Oracle Open World 2014: Focus on Cloud CRM

This is my fifth time attending Oracle OpenWorld in as many years. The show, held on September 28-October 2 in San Francisco, drew a large crowd this year, topping 60,000 attendees from over 145 countries. I spent my time at the CX Central conference-within-a-conference, dedicated to Oracle's Sales, Service and Marketing cloud. I went to high-level vision sessions, road map sessions, and customer testimonials. I also spent a lot of time talking to systems integrators that have recently deployed these solutions. My impressions of this year are mixed. Here is why:

  • Oracle has deeply solidified its customer experience messaging. The vendor explains the importance on being focused on customer experiences that are in-line with customer expectations through the entire customer engagement journey, from researching to buying to using, and how few companies are doing a good job at delivering on expectations — a point that Forrester backs with a tremendous amount of research and data. Each session I attended led with a quick recap on the importance and value of delivering good CX, and this consistency was much appreciated.
  • There was an over-emphasis on technology as opposed to the business value that Oracle’s CRM solutions deliver. The banners and posters were about infrastructure, platform, cloud. Customer case studies were about “30% less customization; “20% greater efficiency; 40% faster.” What I found missing was the business value for the customer, articulated in better experiences that impacted top-line revenue.
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Leverage the Power Of Proactive Chat For Predictive Engagement

Chat as a customer engagement channel is being used more widely today than ever before. All demographics use it widely, even the Older Boomers (ages 57 to 67) and the Golden Generation (ages 68+). Users are satisfied with chat interactions as they can be less painful than a phone call or a self-service session gone awry. Proactive chat  — triggering of chat invitations based on a predefined set of visitor behaviors - is also on the rise, with 44% of  US online consumers saying that they like having a chat invitation appear to help answer questions during an online research or purchase, up from 33% in 2012 and 27% in 2009.

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Realizing The Joint KANA-Verint Value Proposition Is A Work In Progress

KANA Software (a Verint Company) was kind enough to invite me to their user conference on September 19-20. The event was packed with product, strategy, and customer information. A good number of industry- and independent analysts attended, including Forrester's Ian Jacobs. Here are my thoughts:

  • Software categories are ripe for consolidation, and the KANA-Verint combination is well positioned: There are three main technology categories that comprise a contact center: queueing and routing technologies; CRM, or agent desktop technologies and workforce optimization technologies. We have predicted that these technology categories will converge because (1) these are mature markets and vendors will move into adjacent spaces to increase market share and (2) companies are looking to simplify their technology ecosystem in order to improve the quality of service. The user conference did a good job at articulating the value of consolidating these spaces. 
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Lose The RFP Mindset When Selecting A CRM Solution

The traditional RFP-driven vendor selection process is heavyweight and often has undesirable outcomes:

  • The RFP process it time- and resource-consuming. Forrester estimates that CRM vendor selection projects take six to 12 months to complete. The effort involved to compile detailed requirements often produces something resembling a programming specification rather than a concise statement of business process needs.
  • Outcomes are often undesirable. The more onerous the RFP process, the more likely it is that some of the more viable candidate vendors will opt out  after determining sales considerations costs and reading the tea leaves of the competitive situation. When this occurs, mediocre or unqualified vendors may be the only ones left to choose from.
  • Failure to differentiate among mature products or identify innovators. RFPs only include requirements that buyers can envision now and generally look quite similar to capabilities that vendors can deliver in current releases rather than more visionary features that don't exist in many products today.
  • Vendors gain the upper hand. Vendors often have much more experience with RFPs than the buyer. A cagey vendor will look to circumvent the formal process by influencing executive decision-makers informally or disrupting the process if it is not going its way. Slick sales presentations and RFP responses often gloss over product weaknesses.
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Is Your CRM Not Working For You?

I get a lot of inquiries which go something like this: “we implemented a CRM solution from Vendor X, and it doesn’t work. Nobody is using it, and when they are forced to use it, it is slowing them down instead of making their life easier.  Are there solutions from Vendor Y or Z that would do a better job for us?”

My answer goes something like this: "CRM solutions are mature. Most vendor solutions are chock full of features and functions – probably more than you would ever need. Your CRM is not supporting your needs, perhaps, because:

  1. You don't have crisp definitions of your processes, the stages within processes, and the exit criteria to move to the next stage (ex. what are your criteria to promote a lead to an opportunity? Are they the same for all business units?)
  2. You have implemented your CRM without doing any customization or configuration. As a result, your organizational processes are not well supported in your CRM
  3. You have not paid attention to your data quality. Users don't trust the data that they use.
  4. You haven't spent the time to integrate other systems to your CRM, so you cannot empower your customer facing personnel with all the information they need from your CRM. It's not helping them get their job done easier or faster.
  5. You don't have the right reports available to your end users to allow them to measure their performance.
  6. You haven't focused on usability or the user experience. The UI is probably not role based, or tailored to what your users need, and you haven’t thought though the actual data elements that are important to your users at the various stages of your processes.
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The Modern CRM

Its Not Your Mother's CRM Anymore

CRM technologies are over two decades old. Companies first used them to provide “inside-out” efficiencies;operational efficiencies for sales, marketing and customer service organizations when interacting with customers. They aggregated customer data, analyzed that data, and automated workflows to optimize customer engagement processes. Companies could easily argue  business benefits by measuring operational metrics like reducing marketing costs, increasing revenues from sales people, decreasing sale cycle times, better pipeline visibility, decreasing service resolution times and more.     

Because of this quantifiable ROI, CRM became a must-have in large organizations. This strong demand prompted CRM vendors to tackle huge swaths of business problems, and fueled ongoing innovation and consolidation in the marketplace. Today, much of CRM technology is commoditized, and leading vendors offer competitive solutions, choke-full of features and functions, including deeply verticalized solutions.

Being successful at CRM today builds upon yesterday’s internal operational efficiencies and extends the power of these solutions to better support customers through their end-to-end engagement journey to garner their satisfaction and long term loyalty – an “outside-in” perspective. Modern CRM strategies enable good customer experiences. They support customer interactions with one another over a range of social, digital and mobile channels. How? By leveraging the vast amounts of interaction and transaction data to deliver contextual experiences that add value to the customer, and preserve the value of the company brand. 

How do you modernize your CRM?

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Vendors Battle For The Heart Of The Contact Center

Organizations fail to deliver a quality of service that customers expect. Our data shows that 67% of US online consumers say they've had unsatisfactory service interactions in the past 12 months. This parallels recent data from Accenture Global Consumer Pulse Research survey. This is because companies need a variety of queuing and routing, CRM and WFO software to support end-to-end operations  - software procured from a number of different vendors. Today’s set of un-integrated components restricts contact center managers from obtaining a full, multichannel view of customer interactions, makes it difficult to configure more effective rules for contact flow, and ultimately impacts the quality of service delivered.

The last decade has seen continued consolidation and turmoil in each of the three software categories, as vendors have acquired direct competitors to fill in gaps in their offerings. More importantly, vendors have acquired companies in adjacent spaces to broaden their customer engagement management capabilities and offerings. Today, the leading vendors within each respecive category offer robust end-to-end solutions, and you have to dig deep to find feature differentiation between software solutions. This has left vendors focusing on different verticals, geographies and deployment sizes in order to grow their footprint.  In addition, some vendors have made moves into developing capabilities or making acquisitions outside of  their respective categories to increase market share. Many vendors offer a combination of 2 of the three foundational building blocks for the contact center - but no vendor has robust end-to-end offerings across all three categories.

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Surprise! Customer Service Doesn't Need To Be Delightful - Just Effective

Forrester data shows that valuing a customer's time is the most important factor in good customer service. Customers simply want an accurate, relevant, and complete answer to their question upon first contact, so they can get back to what they were doing before the issue arose. Here are the numbers:

  • Consumers have little tolerance for long or difficult service interactions. 55% of US online adults are likely to abandon their online purchase if they can't find a quick answer to their question. In addition, 77% say that valuing their time is the most important thing a company can do to provide them with good online customer service, up 6 points from 2012.
  • Older customers are as intolerant to friction in service interactions as the young.  Impatience is not only a characteristic of the young. Older Boomers are not tolerant to long customer service interactions. Meeting these high expectations for the older generation can pay off. US online seniors may be less likely than their younger counterparts to purchase online, but don't underestimate their online commerce activity: 71% of US online consumers ages 69 and older have made an online retail purchase in the past three months.
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What Is Customer Success Management And Why Is It Important

I attended the Gainsight Pulse conference in San Francisco on May 14 which is a unique event for customer success managers to network, learn best practices, and understand the value of this role. You could feel the energy of the 900+ conference members, fueled by the fantastic 115 speaker roster featuring luminaries like Malcolm Gladwell, venture capital firms like Battery Ventures, Bain Capital Ventures, and Summit Partners, and companies like Salesforce, Marketo, LinkedIn, Zuora, Brainshark, Bazaarvoice, Evernote, Zendesk, Xactly, Box and many, many more. So, the question is what is customer success, why is it important, and why now?

Why now?

The subscription economy - where products are purchased as services - has tipped. This is because monthly operational costs are often easier to rationalize than large capital expenditures. Industry segments like media and entertainment have moved to a subscription model. Other industries like publishing, computer storage are moving in this direction. This move to a subscription based delivery model is evident in B2B software, as highlighted in Liz Herbert’s TechRadar analysis of the SaaS market. Some software categories like SFA, eLearning, human capital management are almost exclusively sold via the SaaS delivery model. Others - like collaboration, customer service software and marketing automation software – are heading that way.

What is customer success management?

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Do you have a large customer service team or a small one? Start here to choose the right vendor solution

How do you start to narrow your choices when you are looking for the right customer service solution for your group. Start by asking whether your team is large or small, and whether your needs are primarily phone based, or whether you support your customers over a variety of voice, digital and social communication channels.

 

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