Wednesday Sep 26, 2012

The Customer Experience Imperative: A Game Changer for Brands

By Anthony Lye, SVP, Cloud Applications Strategy, Oracle

We know that customer experience has emerged as a primary differentiator for businesses today.  I’ve talked a lot about the new age of the empowered consumer. At Oracle we’ve spent a lot of time developing technologies and practices that our customers can implement to greatly improve their customer experience strategies.

Of course I’m biased, but I think that we have created a portfolio of the best solutions on the planet to help organizations deal with the challenges of providing great customer experiences. We’ve done this because we started to witness some trends over the last few years. As the average person began to utilize social and mobile technologies more frequently and products commoditized, customer experience truly remained the only sustainable differentiator for businesses.

In fact, we have seen that customer experience is often driving the success or the failure of a product or a brand. And as end customers have become more vocal about their experiences with companies on social and mobile channels, they now have the power to decide which brands will win and which brands will lose.

To address this customer experience imperative, I believe that business today must do three things really well:

Connect with your customers. You have to connect with customers whenever, wherever and however they want. Organizations must provide a great experience on their existing channels— the call center, the brick and mortar store, the field sales organizations, the websites and social properties. Businesses must also be great at managing and delivering journeys on these channels, while quickly adapting to embrace the new channels that emerge.

You have to understand mobile. You have to understand social. You have to understand kiosks. These are all new routes to market, new channels where your customers may or may not show up. You have to interact with them where they are. You have to present information in a way that's meaningful to them. As well as providing what we would call a multichannel experience. We have to recognize that customers may start their experience on one channel, but end it on a different channel. It’s important that an organization’s technology solutions enable, not just a multichannel strategy, but a strategy that can power new channels and create customer journeys that cross these channels.

Get to know your customers. Next, companies need to get to know the customer as intimately as the customer will allow. Today most customer interactions are anonymous, but it’s important for brands to know which customers drive value. Customers want to provide feedback. They want to share their opinions, but they want to know that those opinions are being heard and acted upon. For this to occur, we need to know much more about the customer and then reward them for their loyalty and for their advocacy.

Enable connections. The last thing is to enable people to connect or transact with your brand. We've got to make it really, really simple for customers to do business with us. We can't make them repeat the steps; we can't make them tell us their identity for the fifth time as they move between organizations. These silos can no longer sustain or deliver a good customer experience. It's extremely important that companies be where customers want them to be—that we create profitable journeys for us and for them.

Organizations have to make sure that there is a single source of truth that defines the customer. We have to make sure that the technology applications that we rely on understand not just the dimensions of multichannel, but of cross-channel too. We have to enable social at the very core of the overall architecture. We have to use historical analytics, real-time decisioning as well as predictive analytics to help personalize and drive an experience. And these are all technologies that IT needs, that IT is familiar with, but needs to enable for the line of business that in turn can enable for the end customer.  This means that we've got to make our solutions available to the customers in the cloud.

In this new age of the empowered consumer, businesses have to focus on delivery mechanisms that reduce the overall TCO, while driving a rapid rate of innovation and a more rapid rate of deployment.

At the Oracle Customer Experience Summit @ OpenWorld, I’ll discuss these issues and more. I hope that you can join us for what promises to be an unforgettable experience.

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