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 Chuck SchaefferOracle Amasses CX Technology Suite
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Oracle CX Technology Delivers Knowledge & Content at the Customer Interaction

Later tonight Oracle President Mark Hurd will reveal the Oracle vision for Customer Experience at The Experience Revolution in NYC. And while the announcement will likely only last a few minutes, it will demonstrate a new strategic push supported by a portfolio of customer experience products that have been organically developed and systemically acquired over the last few years.

Anthony Lye, Oracle's SVP CRM and contributing business architect to the new CX product portfolio succinctly commented, "We have made a commitment to provide our customers with the most comprehensive cross-stack solutions on the market today, so that our customers can deliver the best possible experiences to theirs." And delivering a consistent service for a satisfied customer experience at every customer touch point is what this is all about.

Where products are easily replicated, new social channels degrade the power of brand recognition, and technology becomes obsolete in shorter cycles, Customer Experience Management is the business response to provide the last sustainable differentiation and competitive advantage, especially in commoditized markets.

Oracle is steering the next evolution of Customer Relationship Management. CRM is a relatively mature business strategy, and as such is seeking new innovation at a category level to deliver incremental value. Customer Experience Management (CXM) is extending CRM for practitioners and CRM software vendors in order to deliver additional value and provide differentiation in a crowded marketplace.

But is CX a Software Product?

Conflicting views on whether CX software solutions even exist, and if so, what they look like, show this is a nascent category. Just a few months ago at the Gartner Customer Summit, the analyst firm indicated there are no "CX software products" but instead dozens of point solutions that contribute to CX objectives.

Forrester uses a different lens and does recognize CXM applications as "a class of software solutions emerging to enable the management and delivery of dynamic, targeted, consistent content, offers, products, and interactions across digitally enabled consumer touch points."

Customer Experience Management as a business strategy is beginning to gel, however, until Oracle's CX announcement no CRM or enterprise software company has amassed the many point solutions necessary to apply software automation in order to facilitate this business strategy in such a deliberate way.

It should be no surprise that any time a business strategy relies on volumes of data, complex business processes, multiple channels of engagement and a plethora of devices, application software will rise to facilitate data management, process automation and business intelligence. With this Oracle announcement, the enterprise software company is clearly offering a new purpose-built application to support CX business strategies.

More specifically, Oracle's CX solution is an application portfolio which uses purpose built tools to harness the data stored in CRM or other enterprise software to deliver content and knowledge at the point of customer interaction—and to consistently deliver customer service that meets or exceeds customer expectations. Make no mistake, this is new thinking and innovation to achieve customer-centric business strategies that have previously evaded CRM in its current form, and now stand to deliver that last mile of the customer journey.

What Makes Oracle CX Different?

While several CRM software vendors are praising the virtues of Customer Experience and by association suggesting that their CRM software products are delivering CX value for their customers, the reality is that most are riding a new wave with an unchanged product. Oracle's play is different. Since January 2011, the company has been developing and acquiring a suite of focused applications that collectively deliver something new to directly impact the customer experience at various touch points.

Consider the origins and results of the newly formed Oracle CX software portfolio:

  • The January 2011 acquisition of ATG now serves as Oracle's e-commerce-selling based experiences, to deliver interaction such as predictive offers.
  • The June 2011 acquisition of Fatwire Software (now WebCenter Sites) compliments e-commerce experiences but more so stands as Oracle's tool for delivering dynamic website content and marketing-based experiences.
  • The December 2011 acquisition of Endeca provides Oracle the other half of its complete commerce solution. And by bundling ATG's product catalog functionality with Endecas search capabilities, merchandisers have more tools to make products more accessible more easily.
  • The July 2011 acquisition of the InQuira contact center and knowledge management solution provides Oracle with a strong knowledge management suite, integrated with natural language processing, self-service support, online customer forums and agent-assisted CRM, to deliver content and knowledge at customer interactions through various channels.
  • The January 2012 acquisition of RightNow Technologies delivers Oracle's service based experiences. The RightNow acquisition was key in acquiring strong functionality to collaborate with customers, with tools such as the Cloud Monitor and online communities (Support Community and Innovation Community). In fact, Rightnow Technologies was the first large CRM software vendor to eschew the virtues of CXM—years before competitors and their acquisition by Oracle.
  • The announcement to acquire Vitrue in May 2012 followed by the announcement to acquire Collective Intellect two weeks later, collectively delivers Oracle's social based experiences.

These best of breed acquisitions, along with organic development to Oracle Siebel CRM, Oracle Fusion CRM, Oracle WebCenter, Oracle Knowledge Management and the Oracle Social Network have resulted in a portfolio that empowers new opportunities and is unmatched in the competitive landscape. This is clearly not a case where oracle is wrapping a new banner on an old or existing solution.

Oracle CRM & CX Product Positioning

In a short discussion I had with Anthony Lye, he advised me that customers were buying apps and putting them between their CRM software and their customer interactions—in effect using these apps to extract and deliver CRM data at the exact time and location where it can be used to influence a customer interaction.

Anthony noted that companies are struggling with making CRM data actionable at the many customer experience touch points and thinking beyond CRM in order to achieve the last mile of customer interaction delivery. And rather than continue to use a collection of 3rd party products and bespoke development, Oracle aims to offer a portfolio of integrated, best of breed solutions to help customers achieve what may be the only sustainable differentiation they have left.

Oracle CX is less about being the successor to CRM and more about addressing a business opportunity using technology that supplements CRM. In fact where CRM ends and CXM starts is that intersection between company and customer—that point of engagement where suppliers actually leverage the data from their CRM system to personalize interactions, reward customers for their loyalty and advocacy, and deliver a customer experience that delights customers.

The CX software tools will compliment and extend existing IT investments (in both Oracle and non-Oracle environments) with best of breed products that provide incremental automation and value. Oracle CX looks to be the banner for a collection of tools that may be acquired individually or in small suites.

Next Steps for Oracle CX

Oracle is leading the market in this category—which I find somewhat unusual as I've often referred to Oracle as more of a fast follower than an innovation leader. While the upside of leading a burgeoning market is obvious, the downside is that many other CRM and enterprise software vendors will clearly harness the CXM spotlight to create self serving CX definitions that align perfectly to their existing CRM software suites.

Competitors who hijack the CX messaging and redefine this customer strategy (that has yet to cross the chasm) along their parochial interests will challenge Oracle and frustrate technology buyers—to the point where it is incumbent upon Oracle to clearly articulate their solution, its alignment with business strategy and its measurable value. Failure to deliver this messaging will further muddy the waters, leave skeptical business leaders on the sidelines and hold back technology buyers who demand clear and measurable benefits from application software before making a purchase commitment.

The transition from parochial interests to new and demonstratable value will take some maturation, and during this phase Oracle must stay in front of the messaging. End

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Oracle's CX solution is an application portfolio which uses purpose built tools to harness the data stored in CRM or other enterprise software to deliver content and knowledge at the point of customer interaction—and to consistently deliver customer service that meets or exceeds customer expectations.

 

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