Tuesday Jun 23, 2015

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Then, there's:

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

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

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

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

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

Stay tuned to hear how we are solving these challenges…

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 Sep 22, 2014

Do your customers know more than your agents? Shift the equation with this webcast Thurs., Sept. 25 at 2 pm ET featuring Amberleaf

Have you ever called a contact center and known more about the company’s products and services than the agent? Or been bounced around to several different agents before you got the right answer?

That’s a recipe for customer service disaster. Don’t let that happen to your organization.

Tune into this webcast on Thursday, September 25 at 11 am PT / 2 pm ET to become the Master Chef of modern customer service with best practices from Amberleaf President John Kariotis. 

Over the last 15 years, John has helped hundreds of companies transform their contact centers into modern customer service organizations.

He’ll share customer success stories – and pitfalls to watch out for – so you can accelerate your own success.

Register here

Saturday Sep 20, 2014

Why CPQ? Why Me?

Guest post by Peter Ostrow,VP & Research Group Director, Customer Management, Sales Effectiveness, Aberdeen Group

Welcome to the first of our five-blog journey focusing on the fast-growing niche of Configure / Price / Quote deployments. Many end-users consume our Sales Effectiveness market research and ask, “Is this or that technology a nice-to-have, or a must-have?” The answer depends entirely on the imperatives of each individual business, and the marching orders Sales Operations receives from management that guide its sales enablement strategies. Aberdeen’s newest research on the topic, soon to be published in “Got Friction? Workflow Fixes that Shorten the B2B Sales Cycle,” weighs in on the side of “must-have” when it comes to any technology enabler that is proven to remove barriers from closing B2B sales deals.

[Read More]

Tuesday Oct 02, 2012

Focus on Social Relationship Management at Oracle OpenWorld

Greetings from Oracle OpenWorld 2012. Today, we’re going to focus on Social Relationship Management at Oracle OpenWorld.
Social networking is touching all businesses today. 

Customers are speaking about your brand right now on social media sites. Your employees are speaking to one another on social media sites. In an Oracle survey, 40% of consumers factor in Facebook recommendations when making purchasing decisions. Despite the rise of social networking, 70% of marketers report having little understanding of social media conversations happening around their brand.


Oracle has invested in technologies that will help companies leverage social media technologies for their enterprise. Our suite of social products is collectively known as Social Relationship Management. Customers are using Social Relationship Management to get analytics to social media conversations around their brand, manage multiple social media channels while keeping their brand consistent, optimize internal workflows and processes, and create better customer relationships and experiences.

[Read More]

Thursday Sep 13, 2012

Why Deliver Customer Service in the Cloud?

In volatile, competitive markets, delivering exceptional service across channels is essential. But delivering world-class service on tight budgets, and deliving improvements quickly, is a tough challenge. That's why so many of the world's most successful organizations choose to deliver customer service in the cloud.

Example: Michele Watson, VP of Global Customer Care at Match.com, says Oracle's service in the cloud "helps our customer receive the support they need in real time, our contact center agents be more productive and helpful, and our executive and product development teams receive detailed feedback to continue our improve our customers' experience." Learn more here about why you should consider delivering customer service in the cloud

Thursday Aug 23, 2012

What is the ROI of Customer Experience?

By delivering exceptional customer experiences, companies can acquire new customers, retain more customers, and improve efficiency.

What would that be worth to your company? How we you evaluate the return on your investment?

This new report and webinar by the Temkin Group, based on a survey of top companies and 13,000 consumers across the US and the UK, explains how.

Want to learn more from global leaders of the Experience Revolution such as Anthony Lye, Seth Godin, and Bruce Temkin? Join us at the Customer Experience Summit at the Oracle OpenWorld Conference in San Francisco, October 3-5. Early Bird registration discounts end September 5.

Tuesday Aug 07, 2012

Forrester on How to Navigate the Future of Customer Service

How do you use customer service as a competitive advantage today? Are you struggling to balance cost management and customer satisfaction? The facts:

  • Eighty-six percent of customer service decision-makers say that a good customer experience is one of their top strategic priorities
  • Sixty-three percent say that they want their customer experience to be the best in their industry
  • Thirteen percent say that they want to be a leader in customer experience across all industries

Tune in to this informative, on-demand webcast with Forrester Research. Our speakers are Kate Leggett, Senior Analyst, Forrester Research, and John Perez, Customer Experience Strategist, Oracle RightNow. Kate Leggett is a leading expert on customer service strategies, as well as a published author on customer service trends and best practices. Her research focuses on helping organizations establish customer service strategies and deliver successful customer service projects. John Perez has extensive experience of working on customer experience programs with organizations across a range of industries. He works with Oracle RightNow clients to build customer experience strategies that improve efficiency and productivity, increase sales, and drive customer loyalty.

Friday Jul 20, 2012

Learn More About the Experience Revolution

When customers deal with your company, they want simple, consistent, and relevant experiences. Most successful companies would say that they try to create a good customer experience and have already invested in the systems, people, and training to develop it.

So what’s missing? Why is it becoming more difficult to meet customer expectations? What strategies will help your company differentiate itself in the view of your customers?

Join Oracle for an educational live event: the Customer Experience Online Forum, July 31, 2012, 8:00 AM to 1:00 PM Pacific.

Learn from Bruce Temkin, a leading expert in customer experience, Anthony Lye, SVP of Oracle CRM, Marriott International, Nikon and other thought leaders about the ROI of customer experience, what strategies leading brands use now to win over customers, and how Oracle solutions can help you succeed in the Experience Revolution.

Register now to join all or part of this informative, half-day live event. 

Thursday Jun 21, 2012

Experience the Revolution

Bold shifts in consumer power and influence have created an Experience Revolution! Is your business ready? Join Oracle President Mark Hurd in New York City on 6/25 to find out! 
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