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Advice and Information for Finance Professionals

The Mission-Critical Need for CFOs to Partner with CMOs

Guest Author

By Rob Tarkoff, Development EVP, CX and Data Cloud, Oracle

It’s natural and rational to assume that the CMO is the steward of an organization’s brand. But in today’s environment, consumers and B2B decision-makers are judging every entity, not just for the quality of products and services they provide but also for their commitment to corporate citizenship. That’s an awesome responsibility, and one that increasingly must be shouldered by the office of the CFO, where every element of a company’s mission is funded.

At Oracle, my team of about 5,000 design and develop cloud applications across the end-to-end customer experience—marketing, sales, commerce and service. Data is at the heart of our solutions enabling customers to gather, cleanse, de-duplicate, and validate data when delivering customer service, engaging in marketing campaigns, facilitating e-commerce transactions, or simply assisting an individual sales representative on an opportunity.

This data-centric focus existed pre-pandemic. Current conditions are elevating the importance of being able to make microsecond decisions to serve customers better. Sounds like some things every CFO would care about, right? The best way for me to illustrate how finance leaders are spearheading the customer experience at their organizations is to share a few stories about our customers.

Help for citizens in the nick of time

Cities, counties, and states are struggling to respond to the economic hardships being experienced by their constituents in our current, socially-separated world. And, generally-speaking, the larger the entity, the bigger the challenge.

The Mayor’s Fund for Los Angeles is a non-profit organization that raises money via private donations to fund programs that improve citizens’ quality of life. One such program, the Angeleno campaign, quickly generated over $40 million for the city’s hardest hit residents. Great news, right? But then the city’s offices of finance and operations were faced with the challenge of how to get the word out, qualify the more than 450,000 applicants, and distribute the money.

The first $5 million was distributed through a largely manual process involving call centers and in-person meetings. Meanwhile, working in partnership with Oracle, the City of Los Angeles’s finance, marketing, and public services teams worked together to roll out a revised, end-to-end digital process. Citizens can now go through the entire process of applying, qualifying, and receiving funds via a debit card—known as the Angelenos card—in a safer and more immersive “customer” experience. They’re sharing their experiences with other cities and states for similar relief programs. 

Consider also the TOMS Passport Rewards program. Oracle was honored to partner with TOMS to help them develop their loyalty program which enables members to turn their points into real dollars that TOMS then contributes to member-designated charities. They’ve distributed about $40,000 already. Customers feel like they’re advocates for meaningful change, and the company is reimagining what loyalty programs mean.

Sparking innovation via business model transformation

The digitally-driven reality of today’s business world is compelling organizations to explore new business models such as offering subscription-based services. Some CFOs may have initially thought, “Well, I’ll just change to a subscription model to perhaps get valued higher in the capital markets because of the recurring revenue streams.”

That mentality misses the chance to transform the brand in a more powerful, impactful way. In a subscription model, finance and marketing must consider not just how their customers discover their products, but also what opportunities may exist to deepen that engagement through vehicles such as customer communities and expert advice. Customers are more able to self-serve. They make decisions on products, timing, subscription length, and service after the purchase. All that needs to be seamless and deeply woven in the fabric of signing up for a subscription.

I’ll share a great example of an Oracle customer, Motorola, that now embraces a subscription business model in what you might find to be a surprising way: Motorola provides the communications infrastructure to most of the first responders in North America. What could be more important? They transformed to a subscription business model before the current crisis because many of their customers—such as police and fire departments—couldn’t afford to buy equipment up front. The order and fulfillment systems are seamlessly linked back to Oracle Fusion Cloud ERP, providing the CFO and finance teams with an end-to-end view of the business. 

Self-service business models are becoming increasingly popular as well, as consumer-like buying preferences become more desirable in the B2B world. Each of us can think of examples of how we use subscriptions and self-service in our daily lives. Maybe it’s ordering takeout every day because we’re over that “since I’m stuck at home I’ll become an amazing chef” phase. But imagine applying self-service to something as complex as ordering parts for that satellite you’re building.  

Well, AirBorn, an Oracle customer, did just that. They provide components and systems for aerospace manufacturers and public organizations such as NASA. To support their customer’s expectations, AirBorn had to create e-commerce, self-service, and complex configuration systems that are simple to use but flawless.

AirBorn worked hard with us and other partners to enable customers to easily configure products, request quotes, and submit orders without talking to a salesperson—no complex forms or spreadsheet configurations. They were able to take 54 different configuration choices in the old manual process and shrink it down to 11 or 12 clicks. Imagine that: configuring a complex satellite system in less than 15 clicks.

Reimagining sales in a socially-distanced world  

Right now, organizations can’t send their consultants or sales reps to customers and prospect for on-site meetings. Consequently, there is a widespread movement toward digital selling. By many indicators, a lot of organizations won’t go back to pre-pandemic sales processes.

With digital selling, companies transform their sales and training processes to convert their traditional teams to being trusted advisors via digital channels. To accomplish this, CFOs are looking at greater investments in machine learning (ML) and artificial intelligence (AI). Perhaps they’ve already dabbled in that arena to support areas such as planning and inventory optimization, and now realize that they need that same impact on sales and marketing.

Sales is hard, but digital selling is harder. Reps must virtually convey genuine empathy, trust, and safety so a customer feels like they’re getting the necessary expertise, product knowledge, and an understanding of their situation. A digital selling process also can leverage automation in a front-and-center way.

Hermes, the UK’s second largest parcel delivery company, uses a digital chat assistant—powered by Oracle and named Holly—as what is often the first point of contact with a customer. Holly has a sophisticated level of industry-specific knowledge and has reduced the number of calls to human employees by 40%. Customers send her thank-you notes even though they know she’s not real!

As digital assistants become smarter and more effective, it has a ripple effect on how you train your sales people, as well as the processes they follow. The current rush towards digital selling is accelerating the adoption and effectiveness of AI and ML capabilities for enhancing the customer experience.

From twenty to two thousand: exponential growth in customer attributes

Within the customer experience, analyzing feedback used to mean measuring what happened in the sales process to determine why you won or lost the deal. Companies knew so little about their customers; they had access to very few customer attributes—some as rudimentary as name, email address, and when they logged into their systems. Not so long ago, having twenty attributes for a customer might seem like a wealth of information.

As digital-native companies emerged, they were able to pick up breadcrumbs left behind by customers to assemble thousands of attributes. It’s almost impossible for organizations to compete if they don’t adopt a digital mindset driven by AI and ML.

Oracle offers the largest third-party data marketplace for enhancing our customers’ knowledge of their customers. For digital advertising, these data-driven insights help organizations maximize their advertising spend by increasing the likelihood that their customers receive the most relevant advertisements, offers, and promotions. When CFOs expand these strategies across digital marketing and the customer experience, they gain more opportunities to gather a rich array of customer signals and data points that can help with financial planning, business model transformation, and product innovation. Instead of analyzing the past, they can now predict the future.

ShopBack is an Oracle customer that offers a cash back rewards program to 11 million customers in Asia-Pacific. They match merchant-funded coupons, vouchers, and cash-back opportunities to individual customers. They can only sustain and grow their business by being perceived as a value-add to their customers’ purchase experiences. Using the Oracle Unity Customer Data Platform, ShopBack built an offering that really helps them anticipate and predict customer preferences to increase sales and reduce churn.

And Uber, another Oracle customer, is not just a ride-sharing innovator. Along the way, they’ve created an amazing back-end logistics platform, including route optimization, that can be leveraged in other models such as Uber Freight. It’s transforming logistics from a cost center to a revenue stream.

How will your story be told?   

By now, it’s clear that I like to tell my Oracle story by telling stories about our customers. Each customer is a chapter, and their CFOs and CMOs and their teams are the characters that make those stories worth telling.

The CFO plays a critical role in partnering with the CMO, not just to define offerings and assure brand, safety, security, trust, and empathy. They also partner to efficiently connect the front office with the back office to drive profitability, growth, and digital transformation. Today’s CFOs will be remembered for either embracing front-office transformation as a critical part of their job, or leaving that responsibility to someone else.

What will your legacy be?

Hear more from Rob Tarkoff at Oracle Live, with special guests from Starbucks and Walt Disney Studios.

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