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CX is critical to customer acquisition and lifetime value: Rob Tarkoff, Executive VP, Oracle

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With customer experience being a key focus for most organizations today, the key challenge for most companies is to provide seamless continuity across the entire ecosystem of different point to point applications, opines Rob Tarkoff, Executive Vice President and General Manager, Oracle, as he elaborates on the key trends in the Martech space and how CX technologies have evolved and transformed to help in delivering the ultimate customer experience

Some edited excerpts:

What are the evolving needs of customers in the digital age that has urged marketers and sellers to push their limits and innovate?

The way customers experience products and services and relate to brands is ever evolving. There are three shifts we see right now:

1. Customers are embracing outcomes over ownership. They want more predictable finances and to spread costs and payments over time rather than pay upfront. The success of the sharing economy and the ‘-as a Service’ of manufactured goods has changed expectations for how customers consume at home and at work: from how customers buy food to how builders pay for the use of heavy machinery like pay-by-the-use construction cranes. This new subscription model changes the relationship from transactional to recurring/subscription-based relationships.
2. Customers today care about how businesses use their data, and we must be very careful about how we think about privacy and permissions in the way we use it to provide better experiences. It must have the proper consent and be secure. The simple tradeoff of data for free content is not good enough anymore – customers want more visibility into how their data is used and how it is kept safe and secure.
3. And because we can harness existing data to improve relationships, customers expect businesses to know them already whether they are interacting over email, in-app, through advertising or customer service – context matters, and businesses have to unify all channels into one first party data intelligence system that can help their customer-facing employees bring the best of the brand to every interaction.

According to you, what are some of the pressing challenges that marketers and sales professionals are struggling with today to meet the demand?

The pull of market forces and customer expectations have exposed how deep and interconnected the roots of CX must be to achieve real business results. Traditional systems have not kept up to help. Most were designed to be systems of record for planning, reporting, or forecasting that lead to low-value, time consuming tasks that distract from building customer relationships and closing deals. Sellers and marketers end up spending countless hours on data entry and administration, stunting productivity. In addition to being unproductive, this creates disconnected workflows and siloed data that prevents sales and marketing teams from working with each other to engage customers and drive revenue.

Please elaborate on the macro trends that are affecting customer spending and how brands with the help of technology and data are evaluating their marketing stacks

10 to 15 years ago, it was about building point applications. Because of this, CX technologies have dematerialized into thousands of single-purpose options – each built to solve micro-problems for single departments – not end-to-end customer or employee experiences across the business. Martech alone has grown from 150 marketing technology companies to now almost 10,000. That means a 65x increase in technology for businesses to choose from, to manage, to integrate and to find skilled team members to operate. Today, it’s about unified systems and the suite. We believe CX is an enterprise-wide strategy powered by end-to-end flows and processes that connect a customer to an entire business – when you unify your applications on a single architecture you can achieve this vision without complexity and overhead.

In addition, customer loyalty and being good at knowing and anticipating what your existing customers want is critical as we head into a constrained economic environment. We partner with our customers every day to ensure they have the right strategies and the right way to leverage intelligence on their own customers and utilize the first-party data needed today.

How are disruptive technologies and data assisting salespersons, particularly in terms of personalization, which is a common customer engagement strategy these days?

Automation is critical today. Machine Learning (ML) and Artificial Intelligence (AI) is built into every one of our products because it really does help people better serve their customers. For example, sellers need recommendations for content and next steps, lead qualification, initial proposal generation, and report writing. For marketers, send-time optimization and subject-line optimization are some forms of automation. In service, ML can predict when a customer might have an outage by monitoring IoT signals. Systems with these capabilities will help people feel that they are working with automation rather than for it.

Which key industries do you think are picking up faster in delivering ultimate customer experience to their customer base by meeting all the consumer preferences?

We talk with a lot of Communications Services Providers and Utilities. They operate in an extremely challenging market as customer expectations demand easy, self-service experiences; but, complex subscription packages, service visits, and billing statements also dictate the need for assisted experiences. Loyalty within the Food Beverage/Hospitality is also major theme.

How is Oracle empowering marketers to deliver exceptional customer experiences and provides a complete view of every customer engagement?

The question is no longer about collecting enough data. Rather it’s about ensuring data is usable and liberated from company siloes to create new streams of value while simultaneously safeguarding that data on behalf of customers. We help our customers continually push to make sure that any business that interacts with them has a contextual understanding that they need to have a consistent experience regardless of channel. To do that, mastering your first-party data is key.

How is cloud assisting markets and sales experts in developing larger-scale business strategies to improve their overall operations?

CX is so critical to customer acquisition and lifetime value. The new challenge is to provide seamless continuity across the entire front-office, which requires an infrastructure based on connected clouds. Successful investments will be characterized by fusing CX systems, operations, and all touchpoints together on a common platform with the back-office and the broader ecosystem. The strategy of this streamlined suite will allow a business to speak with one voice, help it embrace new models, and mitigate the risks of fragmented governance. The only way to connect a customer to the entire business is through an end-to-end flows and processes

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