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Anthony Lye, Oracle: The customer experience challenge is beyond CRM

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29th Jun 2012
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The SVP of Oracle CRM believes CRM will be "consumed" by CEM - and dismisses SAP, IBM and SF.com CX portfolios.

The challenge of managing the modern cross-channel customer experience is now well beyond the means of traditional CRM systems – and CRM will ultimately be “consumed” by the growing demand to address experience.
That’s the message coming out of Oracle this week, and one that is being championed by its own senior CRM staff. Anthony Lye, senior vice president of Oracle CRM, spoke with MyCustomer.com following the unveiling of Oracle Customer Experience, the company’s customer experience strategy. And Lye made no bones about the fact that its CRM portfolio of Siebel and Fusion still represented a key offering, CRM should now be viewed as a subset of Customer Experience.
Outlining the reasons for this shift, he explained: “Customer experience is a C-level problem because the experience that people have with companies is really the only sustainable differentiator left to them. There is not much differentiation around products, their traditional marketing efforts are largely ineffective, customers aren’t communicating with them on traditional channels as freely as they’d like and there is more competition.”
Compounding these challenges, Lye continued, is the “explosion” of channels, and while organisations have enabled call centres, direct sales and the web, they also have to enable new channels like social, mobile and kiosks.
The customer experience cannot be a siloed, one single channel, he said, before drawing an important distinction between company’s multichannel strategies and the need for cross-channel approaches.
“Multichannel strategies start and finish on one channel, but customers start on one channel and often end on another,” he explained. “With today’s legacy instrumenting each channel independently, the customer has to repeat himself on each channel. So this idea of cross-channel customer experience is an obvious challenge.”
Other problems that have come to the fore according to Lye include the difficulty that brands have in knowing who their customer is, particularly if they transact with cash which can make them “anonymous”.
Beyond CRM
Unfortunately, existing CRM systems are simply not up to the task of addressing these issues: “The challenges of customer experience are beyond CRM.”
He elaborated: “We always wanted CRM to manage the relationship with the customer. And it has been successful at automating the organisations that touch the customer: marketing processes and people, sales processes and people, service processes and support people. But it doesn’t really manage or enable the customer relationship. The relationship experience is what is driving businesses today, while the processes that have been defined by CRM are internal.
“For us, CRM is being consumed by this focus on customer experience.”
For this reason, Oracle has been working on “organic development” and acquisitions over the last two years to provide a “unique set of solutions” to enable businesses to tackle the customer experience challenge. The end result is the Oracle CXM Suite.
“We have a strong portfolio of CRM – on-premise with Siebel and Cloud with Fusion,” continued Lye. “Underpinning that we’ve had a strong master data management (MDM) strategy. And in the last 18 months we’ve acquired best-in-class solutions to add experience-based solutions: ATG for selling experiences, FatWire for marketing experiences, Endeca for search experiences, RightNow for service experiences, and Vitrue and Collective Intellect for social experiences.”
He added: “When you combine them, we now have a complete solution suite for our customers to take advantage of this opportunity to deliver experiences.”
And despite the size of the suite, Lye disputed the suggestion that it would be too complex for businesses to implement. “We’ve integrated RightNow with Fusion, and the Oracle Social Network and ATG with InQuira. There is a lot of integration for the customers in a short space of time. You need to have a portfolio because customers want you to plan for the end to end journey, but often they are trying to solve the problem with a point solution. You can’t do everything at once because it’s too much. So for customers you have to have a roadmap that they can move through and achieve success with if they want. But we don’t want to say they have to spend on all of it. They just want to know they have a roadmap for how they integrate it all.”
Where the rubber hits the road
Customer experience management has emerged as one of the hottest topics in the business world over the past 12 months, with the likes of IBM, Salesforce.com and Adobe all building out their own customer experience portfolios to ensure that the CEM arena will be hotly contested. But Lye gave short shrift to the rival ‘suites’ being developed.
“IBM got into customer experience because it didn’t have a CRM platform and was trying to layer it above CRM systems so it had products in the CX layer. But as it doesn’t have products in the CRM layer that is a disadvantage for them,” he suggested. “SAP has something in CRM, though I’m still not seeing it very much, and something in MDM, but nothing in CX or social. Salesforce.com has part of CRM but nothing in MDM or CX.”
But with the soaring interest in customer experience management, Lye believes that it is time to re-assess the ‘customer relationship management’ hierarchy as outlined by the likes of Gartner, which has CEM as a branch of CRM.
“CRM will be consumed by customer experience, because it’s where the rubber hits the road with the customer,” he concluded. “CRM is used today as a tool to automate workflow and the process that companies use to instrument its sales, marketing and service people.
“This is coming down from CMOs and heads of sales. We need a solution to create great experiences for customers and this has to combine the workflows of CRM and go even into the back office, because of the importance of the fulfilment part. We are going to see more and more customer experience layered onto CRM.”

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