Monday Jun 29, 2015

The Top Tech Trends Impacting the Future of Field Service Management by Stephen Fioretti

Since the Oracle Service Cloud added field service management to its portfolio of customer experience solutions through the acquisition of TOA Technologies, the leader in cloud-based field service management solutions, I’ve had the opportunity to see firsthand how modern field service solutions have changed the way people think about this space. Over the past several years, field service management has transformed from being a cumbersome but necessary part of the business into a key way for businesses to drive value, increasing operational efficiencies and leveraging important face-to-face interactions with customers to improve their experience with an organization.

And what’s really exciting about this market is that it has the potential to continue transforming as new advancements and trends in the technology world make their way into the field service space. Advancements such as cloud services and trends like the Internet of Things are transforming the way organizations manage their field teams. Field service operations are becoming increasingly connected – field technicians have access to their peers, managers and critical information in real-time via mobile devices. Furthermore, machines are talking directly to field service teams as well as backend systems via machine-to-machine communication (M2M), speeding the identification of issues and ultimately problem resolution.

In a recent article that I authored for Field Technologies magazine, I discuss a few of the trends that will power transformation in the field service market. The article, titled “Creating the Super-Connected Field Service Ecosystem of the Future,” highlights some of the trends in technology that I believe will have the biggest impact of the future of field service. These include: 

  • Cloud services: While already having a significant impact on the field service space, cloud services will continue to drive important changes, removing silos and allowing systems to work together fluidly.
  • Internet of Things: What we call the “Internet of Smart Things” will become the norm. This will really accelerate field service because the IoST will allow field organizations to not only respond to issues faster, but it will allow them to respond smarter by identifying potential causes before a technician is dispatched.
  • Augmented reality: I am very excited to see where this trend takes the field service market. This is one trend that will significantly improve day-to-day field service work, especially when leveraged with wearables. Applied in field service, augmented reality could enable field service employees to overlay schematics across his field of vision via augmented reality-enabled glasses, so he can see exactly what needs to be done on the piece of equipment he is working on.

 

The Oracle Service Cloud team is excited to welcome a modern field service solution, Oracle Field Service Cloud, into our product family, and help our customers extend the customer service they provide all the way to the field. Now, Oracle Service Cloud customers can deliver a consistent, exceptional customer experience across all points of the service cycle – from web self service, to the contact center, to engagement via social channels and live chat and all the way to what is often a company’s only face-to-face interaction with their customers, a field service appointment.

And, as the field service space continues to evolve with the latest technology trends, organizations will be able to deliver an increasingly seamless and smarter customer experience,.

Learn more about the latest technology trends that are impacting the future of the field service industry in my recent article for Field Technologies magazine, and discover how Oracle Field Service Cloud can help your business power operational efficiencies and improve customer satisfaction. 

Thursday Jun 25, 2015

Oracle CPQ Cloud: The Personalization Engine by Baylee Miller

When making a purchasing decision customers need to feel confident that what they’re buying is going to meet their specific needs. A proven way to build that confidence is by providing a personal sales experience. Unfortunately, tailoring a personalized solution for each deal takes time. The sales rep has to understand the requirements and find the product set that best matches those needs, determine the highest price the customer will accept, and present that solution to the customer. Each of these steps is an opportunity for sub-optimal choices by the sales rep and may require multiple revisions. That’s why the products off the shelf are often cheaper than the tailored solutions; the seller passes the cost of customization on to the customer. But if companies can deliver the experience of a tailored solution with the efficiency of a standard solution, they stand to differentiate themselves from their competitors.

[Read More]

Visual Commerce – Content + Commerce Evolved

Unlike a lot of folks around my age who are migrating toward city living and fighting a move to the suburbs, my husband and I recently took the opposite approach.  With a toddler, a massive dog, and a baby on the way, we made the decision to pick up our life in Boston and move to a more laid-back (read: less expensive) place to call home - Montana.   There have been many positives to the move, but one major downside is the lack of local retail options I’d become accustomed to in Boston.  I’ve always been a big fan of shopping online for items such as clothes and make-up but I was use to being able to go into a store to touch and feel bigger purchases – like furniture, sporting equipment, etc.

As if the move wasn’t complex enough, we purchased a home that needs a complete renovation.  If you’ve ever gone down the renovation path, you know it requires lots of imagination, creativity, and of course new, big purchases – everything from cabinets to light fixtures to furniture.  How was I going to do this with the limited options of physical retailers in my area?  Luckily, a lot of brands are taking the next step with their online sites to improve the experience, but I was surprised by how many brands still don’t incorporate anything more than standard product shots to help shoppers make decisions.    

In my quest for the perfect new purchases for my house I started thinking a lot about the types of experiences brands are offering to bring their products to their customers so they can visualize how the product looks, feels, and functions while shopping online.   I want to see what that new couch will look like in my living room, know how the motion activated on/off feature of the facet works…you get the picture.   The term visual commerce is used often to describe this type of content or experience but what does that actually mean?

[Read More]

Tuesday Jun 23, 2015

It's Cloudy. While SaaS and The Cloud create confusion in commerce, opportunity calls

SaaS. Cloud. On-demand. On-premise. Managed Services. Hosted. Multitenant. Single tenant. Public cloud. Private cloud. Hybrid cloud.

We are surrounded by these terms, but if you really know the differences, you are part of a seriously small minority. So when half of retailers say they want to go cloud in the next year – in commerce, what do they mean? And from a product perspective, what’s the right fit?

Software has been eating the world for years now, and Software as a Service (SaaS), hosted in The Cloud makes it all easier, faster, cheaper.

In an effort to be ready for the SaaS boom, “SaaS” and “cloud” in the commerce space have become interchangeable. But good messaging and subscription-like finance terms does not define a SaaS product.

And software doesn’t just live a singular “Cloud,” there are many clouds, and not all clouds are created equal. Public clouds, private clouds, hybrid clouds all vary in security, scale, performance, capabilities, and hardware depending on provider.  

From a product perspective, here’s what "cloud" can mean today:

SaaS (multitenant) delivers upon the promise of commerce in The Cloud: zero infrastructure or upgrade management, housed in a public cloud/data center on a server with other storefronts (multitenancy) to take advantage of automatic push upgrades, elastic scaling, and shared cost. True SaaS is appealing as it requires no CapEx budget, implementations are typically less expensive, and customers are typically billed via monthly subscription. Today’s SaaS commerce solutions offer slick tooling and beautiful templates, but not the brand control, features, or proven scale for growth needed by marquee brands (or those aspiring to be). For these vendors, in order to push a single release of software without breaking sites, the ability to customize each storefront is limited – leaving many sites looking the same. Questions about infrastructure and scalability raise concerns with performance and security.

On-demand / hosted solutions (single tenant / “private cloud”) can simply be an on-premise technology (or an on-premise platform re-architected for the cloud) deployed on a private server on or off site. It can also be a hosted in a private or hybrid cloud at a commerce vendor or hosting provider, and may feature a full or limited feature set of on-premise software that can be customized. On-demand / hosted deployments typically require moderate CapEx budget, and billing models vary. While these solutions offer benefits of multi and single tenancy, they are not SaaS products. An IT staff may not be maintaining the deployment on-site – but someone somewhere is still maintaining it, and someone is paying for that maintenance.  Longer custom deployments and upgrade management still leave much to be desired in terms of true agility with on-demand / hosted cloud solutions.

Then, there's:

On-premise (single tenant, on-site, private) ensures total customization – and everything that comes with ownership from a cost perspective. Many merchants welcome this approach, as it is the only option that can meet their requirements. They may look to the cloud – or move elements of their deployment to the cloud – but they see no other realistic option for their core site. Requires more substantial CapEx budget, billing models vary.

Today, the reality is that there is no perfect SaaS or cloud solution. Many merchants happily compromise because they have to – whether it’s scale, growth, control, customization, or cost. Some are left with a dilemma: do I lower my management and infrastructure costs, or do I make sacrifices with the customer experience?

Complex commerce organizations craving total control and customization won’t get what they need from a SaaS or on-demand solution. Growing organizations with limited resources kick the can down the road until their SaaS solution becomes restrictive to the brand experience, and cost prohibitive.  On-demand users can say they are cloud, but are still left wanting more in terms of agility and cost savings.

What if there was an opportunity in the market to marry the agility and cost-savings of a true multitenant SaaS solution, with the brand control and experience customization you’d get with an on-premise platform?

In a landscape peppered with cookie-cutter sites and environments that can’t scale, it’s time for a shake up. Online businesses have been waiting!

Stay tuned for an interview with Oracle Commerce Development to hear how we are working to solve these challenges…

Monday Jun 22, 2015

LinkedIn Wins Gartner & 1to1 Media Customer Service Excellence Award by Stephen Fioretti

LinkedIn was named a Gold winner in the Customer Service Excellence category for the 2015 Gartner & 1to1 Media Customer Experience Excellence Awards. For over a decade, Gartner and 1to1 Media have used this joint awards program to honor select, customer-centric organizations that have achieved outstanding business performance by implementing enterprise-wide, service-focused strategies. LinkedIn will be presented with this innovation in service excellence award at the Gartner 360 Summit September 9-11 in San Diego.

What helps LinkedIn bring people, processes, and technologies together to provide a superior customer experience? Andy Yasutake, Director of Tech Solutions and Operations, outlines several principles LinkedIn follows to increase business efficiency and member satisfaction.

Focus on ‘Member First’ in all you do.

LinkedIn’s mission is to connect its users and make them more productive and successful. Thus, the company implemented a ‘Members First’ initiative, and started making changes based on the Voice of the Customer. For example, when LinkedIn learned that its members placed high value on rapid response time, it encouraged agents to respond more quickly to inquiries. With the help of Oracle Service Cloud, LinkedIn achieved an 85% decrease in average initial response time, a 68% decrease in resolution time, and a 23% increase in customer satisfaction!

Your customers don’t care about organizational boundaries.
Break them down.

LinkedIn recognized that its members interacted with the brand as a whole, not just exclusively with sales, marketing, or service. As a result, the company broke down information silos between these departments and encouraged employees to step outside their given expertise to resolve issues quickly and/or prevent them from escalating. Leveraging all its assets, rapidly responding to member feedback, and rethinking roles allows the company to maximize the value of every touch and bring added value to the member journey.

Help your customers help themselves.
With over 350 million worldwide users, and more than two new members joining per second, LinkedIn expected to employ around 5,000-10,000 service representatives. However, with Oracle Service Cloud, LinkedIn was able to achieve a 97% self-service rate, thereby reducing the company’s potential need for support staff. The result? Instead of employing 5,000-10,000 reps, LinkedIn has been able to maintain agents at 750-800, easing costs and boosting efficiency, all while growing 40% year-over-year.

On the digital front, LinkedIn noticed that 50% of its web traffic came through mobile devices, and that 21% of users accessing its knowledge center were not there to solve a specific issue, but instead to learn about the product and develop their career. Therefore, the company placed emphasis on creating knowledge base articles and a mobile Help Center, enabling users to enjoy this content easily from any device.

Optimizing its support processes and empowering members to self-serve has allowed LinkedIn to efficiently provide top-tier service.

Congratulations to LinkedIn for your outstanding achievement. Oracle is honored to have partnered with you to deliver your award-winning customer experience! 

Wednesday Jun 17, 2015

What’s New with Oracle Field Service Cloud: May 2015 Release

With the acquisition of TOA Technologies in 2014, the Oracle Service Cloud added field service management to its solution portfolio. Formerly TOA’s ETAdirect, Oracle Field Service Cloud helps Oracle customers extend customer service excellence to the field while powering greater efficiencies.

As a part of the Oracle Service Cloud family, the Oracle Field Service Cloud team is excited to announce several new features in its latest release in May 2015. With a focus on integration, as well as improving both user and customer experience, new features included in the latest Oracle Field Service Cloud include:

Manage in Mobile – This mobile-friendly redesign of the Oracle Field Service Core Manage solution makes it easier for service managers and dispatchers to manage field teams from smartphones and tablets, helping customers keep pace with consumer trends. A resized display and improved scrolling and swipe functionality provide a consistent user experience across all devices.

Oracle Service Cloud Accelerator – Customers can now quickly and easily connect the call center to the field – leveraging the Oracle Field Service Cloud’s predictive routing and scheduling functionality directly within the Oracle Service Cloud Agent Desktop. Learn more about this Accelerator in this recent blog post by Stephen Fioretti, vice president of product management for Oracle Service Cloud.

Rebranding – The solution formerly known as TOA’s ETAdirect is now Oracle Field Service Cloud. Upon upgrading to version 15.5, all users will see refreshed login screens and Oracle branding – including the Oracle iconography and color palette – across the product. However, customers will still be able to customize with their own branding schemes if preferred.

Along with the features introduced in the February 2015 release, these new Oracle Field Service Cloud features aim to support the Oracle Service Cloud team’s focus on critical integrations and improving the user experience. Included in the February 2015 Oracle Field Service Cloud release were features such as routing visualization, multi-day view, mobile form editor and mobile booking capabilities.

Learn more about Oracle Field Service Cloud and its role in the Oracle Service Cloud family at http://www.oracle.com/goto/field-service/

Monday Jun 15, 2015

Hacking Growth: eCommerce Innovators Re-Imagining Familiar Consumer Markets

I distinctly remember the evening I learned about Uber from a work colleague in 2012. It was a moment that forever changed my level of work-travel-stress forever – it seared into my memory.

We finished dinner at a restaurant just outside of Philadelphia – a location just exterior enough to the city that it would be a pain to call and then wait for a taxi. Probably a wait of “only” 20 mins – but just long enough to become irritating when you desperately just need some shuteye before the next long day.

So if you can travel back in time to the olden days of 2012 – still a moment in time before we did everything (well, everything mundane at least) on your mobiles – Uber seemed truly magical. My colleague pulled up her phone, showed me the little ant-like cars nearby, ordered one – and we were at the hotel in less than 10 mins … exiting the car without worrying about having enough cash, giving directions to the lost driver, or tipping. We pulled up to the lobby. Jumped out. Done. Done!

Problem solved. New loyal customer gained.

In the 3 short years since that evening, terms like “just Uber it”, “it’s an Uber-like” business – have entered the daily lexicon. And not just for companies like Uber – Airbnb, Amazon Prime, Instacart, Warby Parker are all changing the way companies sell online forever. 

More importantly – for us consumers -- the most innovative ecommerce startups are revolutionizing the mundane parts of our day-to-day lives. Saving us precious time! Making things easier for us – so we can use those collective saved minutes to become more interesting, read more books, travel the world, have more mind-space. At least that is what I’m using my extra time for … ;)

Just take a look at the list of top ecommerce startups for 2014-2015. They are all applying innovation to industries / services where shopping experiences haven’t changed in decades.

They are all about creating an “x” experience that looks nothing like the “x” experience of the olden days – a disruptive re-imagining consumer experiences in established industries.

[Read More]

Friday Jun 12, 2015

Collaborate Across Lines of Business by Virginia Lo

A well, laid out plan is set to fail if not executed correctly.  Imagine Joe, a sales rep who has done his due diligence to understand the customer’s business challenge, present the solution and successfully convince the customer that his solution is the one customer wants.  The customer asks for a quotation from the sales person.  But days and weeks go by and the customer still hasn’t received the quotation from Joe.  50% of sales are awarded to the person who gets the proposal to the customer first.  Why couldn’t the sales person respond faster? 

[Read More]

Thursday Jun 04, 2015

Be an Advisor, Not a Sales Person by Virginia Lo

In my previous blog post, I covered how to make more rain makers in your sales organization.  This is the second post in a three-part series addressing ways to achieve bigger, more profitable deals for your organization.  The second tactic we’ll cover is about how to train your reps to be an advisor, not a sales person.

[Read More]

Wednesday Jun 03, 2015

Applying a Retail Best Practice to Improve Field Service

While in college, I worked as a cashier at a local garden center. During the busy season, I would furiously scan, type and swipe, getting customers through the line and out the door as fast as humanly possible. But no matter how quickly I completed the transaction, my manager encouraged me to always ask one simple question: “Did you find everything you were looking for today?”

Asking that question may seem obvious, as the garden center wanted to add a few extra dollars to every sale. But this simple thing also contributed to a better overall experience for customers, whether they knew it or not.

Minimizing disruption to the customer as they make purchases and consume services is paramount to modern customer service.

At the garden center, taking the time to ensure the customer had everything they came for, and possibly a few things they didn’t consider, minimizes future disruption – aka the need to return for a forgotten item and wait in line again. We generally appreciate a relevant and friendly reminder for something we want or need at a retail store or online…

So why do we ever accept anything less for transactions that happen in our own homes?

Field service professionals travel to us in order to minimize the disruption of a transaction on our lives. (There are many accounts of disruption caused by long wait windows and no-show technicians; however this is a separate problem that can be solved with a predictive approach to field service management.)

I recently spoke with an HVAC professional to understand how mobile employees manage the flow of seasonal repairs and ongoing maintenance work. I expected his biggest challenges would be how to efficiently source and match parts and inventory to the appointments and execute within SLAs.

Wrong! In an interesting twist, what’s really needed is a process that could help remind the technician at the job site to do that little extra to make the customer happy and the business more profitable – much like the retail cashier’s “Did you find everything you were looking for today?”

What if HVAC technicians had the same sort of analytics-backed technology in hand that powers online shopping recommendations, offering a reminder to check the coolant levels on a customer’s air conditioning (AC) unit while on site? And then, made it simple to capture payment for that service? Or book a follow up appointment? This is the ultimate in minimizing disruption through more intelligent service.

“Did you find everything you were looking for today?” might be commonplace in retail sales, but it’s not yet a widespread practice among field service operations. Yet there is an opportunity to infuse this type of mindset into almost any field service organization.

For those interested in making the transition, here are some of the benefits:

1. Happier customers: Great customer service today means giving customers what they want with minimal disruption. The responsibility is on the technician to make sure that customer has everything she needs on the first visit, before he walks out the door.

2. Higher sales per transaction: Capture revenue before you lose the moment. I recently had a new dishwasher delivered and had forgotten to request the installation service along with it. I was willing to pay the fee, but the technician was not allowed to accommodate my request.

3. Consolidated efficiencies: Why roll two trucks, for separate appointments when the service representative on site can simply give the customer what she wants? Field service applications that provide real-time visibility for dispatchers and the ability to adjust job lengths as things change enable the flexibility to offer additional services in the home.

4. Seamless follow up: In the case where a follow up appointment is absolutely required, it’s no longer acceptable to put the burden of scheduling back on the customer. Instead, empower field service employees to book follow up visits – you may be returning a second time, but it will be at a time that’s convenient for the customer.

The field service technology is there – it can provide the context, information and technical capabilities. Now it’s up to you to design field service processes so you can give customers everything they want.

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