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Oracle Q&A on CRM Trends

December 07, 2009

Oracle is leading supplier of customer relationship management solutions for businesses at all levels with both on-premises and on-demand deployments. Adding heft to Oracle’s (News - Alert) product line is its famed data products for without rich, manageable customer data there can be no CRM. That gives the firm a unique perspective on the CRM marketplace.
TMCnet contacted Anthony Lye, senior vice president of CRM, responsible for Oracle CRM On Premise and Oracle CRM On Demand, to discuss CRM trends and issues. Our exchange follows below.
TMCnet: What are the trends in the demand for CRM solutions for customer retention/service and for sales force automation in view of the challenging economy and the prospects for a slow upturn?
AL: Investing in customer service capabilities resonates with business and IT executives in a down economy. It has a win-win value proposition because it drives significant cost out of the business while at the same time improving the customer experience.
Many of our customers are focusing on extending their channels to interact with the customer. A well-designed self-service portal can provide easy to find solutions, guided resolution flows, community forums and the ability to log and monitor service requests. It also makes it easy for customers to get assistance via chat, co-browsing and call back features.
Organizations are also finding that they can dramatically lower telephony infrastructure costs by moving to an enterprise grade, on demand, contact center platform. The ability to deliver IVR, ACD, voice, e-mail, SMS and chat without having to purchase and maintain hardware saves time, money and labor.
Finally, companies with field service organizations are looking to take advantage of advancements in field scheduling technologies. Features like, GPS integration and street level routing can save thousands of dollars per technician per year while shortening the appointment window that can be offered to the customer.
Demand for enterprise-class integrated loyalty platform is on the rise with organizations focusing on retaining and maximizing the value of their existing customers during the challenging economy.
The demand for a next-gen loyalty platform is growing mainly in the airline, retail and telco industries. In airline, the demand is driven by the need to replace costly, inflexible, legacy point systems that constrain innovation, speed-to-market and competitive advantage. In retail, the demand is driven by the failure of discount based, product-centric reward programs in retaining customers and the need to transition to strategic, cross-channel, customer-centric loyalty programs. Increasing number of telcos are adopting loyalty programs as a part of their broader CRM strategy to build switching costs and control churn in the wake of increasing commoditization of services, number portability and high cost of customer acquisition.
TMCnet: What are the benefits and challenges of CRM software implementation and use in contact centers, and in sales forces in the context of today's business environment? Are the CRM investments being used or they being left to gather virtual dust and why?
AL: Contact centers cannot afford to let assets gather dust. These are mission critical systems that keep the service organization running and must be highly leveraged to ensure costs are kept as low as possible. Contact center applications have the highest adoption and utilization in the enterprise. Customer service organizations are constantly looking for new modules that they can add to their existing platform to increase ROI and business value.
TMCnet: What is your analysis of the impacts from multichannel communications and mobile mode growth on CRM deployments?
AL: Customers increasingly expect CRM information to be extended to the work modes, locations, and tools they already use. Rather than force users to change context by connecting to CRM through a desktop browser, customers expect multiple available channels for their chosen CRM system.
Tight integration with existing productivity suites like Microsoft (News - Alert) Outlook and Lotus Notes is a common request. Oracle allows users to work within the productivity suite while transparently accessing and exchanging data with CRM. Users can easily capture interactions with their customers and share that information with other authorized users through CRM, without ever needing to log in directly to CRM.
Smartphone adoption continues to grow for our customers. As smartphone capabilities have improved, users find less need to open, or sometimes even carry, their laptops. In turn, this move away from the laptop usage mode has increased demand for CRM access from smartphone devices. Oracle delivers several products to enable mobile workers on smartphone-class devices, including native mobile applications and optimized mobile web experiences.
Oracle is focused on providing the right access to information using the right tools at the right times to support end-users throughout their daily work cycle.
TMCnet: What new and in-the-pipeline solutions that Oracle both Siebel and Oracle on Demand, has to meet contact center and sales force automation needs?
AL: Oracle is focused on allowing service organizations to interact with customers on more channels, solve problems faster and intelligently offer new products that their customers would find compelling.
Oracle is ‘verticalizing’ and localizing our electronic bill presentment and payment solutions. Organizations are able to dramatically increase the adoption of self service websites by providing customers with powerful analytics capabilities to understand their usage patterns and cost drivers
Oracle is embedding sophisticated search and natural language processing technology to allow service representatives to quickly find the best answer to a problem or issue. Not only can solutions be suggested to an agent but the system can also automatically respond directly to the customer via email so that they can get answers any time of the day.
Real time analytics put the power of CRM into the customer service representatives’ hands. Leveraging the information about the customer from the CRM application plus the real time interaction at hand, these applications can alert the agent as to the next best action. Should the agent pitch an up sell, make a retention offer or ask for a referral? A personalized approach is the key to optimizing customer satisfaction and share of wallet. 

Brendan B. Read is TMCnet’s Senior Contributing Editor. To read more of Brendan’s articles, please visit his columnist page.

Edited by Amy Tierney

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