Wednesday Feb 04, 2015

VIDEO: Oracle President Thomas Kurian on the Importance of User Experience in Enterprise Software

When is the last time you read documentation about your iPhone?” That’s the rhetorical question asked by Oracle President Thomas Kurian in this latest video emphasizing the importance of user experience in today’s enterprise software. His quick answer of course: “Never.” Usability and user experience isn’t new for enterprise software providers; it’s just increasingly becoming a requirement and a differentiator. The proverbial bar has been raised.

Consumers today have high expectations from their personal technologies, as they are accustomed to modern, personalized and intuitive experiences. Those expectations don’t change at the workplace. And with the rise of millennials entering the workforce, user experience becomes even more critical.  The Hartford Financial Services Group estimates that by 2025, 75% of the workforce will be millennials. Accounting firm PwC sees it much higher, pegging it at close to 80% by end of 2016.

As Kurian states, Oracle has undergone years of extensive usability testing to create a reimagined and redesigned experience with the user in mind. It’s a transformation that focuses on applications that are simple, easy, intuitive, and optimized for the different devices people use today. It’s a fundamental change across the portfolio of Oracle applications.

The Company’s #UX imperative can be seen on display with Oracle Social Cloud’s SRM workstation called “Social Station,” launched last year. The news of Social Station was covered by several outlets, including ZDNet and The Hub, and the overall tone applauded the development and focus on user experiences and interfaces that are simple, easy to use and deliver value. In fact, Omar Akhthar, senior editor at The Hub, stated the following: “Oracle has an opportunity to prove its value by making sure it keeps its user-interface simple and highlighting its ease-of-use compared to other social media management tools.”

The focus of simplicity brings to mind a quote by Albert Einstein that certainly rings true on this subject:  “Any darn fool can make something complex; it takes a genius to make something simple.” Design and development of UX/UI isn't easy; but it's an absolute priority. 

Enterprise software will need to catch up with the consumer-grade level of #UX… starting now.  

Tuesday Jan 20, 2015

VIDEO: Oracle President Thomas Kurian on CX, Data & Innovation

Keys to any successful customer engagement and customer experience (CX) program are strategy, integration and data. In our video blog series with Oracle President Thomas Kurian we continue with his insights on Oracle’s commitment to CX and how developing a strategic and innovative CX portfolio that is enriched with data will be Oracle’s differentiator.

Recently noted in an AdExchanger article, Oracle’s focus on data and data integration is no secret, especially with its acquisition of BlueKai in February of 2014 and the more recently announced acquisition of Datalogix. The holy grail of any marketer and business is a complete understanding of your customers and prospects across their online and offline worlds for better engagement and targeting. Oracle’s CX strategy includes integration across CX applications like marketing, service, sales, commerce and social; and enriching those applications with data so businesses have a unified view of people across all the many channels and platforms they access daily.

“Data is a fundamental differentiator… All applications, over time, can become vastly better if they are enriched with data,” noted Kurian in the video.

He also talks about the transition that cloud and CX innovation has had within Oracle. Today, Oracle is leading by partnering with customers to develop modern software that is innovative, integrated and delivers great user experiences. “Look at Oracle in 2007 and look at it in 2014, night and day different as a company.”

This is just one video in a series of videos with Kurian. Oracle Social Cloud Group VP Meg Bear spent the day recently with Kurian discussing everything from the changing role of today’s CMO and CIO, to data and innovation, to the importance of user experience. Check back each week as we feature a new video with insights from Kurian on how Oracle is partnering and co-innovating with our customers to help pave a path of success and deliver consistent, rewarding and exceptional experiences for their customers. 

Friday Dec 19, 2014

3 Ways Social Media Can Grow Your B2B Business

By Pat Ma, Product Marketing Director, Oracle Social Cloud

Did you know that 83% of B2B marketers invest in social media to increase brand awareness? And 69% use social to increase web traffic while 65% use it to gain industry insights? Additionally, a whopping 91% use social media for promotion and awareness during events. Social is definitely a B2B thing.

Traditionally a B2C play, B2B businesses are increasingly seeing the value in social for business, particularly with the rise of B2B-specific social networks like LinkedIn, Slideshare, and Glassdoor. Furthermore, B2B companies understand that their buyers are using consumer social networks like Facebook, Twitter and YouTube. These buyers are influenced by the content they see on these sites. 78% of B2B buyers and 84% of VPs and C-level executives use social media to make purchasing decisions.[1] B2B companies must incorporate social media into their business strategy in order to stay relevant with their customers and grow their businesses.

In working with B2B customers on their social media strategy and execution, we see three prominent use cases for using social media. B2B companies use social media to increase thought leadership, drive brand awareness, and discover competitive insights.

Increase Thought Leadership

B2B companies want to be perceived as thought leaders in their industries. They do this by producing and publishing content that helps establish their expertise in a particular field. This content can come in many forms, including white papers, webinars, executive bylines, infographics and much more. Companies create thought leadership content and use social media to distribute it.

For example, an identity management company uses social media as a vehicle to publish thought leadership content, leveraging Oracle Social Cloud capabilities. They publish engaging articles about their industry, offer tips about corporate identity management, promote their presence at industry events, and showcase industry awards they have won. They do all this to show their thought leadership in the identity management industry.

Drive Brand Awareness

B2B companies use social media channels to increase and drive their brand awareness. B2B companies are already using web, email, and mobile to communicate their message to customers. Now companies are adding social media channels to help distribute their content and drive brand awareness.

For example, a document processing company uses social media to plan and launch multichannel campaigns across the web, email, mobile, and social using Oracle Marketing Cloud and Oracle Social Cloud. Their content consists of thought leadership pieces, job postings, company awards, event promotions, employee recognition, and photos from company events. The goal of these activities is to generate brand awareness, which aids sales of their services. Social media helps this company get additional reach for content they have already created.

Discover Competitive Insights

B2B companies use social media to conduct competitive research. Specifically, companies use social listening software tools to monitor conversations on social networks, spot potential threats, see industry trends, get brand and industry insights, and use those insights to optimize their marketing and business growth strategies.

For example, an enterprise software company uses social listening to monitor industry buzz. They track competitors, when those competitors launch products, and press sentiment on competitive product reviews. When the company is ready to launch new products, they use social listening and analytics to get insights on market conditions and whether the new product will sell or not. When executives join or leave the company, they want to know where the story breaks, how fast the story is spreading, and if the story is affecting their stock price. B2B companies should harvest and analyze public social conversations for competitive research that fuels data-driven business decisions.

Although there are many more, these are the three most popular use cases we see for B2B companies using social media to grow their business. Through strategic use of social media, B2B companies are increasing their thought leadership, driving brand awareness, and discovering competitive insights.

How are you using social media to grow your B2B business? Please let us know by leaving a comment below. And check out our latest
Oracle Social Cloud video on B2B social media.

[1] DC, “Social Buying Meets Social Selling: How Trusted Networks Improve the Purchase Experience,” 2014.

Tuesday Oct 21, 2014

11 Ways to Wreck Your Social Relationships

social media relationshipsSocial media marketing is all about building authentic relationships. It involves many of the things human relationships live and die by; knowing the person, trust, altruism, patience, etc. So it follows naturally the opposite traits would lead to relationship failure; narcissism, mistrust, selfishness and the like.

When you look at how some brands treat their fans, followers and customers on social, it kind of makes you wonder what their real world human relationships are like. Even as long as social marketing has been around and as much thought leadership has been written on the subject, customers are still NOT getting the experience they want to have with their brands on social.

There are plenty more, but here are 11 ways you can risk having your customers one day tell you, “We need to talk.”

1. And You Are…?

Don’t get or pay attention to any analytics. Don’t try to find out who your fans are, where they are, or what they like. If you accidentally find out what they like, don’t act on it. It’s a great way to prove over and over to them you couldn’t care less.

2. Lie to Them

You silver-tongued smoothie. Just keep putting up those misleading headlines or links to things that violate their expectations. It’s a real trust-builder. And while you’re at it, throw some unrelated trending hashtags into your tweets to trick people into seeing you.

3. Keep Them Guessing

Start a social channel, sweep fans off their feet with content, then suddenly vanish for half a month. Play hard to get. Never let them know where they stand with you or what they’re going to get from you.

4. Bore Them Stupid

Ever been on a date where the other person talked endlessly yet managed to never touch on a single topic you cared anything about? Brands are doing that all the time with their content. People like you to talk about them.

5. Don’t Care How You Look

Let your Timeline go. Don’t give yourself an attractive cover or photo. Make sure your profile picture really bland. Don’t post a lot of videos or photos…just show them lots and lots of text. Oh, and make sure everything you do looks horrible on mobile.

6. Be Obtuse

Leave them thoroughly confused by cramming your tweets with as many tags, links, hashtags, and hieroglyphic symbols as you can. Make them WORK to understand what you’re trying to communicate. Maybe they’ll think it’s fun.

7. Come Across as Desperate and Needy

Who isn’t drawn to that? In every Facebook post and every tweet, make sure you’re pushing your product as hard as you can and trying to get a commitment out of them after the first meeting.

8. Show No Effort

Make posts and tweets like, “Is everybody ready for the weekend?” Nothing makes a fan feel special more than being addressed as part of the masses with a message that sounds like an obligation, created on your phone as you’re heading out the door.

9. Expect Too Much Too Soon

It’s very important that if you aren’t being Liked by thousands and they aren’t commenting and sharing your content like crazy, you start resenting them and abandon your efforts to connect with them. Just be sure to blame it on them and not you.

10. Ignore Them

IF they interact or reach out to you at all, that’s a really big deal. You should be doing flips. Ignoring their gesture or not responding to their interaction until 2 weeks later is a fantastic way to foster hostility.

11. Insist the Relationship Be All About You

What do you need? What do you want to get out of this? That’s why you’re doing this and that’s all that really matters, right? If your customer is happy and fulfilled, that’s nice and all, but it’s hardly the main point. Make sure everything is done your way and happens 100% on your terms.

You want your brand to be as desirable as possible in your social marketing. The people you’re courting want to be appreciated, thought about, cared about, and loyally attended to. If you don’t do it, it’s your brand that pays the price, not the customer. They’ll get over you, move on, and find someone else very quickly.

@mikestiles @oraclesocial

Friday Oct 03, 2014

What We Saw and Did at Oracle OpenWorld: Thursday

Oracle OpenWorldAll good things must come to an end, although innovations in the Oracle Cloud and Oracle Social Cloud never end and are always an ongoing process. After all, we want to have great stories to tell and great announcements to make at Oracle OpenWorld 2015. Believe it or not, after a great night at Treasure Island with Aerosmith and Macklemore & Ryan Lewis, attendees still made it in for one final day of discussions.

In the wrap-up of CX Central (which by itself had over 2000 participants and over 300 sessions) Meg Bear and GM’s Rebecca Harris were talking about the importance of Latent Semantic Analysis in social listening. For instance, Rebecca pointed out that “good morning” is often shortened to ‘GM’ on Twitter…a problem for their monitoring, as is the fact that “Chevrolet” is in the lyrics of almost 2000 songs.

Meg said we’re well past discussions of whether social is a fad and are now hearing more stories about product innovations coming through and from brand social channels. Orgs can turn that into strategic value. Rebecca said every department touches social in some way, with each department believing they’re doing what’s right. But there must be an integrated strategy through the customer lens, which involves stakeholder meetings that aren’t always pleasant.

Oracle’s Rahim Fazal and Mike Ballard led a great session on how governments and utilities can effectively use social before and during disasters/ emergencies. From its very beginnings in Rome, government was intended to be local, instant, personal and social. So governments must consider all channels to serve all constituents of all ages in all socio-economic groups, wherever they are. At its peak, Instagram users uploaded Sandy-related pictures at a rate of 10/second. Facebook mentions of Sandy and Frankenstorm were up 1 million percent!

During a crisis, don’t try to control the conversation. Let people vent. Your job is to provide actionable info. Mike said 624 million customers worldwide are expected to engage with utilities by the end of 2017. You won’t have much trust if you create a social presence when a major issue happens. It has to already be there and ready. Even if a utility is doing a great job in a disaster, nobody will know without steady communication. Mike suggests developing a social engagement and resource strategy, then stress test it to make sure it’ll work during the real deal.

Altimeter Group’s Andrew Jones had a nice chat with us about the importance of social identities. Limited insight will only lead to messages and ads that lack context and make no sense. 57% of consumers are fine with providing personal info if they benefit and it’s used responsibly. 77% would trust business more if they explained how they’re using personal info to improve their online experience.

The benefits of compiling social identities include richer customer profiles, cross-channel engagements, efficiencies of marketing budgets, and social media ROI. It also lets you leverage influencers, identify prospects, reach custom audiences, find lookalike audiences, nurture leads, personalize products, gain real time insight, retain and reactivate, reward loyalty, and tap advocates. Gee, is that all?

Oracle OpenWorld WizardThen it was on to Rahim’s super-casual chat about social data with BlueKai’s Molly Parr and Marriott Rewards’ Michelle Lapierre. Disparate data creates marketing complexity and lost revenue. If they can’t pull together all their data, marketers fail to target the right customers. Yet 82% of enterprise marketers have NO synchronized view of customer data. 58% say social data is important but 52% collect little to none of it.

Molly says data is fine, but the ability to activate on data is finer. Most data is tied to specific execution, but today it must be “unchained,” with focus shifting from campaigns to customers. Can multiple small vendors deliver that kind of unchained, actionable data across the enterprise? Michelle said that’s a tough way to go. It’s putting functionalities under one umbrella that makes more sense.

Thanks to all who attended our social and CX Central sessions at this year’s Oracle OpenWorld and for those who have virtually attended through this blog and @oraclesocial. But don’t leave now. Keep your eyes on these space as we continue to build the power of social listening and data into the newly upgraded Oracle Cloud.

@mikestiles @oraclesocial

Friday Sep 05, 2014

Real Time Marketing: Is It Worth the Rush?

The marketing world was awakened to real time marketing during Super Bowl XLVII when Oreo seized on the lights going out and tweeted “you can still dunk in the dark.” Was it brilliant creative? Did it sell a lot of cookies? I don’t know. What got the industry’s attention wasn’t what was done, but that it was done at all.

Predictably, the following year for Super Bowl XLVIII, marketers were armed and ready to flap their lemming wings and do “me too” real time marketing. It fell as flat as the Bronco’s defense. Oddly, brands mostly engaged with and reacted to other brands, flooding streams and feeds with attention-soliciting marketing, the kind of thing that can get a brand unfollowed.

So…is real time social marketing good or bad? Effective or non-effective?

It depends on your definition of real time marketing, and there are many. A Realtime Report study found 68% of marketers think it’s responding to trends and current events, like our Super Bowl examples. But more, at 76% and 74% respectively, think it’s personalizing content depending on customer interactions with the brand, and responding based on a consumer’s web interactions.

So real time marketing as a stunt is iffy. It’s very difficult to do well, in meaningful ways, and if you do it poorly it’s fraught with backfire potential. That doesn’t mean end all talk of brand newsrooms; just consider that the news you report should perhaps be about the brand or industry as opposed to hijacking unrelated trends or events.

But real time marketing as a result of intimately knowing your audience and delivering relevant content to them at the most opportune moments, based on indicators they’re sending at the time…that’s smart real time marketing. It’s enabled, of course, by real-time listening that lets you tap into how customers are currently feeling and what they’re currently thinking about.

The rewards? The Realtime Report showed 81% of marketers surveyed see increases in engagement as a key benefit of real time marketing. Better customer experiences (73%), increased conversion rates (59%), and improved brand perception (52%) were also cited. A separate study from Golin Harris showed real time marketers can expect a 21% bump in positive brand perception and an 18% increase in likelihood to buy.

So while real time marketing certainly has its critics, if your brand’s approach to it is to tap into the genuine needs individual customers have of you and provide solutions in time to make a difference (as opposed to inserting your brand irrelevantly into whatever’s hot), then you’ll be providing real value and will be welcome any day, any time.

@mikestiles @oraclesocial

Tuesday Sep 02, 2014

Why GM Changed Lanes in Social Customer Service Staffing

social media managementWhat are the ingredients of social customer service that actually services, and satisfies, customers? Like many brands, General Motors found itself faced with that question after taking a second look at how current practices would (or wouldn’t) hold up post-social revolution.

And it’s an increasingly important thing to get right. A BI Intelligence report says social customer management doubles the percentage of sales leads that result in actual sales, relative to traditional CRM approaches. McKinsey says 71% of consumers who received good social service are likely to recommend the brand to others.

In a newly released Oracle Social video, Reggie Bradford chatted with GM’s Rebecca Harris about the challenges that were seen, what needed fixing, and what kind of people and processes were brought in to fix it. Among Rebecca’s points:

  • A typical call center, like the one they had in Saginaw, does not lend itself to direct management. There are multiple players between you and the customer, and little control of interactions.
  • With social having changed public expectations, direct oversight of the personnel hired to engage with customers became a must.
  • Such personnel have 4-year educations, are proficient in reading and writing, and have some sort of customer service background or experience.
  • Rebecca says, “We can teach them social. We can't teach them to be nice. They have to have that core first.”
  • You want to be as close to your customer as you can be, with the fewest possible layers required to get issues resolved.
  • A key goal is getting everyone to know we care and we're trying to help customers.
  • You won’t solve every problem. But we get our field team involved, our dealer team involved, whoever and whatever it takes in trying to solve that problem.
  • Hire the right people, train them, then let them do their jobs.
  • When you have a misstep, talk about it, adjust & correct, and keep moving forward.

How close are you getting to your customers? How much control over the individual interactions does your brand have? In the age of relationship marketing, the person you have representing you on the front lines of customer service is a make-or-break player.

We invite you to watch the full video, as Reggie covers several social topics with Rebecca and GM’s North American Customer Experience Executive Director David Mingle.

@mikestiles @oraclesocial

Tuesday Aug 26, 2014

An Engaging Experience at CRM Evolution 2014

Our guest post today is from Oracle Social Cloud Group VP Meg Bear, fresh off presenting at the CRM Evolution event. With seismic technology shifts taking place in CRM, we wanted to get her take on what she heard and saw.

What a fun week! CRM Evolution wasn’t just a great experience; it was a truly engaging event. The reason I say that is many of the conversations at the event were around best practices for customer experience and customer engagement. Thanks to the amazing Ray Wang for summarizing the discussion so concisely!

Buzzwords aside, I was happy to see the focus on engagement and I believe there are two key distinctions between the concepts. Firstly, engagement suggests an ongoing relationship, versus a one-time experience. Importantly, engagement makes it clear that the customer is in control and the actions taken by an organization, only impact the outcome.

CRM EvolutionWhat made CRM Evolution 2014 such a great experience and so engaging, you may ask? Well, it wasn’t the view from the windowless press/analyst room I spent most of my day in that’s for sure. The amazing conversations I was lucky enough to join (and of course the hugs!) make this “THE” event for those who care deeply about this industry.

I shared fascinating discussions with the delightful Paul Greenberg. Paul has an amazing ability to bring people together (as he clearly showed in his role as CRM Evolution Conference chair) and hosted a panel on the growing importance of customer engagement that I joined. Not content with lifting the curtain on the increasingly small distinction between “social CRM” and traditional CRM systems, Paul asked complex and insightful questions about business, social and customer engagement. I was honored to participate.

And it wasn’t just Paul. My visit was enriched by a large number of industry veterans sharing their experiences. Denis Pombriant kindly took the time to share his presentation with me even though I was double booked during his session; Brian Vellmure and I talked for so long that I made him late for a Yankees game (sorry, Brian!); and I waited for but did not get coffee (to say the “experience” at the hotel Café could have used a little investment would be an understatement) with the one and only Brent Leary. Any minute spent getting Michael Krigsman’s take on the state of things is always a minute well spent. And that’s not to mention the countless other conversations I had with some of the best people in the industry including Marshall Lager.

One of the things I was talking about was how the right user experience can increase customer engagement. As with the introduction of Social Station, a cool new workstation within Oracle Social Cloud, we now provide a next-gen user experience that drives productivity and social business results. It was great to see some of the initial reaction and read what Maria Minsker (CRM Magazine), Natalie Gagliordi (ZDNet), Tom Murphy (CMSWire), Omar Akhtar (The Hub) and others had to say about the latest enhancements.

By making it easier than ever to understand, report and share social insights across the enterprise, Social Station helps our customers move at the speed of social. And that’s not just a nice to have. That type of agility is a must-have if organizations are to engage customers in a way that has a positive and tangible impact on business results.

So thanks to Paul, the rest of CRM Evolution team and everyone that took the time to meet and speak with me. I hope to see many of you at Oracle OpenWorld next month and perhaps while I am there, I will get my very own selfie with Ray Wang.


Friday Aug 15, 2014

Alert: It is No Longer 1982, So Why is CRM Still There?

Hot off the heels of Oracle’s recent LinkedIn integration announcement and Oracle Marketing Cloud Interact 2014, the Oracle Social Cloud is preparing for another big event, the CRM Evolution conference and exhibition in NYC. The role of social channels in customer engagement continues to grow, and social customer engagement will be a significant theme at the conference.

According to Paul Greenberg, CRM Evolution Conference Chair, author, and Managing Principal at The 56 Group, social channels have become so pervasive that there is no longer a clear reason to make a distinction between “social CRM” and traditional CRM systems.

Why not? Because social is a communication hub every bit as vital and used as the phone or email. What makes social different is that if you think of it as a phone, it’s a party line. That means customer interactions are far from secret, and social connections are listening in by the hundreds, hearing whether their friend is having a positive or negative experience with your brand.

According to a study, 76% of brand mentions are neutral, neither positive nor negative. These mentions fail to get much notice. So think what that means about the remaining 24% of mentions. They’re standing out, because a verdict, about you, is being rendered in them, usually with emotion. Suddenly, where the R of CRM has been lip service and somewhat expendable in the past, “relationship” takes on new meaning, seriousness, and urgency.

Remarkably, legions of brands still approach CRM as if it were 1982. Today, brands must provide customer experiences the customer actually likes (how dare they expect such things). They must intimately know not only their customers, but each customer, because technology now makes personalized experiences possible.

That’s why the Oracle Social Cloud has been so mission-oriented about seamlessly integrating social with sales, marketing and customer service interactions so the enterprise can have an actionable 360-degree view of the customer. It’s the key to that customer-centricity we hear so much about these days.

If you’re attending CRM Evolution, Chris Moody, Director of Product Marketing for the Oracle Marketing Cloud, will show you how unified customer experiences and enhanced customer centricity will help you attract and keep ideal customers and brand advocates (“The Pursuit of Customer-Centricity” Aug 19 at 2:45p ET)

And Meg Bear, Group Vice President for the Oracle Social Cloud, will sit on a panel talking about “terms of engagement” and the ways tech can now enhance your interactions with customers (Aug 20 at 10a ET).

If you can’t be there, we’ll be doing our live-tweeting thing from the @oraclesocial handle, so make sure you’re a faithful follower. You’ll notice NOBODY is writing about the wisdom of “company-centricity.” Now is the time to bring your customer relationship management into the socially connected age.

Photo: Sue Pizarro,

Friday Jul 25, 2014

Customers Don’t Care Who’s In Charge, Just That Somebody Is

You have to wonder sometimes if the average consumer is aware of how much marketers and technology people are talking about customer experience and customer-centricity. Do they think most brands care about their experience? Do they feel like their happiness lies at the very center of everything corporations do?

Probably not.

“Every contact we have with a customer influences whether or not they’ll come back. We have to be great every time or we’ll lose them.” -Kevin Stirtz

But we as businesses are at least increasingly aware of the power, voice, and choice the social revolution has given the customer. And because of that, thoughts are turning to how to use the same technology that’s empowering the public to serve them and meet their needs.

Of course, major corporate organizations don’t naturally drift toward this collective realization and total commitment to putting the customer at the heart of every development and decision. That’s just not the nature of the beast. A customer champion is needed on the inside to alter not just the way things are done, but also the culture in which they’re done.

The more you engage with customers the clearer things become and the easier it is to determine what you should be doing. -John Russell

Who is this champion? They come bearing many titles; Chief Customer Officer, Chief Experience Officer, Chief Client Officer, CMO With a Renewed Commitment to Customer Experiences, CEO Who Has Seen the Light and Wants to Be Known as the Customer’s Friend, etc. (Okay, I made a couple of those up). What they’re called is less important than their passionate belief that utterly delighted customers positively affect the bottom line.

Then, that passion has to be combined with the leadership skills to affect change in environments often deeply resistant to change. Here’s the baseline, Forrester says over 6% of S&P 500 companies have a CCO, but it’s a position that’s so new, many look on it as an experiment. Tricky turf, and probably not for the weak-willed.

There is only one boss. The customer. And he can fire everybody in the company from the chairman down, simply by spending his money somewhere else – Sam Walton

Jeanne Bliss, author of "The Chief Customer Officer," points out 80% of buying decisions come from 3 customer perceptions: experience, reliability and "how did you feel" afterward. We hope you'll take the time to listen to a recent Oracle Social webcast featuring Gannett Chief Digital Officer David Payne, Oracle Chief Customer Officer Jeb Dasteel, and Oracle Social VP Erika Brookes, who tackle this question of who owns the customer. Who is best suited to drive these positive customer perceptions? How can they make the entire org, across department walls, put the customer first? What happens to areas of the business that don’t buy in to customer centricity?

We are always eager to help those brands that are indeed committing to the idea of “happy customer as good business” and that are seeking their own customer champion.

@mikestiles @oraclesocial

Friday Jul 04, 2014

The Buyer Revolution: Let Freedom Ring

Social media truly did amount to a consumer revolution. And if you don’t believe that, simply think back to what life was like before the revolution.

The mantra was “buyer beware.” It was a battle cry that meant brands were largely out to trick you, sell you garbage. If you fell for it, it was your fault for not being smart enough to see through the charade. But even more importantly, “buyer beware” was a pre-emptive warning to remind you that you, as the customer, had little to no recourse if you mistakenly believed in the brand. Gotcha.

Your choices in a particular type of product were slim. And your sources of information that might lead to you discovering competitors and options were limited. In nearly every category, you were aware of two or three of the “big guys.” And, of course, the big guys were barely distinguishable from each other. Why would they need to be?

And not only did brands only care what customers thought to the extent they could be manipulated, they built brick walls, barriers and hurdles between themselves and the customer that were so well-crafted and impenetrable, they remain obstacles to change inside enterprises to this very day.

Fast forward to July 4, 2014. A single consumer voice is connected to other single voices such that it can amount to millions. A circle of influence of about 8 people is now one of tens of thousands, or more. The consumer who formerly could only see what was nearby or marketed to them can now proactively seek out everything that’s available on the planet…with a click.

The revolution has been won for the consumer…but ALSO for the brands.

Brands will now live and die by the way they treat customers. They will rise and fall based on their reputations and the extent to which existing customers are willing to proudly recommend them. They will be forced to get better and be better. The luxury of putting out a poor product is fading away. The maker will be exposed.

But most of all, brands can now pursue the benefits of truly knowing their customers, sincerely caring what they want & need, actually wanting to be in communication with them. Today’s mobile, multi-device, always on, socially connected customers are accustomed to not being ignored, put off, given the runaround, or abused. They are free.

The buyer revolution switched the game from transaction to experience. The experience IS the product. Brands no longer don’t reply. Brands no longer blindly send automated messages. Brands no longer make the customer wait weeks for a resolution. If something is wrong, brands are quick to make it right for the customer. Brands are keenly aware of every previous encounter that customer has had with them for context.

Of course none of that is true. Whether it’s from lack of leadership or lack of the proper tech tools, plenty of brands are still fumbling around, mired in how things used to be before the social media revolution. The customers, however, are not stuck. Their freedom is ringing loud and clear.

@mikestiles @oraclesocial

Tuesday Jun 24, 2014

Wait, What? Social Customer Service Has to Work?

There goes Oracle again, trying to make life easier for brands that are trying to make customers’ lives easier.  This time it’s about customer service, and from everything we’ve learned about social customer service, it’s one of the prime reasons people connect to brands on social at all.

Oracle has an agreement to acquire LiveLOOK. Already an integrated part of the Oracle Service Cloud, over 100 Oracle customers are using it for real-time visual collaboration, co-browsing, and screen sharing. You can see how that plays into customer service.

Let’s say I’ve got a problem. (Don’t get smart with me, this is just an example). I can try to describe what I’m experiencing to a customer service agent who may or may not get what I’m saying, then try to figure out what they’re telling me despite what I see on my screen. OR…we can connect and show each other on-screen what we’re talking about. Easier. Faster. More efficient. Less frustrating. More productive.

Because the Oracle Service Cloud is part of the Oracle Customer Experience Cloud, which includes Commerce, Sales, Service, Social and Marketing clouds, we’re talking about an opportunity for competitor-crushing customer experiences from the first to the last touch-point. Of course, brands have to seize that opportunity, especially in social customer service.

And so far…eh.

Interest in social selling is high. Interest in social serving, not so much, although it’s better than it was. Brands have learned they must be where customers are, and customers are on social. They know a non-form letter response is expected, and sooner than what’s considered “normal” in corporate-land.

But look, if customer service is tough to do really well with call centers, responding on social to customers’ needs en masse, but personally, and in as close to real-time as possible, is a tall order. Some argue brands shouldn’t even try it, that people on social with problems should get routed elsewhere. And a NICE Systems study found phone is preferred for customer service by 88%, with Millennials the least interested in using social for it.

Hm. Is that because that’s how people want to get customer service, or because their experiences with social customer service to date have been so poor it’s regarded as an undesirable channel for it?

However, you won’t want to be too quick to forfeit the positives of social customer service. A BI Intelligence report says social customer management doubles the percentage of sales leads that result in actual sales, relative to traditional CRM approaches. McKinsey says 71% of consumers who got good social service are likely to recommend the brand to others. In other words, do it right, and there are payoffs.

Doing it right means:

  • Satisfying the customer’s hunger for a true advocate inside the brand.
  • Having expertise from all lines of business represented on the social care team.
  • Customer-centricity or bust. How would you handle the interaction if it were your mother?
  • Using the right tools. Without a hot social management and listening platform, you don’t have a chance.
  • Customers being able to count on you for an eventual answer. People have HUGE abandonment issues.
  • Being clear (and public) about what you did for them.
  • Making it happen on mobile as cleanly as on laptop or desktop.

We look forward to our expanded integration of LiveLOOK’s technology and know that it will lead to even more winning customer service experiences for Oracle customers.

@mikestiles @oraclesocial

Friday Jun 06, 2014

6 Ways to Modernize Your Customer Experience

If customers have changed, if the way they research and shop have changed, if their expectations have changed, if their ability to act on dissatisfaction has changed, but your customer experience has NOT changed, what was once “good enough” may now be crippling.

Well, the customer has changed, and why wouldn’t they? You’ve probably changed too in your role as consumer. There’s more info available, it’s easier to get, there’s more choice, you’re more mobile, you’re more connected, it’s easier to buy, and yes, it’s easier to switch brands if experiences don’t meet your now higher expectations.

Thanks to technological advances, we as marketers can increasingly work borderline miracles. But if we’re still not adamantly adopting customer centricity, and if we aren’t making the customer experience paramount amongst business goals, the tech is wasted. A far more modern customer experience is called for. Here are 6 ways to get there:

1. Modern Marketing:

Marketing data is aggregated and targeted to the right customers, who are getting personal, relevant communications. In return, you’re getting insight that finally properly attributes revenue to your marketing efforts.

2. Modern Selling:

Demand is being driven across all channels with modern selling tools. Productivity is up thanks to coordinated communication and selling, and performance is ever optimized using powerful analytics.

3. Modern CPQ:

You’re cross-selling and upselling more effectively since reps and channel partners have been empowered with the ability to quickly, automatically generate 100% accurate, customer-friendly quotes complete with price controls and automated approvals.

4. Modern Commerce:

You’re leveraging data and delivering personalized, targeted digital experiences to everyone. You’re attracting more visitors, and you’re able to scale and keep up with the market and control the experience.

5. Modern Service:

You’re better serving your customers by making it easier for them to engage with your brand, plus you’re lowering your costs by increasing agent and tech support efficiencies.

6. Modern Social:

You’re getting faster, deeper, more accurate insights from social and turning content around faster, which then goes out to the right people at the right time in the right place. You’ve also gotten proactive in your service, and customers love that.

For far too many brands, the buying journey of Need, Research, Select, Buy, Use, Recommend across the multiple connect points of Social, Mobile, Store, Call Center, Site, Ecommerce is a disconnected mess. Oracle’s approach to CX is to connect every interaction your customer has with your brand, avoiding the revenue losses lousy customer experiences bring.

How important is the experience to customers? 94% are willing to pay more of their hard-earned money to have better ones, while a meager 1% say they get the good, consistent experiences they expect.

Brands, your words aren’t as loud anymore, so your actions as they relate to customer experience are going to have to do the talking.

@mikestiles @oraclesocial
Photo: Julien Tromeur,

Friday Jan 03, 2014

Is Brand Affinity Completely Worthless?

Social media is largely thought of as a brand affinity play, and far too few brand leaders know why that’s valuable.

empty pocketBe honest. Does it bother you when someone doesn’t like you? Even if you have plenty of other friends, when you encounter someone that openly doesn’t want to be around you, do you find yourself frequently wondering why not?

That’s how it often works in real life. But as brands, we not only are stunningly uncurious as to why people don’t like us or use us, we don’t even care how much our existing customers like us. It’s an unnatural way to behave, and at a time when we’re tasked with connecting naturally with consumers.

There seems to be doubt around the value of building those relationships. Either that, or because the fruits of those relationships won’t show up on the ledger this quarter, building them is deprioritized. And because social is the stage on which relationship building is performed, it too isn’t given the resourcing and executive support to max out the winning of hearts and minds.

Like the buying journey itself, brand affinity is the result of variable multiple brand encounters that combine toward a result unique to each customer. No magic ROI equation. But if there can be agreement that repeat customers, existing customers increasing their spending with the brand, loyal customers who look at our brand first or only, and customers who market for us for free, all have a positive effect on revenue…then we’re getting somewhere.

Seriously? You’re telling me you see no dollar value in your customers being as cult-like about your brand as Apple’s? Others sell similar products, but Apple markets a brand experience customers are emotionally invested in. It’s part of their customers’ very identity. So yes, they’ll buy every new product sight unseen and passionately praise and defend the brand. Apple doesn’t need gimmicks…they need crowd control.

Why aren’t we all Apples? Because we haven’t been investing in the combo of product, service and culture that generates the kind of core customers that drive 80% of profits. Fame is a group activity, but you’ve got to assemble the group. Perhaps brands that see no or only passing value in brand affinity have no sales or marketing system in place to even capitalize on being loved.

You view your product as the bee’s knees (you don’t literally sell bee knees do you?), but many brands have no significant value prop differences vs. competitors. Given that, the ability to bond the public to you is make or break. So how do you do it?

The USC Marshall School of Business determined brand affinity is achieved by enticing, enabling and enriching; meaning what you offer must be appealing, it must help the customer, and it must make the customer feel empowered and “better.” With tech listening tools, the public will show you how to do those three things for them.

Will that produce returns? A survey sought to learn which airline people thought was best. Alaska Airlines won. However…a very high percentage of respondents who voted for it had NEVER flown Alaska Airlines. They thought it was best just because enthused customers said it was.

Brand affinity is among the highest-return marketing you can do.

Photo: David Playford, stock.xchng

Friday Dec 13, 2013

Stop It: Things That Annoy Customers on Social Media

stop annoying social mediaYou can’t please everybody.  But that’s no reason to throw hands in the air and adopt a “they’ll take what we give them” approach to content and social strategy.

As customer centricity grows as a guiding mantra, brands should internalize that social followers are not obligated to us in any way. They do us a favor just connecting. So if your strategy is “let’s see how much neglect and inconsideration they’ll take before they leave us,” you’ll find the answer is…not much. Some things we’re doing to chase them away:

Making Them Jump Through Hoops

I recently tried to join a forum for a Wordpress template. It was a 9-step process involving forms, questions, captchas, email verification, and authentication codes. By step 3, I already knew I wasn’t joining and would delete the whole template forever. I only got to step 9 because I was curious, and laughing.

Oops Pages

Sometimes it’s the network’s fault, sometimes the brand’s fault. Users have come to fully expect sites to work. When there’s a glitch, they’re genuinely surprised. That causes them to start thinking about things like security, privacy, and whether the page deserves their trust and participation at all.

No Mobile Optimization

It’s not like it hasn’t been reported. The shift to social usage on mobile is pronounced and growing. No one should ever experience any page on mobile that doesn’t adapt and adjust to the mobile environment. It screams dinosaur.


You think spelling and grammar don’t matter, especially with young people. But in a Disruptive Communications survey, it was the top item most likely to damage users’ opinion of a brand at 42.5%. For 18-29 year-olds, it came in 2nd at 20.9%. Mistakes happen. But consistent disregard is insulting to readers and cripples the message.


No user should have to ask, “Why am I getting this?” If your posts have nothing to do with why someone followed your social channel, you’re shouting, “I don’t know who you are and I don’t care” from the rooftops.

No Incentive

Special, inside info & deals are among the top reasons people connect with brands on social at 58%. Consider what you’re up against. Forrester Research shows only 6% of 12-17-year-olds want to follow brands on Facebook. Almost half say they don’t want brands there at all. Only 12% of 18-24-year-olds want to connect with brands. And TNS Digital Life tells us 57% of consumers don’t want to engage with brands on social. If they connect with you, it’s a big deal. Honor that and offer things of true value in return.

Ignoring Them

IF customers befriend you on social, another key reason they did so was to reach you with questions or problems. 28% of young consumers expect you to get back to them. Insight Strategy Group shows 55% think social’s the best way to give feedback and get service. Don’t answer and customers will know your social is all for you, not them. The tech is there to listen, integrate with CRM systems, and respond.

Going “Used Car Salesman” On Them

Posting things that are too “salesy” is the overall 2nd most cited practice damaging brands on social. Unfortunately, doing so is deep in brands’ DNA. The growing call for social to generate sales risks pushing brands into dangerous territory where fans can develop a counter-productive negative impression. Seriously, if you want to advertise instead of do social, do it.

Making Things Hard to Find

This just in: You aren’t the only one posting on social. Users are flying through News Feeds at top speed and value their time highly. If you’re lucky enough to get a click, that click had better get them right to the promised info (see hoops above). 54% think social is a useful place to get details on products. Make sure that info is easy, short and clear.

Not Serving the Right Kind of Porridge

Users leave because they get too many posts from a brand. Some users leave because they don’t get any content from a brand. Our task is to find the posting frequency that’s most acceptable to most of our audience. Just as Golidlocks was finicky about her porridge temperature, users are touchy about how often they see you. Just remember, posts are normally welcomed if they’re good.

Being Patronizing

We’re going to try to go viral! We’re going to try to be funny! We’re going to try to be cutting edge! If you’re using the word “try,” that’s a great big warning flag. Young users can especially sniff out “trying” to appeal to them a mile away, and it’s a turn-off. Don’t embarrass yourself. Determine your brand voice & personality, then be that…as naturally and as genuinely as you can.

I’m sure you see plenty of other misguided brand practices on social out there. Would love to hear some that especially get under your skin.

Photo: stock.xchng


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