Friday May 06, 2016

Create Completely Connected Customer Service Experiences with Latest Oracle Field Service Cloud Release

Aligned with Oracle’s focus on enhancing its cloud ecosystem and customer experience (CX) suite, we are excited to have recently announced a comprehensive new release to the Oracle Field Service Cloud solution. This release includes major enhancements designed to help organizations deliver on Oracle’s vision of service for the next generation, improving customer satisfaction and response times, while reducing service delivery costs.

Truly an end-to-end upgrade of the solution, Oracle Field Service Cloud’s latest release demonstrates the company’s continued investment in the solution – formerly the TOA Technologies’ product, prior to its acquisition by Oracle in 2014. Significant enhancements are made in the areas of mobility, ease of use and connecting contact center agents delivering service via phone, email and chat to field technicians providing in-person support.

The latest Oracle Field Service Cloud (OFSC) enhancements include: 

  • Expanded Field Resource Manager – New capabilities enable supervisors in the field to more efficiently manage their teams in real time via a mobile device, empowering the field workforce to quickly respond to changes throughout the day and streamline collaboration.

  • Automated urgent work assignment – OFSC now identifies when urgent work comes in and automatically locates the nearest field resource, suspends that resources current activity and then routes that resource to the job, ensuring the fastest possible response times.

  • Enhanced mapping capabilities – Now leveraging Oracle Maps as the default mapping solution, OFSC offers enhanced geo-coding services. Additionally, users can upload custom map layers in OFSC, and display them simultaneously.

  • New integrations
    • Oracle E-Business Suite: allows a swift, point-to-point integration of the solutions’ job scheduling and inventory tracking capabilities.
    • Oracle Integration Cloud Service (ICS): allows any ICS user the ability to create integrations with Oracle Field Service Cloud quickly through simple configurations.
  • REST-based Core Application Program Interface (API) – Allows simple integration of OFSC activities, resources, inventories and users through REST integration styles.

  • Redesigned Configuration screens and language expansion – Completely redesigned configuration screens allow quick and intuitive navigation. Exportable configuration log tracks configuration changes to improve troubleshooting and give users more control of the solution. And, OFSC is now available in 18 languages, improving the user experience for global customers with multi-national field workforces.

All of the new functionality included in this release will help organizations continue to evolve and improve their field service operations, resulting in a better experience for the end customer and significantly improved efficiencies.

Learn more about the release by downloading the latest Oracle Field Service Cloud release capabilities and benefits data sheet or watch the recent solution Spotlight video.  Also check out what publications like Computer Business Review, InfotechLead and Enterprise Times are saying! 

Tuesday Apr 19, 2016

Field Service USA 2016: Let’s Discuss the Field Technician of the Future

Oracle is heading to Palm Springs, California next week, April 25-28, for the annual Field Service USA show at the JW Marriott Desert Springs Resort & Spa. We’re looking forward to speaking with customers about their field service strategies, attending hands-on workshops led by industry experts to learn about field service best practices and leveraging everything we learn about the future of field service and our customers’ needs to keep driving product innovation in our Oracle Field Service Cloud solution suite.[Read More]

Thursday Apr 07, 2016

Convert Omni-Channel Hype into Real Contact Center Success!

Save the date for the upcoming Oracle Service Cloud webinar, April 14th, 2016 at 10 a.m. PT/1 p.m. ET

Omni-channel: Everybody is talking about it, but only a few best-in-class businesses have turned the promise of omni-channel into a profitable reality - earning highly loyal customers, reduced support costs, and growth in revenue. 

Join this upcoming webinar to learn how you too can achieve these results. Aberdeen Group Research Director of Contact Center & Customer Experience, Omer Minkara, and Oracle's Senior Director of Applications Product Management, Chris Hamilton, will show you how to deliver an integrated, omni-chhannel service experience. They’ll also discuss:

  • Why most omni-channel programs fail (and what that costs your company!)
  • What makes a contact center “Best-in-Class”
  • How to align channel-mix and customer preferences
  • Steps you can take to harness the power of omni-channel

You will come away with next steps for advancing your omni-channel strategy!

Register Now

Wednesday Mar 09, 2016

Five Reasons to Attend Oracle’s Modern Service Experience 2016

Oracle’s Modern Service Experience 2016 is again lighting up fabulous Las Vegas April 26-28, and we’re betting this will be our best event yet. From the speaker lineup and session catalog to the networking experiences and Customer Appreciation Event, we’re going “all in,” and we hope you’ll join us. Here are five reasons you should head to Las Vegas this April for the Modern Service Experience:

1. In-Depth Service Content

The Modern Service Experience features more than 40 sessions led by customer service experts, analysts, and top brands. Through the keynotes, general sessions and breakouts, you’ll hear about current and future trends in customer service and will walk away inspired and ready to turn your insights into actions. Take a look at the just-launched conference program to see the impressive speaker lineup.

The conference program features content for everyone regardless of your role. Attend sessions in the following tracks:

  • Cross-Channel Contact Center
  • Executive
  • Field Service Management
  • Industry
  • Knowledge
  • Oracle Policy Management
  • Platform
  • Web Customer Service
  • Customer Experience

In addition, you’ll hear about Oracle Service Cloud’s vision and product roadmap. Within the breakouts, you’ll learn about new product functionality and how to get the most out of your implementation. In the expo hall, you’ll have the opportunity to participate in interactive demos.

2. One-of-a-Kind Networking

In addition to hearing best practices and soaking up insights from session and keynote speakers, some of the best information you’ll gather at the Modern Service Experience will come from your peers. Customer service leaders from some of the world’s top brands are attending the Modern Service Experience. The conference provides many opportunities to network with peers as well as Oracle product experts, sales, executives, and partners.

Before you head to Las Vegas, see who else is attending and start broadening your network through social media. Use the hashtag #ServiceX16, and join the conversation.

3. Thought Leaders & Inspiring Speakers

Attend the Modern Service Experience to hear from some of the leading minds in modern customer service. The featured speaker lineup includes:

  • Mark Hurd, CEO, Oracle
  • Jean-Claude Porretti, Customer Care Worldwide Manager, Peugeot Citroën
  • Scott McBain, Manager, Application Development, Overhead Door Corporation
  • Sara Knetzger, Applications Administrator, Corporate Applications, WageWorks
  • Ian Jacobs, Senior Analyst Serving Application Development & Delivery Professionals, Forrester Research
  • Kate Leggett, VP, Principal Analyst Serving Application Development & Delivery Professionals, Forrester Research
  • Ray Wang, Principal Analyst, Founder, and Chairman, Constellation Research, Inc.
  • Denis Pombriant, founder, managing principal, Beagle Research
4. More Opportunities for Increasing Your Knowledge

First, take advantage of our pre-conference workshops. You’ll probably have to roll the dice to decide which of the three you’ll attend: Get Prepared for the Knowledge-Centered Support (KCS) Practices v5 Certification, Head off to the Races with Agent Desktop Automation, and Step off the Beaten Path with Oracle Service Cloud Reporting.

Next, schedule time with an Oracle Service Cloud mastermind and get answers to your burning questions as part of the Ask the Experts program (sponsored by Oracle Gold Partner Helix).

Last, connect with your peers during lunch and participate in our birds of a feather program around popular topics.

5. Celebrate with Your Fellow Customers

To show our appreciation for our customers, we’re hosting a night of food, drinks, and amazing entertainment. Goo Goo Dolls will play a private concert for attendees at the MGM Grand Arena on Wednesday evening. The Oracle Customer Appreciation Event rarely disappoints—don’t miss it. 

Finally, at 1 p.m. on Thursday April 26, during our annual awards ceremony, we’ll recognize leading organizations and individuals in the customer service space, highlighting their impressive stories about innovation and differentiation. Guaranteed, you’ll leave motivated and energized.

What did last year’s customers have to say?

"Oracle Modern Service Experience 2015 was a top-notch event that provided me with the opportunity to learn about new Oracle Service Cloud capabilities and connected me with federal and private sector peers who have since influenced my direction as the Air Force Reserve's Chief Digital Officer, enabling me to drive the organization to a new level of innovation and efficiency this past year."

 – Lt Col Michael Ortiz, HQ Air Reserve Personnel Center

"The Modern Service Experience is a must for customers looking to maximize their effectiveness with Oracle Service Cloud."

 – Michael Morris, Match.com

See you in Las Vegas!

EXCITING UPDATE: We’ve extended the Early Bird Rate for Modern Service Experience. Take advantage of $200 off the conference price by registering before March 20.

Monday Mar 07, 2016

Bridging the Gap Between Mobile and Customer Service

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

Twenty years ago, mobile devices were just getting started.  In fact, back in 1995 only one percent of the population had access to a mobile device. Today, there are over 5.2 billion mobile phone users comprising 73% of the global population.  Mobile devices now have an impact on just about every part of our daily lives – from communication and social interaction to mobile commerce.  To say that mobile is a trend is an understatement.  The rise of mobile is fundamentally changing the way we interact – and is spawning a whole new generation of technology, applications and businesses.  Particularly within the service space, mobile is not only pushing how organizations should assess evolving customer engagement, but how best to tackle mobilizing the modern customer service organization. 

We see a trend in business software that is focused around the mobile experience, in which employees across the enterprise use software for a wide variety of functions including customer service, sales force automation, collaboration and communication, all while on the move, using their phones and tablets. There is great value in terms of agility, productivity and employee experience to increase your organization’s mobility.  Yet, we would encourage you to not translate this into, "we need a mobile app or responsive user interface for all of our software."

There are use cases in which it makes sense, and there are use cases in which it clearly doesn’t. A customer service representative (CSR) working for a large B2C contact center, handling complex cases from many different channels, has a need for a highly productive work environment.  It just doesn't make sense to try to make that CSR handle these cases on a mobile phone or tablet.  A sales representative on the road, or a field service representative however, is on the move every day. In both scenarios, a mobile experience makes perfect sense.

To Mobile, Or Not To Mobile (That’s The Question)

Before jumping into relevant use cases, it is helpful to clarify a common misconception about mobile: Mobile isn't just about mobile phones.

A lot of investments have gone into making specific applications for specific types of devices, e.g. a desktop application, a mobile application or a tablet application. Yet, it becomes less and less important to talk about device-specific software, as the lines between these categories are blurring.  Mobile is about understanding specific tasks and use-cases, providing the tools that make the greatest impact, and making sure these different tools are consistent and connected. Let’s review some use cases within different areas of customer service…

Mobile Scenarios in Customer Service

Agents working in multi-channel contact centers spend the majority of their day solving cases coming in from a range of different channels. They need an interface in which productivity is key. They need all the context and data available to solve the customer issue as efficiently as possible. They need a unified desktop, integrated with sensitive data from back-end systems through behind-the-firewall integration. Also, they are likely using two or three big monitors (flanked by yellow post-it notes and cute pictures of kids and dogs). Clearly this is not a great use case for mobile.

However, when you think about supervisors and managers that walk around the contact center, mobile access could be of great value.  Still, mobile access doesn't necessarily mean this persona would access the system through a mobile phone. Supervisors and managers may want to monitor their operations, yet get deeper into cases when needed. Access through a tablet would probably make most sense.

Similarly, when customer service is decentralized and service is delivered via face-to-face support in stores, at airports, front-desks, branches, etc. users will occasionally need to review cases, update contact information and access customer product information. They will need easy access to this information on a computer, laptop or tablet outside the contact center in order to deliver a connected customer experience.

Uberization Of Field Service

When determining where to apply a mobile experience, it might be easy to overlook some of the most obvious use cases. Let’s explore the ultimate mobile use case: field service.  Advancements in mobile technology have not just changed how field service representatives engage with a device, but also the type of work they perform, as well as how they manage their day.

Today, customers expect every service agent they engage with to solve all of their problems. For field service, this means that the customer expects a field representative to understand everything that has occurred in the service journey before arriving onsite for a job.  In addition, the customer expects the field representative to have the same abilities and tools as every other person on the customer service organization. The result is that all of these new tasks need a mobile interface that can quickly be accessed by a field service representative. 

Furthermore, advancements in mobile technologies are allowing a complete shift in how field organizations are structured and managed. Mobile technology and the sharing economy are now allowing for non-centralized field service organizations. This is a trend we refer to as the “Uberization” of field service, which means that through mobile access and automation, the field can dispatch their own work, create their own schedules, and make adjustments as the day changes, all while operating at an optimal level.

Complex Service On The Move

Another great example where we see mobility is around complex rule or policy processes, such as immigration cases. Typically officials assess such cases from their office desks, using lengthy forms and rubber stamps, with long queues of applicants waiting outside. Now, with greater numbers of refugees entering Europe, we see mobile solutions that equip officials outside of their offices. This is where the refugees are arriving, and officials are now able conduct the assessment on-the-spot with a tablet app and simple interview screens to determine the appropriate asylum status. Mobile decisioning is providing better agility by enabling consistent service regardless of device or channel.

Don’t Forget Your Customers

25% of our customers’ customers already use a mobile device to navigate to your support portal. Is your website prepared for that? Using responsive design you can ensure the support section on your website is presented in the optimal way for each type of screen. Also make sure your knowledge articles are structured in a way the content can be easily consumed on a smaller screen.  In addition to self-service and knowledge we would also recommend looking at mobile use cases for assisted service experiences. For instance, with in-app mobile co-browse, live chat over mobile phones, as well as video chat.

Mobile is undoubtedly changing both our personal and professional lives. Customer service organizations should decide on a strategy to bridge the gap between mobile and customer service. This requires a strategic review of value drivers, combined with a tactical search for relevant use cases.

Don’t fall in the “we need an app for everything” trap – some users need big screens, some users don’t.  Investigate how to use mobile technologies to change your field technicians into versatile brand ambassadors, and explore opportunities to increase agility and mobility by bringing complex policy and rule processes to a mobile environment.  Finally, consumers will ever more use their mobile devices to contact you, so your website and contact centers need to be ready for this new reality.

Monday Feb 22, 2016

5 Steps To Start Your IoT-Enabled Service Strategy

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

There is plenty of buzz around the Internet of Things (IoT). There will be over 25 billion connected things by 2020. Soon we will be coming across hundreds of connected devices in our homes, at work and on the street.  The IoT is changing our lives.  This is exciting of course, but for many service professionals the question of how to actually start leveraging the IoT is not that easy. Yes, we know there is a lot of devices that are connected – more every second - but how does the head of customer care actually set up an infrastructure that allows them to reap the benefits of IoT?  As we are in the industry of delivering customer service experiences, we will focus on helping define a simple 5 step framework to start an IoT enabled customer service strategy.

So why IoT Enabled Service?

We should start by asking why the interest in IoT enabled customer service?

The value of IoT enabled customer service is pretty straight forward… IoT enabled service provides a differentiated customer experience and it greatly reduces costs for the business.  Just think about a world where customer service isn't something you expect, but something you don't even think about anymore. What if service is automated and proactive? What will it mean for consumer loyalty to have a product that gets fixed before it becomes faulty or parts are replaced before the customer even notices the problem?  Similarly, think about how much it costs to handle all those thousands of incoming calls, e-mails, social media questions, live chats, etc. everyday about issues with devices. By connecting agents with the device, by enabling devices to auto-diagnose and even self-solve service the impact on the customer experience will be great. 

Furthermore, in the event a device or machine requires direct service, such as a visit from a field technician, IoT can again deliver a massive impact.  Taking into consideration that each field service truck roll can easily cost several hundred dollars, providing the field with IoT enabled remote diagnostics and asset history can dramatically reduce costs through unnecessary truck rolls.  In addition, when a field technician arrives on site for a job, he will already have an understanding of the potential problem and can bring the tools and parts to insure a first time resolution.

Making IoT Data Actionable!

The Internet of Things does not constitute a connectivity challenge, but a data challenge. In other words, to do something with the IoT you need to be able to manage the data.  A modern smartphone easily packs 10 sensors (multiply that by 2 BN smartphones today) and a modern car already has over 100 sensors.  A few years from now our homes will have hundreds of devices with a variety of sensors creating data. Just try to picture the scale of the data all those sensors will generate!

The big challenge with IoT for any business is not connecting to the devices, but rather in the collection and analysis of mountains of data. From this analysis customer service teams must identify events that require a service action.  All of this activity must occur in a cost effective and secure manner. Taking this into consideration, service teams must make sure their companies chosen IoT platform can support these requirements.

From Insight to Resolution

Understanding how insights from device data can help improve customer service processes is the next step.  If you are working in customer service, it should be pretty easy to find the low-hanging fruit.  Just ask yourself: “In which situations does the agent ask the customer for information about their device or machine?”  For instance, serial number, part-numbers, error codes, etc. Anywhere where the agents needs info from the device you’ve found yourself a potential use-case.

Once you have identified the most common issues that come into your engagement center today related to devices, analyze them and understand the impact each of these issues has on your business in terms of costs, customer experience and other values. This information will allow you to prioritize possible high impact IoT projects.

5 Steps To Get IoT Enabled Service Rolling

Step 1: Connect and Collect

Connecting your devices to a system that collects data is the first step. Connecting your devices isn't a big challenge, but we do recommend finding a platform that is both manageable and scalable. It is important to realize that the IoT is not static in nature. You'll need a platform that has elasticity to deal with big spikes of incoming data. Other considerations like security of data and the supported connections to devices are also very important.  Because of these considerations you will likely end-up with a cloud service, it will simply guarantee the most consistency, scalability, flexibility and low TCO.

Step 2: Analyze and Trigger

In addition to connecting devices to a system, you need a system than can actually do something with the data that connection provides. You will need a flexible system that enables real-time analysis of high-volumes of data. Data by itself is meaningless if it does not provide insights and action. Identify which insights are relevant and actionable when embedding those insights in service processes.  One of the bigger barriers to mainstream adoption of the IoT is the complexity of integration of such insights into processes. It helps if you have a service platform that’s robust and flexible. You’ll want a platform that’s easy to manage, yet allows strong capabilities to tailor to specific processes, extends and integrates with multiple systems.

Step 3: Set-up Device Service Processes

Setting up a device service process is pretty much the same as setting up a normal customer service process. But instead of asking the customer to do things like collecting data from the device, finding knowledge articles and trouble shooting flows, the device takes a much more prominent role.

We see there are three typical scenarios you can use to set up device service processes:

  1. Device-Assisted Self-Service. This is where the customer accesses knowledge and augments that with data from the device. Think going through a device registration process where the device automatically provides details such as serial numbers, install date, etc. to easily complete the registration process.
  2. Agent-Assisted Device Service. A device triggers a process to have an agent interact with the device to solve the problem. E.g. an agent that opens an incident created by the device and then inside the agent’s work environment interacts with the device to review settings, change configurations, reset the device, etc.
  3. Automatic Service. Here a device triggers an event and starts running service processes. These processes are built in such a way the devices can fully automatically troubleshoot, run through configurations, run diagnostics, change settings, reset and reboot, etc. I.e. processes that would previously take an hour to walk a customer through over the phone can now be performed in seconds.

Step 4: Empower Agents to Talk to Devices

Are your agents trained to talk to machines? IoT enabled service brings a whole new interaction paradigm for service agents. You will need to set up your processes accordingly. Provide the tools to help agents to become accustomed to interacting with machines, such as an agent scripting or visual screen guide. Also be sure to connect your agent work environments to enable interacting with the device to be able to do troubleshooting, remote configuration, set-up, resets, etc.  Also think whether your current KPIs set applies to interacting with devices. Typical contact center KPIs like First Time Resolution and Average Handling Time may not be applicable.

Step 5: Connect Field-Service Technicians

In many cases self-service and agent-assisted service won't be enough to solve a device’s problem and a field service technician needs to be dispatched to make a repair. These field events can occur with great efficiency,  by allowing contact center agents to directly schedule and dispatch technicians.  For example, let’s assume a VIP customer needs an issue resolved immediately.  You’ll want the contact center agent to create the service request, and have that request automatically routed to the nearest available technician, that has the tools, skills, and parts to solve the customers problem.  Furthermore, you’ll need to make sure the field technician has all the relevant customer information, and device information to insure a first time fix.  This scenario is becoming a fairly typical with service organizations where the contact center and the field service teams share the same platform.

Key Take Away’s

The Internet of Things is promising tremendous value for customer service organizations, yet it’s not always easy to start leveraging the IoT. We suggest the IoT is a data challenge, not a connectivity challenge. You will need a scalable and elastic service to collect data, a robust yet flexible system to analyze data in real-time to trigger support processes when needed. You’ll need a strong customer service platform that offers the extensibility and integration capability to embed data insights in support processes. A system that allows auto-diagnostics and that allows your service agents to troubleshoot and interact with the device, in a manner that’s easy for agents to adopt. You’ll also want a system that connects your customer service and field service teams to further streamline processes.

Coming to Mobile World Congress 2016 in Barcelona, Spain? Come and visit the Oracle Service Cloud product management team at the Samsung Enterprise booth in Hall #6. We will be happy to give you a complete demo that demonstrates all the 5 steps above on a single platform.

Tuesday Feb 09, 2016

Forrester Names Oracle a ‘Leader’ in Customer Service Solutions for Midsize Teams and Enterprise Organizations

By Christine Randle, Analyst Relations, Oracle Service Cloud 

By now you probably understand the importance of delivering exceptional customer service. You get why it’s important. You appreciate that customer service is the platform from which excellent customer experiences emerge. You’ve read the research and know that, according to Forrester Research, a full 39% of customers will tell friends and family about their negative experiences[1]. Data points like this one are powerful, yet leave you stuck wondering, “Where do I start?”

Well, take heart in the fact that you’re not alone. This is complicated, right? We live in an always-on, omnichannel world, where instant gratification isn’t just a request, it’s a demand. You know that your company must rise to the effortless customer service challenge or become a relic of the past.

Don’t despair, because there’s good news! Leading industry analyst firm Forrester Research, recently published two Waves:  The Forrester Wave™: Customer Service Solutions For Enterprise Organizations, Q4 2015 and The Forrester Wave™: Customer Service Solutions For Midsize Teams, Q4 2015. And the good news doesn’t stop there. Oracle Service Cloud is a Leader in BOTH the midsize and the enterprise Waves.

Oracle Service Cloud had the highest current offering category scores in the Enterprise Wave and Midsize Wave reports, and was noted among vendors that “deliver high-volume omnichannel service” and “have a foundational layer of knowledge management to deliver channel-specific answers to customer inquiries.”  Both reports recognized how, "Oracle Service Cloud delivers heavy-duty support for B2C enterprises. Oracle Service Cloud provides a flexible, easily configurable customer service solution that excels at delivering consistent cross-channel customer service experiences. The SaaS-based solution sports very strong omnichannel capabilities: cobrowse … multichannel reporting, chat, email response management, social customer service, and knowledge management. Customers use it as an enterprise wide solution, as a standalone solution for digital channels, or to extend the digital capabilities of an on-premises solution.”

I believe that these reports will help you decide what your business needs, and which vendors are best suited, to help your company become a customer service success story.

Organizations both large and not so large rely on Oracle Service Cloud to help deliver effortless customer service experiences (check out recent Forbes profiles of All Nippon Airways, Pella). Oh, and did I mention that great customer service is at the heart of award winning customer experiences? 

Hey, don’t take my word for it. Read the research and then let us know how we can help your business thrive in today’s “I want it now!” world.

Thursday Jan 21, 2016

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Tuesday Jan 05, 2016

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

1. Where is the channel on the Hype cycle?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Tuesday Dec 08, 2015

Transform Modern Social Service with Customer Communities

By Michelle Brusyo, Senior Product Manager, Oracle Service Cloud

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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