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. 

Thursday Apr 16, 2015

Oracle OpenWorld 2015: We Want to Hear Your Story! by Scott Ewart

Do you have a story to tell about your Customer Experiences (CX) in Marketing, Sales, Service, or Commerce? Implementations, solving business problems, increasing customer satisfaction...? We are sure you have valuable information and best practices to share, and our customers want to hear from you!

CX Central @ OpenWorld, taking place at Oracle OpenWorld 2015 in beautiful San Francisco, California from October 25 – October 29, 2015, is designed to provide a single place for all things related to the customer lifecycle. This is for all of Oracle's CX customers whose business requires them to definitively differentiate themselves across all channels, touch points, and interactions.

CX @ OpenWorld addresses: Marketing, Sales, Service, Social, and Commerce – and includes Oracle Marketing Cloud, Oracle Sales Cloud, Oracle Service Cloud, Siebel, Oracle Knowledge, Oracle Social Cloud, Oracle Commerce, and CPQ (Configure, Price, and Quote).

We invite you to submit your story before May 15th, 2015.We would love to hear stories related to your successful Oracle implementations or upgrades around CX, business transformations you have faced and solved, and the increased value your business has achieved through use of Oracle products.

You will be asked to provide information about yourself and the speakers, the proposed title and abstract, and the topic classification (tracks and session type). Sessions at CX Central @ OpenWorld are 45 minutes. Please keep in mind that at least one speaker is required.

Just follow the steps at this link.

Wednesday Apr 15, 2015

The Road to Modern Field Operations at Field Service USA 2015

It's that time of year again, when hundreds of field service professionals venture to Palm Springs to share their experiences and expertise with peers at Field Service USA. Learn more about Oracle Service Cloud's presence at the event! [Read More]

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.

Wednesday Apr 08, 2015

CX Tech Adoption: Enabling the Oracle Roadmap To Modern by Rob Wales, Customer Experience Strategist

As a customer experience (CX) consultant, I'm in a lot of contact centers, talking to executives about their CX initiatives. I often hear things like, "We installed a knowledge base, but we’re just not seeing the results we expected," "Proactive chat isn't giving us a lift in conversion," or "We installed a new agent desktop, but we’re not seeing the efficiency gains." So I ask some business process questions and typically find that their processes just don't support their strategic vision or technology expectations. New technology was implemented, but the business processes never evolved to effectively utilize it.

Let's look at Virtual Assistant as an example.Virtual Assistant is a combination of natural language, contextual knowledge, chat and scripting. Implementing Virtual Assistant and immediately expecting it to be successful is like installing a kitchen sink without putting in the plumbing underneath.You have to implement technology capabilities in layers and mature your processes along the way—implement a knowledge base and develop your knowledge management processes and content; employ natural language and fine-tune it to your industry and business. 

Many companies have implemented multi-channel solutions: desktop, chat, email, web self-service, knowledge base, etc. and assume they're providing an omni-channel experience. But typically these are point solutions, the systems are disconnected, the channels are siloed, and there is very little integration between the support applications. This is a good example of tech adoption without strategy, and causes inefficiency at an operational level. But more importantly, it causes frustration for the customer. There is no visibility to all customer interactions and profile information, causing the customer to have to re-explain their issue and giving them a sense that the company doesn't know them at all.

To solve this problem, industry leaders are moving to fully integrated solutions that provide true omni-channel support, ultimate configurable flexibility, and agent desktop tools to personalize the customer experience. But technology adoption is a process, not an end-state; you can't start at the finish line. Too often, companies with CX initiatives will implement top-tier solutions, and expect all their goals to be attained through the technology alone, as if the systems themselves are a panacea. Technology solutions are only as good as the strategy and business processes they support, and it's critical to understand what those are and the capabilities needed to attain that maturity. 

Determining technology needs should be a later stage of ‘solutioning.’ To properly determine those needs, you must start at the top. Creating a strategic plan to identify and define what your business is trying to achieve is a foundational and necessary step to identifying business process gaps and/or technology needs required to meet the strategic plan. Examine the business processes that support your strategy and determine what improvements need to be made. Ascertain the metrics that will measure success, baseline your KPIs, establish improvement expectations, and determine reporting needs.  Only after you've identified the strategy, supporting processes and success criteria can you effectively identify the appropriate technology solutions that will get you there. Don't just follow the pack and implement solutions for the sake of having those capabilities. Make sure they provide you with the means to accomplish your strategic objectives.

When selecting a solution that will help you progress through your process maturity, technology roadmaps are incredibly useful. They provide a clear path to gradually attain maturity in technology, as you also attain maturity in business processes. So when I talk to companies about evolving technology and process maturity, I talk in terms of a Roadmap To Modern: “Get Going, Get Better, Get Ahead,” rather than talking only about the desired future state. This staged approach effectively enables the gradual adoption of technology, allowing companies to realize immediate improvements and progressively become CX industry leaders.

First, focus on technologies and processes that will make you more operationally efficient. This one’s easy to understand and is foremost in the mind of contact center directors everywhere: implement a base layer of technology capabilities that enables self-service, increases agent productivity, and decreases operations. Provide improved interaction capabilities to simplify customer engagement: present multiple channel options to engage your customers and a knowledge base to promote self-help: this has the benefit of not only improving efficiency, but also providing customers with options to engage the way they choose. This foundational layer of technology capabilities provides a solid basis from which to build.

Next, leverage the efficiency savings and invest in solutions that will improve customer retention. There is already cross-over between efficiency and retention by way of reduced customer effort (Most of the initiatives to make your operations more efficient also make it easier for customers to do business with you. This decreases customer effort, which in turn, increases retention.), but now you start to enable the technology to improve the processes that strengthen relationships and improve quality. A cross-channel strategy will ensure consistent, quality customer treatment across touch points. Embed consistent knowledge content in your web self-service and desktop. Consider how to use technology to engage your customers in creative ways in an effort to keep in closer contact and differentiate yourself from competitors. Use data on-hand to understand what your customer has gone through when (or before) they reach out to you so you can quickly help with the issue.

Then, as your business processes mature to match your technology capabilities, you can start to use functionality for proactive engagement, segmentation and personalization to acquire new customers, increase conversions and, ultimately, increase revenue. Use proactive outbound communications to alert customers to things like account activity, service outages, product offerings, etc. to not only answer questions customers haven’t asked yet, but also to generate sales by understanding your customers’ history, preferences and anticipating what they might need next. Segment your customers based on their profile and history to get them to the right resource the first time. 

Most importantly, use everything you know about your customers to create a personalized, differentiated experience:
  • Know how they've engaged with your company in the past, regardless of how they contacted you (phone, chat, email, Facebook, etc.), and get quick visibility into their issues.
  • Know who they are, they're preferences, what they've bought (and how much) and how they liked it.
  • Understand how they feel about your company, about their interactions with you, about the effort they expend doing business with you, and about recommending your company to others.

This level of maturity in both technology and business process will differentiate you from competitors and help make you a leader in your industry. It will also create fierce loyalty in your customers, making them brand advocates.

Technology can help you attain your strategic goalsbut you can’t get there all at once and you can’t get there with technology alone. Determine your strategy, examine your business processes, and establish your success metrics. Then, as you make choices about your CX technology, ensure that you invest in robust solutions that will get you where you want to go, and provide you with a roadmap to get their gradually. Finally, consider the progression of adoption: "Get Going, Get Better, Get Ahead," not just with your technology but with the underlying processes that the technology supports and enables.  

Learn more today about the Oracle Roadmap To ModernTM

Saturday Apr 04, 2015

"The Connected Customer" Oracle Roadmap To Modern by Dave Lanning, Senior Strategy Consultant

"Omni-channel?" "Cross-Channel?" "Multi-Channel?" What does it all mean? Isn’t it just about the customer’s engagement with the brand, and the experience that they will have along the way? There has been a fundamental shift in behavior driven by the velocity of technology adoption. Like you, your customer is now more connected than ever. These "Connected Customers" are more informed, more demanding and have higher service expectations. They say:

  • "Help Me" - Assist me with navigating on my channel-of-choice and make recommendations that are relevant to my journey
  • "Know Me" - Know my preferences, anticipate my needs and focus on how to help me achieve my journey
  • "Value Me" - Recognize and reward my tenure, treat me like a valued customer, value my time with easy-to-use support, value my relationship with relevant offers and promotions and communicate in clear, simple terms.

But who is the customer? Demographics have some interesting nuances to this shift in behavior and expectations. Your customers of tomorrow are the tech-savvy ‘millennials’ who prefer digital channels to engage with you first. During these demanding and transactional interactions, they expect to find information not only within your brand but on social and on every device they connect with – or they will quickly find someone else. On the other end of the spectrum, the more traditional late adopter, bread and butter ‘Baby Boomers’ are used to the human touch, and will only try out some of the digital paths to engage for low risk issues. They need you to make it simple, and take the time to provide them with personal guidance at their convenience.

In between these two demographics are a wide range of personalities and expectations. Service levels and demographics alone aren't going to be enough to meet the expectations of customers today. Modern marketers know this and are leveraging every channel to reach out to consumers – setting the bar for where customer service needs to continue the engagement. To make it even more complex, research has shown that 44% of customers now expect to not only have a choice of multiple channels, but also to be able to switch channels according to their preference and convenience. By 2018, Gartner predicts that digital channels will for the first time be the preferred channel for the majority of your customers. Traversing channels is rapidly becoming the norm.

Net, Net. "Connected Customers" are here and you need a modern customer service strategy to meet their needs.

Look at any business that is a stand-out for delivering exceptional experiences and you will find that customer service is at the forefront of their CX initiatives. It's not an afterthought – that doesn't happen by accident. These modern businesses adopted a maturity strategy that enabled them to best serve the continuously rising expectations of these "Connected Customers," while achieving continued growth and differentiation from their competitors. They are going through an evolution/transformation around customer engagement with a strategy that:

  • Embraces the customer’s choice of channel, with online digital channels leading the way, available 24x7 regardless of device/location; engaging customers on self-service, chat, SMS, social media, communities, etc.
  • Delivers consistent levels of service quality and knowledge accuracy on every channel, with seamless cross-channel experiences  and empowers service agents with a unified platform for all interactions and access.
  • Captures relevant data at every touch point that can be easily leveraged for current and future engagements to personalize the experience, and deepen the relationship in a measurable way  with actionable proactive and predictive intelligence that is shared across the business.

To help organizations get going on this transformational journey, Oracle has developed a Roadmap to ModernTM customer engagement strategy that helps business identify where they are today and each phase towards their goals.

  1. "Multi-Channel" - The first transformation phase in the customer engagement strategy is to move away from siloed thinking. One or two options aren't enough choice to serve customers today, but adding more channels to your customer service operations can be risky to your support and maintenance costs. You must unify knowledge and some administrative overhead in the process.
  2. "Cross-Channel" - The second phase of maturity in the customer engagement strategy must focus on the service quality and channel mix. Customers must be able to have a consistent experience within each channel and across channels. For that to happen, agents must be guided on how to engage with customers according to their channels of choice. This requires agents to use a unified platform for engagements.
  3. "Omni-Channel" - The third phase of a customer engagement strategy is the ability to personalize experiences. Many businesses jump to this phase too early and miss the unified, "accurate" data that comes from phase 2. If the data isn't right, you can hurt your relationship with your customer due to inconsistent service quality and inaccurate knowledge. Once you have good data, you can make it actionable and automate processes, curating a truly personalized and even proactive service experience across every touch point of your brand.

The Customer Engagement strategy is only one part of the three-legged stool. Without the right way to measure value and performance along the way  with benchmarks and cultural incentives (a modern value strategy), the right timing for technology platform adoption and integrations and innovations (a modern technology strategy) – your engagement strategy will be a vision of frustration. You will be unable to reach your destination of 'WOW.'

That is why the Oracle Roadmap to ModernTM has been developed as a unified customer engagement methodology, which gets delivered as part of the Oracle Service Cloud solution, along with the business maturity partner ecosystem to help guide each step of your success. Learn more today about the Oracle Roadmap To ModernTM , and stay tuned to this blog to get in-depth insights that prepare you for your journey to modern customer service.

Thursday Mar 19, 2015

Oracle CRM Watchlist 2015 Winner

Leading CRM expert, best-selling author, analyst and regular contributor to ZDNet, Paul Greenberg, has listed Oracle as a 2015 winner on his CRM Watchlist. Paul is an advisor to both public and private organizations and continues to define the landscape of CRM including industry trends, challenges and opportunities. As the Executive Vice President of the CRM Association, and Chairman of the University of Toronto’s CRM Centre of Excellence, Paul is considered one of the industry’s top thought leaders.[Read More]

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