand Relationship

Marketers have used brand advertising since the 1950s, when brands were established to create emotional value with consumers, signal better quality or value, and to differentiate a product or service from the competition. Simon Clift, the former CMO of Unilever said, “A brand is the contract between a company and consumers.” This brand ‘contract’ represents the feeling of trust that a consumer has in that a brand will deliver on its promise of value when that product or service is selected. If a company breaks that contract and violates the established trust, then consumers are free to take their brand loyalty elsewhere and buy alternative goods and services. Brand building has been a very large part of a company’s marketing mix since the “Mad Men” era of marketing drove ever-increasing advertising budgets that invested in building memorable brands. Marketers have followed this trend of brand investment to drive consumer awareness and the purchase decision. Even today, Coca-Cola spends around 4 Billion annually to build their brands and maintain their market leadership in the beverage category. Things Change Yet recent history has seen a dramatic shift in the relationship between consumers and brands. Digital engagements and the rapid rise of intermediaries assisting consumers in the purchase discovery phase mean that customers have less direct contact with brands in the buying cycle.  Therefore, the “brand contract” has become weaker, and brand relationships are less important to our purchase decisions and ongoing product relationships. Enter the Intermediary This shift away from the brand contract began with the rise of Internet search engines, and consumers’ desire to “self-serve” their way through product discovery and selection. We shifted from a world where marketers broadcast their message to consumers to where consumers actively sought out their own answers.  Marketers needed to shift from broadcasting generic messages, to figuring out how to be at the right place with the right message to answer consumer questions in the right manner.  As more of our consumptive behavior moved from the offline to the online world, new businesses appeared to help consumers find the right solutions for their needs. This led to the rise of intermediary, category-based search engines, designed to help us find the best products at the best prices. Intermediary price comparison sites are now a major part of most consumers’ process for deciding what to buy. From travel search engines such as Priceline.com or Kayak, insurance comparison sites like Compare.com and Nerdwallet, to more general shopping comparison sites like Google Shopping or Amazon, consumers use these sites to find the best deals and decide what to purchase. These intermediaries have changed the very nature of what consumers view as a quality customer experience in the purchasing process. Customers have shifted from valuing the most comprehensive information on solutions, to experiences that are the fastest to complete a transaction and have it shipped to the front door. Watch Oracle CX Cloud - Selling Smarter - B2C Data to the rescue So what’s a troubled brand, left out in the cold and distanced from their customer, to do? A brand remains connected to their customers by providing personalized and meaningful engagements, that’s what! To do that, brands need to harness their data. They do this by bringing together all customer data from across all systems and all points of interaction to get a complete picture of their customers. To turn that data landscape into improved customer experiences requires adding intelligence layers on top of the data, and connecting the resulting insights to action systems, the points at which the customer interactions actually take place. Competing in a world where powerful intermediaries own more consumers’ time and attention requires brands to take new approaches and leverage their unique strengths in data and customer understanding. Building exceptional, personalized customer experiences is the best means to: Win customers away from sites offering comparisons by the lowest price and fastest shipping and, Protect your business margin and build higher lifetime value customer relationships. If you’re concerned about your company’s brand value proposition with your customers, what are you going to do about it in 2019? Click here to take an Oracle Customer Experience (CX) Quick Tour.  

Marketers have used brand advertising since the 1950s, when brands were established to create emotional value with consumers, signal better quality or value, and to differentiate a product or service...

CPQ

What CPQ Can Really Do For You – No. 5: Guided Selling

One of the oft touted features of CPQ is 'guided selling’, a series of easily understandable questions about a customer's needs to the salesperson who is trying to configure a product or service. By answering these questions, the CPQ system will present relevant choices to the salesperson – sometimes just one clear recommendation of what to sell is made by the system. Contrast this with a typical configurator where all options are presented to the salesperson. It may be well organized, with a good UX and rules to prevent mistakes.  But ultimately, sales are able to choose anything for their customer. In this case, the freedom to choose may be a benefit, or it may be overwhelming. Guided selling is often best used where the range of products and services is large, and where there is a clear logic that can be defined, linking the customer’s requirements to the choice of products. For example, consider the experience as a consumer if you try to rent a car. Most car rental websites ask you to define your requirements before presenting you with any options. You’re asked when you want the car and where you want to collect it. Then you may be given a selection like ‘Economy Vehicles’, ‘Luxury Cars’, ’Dream Collection’ and so forth.  By making your choices in relevant terms, you‘re able to narrow down the choices available. This makes the final selection more practical and saves you sifting through irrelevant options. Freedom of Choice Many organizations use guided selling to simplify the choices of perhaps just the models that are available for selection. Within those models there are many detailed, unlimited choices available. The skill in a good implementation of guided selling is getting the balance right between simplifying the salesperson’s choices while not being overly restrictive. In some industries, the limitations can have further benefits. Consider the insurance industry.    Consider the insurance industry which (in the UK at least) is heavily regulated, and the selling of insurance plans has had a checkered history. In such situations where regulation and control is critical, guided selling can become the key to ensuring your salespeople follow due process, ask all the relevant questions, and only present valid options to the customer. Using a CPQ system to control the sales process can ensure that there’s a clearly auditable record of why a customer was sold a specific product or service, and can remove the possibility of mis-selling. Reduce mistakes where there are complex products and high churn. A further benefit of guided selling is found in environments where the salesperson turnover is high, especially if the product or service is complex or the range of choices is exceptionally high. This is often the case for Inside Sales or call center based sales teams. When the selection of products is based on a series of customer centric questions rather than deep knowledge of the product, the time for a new salesperson to become effective can be dramatically reduced, and potentially the cost of product training can diminish too. The reduced chance of mistakes in product selection will make salespeople more effective and prevent the wrong product being proposed, or worse, sold. We've seen great examples of guided selling setups where product information and explanatory material is embedded in the process all the way through. Fact sheets, selling guides, benefits guides, text and video explainers, competitive information and much more can be made available to the salesperson when they need it. For an Inside Sales team, this provides useful information while on a call. For field salespeople, it can be a great asset when preparing for a meeting or when following up afterwards so they have the necessary details. It's all part of the process of guiding the sale. Finally, one potential hidden benefit of guided selling is the impact on sales product awareness, and the retention of knowledge from training. If there is clear alignment between the materials used in sales product training and the information provided in the guided selling process, then it’s clear that the knowledge 'sinks in' more from repeated viewing. Seeing the training material in context helps it to be memorized and used naturally. Our advice to anyone implementing guided selling is to consider working with his or her training teams and to see the content in the CPQ system as an extension of the training approach. It's a great way for salespeople to learn, and might even liberate some budget! Overall, we like guided selling if used in the right situations. It's not for everyone, but where it's used wisely it can reduce mistakes, reduce sales training and preparation time and can increase effectiveness. Download the entire "CPQ Cloud's Top 12 Benefits" blog series by clicking here! * Originally published on walpolepartnership.com

One of the oft touted features of CPQ is 'guided selling’, a series of easily understandable questions about a customer's needs to the salesperson who is trying to configure a product or service. By...

Customer Service

How Dare You Hang Up on Me!!! - My #1 Customer Experience Pet Peeve

We’ve all called a customer service line and been placed on hold for 10+ minutes or longer. When we finally hear the voice of a living human, the line is disconnected. Infuriating, right?  It happened to me.  Why does this drive us crazy with rage? And why is this one of the worst things you can do to your customer? Whatever the reasons, I’m frustrated and angry. Hanging up on me instantly affects my relationship with your company. Here’s why. The power of a hang-up triggers us emotionally.    We’ve all had angry exchanges with someone and stormed off in a huff. The digital universe is no different. Slamming down the phone down comes with a feeling of closure, but it also has a seriously negative connotation.  It’s a feeling of instant anger, not so much for the act of hanging up, but in the decision to hang up. We feel it when we are on the other end of it, regardless of it being done in anger or by accident. We see ourselves as blameless. In the “me first” society, we are never at blame. It’s always the other person's fault.  Even if it really is our own fault, I often hear people say “well, they should know who I am and call me back.” My time is more valuable than anyone else’s. If we’re hung up on, we’re mad that our time has been wasted. Oddly, if we get a human in under a minute and get disconnected, we don’t care all that much. But, if we waited on hold for a while or if we’ve been transferred to the void, we feel that our time has been wasted. Thus, we are incensed when we get dead air or a different human. Companies can’t defend themselves. The one who gets blamed is the one who can’t defend himself or herself. It’s a fact of life. He or she is a convenient punching bag for the masses when things don’t go correctly. I deserve a better experience. We expect that every experience we have should be excellent. If our expectations aren’t satisfied, we feel taken advantage of. The dreaded hang-up isn’t just a simple ‘cost of doing business.’ It’s an experience that needs to be proactively resolved. Here are some things companies can do to fix it. 1)   Empower your agents:. If a customer gets disconnected mid call, your agent should be able to call him back. Sounds simple and logical, right? Stand out from your competitors and instill the importance of customer/agent continuity with your employees.  Agents should have customer data in front of them.  If you don’t, you just perpetuate the problem. Your customer will once again wait on hold and rehash the same information again with another agent in customer experience hell. 2)     Practice and Cultivate Empathy. Training agents to empathize with customers goes a long way toward building trust with your customers. When a customer feels they are being helped, there is a positive emotional response and a partnership is forged on the call. 3)     Invest in your technology. Don’t be penny wise and pound foolish. If you’re using state-of-the-art tech in your contact centers, you have the ability to reconnect the agent with the customer. Analyze your contact center strategy. See if alternate channels with a higher fault tolerance for dropped calls could be better utilized. Those channels could include web self-service, chat, or instant messaging platforms. 4)     Listen to your agents. Your agents touch your customers more than anyone else in a day. If you dismiss their knowledge and ideas on how to provide a great customer experience, you have essentially failed. Agents know the issues your customer have with your products, your sales cycles, and your services. They hear every complaint, every issue, and they know more than you do. If you’re not an advocate for your agents, you should find another line of work. Even if you’re the CEO, the agents in your contact center know way more about your customer experience than you do.  Deal with it and learn to listen to them. 5)     Be your own customer. Test your processes and agent training. Make sure that the failure points are places where you can make a difference. If you can’t, learn to find new ways to approach the problems. Share the customer experience with your peers. Point out how your experience as a customer directly correlates to how you run your business. I never once had an executive yell at me for telling them what I, as a customer, felt like with my experiences. Neither will you. Your CX IQ, and how you deliver the CX promise your brand promotes is the real game changer. As soon as you address that, your business will be positioned to deal with the dreaded hang-up. What are you doing today to make your customer service experience better? How does your CX stack up?  Click here to take this one minute assessment to find out how you compare to your peers on current proficiency in and preparedness for the future of customer experience. You’ll be scored against hundreds of CX professionals to see where you stand and get an exclusive copy of the 2018 Smarter CX Insights Report.  

We’ve all called a customer service line and been placed on hold for 10+ minutes or longer. When we finally hear the voice of a living human, the line is disconnected. Infuriating, right?  It happened...

CX News & Events

Oracle Celebrates Customer Legends at Modern Customer Experience 2019

Modern Customer Experience is the conference for CX legends! We are putting together an A-list of presenters ranging from industry influencers and analysts to Oracle leaders and experts. Dozens of customers will also share their stories, successes and advice at every level of the conference. But the spotlight belongs to you—the leaders and practitioners within our community who are re-imagining the future and working on the front lines of CX. To help you make the most of Modern Customer Experience and recognize you for your success and expertise, we are pleased to announce our 2019 CX Heroes program. This year, we are expanding the program to include more activities and access to all conference attendees. So what are you waiting for? Begin your journey in the Oracle CX Hero Hub today. Get excited for Modern Customer Experience, network with fellow attendees, find opportunities to share your success and expertise, and have fun along the way. A few examples of activities include: Suggest or lead a Meetup with your peers. Show off your expertise, and see if you get selected for a video interview onsite; plus get a free, polished asset for your LinkedIn profile. Enter for a chance to meet the band or celebrity speakers. Participate in a virtual Vegas-themed “slot machine” scavenger hunt. And more! Your Hero Hub experience doesn’t end online. Our onsite CX Hero Hub lounge will be back by popular demand in Vegas. Stop by to get a professional headshot, connect with your peers in Meetups, sample delicious goodies from Oracle customers (including Lindt chocolates and Keurig coffee!), and learn more about the Oracle CX Hero Hub. The Oracle CX Hero Hub awaits you on Level 3 of the Mandalay Bay South Convention Center: Tuesday: 4:00pm - 7:00pm PDT Wednesday: 8:30am - 6:00pm PDT Thursday: 8:00am - 3:30pm PDT While the online Hero Hub and onsite lounge are open to all event attendees, we are excited to recognize and thank event attendees who are speaking at Modern Customer Experience or who were nominated for a 2019 Markie Award. We will notify them about their official CX Hero status and explain how to access exclusive opportunities within the Oracle CX Hero Hub and onsite prior to the conference.                          Join the Oracle CX Hero Hub today to get started. Still need to register for Modern Customer Experience? Use the promotion code CXINSIDER for a discounted rate of $1295 through March 1, 2019. We’ll see you in Vegas!    

Modern Customer Experience is the conference for CX legends! We are putting together an A-list of presenters ranging from industry influencers and analysts to Oracle leaders and experts. Dozens of...

Customer Experience Strategy

3 Ways to Use IVR to Drive Great Customer Experiences

Interactive Voice Response (IVR) systems were initially introduced as a cost savings measure. The voices were robotic, artificial, difficult to understand and often resulted in poor customer satisfaction.  Modern IVR systems have evolved dramatically. When used properly, they can be an effective tool for developing an omnichannel customer experience. 1) Call Deflection to Text-Based System Call deflection may initially sound like call avoidance.  But, when coupled with a Short Message Service (SMS), IVR can actually improve the customer experience and allow more customers to be served in less time. Most people are familiar with the call screening process that’s routinely handled by IVR systems. This process is called “call deflection”, in which calls are routed to the appropriate department or agent within a customer service department. Conventional call deflection is most often populated with prerecorded “context driven” messages that may include standard responses to frequently asked questions. The interactive SMS/IVR system works like this:  A customer calls into an 800 number. After indicating that the reason for their call is to check on the status of an order, they are asked if they would like to follow up via text. They are immediately sent a text from an automated bot that delivers the current status of all orders tied to their phone number. The resulting follow up process can be completely handled via text. If necessary, a link to a live agent can be clicked on from the text message. Since most millennials prefer texting to talking on the phone, they'll be satisfied with this interaction, freeing up your agents to work on more complex issues. 2) Surveys Using Dynamic IVR A second way to incorporate IVR into your strategy is to create a front-end information gathering system into your customer surveys. This front-end system uses voice recognition or tones generated by a customer’s phone to direct a customer to the survey that’s most appropriate for them. Again, more customers can be served faster and avoid the standard draw down associated with menu-driven systems. Questions can be tailored to the customer on the phone by linking to both internal and external databases. The survey system can be easily linked to previous customer interactions from CRM systems and DMPs to tailor the experience. The survey feedback is instantly available to other systems and service management teams who can use these insights to respond to individual customers or improve overall service levels. By using a ‘data dip’, the survey can even be modified in process. For example, if you are conducting a survey about a recent customer interaction, the IVR system can access all recent orders and ask questions about a particular product the customer recently ordered. If the product was returned, questions can be tailored to why the product was returned or how the return process worked. 3) IVR and Artificial Intelligence Artificial intelligence (AI) has evolved to provide much higher levels of customer service. Coupling AI with IVR, you can actually allow customers to solve many problems on their own with little human interaction required. Using an Application Program Interface (API) you can create “conversational assistants” to help your customers get what they want without ever actually talking to someone. Your customers call in to place an order and are greeted with an AI-driven IVR system that can draw on databases of information tied to a customer’s phone number that includes all order history. For example, if customers call to order a pizza, an IVR system can do a quick caller ID lookup to see that the customer last ordered a large thin crust pizza with pepperoni and onions. The IVR could ask the customer if they want to order the same pizza as last time.  If so, route the order directly to the kitchen with no human interaction required. If the customer wants to order something else, the IVR system can offer choices, allowing the customer to make their selections and deliver the order to the kitchen with no need for interrupting the counter person who is taking an order in store. How are you using IVR to create a superior customer experience for your customers? Come visit our booth at Modern Customer Experience in Las Vegas, March 19-21! * * A version of this was originally published on glympse.com      

Interactive Voice Response (IVR) systems were initially introduced as a cost savings measure. The voices were robotic, artificial, difficult to understand and often resulted in poor customer...

Ask the Experts

What CPQ Can Really Do For You – No. 4: Error Free Orders

We've been taking a deep dive into the real benefits of Configure, Price, Quote (CPQ) solutions and what lies beneath the headlines. Now let’s shift focus to a benefit further down the 'quote-to-order' process. CPQ marketing materials often state that it can provide 'Error-Free Orders.' What does that really mean, and why should you care? Firstly let's look at where CPQ typically sits in the quote to order process:  CRM<>CPQ<>ERP/Order Management. One of the key jobs of a CPQ system is to deliver information to a downstream system that will execute the order whether that's delivery of goods, provisioning of a service, or any other deliverable in return for the customer’s order. Sometimes these downstream systems are highly structured and automated like an Enterprise Resource Planning (ERP) system. Sometimes they’re simpler and often older order management or provisioning IT systems. They may be manual or paper based processes, or a collection of disparate systems. We've seen all kinds but for simplicity sake, we'll refer to them as 'the ordering system', whatever form that system takes. The ordering system requires inputs that are all the data elements required to make that order happen. They can be product detail, customer information, billing factors, service levels and more. Every organization and system is different. How does CPQ help provide Error-Free Orders? Configure - An integral part of a CPQ system is the configuration engine. One main role the configurator fulfills is to ensure that the salesperson or user can only generate a valid configuration, list of parts, or a valid service description. Configuration rules limit the choices that can be made. For example, if you’re selecting components of a car, you can't select rear electric windows on a 3-door car! In short, the configurator ensures that only a valid combination of parts or services are generated as part of the order. Price - The pricing element of CPQ typically refers to the commercial and contractual aspects of a deal. Rules are enforced at this stage of the process to ensure that all critical information is captured, regardless of the deal type. All customer information can be mandated, or even integrated with a CRM system. Billing terms can be specified and prices established. A good CPQ system allows for every element of your workflow to be defined and all critical information specified. One of the most important aspects of the commercial terms is the approval of pricing levels and any other non-standard elements of the deal. Discounts can be tracked and approved according to business rules.  Elements like expedited delivery or customer-specific terms can be checked and approved before the quote is finalized with the customer. Quote - In most CPQ systems, this refers to the ability to take the information that's been captured and to present it in the most appropriate way. This usually means customer-facing documents like proposals, quotes and contracts are accurate and well designed. Equally though, it can refer to the presentation of all the deal information in a structured way such that downstream systems can interpret it easily - either via direct integration, or at the very least, making manual re-entry as simple as possible. Why should you care? Think about the consequences of an order being generated with inaccuracies. After the customer signs off, there are two main potential problems. 1) Failed orders - At the simplest level, the order may fail at the point an attempt is made to push it into the ordering system. Most ordering systems have controls over what can be entered. Systems that are not designed with each other in mind may refuse to play nicely together. 2) Incorrect fulfillment - Some inaccurate orders may pass through validation in the ordering system and parts may actually be delivered before anyone realizes that they simply don’t work together. If you've ever gone grocery shopping for a meal, but then got home to discover you forgot a key ingredient, you'll understand this. Individually, all the items make sense. But, together, they don't give the desired end result. When we analyze these scenarios, the cost to the organization quickly mounts up. Orders that stop at the administration stage will often be delayed. This means missed shipment dates and in some cases, it can impact service level agreements (SLAs). Admin time to put things right costs time and money and inevitably, the sales person will need to provide input too. If this means going back to the customer to explain the error, it reflects badly on the salesperson. In some cases it can cost you the deal. Wait, there’s more! Sadly, this isn't the worst-case! When inaccurate orders aren't caught before delivery or provision, the customer will receive the wrong item, or a product or service that just doesn't work. This can range from a mild annoyance to severe dissatisfaction - especially if the purchase was something the customer was relying on for a mission critical process. The compound effects can be enormous and the cost of the mistake to reputation and credibility can be grim. With a well-designed CPQ system that implements well-defined business rules, all these problems can be avoided. Of all the benefits CPQ can provide, ‘Error-Free Orders’ is one of the most important, and with potentially the biggest impact to the bottom line! What does your organization have in place to provide error-free orders? Download the entire "CPQ Cloud's Top 12 Benefits" blog series by clicking here! * Originally published at walpolepartnership.com

We've been taking a deep dive into the real benefits of Configure, Price, Quote (CPQ) solutions and what lies beneath the headlines. Now let’s shift focus to a benefit further down...

CX News & Events

5 Fascinating Cross-CX Sessions at Oracle Modern Customer Experience

By Corie McHugh Oracle Modern Customer Experience 2019 will take place March 19-21 at the Mandalay Bay Convention Center in Las Vegas, with 200+ planned sessions focusing on the hottest topics in customer experience. Over 25 of these sessions will focus specifically on cross-CX trends and technologies. **Ready to register for Oracle Modern Customer Experience 2019? Visit the registration page and use discount code “CXINSIDER” to get a rate of $1,295 on a full conference pass now through March 1, 2019.** Here are 5 of the upcoming, fascinating cross-CX sessions. You can also view the full cross-CX session catalog here. Bring Intelligent Chatbots and Digital Assistants to Your Business Breakout session featuring Joe Huang, Product Management, Oracle Digital Assistant and Mobile Cloud, Oracle and Suhas Uliyar, Vice President, Product Management, Oracle AI Bots and Mobile, Oracle Over the past few years, AI technologies have transformed the way we interact with systems and devices across multiple channels. Chatbots in customer service, ecommerce, and sales have become widely accepted and adopted. Oracle’s Sales Digital Assistant and Service Digital Assistant leverage AI and can do many things: initiate conversations, make recommendations, detect/process sentiments, and handle advanced conversations. Attend to this session to learn how your enterprise can benefit. Deliver Personalized Experiences with Oracle Content and Experience Breakout session featuring Kiran Bellare, Senior Director, Product Management, Oracle Content teams spend millions on manual authoring, curating, and targeting content, and yet fall short on driving engagement. Smart content is an initiative from Oracle Content and Experience that leverages artificial intelligence and machine learning to improve content management efficiencies by automating the authoring, curation, and classification of content. Attend this session and learn more. How Master Lock Adopted Oracle CX Analytics for Better Business Intelligence Breakout session featuring Alex Dye, Director Business Applications, Master Lock Company, Shantanu Goswami, Senior Business Analyst – CRM, Master Lock Company and Naren Chawla, Senior Director, Product Management, CX Analytics, Oracle Which Oracle tools can you leverage to solve your descriptive, predictive, and prescriptive analytics CX use cases to supercharge your business? What are the next-generation CX analytical business applications that you can adopt to deliver immediate value to business users? Attend this session to hear from Master Lock Company as they share their OTBI for Sales story. The session will also walk through real CX customer use cases and highlight ways to adopt your own business value through CX analytics. How to Be a Storytelling Marketer General session featuring Ellen Green, Director, Marketing Communications, GHA Storytelling is a powerful way to connect with customers. In this session, learn how to use marketing to tell a story to your customers that enhances your relationship. Understand how to leverage Oracle Responsys to tell that story through the tools and functionality in the platform, and find ways to create a conversation with customers to build upon the story. Oracle Customer Experience Unity: Connecting Tomorrow’s Customer Experience, Today Breakout session featuring Steve Earl, Senior Director Product Marketing, Oracle and Abbas Makhdum, Director Product Marketing, Oracle As the data fabric of Oracle’s market-leading customer experience cloud, Oracle Customer Experience Unity delivers timely intelligence about known customers in order to optimize their complete brand experience across marketing, sales, and service. Attend this session to learn more. **Ready to register for Oracle Modern Customer Experience 2019? Visit the registration page and use discount code “CXINSIDER” to get a rate of $1,295 on a full conference pass now through March 1, 2019.** Note that event details are subject to change. *Originally published on smartercx.com    

By Corie McHugh Oracle Modern Customer Experience 2019 will take place March 19-21 at the Mandalay Bay Convention Center in Las Vegas, with 200+ planned sessions focusing on the hottest topics in...

Customer Service

Pave Your Path to Creating Memorable Brand Experiences at MCX!

In today’s world, memorable experiences differentiate your brand.  Each service experience must be personalized, consistent and seamless across every channel.   With smart technology and customers driving innovation, how can organizations adapt and keep up?  A great start is to attend the annual Modern Customer Experience Conference in Las Vegas March 19-21, 2019. Service enthusiasts from around the world will come together under one roof to network, see the latest technology, share ideas, and hear from award-winning customers and thought leaders. Attend this conference to see how artificial intelligence, augmented reality, virtual assistants, intelligent advice, machine learning and the Internet of Things are being leveraged by brands to adapt to customer expectations and drive unique experiences. Witness these innovative technologies in person through compelling keynotes, demonstrations, conversations with industry experts, trusted partners and your peers. Here are three reasons why you should attend: Get Inspired by the Keynotes – Join Stephen Fioretti and Jeff Wartgow, CX industry visionaries,  to explore a world so impacted by self-service and automation that we have been placed on the threshold of a new age of enthusiastic brand advocates. In this new age, the service center will be the place everyone wants to work. Learn from Like-Minded Individuals - The customer is always right! Hear from our customers that are in the forefront of providing memorable experiences.   Attend sessions to see best practices, strategies and advice on how service leaders should approach new service demands.  You'll hear case studies from global customers that are changing the game.  Click here to see more in our session catalog. Meet Experts & Influencers Face to Face - Learn new approaches on how to exceed customer expectations and attend sessions with industry analysts. Or, participate in pre-conference education, mini-theaters, and demonstrations in the exhibit hall.  You can also attend the unique Collective Learning-style sessions. These will be audience-led and interactive, facilitated group activities that apply the science of learning with an appreciation for the collective intelligence of multiple people. Last year, we asked you to be Legendary. This year, we want to be Legendary together! Don’t miss out. Hurry and Register for Modern Customer Experience 2019 using the promotion code, CXINSIDER, for a discounted rate of $1295 through March 1, 2019. Stay in the loop on social media before, during and after the conference and follow #ModernCX.  See you there!

In today’s world, memorable experiences differentiate your brand.  Each service experience must be personalized, consistent and seamless across every channel.   With smart technology and customers...

CX News & Events

Collective Learning Program at Modern Customer Experience 2019

Las Vegas, March 18-21, Mandalay Bay Convention Center Have you ever attended a conference and found yourself “tuning out”?  PowerPoint after PowerPoint, same old routine, anticipating that “ah ha” moment?  Join us for a new approach at the Modern Customer Experience in Las Vegas at the Mandalay Convention Center from March 18-21 where plenty of these “ah ha” moments await you! At Oracle, we decided to shake things up a bit and invest in our conferences to better understand what our customers are looking for and study how people learn. In 2016, the Oracle Global Events team, with support from some prominent academic institutions and agency, researched, surveyed and experimented at our conferences and the result was the ‘Collective Learning Program.’ The most striking discovery was that we know people learn by doing, with interactive methods and encouraged social interaction. Attendees retain more and are more internally motivated after participating in these collaborative sessions. As much as 90% of what we do we’ll remember, versus only 10% of what we’ve seen or read. And when I refer to “tuning out”, studies show that as much as 68% of information is forgotten just 48 hours after a lecture. With our Collective Learning Program formats, speakers take on more of a facilitator role to collectively extract knowledge, raise awareness of trends and issues and solve problems as a team. In some instances, there are even purpose-built Collective Learning Program rooms designed for learning. They have transparent walls with props, flip charts and come equipped with other tools and tactics in a casual learning environment suitable for team activities. One session leader hosted a Collective Learning Program styled session on sales performance management to emphasize the driving force behind incentive compensation. He wore a suit designed with dollar signs, then had the audience wear different hats so they could assume roles from their organization. They addressed traditional challenges and incentives, came up with new ideas and learned how technology such as sales automation and AI could make their teams more effective and focused. In another format termed “Burning Questions”, the presenter promoted the topic of interest and the entire session was led by questions from the audience. Participants have certain objectives in mind when they attend a conference, so this is a good way to help them with knowledge experts and other customers who face the same challenges. This format works well in shorter sessions such as the Theaters on the exhibit floor, which are shorter and require no pre-registration.  Flip It The “Flipped” style session turns a session upside down by starting with an experience such as a demo, visual, or other exercise. For instance, perhaps you want to show how leads pass from marketing through to sales and ultimately show ROI. After going through an initial experience, the audience dissects the process and solution. By doing so, learning is achieved with the added benefit of networking and sharing knowledge. Home Room Approach The “Home Room” is typically scheduled early on in the conference. This allows attendees to connect with the right session topics and thought leaders with some guidance from an event team member who knows intimately where and when things will occur, including keynotes, awards, receptions and of course, the featured band on the customer appreciation night. You will know that the Collective Learning Program ideology is being artfully executed when session leaders create their own format. It may be a hybrid of existing defined formats or something completely out of the box. For instance, in one case, a facilitator had 30 participants from the audience write their biggest challenges for product configuration on boxes. All of the boxes were then used to build a wall in front of the room. In the session, the group with the aid of the facilitator tore down the wall one brick at a time, addressing each issue, with enhanced with anticipated visuals or technology tools to elaborate on the challenges and to provide solutions. Not only was it fun, but everyone left with a sense of accomplishment and a complex topic was demystified. At Modern Customer Experience, watch for these tactics in your sessions and be ready to participate. Pre-register for one of the Collective Learning Program (CLP) sessions in the purpose built rooms and get the most out of your experience at Modern Customer Experience. Get your front row tickets to Modern CX 2019 with the code CXINSIDER for a discounted rate of $1295 through March 1, 2019. Join your marketing, service, sales, and commerce peers in Las Vegas, March 19-21.  

Las Vegas, March 18-21, Mandalay Bay Convention Center Have you ever attended a conference and found yourself “tuning out”?  PowerPoint after PowerPoint, same old routine, anticipating that “ah ha”...

Ask the Experts

What CPQ Can Really Do For You - No. 3: Better Looking Quotes and Proposals

In this on-going series of blogs that dive deep into the benefits that CPQ can bring, we've looked at how CPQ can help your salespeople sell faster and how it can give your organization better control of margins. Now let's consider the 'Q' in CPQ - better looking quotes (and proposals). When I speak to salespeople about creating quotes and proposals, I always get conflicting stories. All of them value the impact that a well written quote or proposal can have. But, but many also resent the time they spend compiling and crafting a document, rather than being free to focus on relationship building and selling. The alternative is often to use a template developed by the Marketing department.  However, if it's too prescriptive, it can come across as bland and doesn't reflect the relationship that a salesperson has with their customer. Added to this, very few salespeople are good designers.  Even if they have those skills, assembling a well-designed document is a time-consuming task.  When salespeople have people to see and targets to hit, corners are often cut. When I asked our branding agency InnerVisions ID to describe some of the biggest 'crimes against branding' they see in customer facing documents, they told us to watch out for the following. Low-resolution logos and images downloaded from the Internet that pixelate when printed. Old logos or out of date branding still being used after a rebrand. Inconsistent use of branding guidelines.  Or, not having these established in the first place where it’s imperative to keep corporate colors, typefaces and imagery consistent across all output. Incorrect and inconsistent spelling of product names (especially in US/European markets where ‘U’s and ‘S/Z’s are inconsistent.  Poor layout - the main crimes are too much information on one page, or a muddled layout of information.  ‘Whitespace’ is vital so the reader is not overwhelmed. Documents that look 'cobbled together' from many sources - different typefaces, sizes, layouts, even the language used can be inconsistent. What’s a Salesperson to do? How can a salesperson create a quote or proposal quickly, without these errors, without copying boilerplate marketing collateral, and with an approach that’s tailored to your customer? A good CPQ solution will have a comprehensive document composition tool that solves this problem. Administrators can centrally set up templates with guidance from the Marketing department, or an external design agency. All the company branding guidelines and 'official' styled elements can be taken care of. Logos can be correctly placed and accurately rendered. Colors and fonts are precise and the overall look and feel can represent the company in a professional manner. Salespeople can use this properly designed template to generate a proposal that is unique to both the offer and the customer within the CPQ system with the press of a button. Conditional elements of the template can toggle on or off and this can be based on the content of a deal. For example, marketing information can be included, but only for products and services that are offered in that deal. Sections can be triggered by the salesperson too.  If you know your customer is particularly 'green', you could click to include your company's environmental fact sheet if you think it's relevant. Data from the deal can also be brought in directly. Often this is a pricing summary or the details of a quote. It's quick and easy to get accurate data, and you don't have to worry about the clash of formats that can occur between spreadsheets and word processors. Finally, and perhaps most importantly, sections of the proposal can be left fully editable by the salesperson. This allows them to add rich-text to proposals, giving them the chance to add cover-letters, executive summaries or any other content where their own style, their relationship and their personal knowledge of the customers situation cannot be replaced by a machine. By combining the voice and experience of the salesperson with accurate deal data and with corporate branding and content, you end up with a high quality, accurate, and personalized proposal that will meet your salesperson and customer's requirements. For once you really can 'have your cake and eat it' with quotes and proposals generated by CPQ. Read the 2018 Gartner Magic Quadrant for Configure, Price and Quote Application Suites report. * Originally published on walpolepartnership.com      

In this on-going series of blogs that dive deep into the benefits that CPQ can bring, we've looked at how CPQ can help your salespeople sell faster and how it can give your organization better control...

Ask the Experts

What CPQ Can Really Do For You - No. 2: Five Ways to Control Margins

Profit Margin = Revenue - Cost / Revenue If we want control of our margins, we really need control of how our salespeople allocate revenue on a deal, and how it relates to our organization’s cost base. Let's take a look at how companies set their prices. Broadly speaking, the price of any product or service can be set as ‘cost plus’, or ‘what the market will bear.’ The latter generally involves some analysis or guesswork to establish a standard - often called 'List Price', MRP or RRP - and apply discount in certain circumstances. If you've ever visited a Moroccan souk, you'll know how arbitrary an opening price can be, and how extreme a discount level can get. Some companies set prices centrally based on one or other of these principles and allow no movement - Apple is a good example here. Others put partial or complete control in the hands of their salespeople - possibly backed up by pricing analysts or commercial specialists and bid teams. Whichever way your organization chooses to set prices, let's see how CPQ can help you control your margins. A CPQ system: 1) Ensures pricing is up to date Even if you have a simple pricing structure with pre-set prices that don’t budge from day to day, your salespeople need to know that they are using the latest price list. We regularly find companies who issue a new price list, perhaps on a spreadsheet, and somehow the salesperson forgets to save the new one. Now they're working with redundant information. If price changes are significant, a quote can be made that doesn't hit the profit figures required, or could even create a loss. By storing prices in a centrally managed CPQ system, you ensure that salespeople are always working from the latest price books. 2) Eliminates errors from financial calculations If you give your sales people authority to discount, this too can be fraught with risk. We regularly see errors in quotes from 'fat fingers' on a calculator through to 'deal calculator' spreadsheets with formula errors and out of date discount levels. A CPQ system lets your salespeople sell, and handles the financial calculations for them. If your deals are complex, this could be critical for margin control. 3) Assists in managing complex deals When we talk about complex deals, how well does your company manage pricing on things like temporary promotions, customer specific pricing and, if you deal globally, fluctuations in currency? These can all have a significant impact on margins if not managed and implemented well, and in a way that salespeople can easily apply. CPQ lets you deploy and control accurate and intuitive mechanisms for all these scenarios. 4) Safeguards margin calculations If you manage your pricing on a 'cost plus' basis, your cost-base is effectively exposed. It's necessary for the calculations. On one deal this may not be a big issue, but if you have spreadsheets or cost-books going around that hold this master data, it's a real security risk. Nothing will hit margins faster than your competitors knowing your costs in detail. With CPQ, you can store all the deal costs securely for use in margin calculations, but only expose them to authorized individuals. This way, they won't be easily downloadable or 'leave on a train'-able. 5) Guarantees stress-free pricing approvals Finally, let's consider a final critical element of margin control - pricing approvals. If you pass the final say on pricing to a manager or a specialist team, a CPQ solution can provide them with the information and analysis they need to do their job accurately. Re-keyed information can contain errors and takes time that could be spent on intelligent analysis. Centralized data on requested pricing and what was approved and won could be invaluable over time. We can give organizations a feedback loop on their set price and discount levels to understand whether they are effective or not, and to make improvements that benefit margins, sales effectiveness and efficiency. There are many other ways that CPQ can help with margin control. Feel free to suggest some more in the comments. Download the entire "CPQ Cloud's Top 12 Benefits" blog series by clicking here! Download Walpole Partnership's free eBook: The Complete Configure Price Quote (CPQ) Software Guide for Sales Professionals * Originally published on walpolepartnership.com

Profit Margin = Revenue - Cost / Revenue If we want control of our margins, we really need control of how our salespeople allocate revenue on a deal, and how it relates to our organization’s cost base. L...

Customer Service

To Deliver World-Class Service Experiences, Focus First on Your Agents

The effortless customer experience has been the guiding mantra in customer service for the last decade. Yet, to meet rising expectations, companies are realizing that their biggest hurdle isn't the customer experience (CX) - it's the agent experience. So what's holding companies back from providing an effortless agent experience? At Pier 1, where I manage the Customer Relations department, we faced a number of challenges. After re-launching our e-commerce site six years ago, we realized we didn't have a sustainable service strategy to keep up with increasing demands. Instead of scaling for growth, we expanded our service team by 200%. But our associates were frustrated. They spent more time dealing with legacy systems and outdated technology than actually listening to their customers. In an effort to improve our CX, we had overlooked the crucial folks who differentiate our business from our competitors. Sound familiar? Over the last three years, Pier 1 worked to transform its service strategy. In doing so, we established ten principles of an effortless agent experience that focus on both the tools and the work environment in your contact center. Provide Your Agents with the Technology and the Tools Often, contact centers agents work with legacy systems that are too rigid to evolve with changing customer expectations. Take a moment to rethink your technology stack, with the user in mind. 1.    Integrated Systems and Single Customer Records: At Pier 1, our associates were accessing over 20 different systems and multiple sources of customer records. Our first priority was to consolidate and integrate these solutions, providing associates with one, 360-degree customer record using the CRM as the portal. By giving your agents a single source of truth, you improve their efficiency and ability to focus on the customer, instead of system navigation.  2.    Intuitive Technology and Modern Communication Channels: Consider the engagement channels you offer your customers and agents to communicate. Are they intuitive tools that help add value to the interaction? By adopting an intuitive and integrated CRM system at Pier 1, we decreased our new hire learning journey time by 50%. We also added modern contact channels, such as chat and text, that our associates use on a daily basis. These convenient channels have allowed our customers to better describe their needs with photos-arming agents with helpful context to quickly resolve problems.  3.    Knowledge Base: By consolidating all potential answers into one knowledge base, tribal knowledge and post-it-notes become a thing of the past. After building our robust Knowledge Base, Pier 1's associates no longer relied on that one 'Jedi Master' in the department to answer their questions. They felt empowered and were able to provide more detailed and consistent information to our customers. Provide Your Agents with a Great Work Environment It's nearly impossible to deliver outstanding customer service if your agents don't genuinely love their jobs. Infuse your contact center with brand culture, but don't forget to let your agents' individuality to shine through. 4.    Training: Give your associates the opportunity to learn about your brand, products, and services. At Pier 1, we don't hire experts in home decoration. Instead, we cultivate it with lessons on products and decoration principles. As a result, our associates have become valued customer advisors, sharing their brand inspiration with each engagement. 5.    Coaching and Recognition: Devise an agent-to-supervisor ratio that fosters development and opportunities for recognition. By removing operational tasks from supervisors and allowing them to focus on coaching and engaging associates, our customer relations team continually improves their skills and feels more connected to Pier 1 culture. 6.    Agent Empowerment: Arm your front-line associate with the tools and approvals they need to assist customers without the need for escalations. By empowering all associates to make necessary business transactions, regardless of their tier, you boost agent productivity. Even better, you avoid hindering the customer experience by transferring her from associate to manager.  7.    Leverage Individuality and Passion: Customers resonate best when interacting with authentic people. Embrace your agents' individuality and encourage them to be themselves when engaging with customers. You've hired them because they are passionate about your products or services, so let that shine through. Your agents will feel more at ease, and in turn, provide exceptional customer service. 8.    Eliminate Constraining Metrics: Consider removing (or concealing) KPIs, such as Average Handling Time (AHT), that measure the speed of customer interactions. These metrics put pressure on agents and ignore interaction quality. Instead, strive for quality improvements, keeping an eye on First Call Resolution (FCR), for example. 9.    Work from Home: By implementing modern, and easy-to-use cloud-based technology, you open the door to hiring remote associates. At Pier 1, over 80% of our associates work from home after an initial in-office training period. We've leveraged this as a recruiting tool, vastly broadening our talent pool to hire the best associates possible.  10.    Stay Connected: At Pier 1, we stay connected with video chat tools, webinars, and routine on-site visits to learn more about new products and service initiatives. Our associates look forward to pancake breakfasts, crazy sock weeks, and product giveaways whether they work on-premise or from home. These events help keep our associates connected with Pier 1's culture and build brand loyalty. These principles have helped us at Pier 1 cultivate a passionate service team of associates who are empowered to add value to each interaction. Outstanding agent experiences beget world-class customer experiences. While shoppers have unlimited choice in home décor, few brands can compete with our superior CX. *This post originally appeared on ICMI.

The effortless customer experience has been the guiding mantra in customer service for the last decade. Yet, to meet rising expectations, companies are realizing that their biggest hurdle isn't the...

Ask the Experts

What CPQ Can Really Do for You No. 1 – Sell Faster

I often read marketing copy for Configure Price Quote (CPQ) solutions that summarizes the many benefits that they can bring to an organization. I'll generally read something like "Sell Faster", "Eliminate Errors", "Close Deals Quickly" or "Improve Margins." We're guilty of it too - if you visit our website the headline reads, "Sell More, Sell Faster with a Configure Price & Quote system." I wrote that copy and agonized for days over how best to encapsulate the value of CPQ in a short, snappy phrase. It was a really difficult task because CPQ can benefit each organization in such a wide variety of very ways. But it got me thinking – I want to give those many benefits of CPQ more thought than my (admittedly catchy) headline. So, over the coming months, I'll continue to explore one positive attribute of CPQ at a time in a little more depth. First, let's take a look at one of the most frequently heard benefits that customers gain from implementing CPQ. Sell Faster For anyone in charge of generating revenue, the idea that you can speed up your selling cycles is exactly what you want to hear. If you can deliver the same revenue in less time, it frees up your salespeople to focus on the next big deal. So how exactly can CPQ enable this? In my experience, there are two main ways that CPQ can provide measurable improvements in the speed of the selling cycle. Reduce Wasted Time When your salespeople do any deal with a customer, there's a mixture of value adding time (generally time spent exploring the customer's issues or proposing and demonstrating solutions), and the necessary evil of the administration of a deal. CPQ solutions can never fully replace the interaction and understanding between a professional salesperson and their client. However, they can drastically reduce the time spent on administration between meetings and calls. They are able to do this by: Giving salespeople a straightforward process to set up the products or services that your company wants to propose (knowing that they can't make a mistake) Enabling salespeople to see the impact of pricing changes, with the possibility of a manager being notified immediately if they need to approve, and Offering salespeople the option to generate client-facing quotes and contracts at the press of a button. If the CPQ system is utilized to its full potential, your salespeople can minimize the time they waste on internal processes and shorten the elements in direct control of the critical path of the deal. 2. Build Momentum Of course, your customer has their own buying process and may have several steps to go through. Your deal is not the only thing on their to-do list. One of the biggest reasons a deal slows down is a lack of momentum. If you take too long to respond when a prospect requests a quote, or asks for information, then their attention can easily go elsewhere. Other tasks may seem more achievable and can take precedence. By the time they’re ready to focus on your proposal once more, the benefits that seemed so real to them in your meeting may have lost their impact and the way that your product or service solves their pain may seem less clear. In the worst cases, the prospect’s situation changes - think about the number of paradigm-shifting world events that have happened in the last year alone!  These events impact businesses and their planning, and what your customers can and can’t spend on. Introducing delays can leave the door open to more nimble competitors to turn your prospect's head. So, whether it's simply a reduction in the 'dead time' of your own tasks to prepare a deal, or, whether it's about keeping the energy of your deal flowing in your clients’ eyes, a well-implemented CPQ solution can absolutely help you "Sell Faster." There will be more focused explanations of CPQ benefits over the coming months. If there's any benefit you'd like us to focus on please let us know in the comments, or email me and we'll give it priority. Download the entire "CPQ Cloud's Top 12 Benefits" blog series by clicking here! Download Walpole Partnership's free eBook: The Complete Configure Price Quote (CPQ) Software Guide for Sales Professionals * Originally published on walpolepartnership.com          

I often read marketing copy for Configure Price Quote (CPQ) solutions that summarizes the many benefits that they can bring to an organization. I'll generally read something like "Sell Faster",...

Meetup Panel: Building a Data Strategy for Operational Efficiency

With the growing pressure to scale pipeline and revenue, the best companies are at the cutting edge of using data to drive decision making. That makes an impeccable data strategy the lifeblood of your go-to-market strategy. Looking through the sales and marketing lens in particular, our most recent meetup, Building a Data Strategy for Operational Efficiency, was dedicated to learning how operations leaders are using data to align their go-to-market organizations around the right data opportunities and how this has helped them drive operational efficiency to grow their businesses faster. Defining Operational Efficiency Simply put, operational efficiency means automating tasks - ultimately shifting people's ability to focus more time on high-value work rather than wasting time on cyclical (and unrewarding) low-value tasks. This also carries through to improved culture, which leads to stable businesses with happy customers. Castelán breaks this process down into three steps: (1) automating grunt work so that people can focus on more challenging problems, (2) delivering data quickly and transparently without overwhelming the end user to keep the flow of information agile, and (3) matching the right resources to the right tasks. This requires being purposeful about prioritization of time and being intentional about rejecting certain tasks that aren't worth it. For every organization this will materialize differently based on business objectives, but a good measure of success for operational efficiency is revenue per headcount. Using Data to Achieve Efficiencies Data is a bridge between systems and systems. An effective data strategy will be responsible for distributing information so that teams can talk to each other and always be operating in real-time. For example, campaign data needs to be transferred from marketing to sales so that reps have the right context to follow up with leads. Without the right data foundation, this communication between marketing and sales breaks down. Pitta uses data to achieve efficiencies in three ways: People and Process: Removing tedious tasks and using a tool to set up automations and kick off program steps automatically. For example, Wordpress post, Marketo flows, or CRM triggers. Go-to-Market: Prioritizing the right accounts so time is spent on the highest-value prospects. For example, planning sales territories by the distribution of high-value accounts and enriching data on top prospects or choosing conferences based on target account attendance. Products: Putting the right content in front of the right person at the right time based on buying stage. For example, BrightTALK's Ada which recommends content and will ultimately answer questions based on the knowledge on BrightTALK. Data Challenges Data doesn't come without its challenges, most commonly siloed databases prevent us from getting all the data sources in one view. That inherently creates a roadblock to looking across data and understanding what data you may have and what data is missing. Tools like Oracle DataFox act as a front end query tool, combining first and third party data to provide a comprehensive data view. Then, there's the issue of what type of data needs prioritization. Account-based approaches have been driving revenue and aligning sales and marketing but ultimately key data points like contact info will always remain important. Finding the right mix of data tools and a balance to data distribution are two key steps in providing the right context at the right times without data overload. "Last week we had 45,000 calls that made 6 million changes to our database, so everything is happening in real-time and its important to understand how we can use this data to be more relevant in our outreach initatives." - David Pitta, Chief Marketing Officer at BrightTALK Measuring Success Data is an excellent resource, but can also be really crippling if not deployed correctly. To get it right, it's about relevance and your ability to be more informed and confident in your decision making process. Am I eliminating grunt work? Is what I'm doing making your life easier? While it's important to get feedback and measure internal success, it's equally important to improve the customer experience with timely, relevant content. Are you progressing people through the customer journey? Do you understand customer velocity and conversion? Your data strategy should account for operational efficiencies for internal teams as well as customers, ultimately driving revenue efficiency. Parting Advice With the speed at which data becomes stale, your data strategy is an ongoing project. It's therefore important to build a tactical plan and implement a quality foundation. Castelán highlights some of the key steps so continuous maintenance and updates are hassle free: Protect Your Points of Entry: Identify how data is entering your systems and make sure you stop any bleeding first and foremost. Clean Existing Data: Get a comprehensive look at what data you have and the quality of that data by updating and deduping records. Data Governance: Establish rules of governance, deciding which employees and/or vendors have authority over your data. Add New Data Sets: Understand current data scope and evaluate data vendors, making sure to verify for coverage and accuracy. Integrate Across Systems: Establish your data strategy as the single source of truth, making sure data integrates across systems and teams. With a quality data strategy at the heart of your organization, not only can you drive operational efficiency but also informed business decision making to achieve revenue efficiency. Check out more at Oracle DataFox.

With the growing pressure to scale pipeline and revenue, the best companies are at the cutting edge of using data to drive decision making. That makes an impeccable data strategy the lifeblood of your...

CPQ

The 2019 CPQ Trends That Will Transform Your Sales

How can your sales reps sell more, sell better, and sell differently in 2019? Let’s explore the business environment and the latest solutions that give sellers an edge over the competition. B2B buyers’ attitudes are shifting. The vast majority prefer to do independent research to either validate what sales reps are telling them or, to completely bypass interacting with the sales rep altogether. According to an Accenture study, 94% of B2B buyers conduct online research at some point in the buying process. And these buyers also rely on peer information to influence the buying decision. Influitive data asserts that word-of-mouth recommendations from peers influence over 90% of all B2B buying decisions.  According to Forrester, 59% of buyers prefer to do research online instead of interacting with a sales rep. Today’s B2B buyers want a comprehensive buying experience. This is a spillover from the consumer space where we’ve all become accustomed to self-service interactions. Now buyers also want the power to access accurate information at any time of the day or night. They expect to be able to create their own configurations and generate sample quotes. They could use this information as the starting point for interaction with a sales rep, or not.  How should your organization evolve? For simple requests, like making a repeat order, businesses need to make the experience as easy as possible and personalized, with the customer’s buying history and product needs.  Enter Your Secret Weapon – CPQ To sell more, give your sales reps the assistance that they want when and how they want it.  Serve reps 24/7 with a comprehensive experience that includes configuration and pricing by creating sophisticated workflows that take advantage of lead generation activities, with seamless handovers to CRM processes. Or, offload low consideration purchases or repeat orders to free sales reps to work on more valuable opportunities. To sell better, B2B buyers must be able to identify what products go together with upsell or cross-sell options, as well as make sure that every order is accurate. This is accomplished with guided selling that prompts recommendations for configurations, and opportunities for upsell and cross sell. To sell differently, sales reps must have the ability to provide new revenue streams and monetization models with minimal effort. That means activating different channel or partner workflows that may have specific rules and approval chains, and control these workflows with simple point and click configuration. The same configurations can also be used to address specific user groups, regional differences, product availabilities, or any existing customer agreements. Sellers should also have the ability to explore any recurring revenue opportunities available with subscription services where the customer performs self-service activation and maintenance. The Bottom Line Organizations face increased pressure to find better ways to serve their customers and lighten the load for sales reps. One of the easiest ways to improve the selling process is to make it as flexible and easy to use as possible. This is where CPQ really shines. As the connecting bridge between front office and back office applications, CPQ helps break down the process silos that often create hidden complexities and unnecessary delays. CPQ enables your sales reps to “Sell More, Sell Better and Sell Differently”.

How can your sales reps sell more, sell better, and sell differently in 2019? Let’s explore the business environment and the latest solutions that give sellers an edge over the competition. B2B buyers’...

CX News & Events

Sales Professionals Tune In!

Sales Professionals Tune In! Here’s your opportunity to embrace change in the New Year by registering for Modern Customer Experience in Las Vegas, March 18-21, 2019! Attend MCX and interact with transformation leaders in the CX Exchange. Better yet, absorb everything about new trends or drill down in the conference breakout sessions. Hear from industry leaders including special guest Jacob Hayden at Parker Hannifin in the CX Sales general session as they share how they are optimizing sales strategies and explain how they’ve integrated sales with marketing and service to improve their bottom line. Experience cutting-edge features including visual Configure, Price and Quote integration from development partners, predictive sales planning tools, AI for Sales and Oracle’s new Digital Sales Assistant. Come away refreshed, re-energized, and ready to conquer the world after a week of making new friends, learning, and well, of course, partying in America’s hottest entertainment city!  Hear about global marketing dynamics and trends and then roll up your sleeves and get into the weeds to understand efficiencies for sales operations with a diverse array of CX Sales breakout sessions. What will our world of artificial intelligence and machine learning bring? How will you determine the proper balance of high-touch human interactions with the inevitable automation that surrounds us? We’re also bringing you some unique Collective Learning-style sessions. These are audience-led and interactive facilitated group activities that apply the science of learning with an appreciation for the collective intelligence of multiple people. Hear from Gerry Murray about the interaction between sales and marketing. Or, participate in “Make Your Case”, “Brain Snacks”, or “Flipped” sessions. We all bring knowledge and expertise to every interaction and Collective Learning harnesses the power of a group. Come a day early and take advantage of all that Las Vegas has to offer such as the Shark Reef at the host hotel, the Mandalay Bay. Experience one of its famous restaurants like the award-winning Aureole or the Rivera Las Vegas at the Delano by famous chef Alain Ducasse.  But before you dine, start the week with a Pre-Conference Education course to warm up your intellectual abilities and set the stage for a week of learning and professional networking. At these Pre-Conference courses, in smaller more intimate groups, you can get learn how to configure a report using powerful Oracle Transactional Business Intelligence (OTBI), or tailor your applications to your specific needs with the Oracle Application Composer, or maybe you just want to learn the basics of Engagement Cloud and see how sales and service are synergizing customer experience for reps and agents. There’s no substitute for being there in person, so register now for Modern Customer Experience with the code CXINSIDER for a discounted rate of $1295 through March 1, 2019. Claim your place at this premier conference in Las Vegas, without a doubt the entertainment capital of the world!

Sales Professionals Tune In! Here’s your opportunity to embrace change in the New Year by registering for Modern Customer Experience in Las Vegas, March 18-21, 2019! Attend MCX and interact with...

Customer Service

B2B Stands For Business to Battle - Use Field Service as a Decisive Competitive Weapon

It’s natural to fight to protect what we work so hard to achieve. But, that battle is exponentially heightened in the business-to-business (B2B) space. Acquiring new customers can be such a slow and complex process that it can take several years to build a well-stocked customer base. Yet the real challenge today isn’t acquiring new customers. It’s keeping them. If 80% of any given company’s profit comes from 20% of their best customers, if a handful of customers take their business elsewhere, it could damage growth beyond repair. To make matters worse, B2B customers are much more informed than they were 10 years ago and are able to switch vendors with the click of a button. In order to maintain healthy relationships with long-term clients, B2B executives are challenged to deliver an enhanced customer service experience. Without it, they might as well hand their customers over to the competition with a smile. The Customer Retention Warzone  So what critical service area should you review if you’re fiercely fighting to retain customers? Like any other battle in life, there is usually a location for it take place. Field service is one of the primary front lines for maintaining healthy customer relationships. Regardless of how great your product or service is, there will always be malfunctions or hiccups that need to be attended to. If you want to stand out from the competition and achieve field service success, you better make sure your troops are well prepared. Your technicians are only as good as the tools you give them. Mobility, communication and contextual knowledge are indispensable for teams to respond with speed and efficiency. Prioritizing and assigning jobs can get messy quickly, so having dispatch know who is best suited for the job ahead of time will reduce this complexity as well as the job’s time-to-completion. Implement proactive tools to encourage team collaboration, record technician profiles and skillsets, and optimize real-time routing. You’ll soon find yourself completing more jobs within the committed service windows while boosting overall customer satisfaction. Just as your technicians benefit from the tools you provide them, applications perform better depending on the platform they work on. With B2B customer expectations rapidly changing, you need to have the flexibility to add what you need, when you need it. So if you’re field service platform is developed in-house, you may wish to seriously consider moving to a 3rd party vendor. Home-grown platforms are not as quick to adapt, which stunts growth. Yet many companies would rather stick with what they created than learn something new. If you swallow your pride and investigate, you’ll quickly find that 3rd party vendors can offer you future-proof capabilities that both your customers and employees will appreciate. Look at Cincinnati Bell, a telecom company that outgrew their homegrown solution. They needed a solution that would continuously scale to meet their needs. After implementing Oracle Field Service Cloud, they saw an increase in productivity and became a trusted service to their partners and customers. Cincinnati Bell Dials in Field Service With Oracle Cloud Prepare For Battle Now that you have a general sense of what lies ahead, dive deeper into learning The New Rules of Field Service Management. Before reviewing new vendors or capabilities, you need to recognize the gaps within your own field service operations. Find what you and your customers value you most out of a service experience, and begin your march to victory in the field! Learn more about how Oracle Field Service can help your organization by downloading the following eBooks. The New Rules of Field Service Management The Future of Field Service and the Connected Mobile Workforce Your Guide to Choosing a Field Service Management Solution Field Service Management in the Cloud  

It’s natural to fight to protect what we work so hard to achieve. But, that battle is exponentially heightened in the business-to-business (B2B) space. Acquiring new customers can be such a slow and...