Oracle CX leader: Customer experience is now a key c-level driven strategy

Marketing chief of the vendor's CX business, Des Cahill, shares his views on experience technology adoption, cultural buy-in for CX and B2B versus B2C marketing approaches

Oracle CX’s CMO, Des Cahill, is heartened to see customer experience (CX) becoming a boardroom priority for business differentiation, he told CMO at Oracle’s Modern Cloud event this week.

He also said it’s vitally important to understand the difference between personalisation and personalising, and that the data management platform (DMP) still has a role to play in the face of the increasing use of CDPs.

“We at Oracle CX are seeing a couple general things about customer experience. One is we're seeing it become a much more strategic topic for the organisations we speak to; it is becoming a board level, CEO level strategic imperative to differentiate or transform the business through investment in customer experience,” Cahill told CMO.

“That's a characterisation of today's world where everybody is being empowered by technology. We all have fragmented attention spans, we want what we want, when we want it. The normal cycles of detecting a buying signal over a month long period or taking weeks to respond just doesn't suffice anymore. So number one is customer experience is now strategically important to businesses.”

Cahill said organisations that have invested in customer experience over the last 15 years have typically done so by investing in applications at a departmental level, meaning they are typically separate applications. This means the ability to react and provide contextual experiences to the customer is limited by separated silos.

Moving into the next 10 years, he saw a battle around integrating data and what vendors are best at helping enterprises organise their data.

"The enterprises that organise their data will be able to deliver the best experiences," Cahill said. “The best news is the CMO is taking the leading role in all of this. As a CMO myself, I know I've always struggled with acquiring customers in the most efficient way possible, and then I'm measuring against which leads generate opportunities and which leads generate customers. But I don't know which of those customers then go on to be upsold, which are retained, or which have service incidents that are costly.

"Previously, I could never get that information. But we're on the cusp of solving a lot of those problems and it really is going to be centred on data more than on applications.”

One of the big challenges that still exists is siloed data in organisations which separate teams don’t necessarily want to share.

“The question is now how to build that trust around that data. Most organisations are absolutely struggling with this issue," Cahill commented, suggesting one-third of organisations are at the leading edge of data.

"Best practice around this data silo is to say to sales, for example: ‘I don't need all your data, I just need these five pieces of the data, and I don't even need all of the variables around that data. You can come and sit on a committee with 15 of your peers and control how this data is being used’," Cahill said. "This creates the sense of we're all in a cooperative, and we're all contributing, plus I've got a level of control over how my data is going to be used. In this way, we've created this aggregate and a better understanding of the customer. So it's about building trust.”

And speaking of trust, Cahill said personalisation needs to be achieved in the right context, and not for the sake of it.

“Personalising is you come to a hotel and they’ve got a record that you prefer this kind of tea or you prefer a room facing this way. Or we see the desk clerk is empowered to offer you help if you look tired," he said. "By personalising this way, you create a brand and can charge a premium."

But it's not suitable for everyone to personalise every experience. "When I go to a boutique hotel, I expect them to know I want a hard pill or a soft pillow. But if I'm going on to health care website, I don't want them to say: ‘Hey, how's your embarrassing medical condition?’ That’s too personal," Cahill argued. 

“You have to think about the situation, the industry, and the relationship that you have with the customer. I don't expect the utility company or bank to be my best friend, I just expect them to get me the information that I need for me to do what I need to quickly. I expect a retail site to send me emails about aspirational things, but when I'm dealing with a bank or utility or a hospital or healthcare provider, I just want the information I want - I don't need frills.

"Personalisation is situationally dependent on the industry and the relationship.”

The death of the cookie

With such emphasis on privacy and the death of the cookie, marketers will have to get more creative about their campaigns, Cahill continued. But it’s possible to undertake even better marketing as a result.

“Every day we're being reminded you have to consent or opt in to allow cookies. I know for me, I'm fine with it," he said. "But it's nice to give people the option to opt out. I think there is more awareness in society today that nothing comes for free on the Web, and if you're getting a free service your data is probably being collected and used for some advertising purpose.

“Probably 90 per cent of people either aren’t aware or don't care,then there's 10 per cent of people that are very vocal and very protective of their privacy. The good news is there are tools for those 10 per cent of people. There's been GDPR and we're seeing a lot more legislation in the United States and more to come. But I think it's a good thing to empower customers to make the choice about where their line is for a trade-off.

“There are technologies that can be used to understand customers without relying on cookies. If I do a Google search on skis, I'm clearly identifying myself as someone who has intent around a ski holiday or is buying skis or interested in that community. It's great I get those ads. I think what bothers people is when I’ve bought a car and then I kept really seeing ads for that car for the next three months after I already bought it.

“It's about being contextual and empowering the customer to make their choices of how much they want to have it be personalised. You can still personalise experiences based on the Web page someone's on, there's ways to personalise without tying it to the individual.”

B2B versus B2C

Another area Cahill discussed was the convergence of B2B and B2C marketing.

“There's certainly a convergence in the sense that B2C marketing has typically been historically more elegant due to survival of the fittest, because retailers nowadays operate in crowded spaces with undifferentiated experiences. So you got to make the brand work harder, and you've got to make that digital experience better," he said. 

“But there's only X number of utility companies or health care providers. On the one hand, they've converged because even residential power companies recognise the need to be competitive and are thinking about their customers, because now there are alternatives. I do think B2B companies need to provide good experiences and give choice and think about style and design and all that stuff."

Having said that, Cahill cited a fundamental difference between B2C and B2B in the sense that B2C has much shorter buying cycles, and B2B has much longer buying cycles.

"There's more opportunity to identify the buyer through that longer buying cycle based on the content they download. There's more opportunity to engage with them," he said. "So I think there is this nurturing aspect to B2B that's fundamentally different than B2C. But in terms of a level, the quality of experience, we all leave our homes and go to work and expect this level of experience.”

Centralising CX

Moving forward, Cahill saw organisations centralising responsibility for CX as the ones who will get ahead.

“It's not just having good marketing, having good sales, having good service, and ecommerce; it's about integrating those pieces together," he said.

"Again, often marketing ends up with the responsibility, which makes sense because to me. I love marketing because it's a glue position, because you're at the right hand of the CEO helping with strategy, and then you're sitting your colleagues on sales because you’ve got to make sure that they're achieving their revenue goals. And your other colleague is engineering because you’ve got to make sure they're building the right product or service for the customer to meet a need." 

Next on the priority list is thinking about the fundamental issue of data and bringing data together. Cahill noted the market for customer data platforms (CDPs) has exploded in Europe driven by GDPR making third-party data harder to manage and DMPs harder to use.

In response, Oracle introduced its CX Unity product, a customer intelligence platform designed to enable customers to break down customer data silos. An example of a customer Cahill pointed to is AT&T, which is using the platform to bring together 23 different sources of customer data from across the organisation, and combining it into a single profile.

"The initial goal is to accelerate the time from when they get a buying signal, to when staff are able to get it in the hand of a salesperson and trying to get it down to, you know, from days and weeks, to hours and minutes because their customers," Cahill said. 

“The marketer is also increasingly blurring the lines between adtech and martech and combining a DMP with CX Unity or an enterprise CDP and providing the ability to personalise the journey for an unknown customer. Increasingly, we're seeing people do that integration between the DMP and CDP.

“The DMP is still relevant as it’s around acquisition and holding information about your unknown prospects, whereas a CDP is holding data about your known customers. And that's the united part of it because people go across both states.”

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