IT Innovation | May 13, 2014

Reengineering Customer Service – Building Strong Relationships Through Listening and Collaboration

By: Stephanie Spada


Oracle’s business has changed dramatically in the last
decade as we moved beyond the database sector and pursued a larger vision of
becoming the world’s number-one provider of enterprise software. That same journey also drove us to rethink
and, ultimately transform, how we relate to our customers.

While we continue to evolve, I wanted to share this journey
with you and set the stage for our conversations that will

When Oracle acquired PeopleSoft in 2004, we ran into an
unfamiliar challenge. How would we
convince a skeptical customer base arriving via acquisition that we were
serious about defending their interests? Specifically, how would Oracle’s
style, which was built on industry leadership in the database sector, mesh with
customers accustomed to dealing with a more collaborative and people-centric

Realizing that we had to forge new types of connections with
customers and demonstrate a more collaborative approach to working with them,
we took action ‒ making a significant investment in creating a single unified
company strategy around customer programs. This approach would integrate all aspects of
the customer experience, including service and support, contract negotiations,
account management, and more.

Oracle, known for our engineering expertise, went to work on
building a new way to relate to customers. Our mission was clear. To sustain
growth and boost loyalty, we needed to:

  • Set up
    listening posts.
    We began to scour
    our customer base worldwide for opinions, implementing regular Web surveys,
    focus groups, and executive advisory boards to find out what we need to do
    better. Additionally, we conducted marketplace studies and solicited
    observations from individual employees interacting with our customers. Next, we
    looked to better engage CIOs, a key constituency ‒ creating a CIO Advisory
    Board has become an indispensable source of guidance and a sounding board for
    new ideas, ranging from recommendations on potential acquisitions to improving
    account management.

  • Learn to
    It was increasingly
    clear that our legacy culture of dictating the terms of customer relationships
    was simply not conducive to long-term growth. Today, Oracle’s focus on collaboration fuels
    sales by encouraging and creating a sounding board for customers’ ideas that
    drive change.

For example, one of the concerns that we have
heard most often over the years was that it is very difficult to do business
with Oracle. Specifically, contract
negotiations can be too complex and prolonged. We’ve listened and responded with a new master agreement that standardized
and simplified contract processes, allowing for better collaboration and
streamlined negotiations. Quotes and
deals are approved faster under the new system, which uses tools that simplify
workflows and deliver full transparency and greater efficiency.

  • Refocus
    sales team.
    One of the first things
    that we heard from customers, specifically CIOs, was that Oracle needed a fresh
    approach to account management, one that provided more consistent and transparent
    coverage. Listening to these concerns, we
    created a more customer-focused account management model and strengthened our
    account teams with new advisors, support resources, and executive sponsors to
    provide relevant industry, business process, and technical expertise as well as
    greater continuity.

  • Move
    beyond transactions.
    Oracle, like
    many other enterprises, built its business in many ways on an approach to
    customer relationships that can feel very transactional. Customers demand more, however, and rightfully
    so. As consumers in an increasingly
    digital and connected world, we have come to expect anytime, anywhere service
    and intelligent business relationships – fueled by the power of sophisticated
    analytics. This consumer trend extends
    to the business-to-business sector in which we operate.

Today, while still dedicated to growing our
business, we are focused on working in tandem with our customers to help them solve increasingly complex challenges
and move their businesses forward. Restructuring
our sales team also enabled us to launch a more effective strategic planning
process – a multi-year framework designed to improve alignment between Oracle
and its customers, and sharpen our focus on our customers’ business and
technology objectives.

  • Transform
    Fast, efficient product
    support always ranks at the top of customers’ list of requirements. Knowing that customer support can make or
    break a relationship in our business, we rolled out new practices and tools
    that have significantly improved customer support services and are enabling us
    to move from a reactive, break/fix mindset to proactive support engagements
    that anticipate and address issues before they become critical. For example, we instituted a new service
    request process that establishes an early warning system that quickly identifies
    and resolves issues affecting numerous products at the same time. In addition, our recommended software updates are
    easier to review and directly deploy thanks to integration of My Oracle Support
    and Oracle Enterprise Manager Ops Center 12c.

  • Measure
    Today, Oracle increasingly
    uses big-data analytics to discern and gather critical insight from customer
    feedback and link customer success and satisfaction measures with revenue
    growth. We regularly track how improvements
    in satisfaction and customer referencing drive further engagement and sales. We also systematically
    analyze all types of customer feedback, from Web surveys and executive council
    meeting content to discussions on social media.

Higher levels of listening and collaboration are helping Oracle replace arms-length transactions with more intimate partnerships that are the foundation for strong and long-lasting relationships.  Our efforts are bearing fruit by helping customers to innovate, become more efficient and agile, and get greater return from their IT investment.

Catch you next time,

Jeb Dasteel
Senior Vice President and Chief Customer Officer