Customer value is what they spend plus how they influence others, which means breaking down sales channel siloes and exploiting social networking.
Customers now want an increasingly mobile, digital and engaging experience when working with their suppliers – be that as a consumer in a B to C relationship or as part of a B to B relationship between major enterprises. That means, it was made clear at a session on CRM at Oracle’s recent OpenWorld conference in San Francisco, that the traditional supplier-driven model of CRM is no longer applicable.
As there are now so many channels that the customers can opt for in their approach to possible suppliers the latter now have to be able to work within a multichannel strategy. That means being able to switch from one channel to another and keep the integrity of the customer’s data intact. At the simplest level, the fastest way to now put off a customer and turn them away is to demand that they re-enter their personal or company data if they decide to switch channels.
Many companies, the conference was told, may be moving to a partial multichannel strategy but are failing to integrate them into a holistic sales channel. They may offer access via the web, mobile phone, or face-to-face in the store, but each of these customer experiences are operated in siloes, with no connection between them. Removing those siloes now has to be the minimum goal of every business that wants to succeed. All the business processes associated with helping a customer select the products they require and complete the purchase process must now flow across all possible channels without interruption or failure.
This also leads to Oracle offering a new definition of customer value, which used to be simply geared to how much they spend. Now businesses have to add in the customer’s influence on other possible customers through what the might say on social networks or product search sites, and how they behave on them. The supplier no longer 'owns' the customer, the customers – to some extent as a collective as well as individuals - now own and drive the relationship through those social networks through their comments and recommendations (or otherwise).
Filling out the holes
To help make this possible and fill out the holes it had in its customer experience offerings, Oracle has, in recent times, been on something of a buying spree, acquiring companies such as InQuira and RightNow. The objective is to put together customer experience packages for marketing, commerce, sales, and service across the different channels as Cloud-based offerings. The company is also looking to add a Cloud-based ecommerce offering sometime in the first half of next year.
The primary product portfolio for managing Customer Experience (CX) Oracle now offers fall under the Fusion banner in a suite of offering collectively known as CX For Sales. This includes Fusion CRM, which is at the heart of an increasingly horizontal suite of products including social networking, and building on the established lessons learned with earlier acquisitions such as Siebel.
Everything is built on Fusion middleware which acts as the underpinning integration environment. The goal is to create a suite that is much more than just a reporting tool but one that can add revenue to the bottom line of a business. And while acknowledging that it started later than its competitors in the CX market, the company claims this has allowed it to exploit developments in social media and Web 2.0 to engage customers and increase revenue. This includes adding new functionality in sales prediction and planning, with a view to building an engine that pulls all aspects of selling into a single system.
Key goals from the users’ perspective is that the applications should be easy to configure, easy to deploy and, above all, easy to use. One the configuration side, the company has created an Extensibility Framework which allows users to modify the behaviour of the application and personalise it at run time.
The customer experience aspects of B to C operations is, of course, reasonably clear, but in B to B situations, the company now sees this in terms of managing sales planning and sales execution combined with marketing and customer service. In this context the goal is help sales people become as deft as they can be at their job, by giving them the richest set of information possible to help them make the best possible decisions.
One component in easing and expanding the deployment possibilities is the arrival of Fusion TAP, which can deploy the CX tools to the Apple iPad, an increasingly popular client device for sales people out on the road. This a delivery tool for all Fusion applications, which is now core component and direction for the client side of the business.
This is able to automatically configure the user interface on the basis of the user’s job or role within a company. Taking information from the Human Capital Management side of a business it can set up the connections to the other staff the individual works with, reports to, or who repot in to that individual. This is particularly useful for senior managers in sales to see a broad picture of the negotiations and sales phases of any or all sale opportunities, and all staff who are involved – or possibly could be involved – in the process. It can also be used to drill down on sales figures and projections
The company is now adding other products that make the CRM systems easier to use, such as a mobile application for smartphones, desktop integration tools so that sales information can be updated straight out of Microsoft Outlook.