Monday Nov 23, 2015

Why Outstanding Service is the ‘New’ Marketing in Today’s Customer Powered Economy

By Jeff Lundal, Group Vice President, Oracle Service Cloud

There are several known pain points keeping today’s Chief Marketing Officers (CMO’s) up at night.  And let’s be honest, the pain points haven’t changed that much over the years.  For instance, how do I quickly and effectively grow customer retention and brand loyalty?  How do I increase brand advocacy?  How do I show my Chief Executive Officer and Chief Financial Officer solid return on investment regarding marketing spend? 

Just as the Head of Customer Care strives to deliver impactful service across new and evolving experience channels with an ever shrinking budget, the CMO must quickly deliver measurable customer and revenue results for minimal marketing spend.

Adding to these traditional complexities, the CMO is now confronted with the rapid evolution of today's empowered consumer. This makes the jobs of current CMOs even more complex as they struggle to determine how best to attract and retain both new and emerging customer personas.  Think about the millennial who is not only proficient at interacting across traditional and new channels, but expects immediate recognition and satisfaction.

So how do CMO’s successfully meet their best customers when and where they reside?  And what if your brand delivers a terrible experience? Rest assured that the rate with which consumers will drop your brand or stop using your product will astound you!  Don’t believe it? Well in fact, 89% of customers have switched brands due to a bad customer experience.1  This is a scary proposition for any organization. Why should CMO’s care about Service?  It comes down to a few key things… 

Service is no longer just a department, it’s an engagement strategy.
If a brand’s online customer service experience is the ‘front door’ to their business, then why is service so often relegated to the back end “complaint” department?  Especially when according to Mike Johnston, from The Chartered Institute of Marketing, research shows that “it can cost up to 30 times as much to get a new customer as it does to keep an existing one. It pays to stay very close to your customers, so you know their exact needs, today and tomorrow. Your aim is to be irreplaceable as their supplier."  For modern brands, relegating the service department to an afterthought is a strategy for disaster. The key to success is a customer engagement strategy that is will set your business apart.  This is a fundamental change and is the starting point for CMO’s looking to differentiate their brand.

Your brand is not defined by your message.  It’s defined by the experiences you deliver.
Millennial buying power is growing rapidly and they are taking full advantage of the varied modern technology landscape including SnapChat, Twitter, and peer communities.  So now more than ever it is not what you, the marketer, are saying about your brand, but what your customers are saying about your brand.  And customer brand advocacy begins with exceptional service, not marketing messages.  Gartner outlines it pretty clearly, “Today's customers own the conversation they are having with your organization. They are more self-reliant and self-sufficient than ever before, wanting to take care of business via their preferred mode of engagement whenever convenient.2

Delivering an impactful personalized service experience in today’s digital landscape is a smarter and more cost effective marketing approach for modern brands.  Something as simple as including personalized chat during the acquisition process can drive a 33% rate in conversion.  In addition, Gartner research shows that over 75% of customers prefer to use self-service and that they expect a self-service option in the different engagement channels.2

Understanding the experience at every brand, customer touch-point is crucial.
No matter how successful a marketing organization you are, if you are losing customers out the back door due to poor experiences your reputation and revenue suffer.  No one within the organization knows customers’ engagement habits, pain points, and moments of delight more than the service team.  They can share valuable insights from across the social, mobile, and web experiences that will inform new, relevant marketing campaigns.  Partnering with service from the beginning also helps to ensure the marketing and service experiences are connected.  Delivering an exceptional, seamless experience from the back end systems directly to your digital front door is crucial.  A unified experience across touch points reduces customer frustration and builds brand loyalty. 

According to Gartner, during the next five years, 25% of leading companies will extend their CRM technology goals by tying together disparate systems in a more holistic approach that pivots around the needs of the customer. For example, the customer service contact center has evolved into a customer engagement center with the goal to support social media, such as Facebook and Twitter, as well as online community activities. Other departments such as marketing, digital commerce and sales will join with IT leaders to develop plans for the CEH. In 2015, only 5% of organizations have the technologies and processes in place to provide a consistent customer experience across departments and channels. The need to support the anytime-anywhere customer (including on mobile devices, smart devices, and in social networks) and heightened business awareness is making this a top issue among customer service managers.3  So imagine the power of teaming with service from the word ‘go’ to deliver an integrated customer engagement.

Whether you are flying on Virgin America or buying a gift at Nordstrom, customers can experience how some marquee brands are delivering on best-in-class service.  There is an undeniable credibility that comes with a great service experience. It also costs companies dearly to regain a customer after they have lost them, more so than it does to keep current customers happy.  So next time you are thinking about how to solve some of these CMO dilemma’s think how to partner with your service organization as a first step to achieving retention, advocacy, and ultimately sales revenue goals. 


1 “Global Insights on Succeeding in the Customer Experience Era” Oracle, February 2013

2 Brian Manusama, “Best Practices for Implementing Customer Self-Service” Gartner, September 11, 2015.

3 Michael Maoz and Jenny Sussin, “Hype Cycle for CRM Customer Service and Customer Engagement” Gartner, July 17, 2015.  

Friday Jul 17, 2015

T-Mobile Netherlands Humanizes Customer Experience

Check out how T-Mobile Netherlands partners with Oracle Service Cloud to create the next generation of web customer service by combining web self-service and communities and increased support channels to help lower costs and improve customer satisfaction.

With over 70% of all services being done online, see how they use cloud solutions as the center of human, real, customer communications across all channels:

Wednesday May 20, 2015

Modern Service Experience Conference Highlights! by Stephen Fioretti

Over 500 customer service professionals joined the Oracle Service Cloud team in Las Vegas recently to kick off the Modern Service Experience Conference! The event featured nearly 40 customer speakers including Kohl’s, LinkedIn, and Nintendo outlining the latest trends in engaging customers, empowering employees and adapting quickly to constantly changing business and customer needs. 

The conference also featured industry thought leaders from Forrester, Constellation Research, Beagle Research, and The 56 Group talking about the future of customer service and trends that are impacting a company's ability to deliver great service. 

Amidst the three days of sessions, Oracle Service Cloud hosted industry roundtables and a 100 “Ask the Experts” meetings between customers and product experts—and in-depth executive, contact center, web customer service, insightful answers, and technical tracks with customers like Virgin America, Panera, Kaiser Permanente, Beachbody, Nikon, T-Mobile and others. These discussions provided a unique opportunity to connect more closely on detailed product topics and the Oracle Service Cloud product roadmap. 

The Oracle Service Cloud team also took time to recognize leading individuals and organizations who continually champion customer service innovation, value, and collaboration to solve the next business problem. Their commitment and passion was contagious! Congratulations again to the 2015 customer award winners, including:

Oracle Service Cloud Customer Champions

  • Louis Ross, Vice President, Coach Relations, Beachbody
  • Nicholas Armstrong, Director, Global Customer, Experience Products, Orbitz
  • Stuart Concannon, Head of Customer Care, Knowledge and Optimisation, ASOS
  • Jim Ferron, Customer Experience Strategist, Nintendo
  • Tetsu Kimura, Director of Customer Service, Gogo
  • Michele Watson, Vice President, Customer Care and Payments & Risk,
  • Troy Carrothers, Senior Vice President, Retail Payment Solutions & Multi-Channel Sales & Service and Becky Ploeger, Vice President, Digital Commerce Customer Care, Kohl’s

Oracle Service Cloud User Group Host of the Year

  • Kyle Snay, Customer Relationship Manager, Minnesota State Colleges and Universities

Oracle Service Cloud Game Changer Award


Oracle Service Cloud Innovator Award

  • Ingersoll Rand

Oracle Service Cloud Community All-Stars

  • Kyle Snay, Minnesota State Colleges and Universities
  • Anuj Behl, Speridian Technologies
  • Mark Kehoe, LaTrobe University              
  • Bishnu Paudel , Charles Darwin University
  • Andy Rowse, 45 North Solutions
  • Ryan Schofield, CGI Federal
  • Mohana Gopal Selvam, Kenya Airways
  • Suresh Kumar Thirukoti, Network Rail Infrastructure Lmtd.
  • Bastiaan van der Kooij, Bastiaan van der Kooji Consultancy

Oracle Service Cloud Modern Service Experience Award

  • LinkedIn
Again we’d like to thank customers and attendees for joining us in Las Vegas and applaud them for the work they’re doing to get going, get better, and get ahead with modern customer service!

Tuesday May 19, 2015

Oracle Takeaways from Forrester Webcast: Customer Service Trends for 2015 by Christine Randle

It is hard to believe that it has been a decade since social disrupted standard operating procedures for companies. Brands had enjoyed a healthy measure of control before social media-enabled customers around the globe were able to connect and share information. Before, companies controlled not only the information that customers and prospects received, but how and when they received it—effectively spoon-feeding corporate messages to the world.

The advent of social changed this dynamic forever and ushered in The Age of the Customer.

Today, customers control the conversations they have with businesses, and brands have scrambled to adapt. Companies must become customer-obsessed and deliver experiences that meet customer expectations to succeed.

Why? Because loyal customers are less likely to churn, and they are also more likely to recommend your brand and spend more money with your company. When customers spend more money, it directly impacts and increases revenue. For this reason, it is essential to keep your customers satisfied and loyal to your brand. Besides, customer service should be a core element of your CX strategy.

Still, this is hard stuff. So it helps to get some perspective. A May 2015 webinar hosted by Forrester and featuring Forrester Research’s Kate Leggett, Trends 2015: The Future Of Customer Service, helps to make sense of customer service in 2015. Take a look at the below takeaways that we pulled from the webcast, and let us know what trends you see in your organization.

Customers increasingly rely on self-service. According to the April 2015 Forrester Research report, “Contact Centers Must Go Digital Or Die,” more customers (76%) used web self-service than the phone (73%) for customer service. Why? Because it is an easy way to get answers. Today, the phone is increasingly used for escalation, or when a customer cannot find the answer to a question. Generally, these are the most difficult inquiries and have longer handle times. But, this offers a great opportunity for companies to use the phone channel to support and deepen customer relationships. It is important to note that channel usage changes year-over-year. As such, you should survey your customers to find out what channels they prefer for customer service interactions and deploy those channels accordingly.

Adopt a mobile-first mindset.
Think about your own mobile device usage and you’ll see why customers increasingly look to contact brands via this channel. But, more than that, customers want to be able to start a conversation on mobile and then switch over to a laptop or desktop seamlessly—without needing to rehash the issue with an agent. In 2015, customers will continue to demand effortless interactions of this type over both web and mobile channels.

Explore proactive engagement.
We are all customers, right? And, as customers, we know what we want, when, where, and how we want it. To effectively leverage this fact, businesses will begin to experiment with proactive engagement. This refers to proactive chat, promotions, or content served up to customers at the appropriate time to help answer questions, easing the transition from the research phase to purchase.

Leverage connected devices for preemptive service.
The Internet of Things (IoT) has taken off in a big way, and with it comes the prospect of preemptive service. From Wi-Fi connected self-learning thermostats to smart, self-propelled vacuum cleaners IoT has the potential to reshape customer service. IoT offers businesses the opportunity to deliver preemptive service that our parents could never have imagined: Proactive communication of product information back to the company to diagnose preemptively and fix issues without customer intervention!

Analytics will power offers, decisions, and connections.
There is no “one size fits all” service. Instead, use analytics to deliver deeply personalized customer service by understanding and leveraging data from past interactions, services, and purchases. Additionally, interactions must be tailored to the channel of choice. For example, the tone of an email interaction will likely vary from that of a social or chat interaction. These nuances are important in order to optimize service quality, predict next steps, ensure satisfaction, and produce loyalty, which correlates to increased revenue.

Journey analytics will improve end-to-end service.
What does your typical customer journey look like? It is likely to cross multiple communication channels: social, web, email, and phone. Often, these touch points are managed by different functional organizations within a company. It is tricky, but ultimately customers do not care about your internal org structure. What they care about is the ability to cross channels seamlessly to get support without needing to repeat themselves at each point in the journey (we all know how frustrating that can be). But, organizational silos make it difficult to deliver consistent service experiences. Not only that, but few companies have a measure in place that encompasses all channels. Forrester expects that organizations will move to broader, more comprehensive customer service measurement programs, which span all communication channels, to help businesses understand the costs and pain points in the customer journey.

Focus on improving the agent experience.
It is staggering the amount of applications that contact center agents use on a daily basis to answer customer questions. Organizations will look to push proactive information to agents, to minimize effort, and to help streamline service delivery. If companies can improve the agent experience, by helping to guide them through resolution paths, then agents will have more confidence to help customers and to deliver truly personalized experiences.

Adopt SaaS for agility.
A March 2015 Forrester Research report, Trends 2015: The Future Of Customer Service, found that 32% of companies have already replaced or plan to replace, most or all on-premise solutions with SaaS alternatives within 2 years. Why? Because moving applications to the Cloud pushes the burden of software and hardware maintenance back onto the vendor. This allows companies to be agile and focus on innovating with new features, ultimately creating differentiated, rewarding customer experiences.

Read how Sony uses its online digital experience to proactively engage customers.

Monday Apr 27, 2015

Modern Customer Experience Metrics by David Lanning

As organizations evolve on their roadmap to a modern customer experience, they are adopting new business processes and technologies that allow them to support the needs of the connected customer. As a result of adopting new communication channels, companies now have an additional set of metrics that can be used to measure and improve the effectiveness of their multi-channel customer experience.

The traditional, internally- focused operational metrics like Average Handle Time (AHT) or Occupancy are insufficient to assess the customer’s perspective of the end-to-end experience. To measure the customer experience in a multi-channel world, companies must adopt and leverage a new set of metrics that provide valuable insight into the effectiveness of their multi-channel customer experience initiatives.

Modern Customer Experience Metrics

First Phase of Modern Customer Experience
In the first phase of a modern customer experience, companies address their ability to manage customer interactions on multiple channels. The new communication channels like chat, community and social provide a new set of metrics that provide valuable insight into customer behaviors and expectations.

Chat and Co-browse
Each of the new channels in a multi-channel environment contains metrics that can be used to measure the effectiveness of a company’s ability to handle interactions on these channels. For instance, as companies add online support in the form of chat or co-browse, they have the ability to provide support ‘in-the-moment’ that leads to higher online retention and reduced site abandons. By measuring and analyzing online support requests on chat or co-browse, companies can identify issues that are directly impacting the connected customer experience. Chat and co-browse metrics provide insight into why customers left the online experience to get the information or assistance they needed to complete their online transaction.

Online Communities
Companies that provide online communities also have a new set of metrics they can use to measure and improve the community experience and effectiveness. Companies can measure how many of their customers are engaged in the community (Community Participation Rate) and how often they post information (Community Post Rate). These new metrics provide direct insight into customer participation rates and provide metrics that measure the effectiveness of their initiatives to promote community involvement and customer loyalty. Community metrics like the number of active members in an online community can be used to measure the number of loyal customers who are contributing to the community.

Similarly, there are a number of new metrics that can be used to measure the effectiveness of a company’s social strategy and initiatives. Leading companies have developed strategies and operational practices to actively engage in the conversation on social networks. These social networks provide metrics like Fan Growth Rate, Like / Dislike Ratio and other social metrics that can be used to measure the effectiveness of their social networks. The beauty of these metrics are that customers on social networks are posting continuously and allow the company to gain real-time information on the experience without requiring a formal feedback survey or other means of gathering customer perceptions. Social metrics can be accessed in real-time and used to adjust the company’s social strategy without the lengthy delay associated with outbound customer satisfaction surveys.

Second Phase of Modern Customer Experience
As companies advance on their journey to a modern customer experience they employ strategies, businesses processes and complementary technology designed to assist customers who cross multiple channels to obtain information, or to connect with support resources to complete a transaction. This cross-channel environment provides an additional set of metrics that can be used to measure and improve cross-channel business processes.

Online experience metrics that measure the customer’s ability to connect to online knowledge or to support resources can be used to measure the effectiveness of a company’s online support effectiveness. Web site tracking metrics that show the number of clicks (customer effort) required to find relevant knowledge, or to find an online support resource, can be used to measure the effectiveness of the site design. By adding web tracking tags to knowledge articles companies can now measure the end-to-end online journey and optimize the use of knowledge to reduce customer effort during online transactions.

Website tracking metrics can also be used to determine where customers opt-out of the online channel to obtain additional support. These metrics provide web experience designers with the information they need to measure the impact of site design changes to increase online conversions or reduce site abandons. The overall impact of the cross-channel experience initiatives can be assessed by adding customer effort score that provides a broad view of the cross-channel experience.

Third Phase of Modern Customer Experience
As companies advance to providing a personalized, omni-channel experience, additional metrics are available to measure the company’s ability to make offers and recommendations that recognize the value and preferences of the customer. The omni-channel experience leverages the customer’s profile information and cross-channel interaction history to make appropriate offers, product recommendations and create customized business processes for each customer. The omni-channel experience model provides companies a new set of metrics that can be used to measure the effectiveness of their personalization strategy. New metrics like conversion rate on personalized offers, percentage of offers made in the customer’s native language and percentage of customers who receive support in their native language are examples of new metrics available to measure the organization’s ability to personalize the experience.

Many of the new customer experience metrics like community participation rates, or ‘likes’ on a social network are measured from actual customer behavior. Although sentiment metrics like customer satisfaction (CSAT) and net promoter score (NPS) are a reasonable indicator of intent, the new experience metrics provide an actual measure of action taken by customers to recommend a product or service. These new experience metrics are an important element in a balanced score card of experience metrics. By capturing metrics on actions taken, as well as traditional experience metrics like CSAT and NPS, companies can create a balanced score card that provides immediate insight into the effectiveness of their customer experience programs.  

The Roadmap to ModernTM customer service allows organizations to evolve from an internally-focused to an externally-focused organization that maximizes customer value throughout acquisition, retention and support processes. By leveraging new business processes centered on the customer experience, complementary technology and the metrics available in a multi-channel world, companies can create a competitive advantage by providing a compelling customer experience that significantly increases customer acquisition and customer loyalty.

You can learn more Multi-Channel (first phase), Cross-Channel (second phase) and Omni-Channel (third phase) engagement strategies to become a more Modern Customer Service organization on our website.

Friday Apr 24, 2015

5 Tips for Budget-Friendly Training in the Modern Contact Center

As contact center leaders you’re always being asked to do more with less. Agent training is no exception. Here are 5 tips for low or no cost ways to train agents from ICMI’s webcast featuring Justin Robbins (ICMI), Jana Meyers (American Century), Joe Landers (Oracle) and Kristine Chisholm (ICMI).

Tip 1: The Good, the Bad and the Ugly in Recorded Contacts

Encourage agents to share recorded contacts of positive customer interactions as well as negative ones. Using difficult customer interactions as teaching moments helps you brainstorm more effective approaches for resolving customer issues. This is critical because customers who have issues satisfactorily resolved are more loyal than customers who haven’t had problems yet with your products and services.

Another technique is having agents actually become customers of your company. This experience creates empathy and empowers agents to find ways to continually improve service.

Tip 2: The Power of One

You know having the right agents in the right place at the right time is critical. But many agents don’t understand the ripple effect that can occur when they return late from a break. In a 50-person contact center, one late agent can slow overall response time 20 seconds. Demonstrate this impact in a fun way by using ping pong balls in the break room to represent incoming calls.

Tip 3: What’s the Score?

Agents often don’t get to see how their performance will be measured until after training. They also don’t get to learn why metrics like customer satisfaction (CSAT) are so important—and what they can do to positively influence CSAT. Bringing in stakeholders like the Head of Customer Service can help agents understand the connection between their performance and CSAT. Also recognizing top-performing agents at the training can serve to inspire new recruits and provide them with go-to mentors.

Tip 4: Play the Best Hand Given the Cards You’re Dealt

Nearly 92% of agent-facing applications aren’t as efficient as they could be. That means system workarounds are inevitable. If you don’t provide agents with standard best practices for workarounds, they’ll invent their own. And those workarounds will result in more variability and inefficiency. So sit down with your agents to proactively identify the best workarounds. It will make them feel heard and lower their frustration and burnout.

Tip 5: Turn the Tables and Let Agents Measure You!

Get agent feedback right after training sessions—just like you measure CSAT immediately after a customer interaction. And build practice time into your training. For example, have two weeks in the classroom followed by a week of taking calls. This approach helps agents better retain what they’re learning and also builds confidence as they take on progressively more complex inquiries. Additionally, having top-performing agents serve as mentors or buddies can ease trainees’ transition to the production floor.

Finally, even the best 6-week training program can’t teach agents everything they need to know. This is especially true now that most easy issues are resolved via customer self-service. What ends up in the contact center are complex issues requiring more insight and information. That is why having a consolidated knowledge base with guided resolution is so crucial. It enables newer hires to perform like your best agents. And helps you determine what additional knowledge is needed to better serve customers.

With these tips, you can prepare your agents for the demands of the modern contact center without breaking the bank!

Click here to watch the webcast replay.

For more information on modern customer service, please visit our website.

Thursday Apr 23, 2015

Roadmap to Modern: "Get Going" by Katherine Lovelace

Sometimes the first step in a journey can be the scariest one you will take. How do you know you’re going in the right direction? How do you know that you have the right equipment to get where you need to go? What happens if you make a wrong choice? The fear of the unknown, leaving behind the way things have always been, and looking ahead at a new way of thinking can sometimes lead to crippling indecisiveness and ‘paralysis by analysis.’  

This can happen to anyone—even market leaders. Yet, we know that if we can just nudge companies into taking that first step to becoming a modern customer service organization, they will have what they need to confidently take many more steps as they move along the Roadmap to Modern (RTM) maturity curve.

So what is this first step? It’s actually quite straight-forward, yet many organizations are still struggling to take it. The first step requires moving from an organization with many single silos of customer engagement, into a multi-channel initiative that enables companies to reach customers directly at their point of need—on any device and at any time. Sounds simple, right?

Then why are there so many organizations that have not figured out this basic premise of customer engagement? I come back to my original thesis: they are afraid. This revelation came during a recent client engagement where I listened to a company explain why they felt that offering more robust self-service options, as well as live chat, would not be the right strategy for them. It was because their customers are accustomed to the ‘white glove treatment’ that has become synonymous with their brand. They feared that by offering these other, arguably less formal channels of communication, they would offend their customers and risk losing them. While this is an understandable initial reaction, their fear is actually leading them down the wrong journey towards obsolescence.

However, by walking them through the RTM process and customer expectations of modern service organizations, we were able to show them that a more mature, multi-channel strategy would not imperil their ‘white glove’ customer experience but rather reinvigorate it.   

By reviewing their customer contact reason codes, we were able to quickly see that the infamous ‘80/20’ rule comes into play.  For this company, and many others, only 20% of their inbound contacts are complex and truly require live agent support, whereas the vast majority (80%) can most quickly and effectively be handled by a well-run, knowledge-powered web self-service channel—and by offering multiple channels of engagement.

Through working to triage and deflect inbound contacts by complexity and likelihood to be handled via self-service or live agent, organizations can free up  their higher cost, live agent resources to focus on the 20% of issues that truly merit attention. Of course, for your particular organization, the 80/20 rule may not be spot on. Perhaps your ratio is closer to 70/30 or 60/40. The first step to becoming a mature customer service organization is simply assessing your inbound contact context and working to triage.

Increasingly, consumers are making channel decisions based on the context of their situation. This means that the specific channel they use to contact you depends on what they’re trying to do.  

Taking this triage approach will not only elevate your engagements with existing customers, but also open the door to engaging with new customers through new channels that you are not reaching through phone and email.

After working with the company I mentioned earlier to understand the number and nature of their inbound contacts, they came to realize that intentionally not having more choices for a customer to reach them was neither in the customer’s best interest nor their own. By providing more channel choice and resolution paths, this company would actually be better able to deliver their ‘white glove’ service experience.

Let’s resolve to no longer allow fear to hold us back from delivering the most modern and advanced customer experience. Each minute lost deliberating over the ‘why nots’ is costing money and customers. We need to move the conversation to the “how do we get going” stage. This is where the fun starts. This is where we get to help clients develop their Roadmap to Modern (RTM) strategy, and guide them to making the right choices for their customers, which are ultimately the right choices for their company as a whole.

Whether your “get going” is providing more channels of choice on more devices for a complete customer interaction portfolio, or consolidating and improving your knowledge base so you can deliver the right information on every channel you offer, the end result of being there for your customer in their time of need will eliminate fear on whether you took a step in the right direction. We just need to nudge you a little and the rest will follow!

Learn more today about the Oracle Roadmap To ModernTM, and stay tuned to this blog to get insights that prepare you for your journey to modern customer service. 

Tuesday Apr 21, 2015

ICMI Webcast: 5 Low or No Cost Ways to Train Agents in the Modern Contact Center by Justin Robbins and Tuula Fai

As contact centers evolve and expand into new channels to meet continuously changing customer demands, the need and requirement for in-depth, comprehensive training has become greater. While old principles and established methodologies will get you some of the way, it has become necessary to step into “unfamiliar territory” to fully meet the training needs of today's modern agent.

As contact center leaders, it’s our obligation and responsibility to ensure that we’re providing our team with the tools, resources, and knowledge to be successful in their roles. While we can and should continue to rely on many of the established practices of training in the past, new channels and new customer segments require us to continuously evaluate our topic matter and methodology for training. That can be costly and time-consuming.

ICMI has identified the top training needs of the modern contact center. In this Thursday's webcast at 1 pm EST (April 23), ICMI will share ideas on low or no-cost ways for you to develop your contact center team members.

During this webinar, you will learn:
  • 5 critical concepts for training in the modern contact center
  • 3 barriers to learning and how to overcome them
  • Top tips for delivering budget-friendly training and development programs

Register Now

Featured Speakers

Justin Robbins, Community Manager, ICMI

Justin Robbins is a contact center and talent development expert with over a decade of experience leading customer service organizations. He got his start in contact centers as a teenager doing cold-call outbound sales for newspaper subscriptions. Since then, he's moved from agent to senior leader, worked in and with inbound and outbound centers ranging in size from 5 to 2500+, and gained experience in a number of industries including hospitality, technology, manufacturing, and education. Most recently, Justin developed the training and professional certification programs for the International Customer Management Institute and has personally trained thousands of individuals around the globe on contact center best practices. You can reach Justin on-line at: | | 

Jana Meyers, Director - Training, Development and Support, American Century Investments

As Director, Jana is responsible for oversight for training, blended learning, internal communications, performance support and project support for American Century’s Direct investor channel. Jana Meyers joined American Century in the late 1990s and has had a widely-ranging financial services career, including residential and commercial real estate servicing, life and health insurance support and working as a registered representative in the mutual fund industry. Ms. Meyers has many years of management and quality assurance experience and has spoken at several quality conferences. She is a board member for the Quality Assurance and Training Connection (QATC) and a member of the Association for Talent Development (ATD).

Joe Landers, Client Success Manager, Oracle

Joe Landers, Client Success Manager at Oracle, helps organizations design a Customer Experience strategy that simultaneously delights customers and drives the bottom line. Joe has over 20 years of experience working as a manager of call center operations in the U.S. and overseas, including in outsourcing environments.

Kristine Chisholm, Customer Service/Training Administrator, ICMI

Kristine is Customer Service/Training Administrator for ICMI.  She assists with all aspects of the ICMI training business.

Wednesday Apr 15, 2015

"Are we there yet?" The Oracle Roadmap To Modern by JP Saunders, Senior Director Business and Solution Strategy

"Are we there yet?" If you have kids, you may have heard this repeated many times during a long journey. If you don't, then maybe you recall being that kid in your parents' car? While it is intended to be an annoying taunt, its essence comes from a focus on the destination, versus making the journey a part of the destination. This is important as what happens along that journey can sometimes delay, frustrate, or worse prevent you from reaching your desired end state.

Many businesses today are at some stage of their journey to delivering an optimal and differentiated "Customer Experience" – with the vision of building sustainable growth and profits through stronger relationships with their customers, and reliable data about their business. Some define this destination as "delivering the wow experience," others call it "providing a modern experience," and many call it "differentiating with the omni-channel experience." Whatever you call it, and however you paint the vision of the destination, it has rapidly become the focus for the future of business.

Getting a defined and agreed-upon vision around the "What" you want to deliver is not easy task. The next question though is even bigger and tougher to get agreement on: the "How" to build, deliver, and grow to reach your visionary state. As every good Boy Scout knows, "you should always be prepared." Defining the "How" and then mapping the sequential approaches for each piece gives you the insights needed to properly plan ahead. A plan needs to encompass the considerations for everything that is on the journey with you. Your challenge is there are so many different approaches to the "How" – which are the right ones for you to take? And in what order…?

Question: What do cars and shoes have in common? Answer: Outstanding Customer Service. A "Customer Experience" strategy, by definition must focus on ensuring that "Customer Service" is at the forefront of its efforts. Why? Because for most businesses this is where 75% of the total interactions your brand has with a customer resides. As CX leader and CEO of Zappos Tony Hsieh said, "Zappos is a customer service company that just happens to sell shoes." Well Henry Ford has been saying this since the 1920s, "A business absolutely devoted to service will have only one worry about profits. They will be embarrassingly large." And if you look at any of the brands that are leading the way with CX, you will find this to be true. They have transformed their customer service business from an aging, reactive cost center, into a proactive, predictive profit center at the heart of their efforts. "Marketing may fill the sales funnel, and the sales department can close a deal, yet it is the overall impression of the enterprise generated by the quality of customer service that differentiates one enterprise from another," Michael Maoz, Vice President and distinguished analyst at Gartner.

BUT you can't transform your dusty old cost-focused call center overnight to suddenly become a modern digital hugging machine! Most businesses first achieve some level of "efficiency" (aka cost reduction) in order to reinvest those savings into establishing trust with customers, which then allows them to be more effective at monetizing these engagements. Many long-standing businesses also cannot afford to put the experience transformation on hold while they rethink and simplify their back-end business processes to support a better experience. Do you really think Apple’s business is less complex today than it was 10 years ago? Yet, as a consumer, you are protected from all that complexity so you can lead a simple life.

Over-eagerness to get to the vision/destination too soon often disconnects the approach for how to get there, and leads to the misalignment between strategy, investments, measurements, and experience. Begging the question, "Are we there yet?" from the pockets of siloed efforts that have raced ahead of the pack. If you don't define, agree, and plan for the sequenced approaches necessary for your journey, you won't have the right foundation in place to deliver the returns on your efforts, and will rapidly exhaust any funding and resources you acquired to be successful. In fact, what we have seen is it frequently leads to a worse experience for your customer, a negative impact on your growth/profit, and a refocus back on "efficiency."

Scenarios like these within customer service stem from "silo-channel thinking"— the evaluation of single channels, each independent of one other. As our own David Lanning and Jeff Griebeler recently covered in their Multi-channel white paper, customers today are crossing many channels and devices to resolve issues. And, as Gartner predicts by 2017, only one-third of all customer service interactions will require the support of a human, compared to 60% today.

So if consumer behavior today spans multiple channels—and consumer preferences are moving to digital channels where channel shifting is as easy as a click away—then why are so many business still focused on evaluating single-channel point solutions (chat, email, social, virtual assistant, FAQs, co-browse, etc.) independently? Why create competing overlap of functionality, configuration, customization, cost, maintenance and measurement? Answer: As a quick way to fill a gap and get ahead, but it comes at a cost:

  • A siloed "online chat initiative" to augment a poorly executed digital channel experience will ultimately result in it becoming a saturated channel of frustrated, overloaded agents, long wait times, limited hours of availability/credibility, and lower CSAT scores.
  • A siloed "virtual assistant initiative" to augment a poorly executed digital channel experience, results in a dumb ass-istant frustrating online customers, and making them more expensive to serve on higher cost channels, leading to higher support costs and increased customer churn.
  • A siloed "knowledge initiative" to augment a poorly executed phone/IVR channel experience can become a high-cost maintenance effort of managing stale, duplicated content on the web, hurting relations from inconsistent answers.

At this point, if you are thinking "some of that sounds like us!" then take comfort in knowing that 1) you are not alone, AND 2) it’s not too late to fix it.

You can avoid these types of "ow" experiences and negative results from a silo-channel approach, by making the right "multi-channel" decisions while you are getting going that will guide you on where to incrementally invest and get better. And ultimately empower you to get ahead of the pack with personalized service!

In this blog series, our resident strategy experts will guide you through the Oracle Roadmap To ModernTM Customer Service. A maturity blueprint designed and distilled from many years of real world insights across many industries, geographies and technologies. The Oracle Roadmap To ModernTM Customer Service empowers you to define and get agreement on the "HOW" in order to reach your destination of "Modern WOW" with the business returns for sustainable growth and profit.

The Roadmap To ModernTM maturity framework is unique to Oracle and is used throughout Oracle's business discovery practices, and with select partnerships, to benchmark you against where you are in your industry, what problems you need to solve, in what order to tackle them, what to incrementally measure along the way, what technologies (both foundational and leading) are the best fit for your goals, and when to invest in them.

Learn more today about the Oracle Roadmap To ModernTM, and stay tuned to this blog to get the deep insights which prepare you for your journey to modern customer service.

Friday Apr 10, 2015

3 Steps to a Modern Profitable Service Organization by Jeff Griebeler, CX Strategist

Transitioning your support organization or contact center from a cost center to a profit center is an onerous process that can be difficult to navigate. Yet, it is a journey that must be purposely undertaken, performed crisply and executed successfully to thrive in the competitive world. Being viewed as a cost center creates an endless journey of continuous cost cutting, funding reduction, and the need to always be more efficient this year than last. It is a self-destructive cycle that ends with an underfunded support organization attempting to provide ever increasing services to an ever demanding customer community in an ever more competitive market. The historical mantra has been simple: “do more with less;” when the discussion should be focused on creating organizational value, defining competitive differentiation, creating loyal customers, and promoting profitable growth.

Becoming Trapped

Many companies have viewed their support organization as a necessity to remain in business. The view was simple: “customers will not buy without support, but customers do not buy because of support.” Support was a necessity and delivered at a minimal level and at the lowest possible cost. These organizations are funded on a cost-budget basis, and share these characteristics:

  • Provide more support with less budget
  • Offer more channels with minimal funding
  • Stretch technology far beyond its useful life
  • Use siloed applications as band-aids

Efficiency has its limits and frequently has adverse effects. The maximum efficiency that can be gained is limited by the total budget. Additionally, efficiency improvements can be captured only once and become part of next year’s baseline budget.

As budgets are cut year-after-year to provide additional margin to the organization, the quality of support diminishes, technologies age and workaround processes become more prevalent, which result in more inefficiencies. Personnel become frustrated, customers become frustrated and you fall behind your competitors. Cheap, quick, easy siloed technologies are implemented on a temporary basis; but temporary, all too frequently, becomes permanent. It creates a vicious circle spiraling downward and the organization is trapped.

Under Attack

The “trapped customer support organization” comes under attack on multiple fronts:

  1. Enlightened competition providing better customer service start taking market share
  2. Customers, empowered by easy-to-obtain, readily available information and the ability to socially broadcast their experience, increase their demands
  3. Increased competition for scarce internal funding. Cost-based organizations fall to the bottom of the budget list and are “designated for investment next year,” but next year turns into the following year, and so on.

Over time, these forces take their toll on the organization as it slips further and further behind the competition and industry service standards.

The CX Value Equation

To escape the trap, an economic framework must be established to measure and illustrate value. The measured value made by customer service must be considered across three major areas: Efficiency (E), Retention (R), and Acquisition (A). When combined, we refer to this as the CX Value Equation:

CX = E + R + A

Efficiency allows an organization to do more with less;
Retention is the ability of an organization to keep and grow the customers it already has; and
Acquisition refers to the ability of an organization to increase its customer base.

The CX Value Equation effectively defines a financial bridge between a CX customer service strategy and the organization’s profit line. With a defined CX Value Equation, you have a tool to illustrate the service organization’s contribution and progress. You are now ready to transform your organization from a cost center to a profit center.

Three Steps to a Modern, Profitable Service Organization

The key to transforming your organization is to modernize its capabilities so you can capture and illustrate the benefits. Here are the steps to modernize your organization and turn it into a profit center:

Step 1: Set CX Value Equation Metrics and Baseline Your Service Organization
Start with efficiency metrics. These are the easiest to identify. Get a handle on the important ones, such as self-service and first contact resolution rates. Add retention metrics to the model. Great candidate metrics include Customer Effort Score (CES) and Net Promoter Score (NPS). Finally, add acquisition measurements with metrics like the number of opportunities and referral rates.

For further information, please consult Customer Experience (CX) Metrics and Key Performance Indicators, an Oracle White Paper.  

Once your model is designed, baseline your current operational performance. This is your starting point from which you will demonstrate your progress and contribution to the organization.

Step 2: Modernize Your Service Organization
Use the Roadmap to Modern Customer Service Strategy to move from a cost center to a profit center. When this strategy is followed, the activity can be a self-funding.

Start by establishing a proper capabilities foundation. Then add new capabilities and provide consistency across all interactions. Finally, drive continuous innovation to remain ahead of the competition. The foundational activities are how you get going. You must resist the urge to skip steps and attempt to implement innovation on top of your outdated infrastructure. This will only lead to failure. Skipping steps is how an organization ends up with disparate systems (e.g. stand-alone chat) and business processes that function poorly, deliver substandard service, and require manual support and workaround processes to operate – hardly an effective strategy.

Let’s lay out the steps:

  • GET GOING to save budget and generate cost savings that support investments to
  • GET BETTER and improve retention with consistent quality of service, optimized capabilities and strengthened relationships, so you can
  • GET AHEAD to create revenues by monetizing more opportunities, personalizing interactions and being proactive in an omni-channel environment

Step 3: Continue to Measure, Demonstrate and Evolve
Modern customer service is not a destination, but rather an evolving journey. This year’s customer service capabilities become table stakes for providing service next year. Customer needs and demands will continuously change. Market forces will change. Technology will change. The Internet of Things (IoT) is upon us, and will accelerate change.


Liberating your cost-centric customer support organization can feel like an impossible task. However, by leveraging the CX Value Equation and tailoring it to your needs, you can demonstrate the true value of the services you provide to your organization. By using the Roadmap to Modern Customer Service’s strategy: Get Going, Get Better, Get Ahead approach, you can self-fund and transform your center from an entity that is viewed as “overhead” or a “necessity” into a strategic, competitive asset that generates revenues and profits.

Click here to read the full whitepaper.


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