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Finding beauty in the Black Swan: Continuous improvement in an era of uncertainty

Siva Ganeshanandan shares how Oracle leveraged a four-step process of continuous improvement to fuel its digital-only shift to deliver better customer experiences. 

As economies around the world find new ways to overcome challenges brought about by recent events, it is common to see marketers facing budgets cuts, trying to unearth every ounce of value possible with resources available. 

The silver lining to this, however, is that this has also given businesses a respite from the routine: a chance to re-examine and innovate the boundaries of their marketing strategies to forge forward with a newfound resilience.

Oracle, having been in a similar position where the only way forward was an overhaul into the digital era, ironically found that taking risks and transforming during periods of uncertainty is what paves the way.

A shift in digital strategy: From “digital-first” to “digital-only”

To effectively reach the newly empowered, digital-first customers seems like a mammoth task. However, a good first step is breaking the process down and identifying areas where you can affect long-term change. This sets the foundation and opens up a host of new opportunities to capture your customers’ attention and subsequent actions.

In the case of Oracle, we underwent this transformation journey ourselves when we started moving to the cloud. We went from a product-oriented company to a service-oriented one and that meant fundamentally changing the way we operated. We began by streamlining the processes involved in our customer interactions, simplifying our channels and customer touchpoints to accelerate the buying experience.

The approach we use encompasses four main steps with a focus on continuous improvement – streamlining, empowering, delighting, and automating.

Streamlining: This is all about trimming processes to ensure they are being executed in the most time-efficient manner. For instance, this could entail implementing new technology to consolidate multiple tools across departments into a single source of truth, enabling greater inter-departmental collaboration. Alternatively, it could be the process of eliminating duplicated data entry by requesting solution engineering directly in the cloud.

Empowering: This step is about empowering marketers with all the tools they need to perform their roles. This includes having access to all the data they need right at their fingertips to providing real-time visibility into customer signals to deliver truly personalised experiences.

Delighting: This simply means offering solutions that users and customers find a pleasure to use and only comes as a result of a platform that is capable of providing all of the above.

Automating: Taking the tedious or repetitive tasks out of the picture, freeing up more time for creativity and innovation. Marketing automation tools, for instance, can aid in connecting the dots from large customer data sets, giving marketers all they need to launch creative campaigns in a much shorter time period while fine-tuning it with real-time intelligence.

Given this, through the effective use of the cloud as a springboard to implement marketing automation solutions, it changes how our customers interact with us. They are empowered with in-application learning and chat functionality to resolve inquiries immediately and are now able to review and digitally place their orders on the Oracle Store regardless of their location.

With cloud-based, software-as-a-service (SaaS) offerings, it gives a sales force all the necessary tools to complete the quoting and contracting processes without assistance or complex processes. On one hand, this makes it much more virtually seamless for the customer, and on the other, makes for a far more time-efficient process for sales teams to dedicate time and energy onto more intensive work – a win-win situation for all.

Delight and automate: Delivering exceptional experiences and outpacing change

During the transformation journey, businesses should also assess the role that technology plays in connecting them to their customers. Can a solution unify a business’ back and front-end systems to provide seamless interactions? Does a business have the necessary tools to make every touchpoint a memorable one, backed by intelligence that its teams can field in real-time? These are the questions which form the basis of any exceptional experience.

Building on this, businesses should also consider the channels they reach out with. After all, it’s no secret that the amassing of data is of utmost importance in today’s environment. Channels are potential reservoirs of invaluable data, capable of providing feedback on customer sentiment towards their offerings. However, it is being able to interpret them, convert them into actionable insights, and build an end-to-end experience that drives customer acquisition to retention, which makes for consistent, enduring customer relationships.

A great example of this in action is Hermes, a fast-growing package delivery company from Germany. Hermes used Oracle’s Digital Assistant to create a bot they named “Holly”, which has been designed to answer customer service questions, reduce chat volumes and help redefine their human support interactions. This in turn helps provide better customer experience and make them more efficient.

Defining your next chapter

Regardless of industry, the work of marketers today is squarely in the spotlight with heavier accountability in helping create pipelines for sales to happen. Marketers are now at the forefront of helping generate new business opportunities and driving revenue.

The uncertainty presented in the landscape today also means that the rules have been rewritten. With the added challenge of reaching customers en masse, this is a period of experimentation for many marketers, and therefore, a great opportunity for the savvy marketer to redefine their career.

There is no single formula on what it takes to win in this race today. But what is clear is that those who can combine their creativity and the right data-driven intelligence, supported by modern technologies, are those who will far outpace their competitors.

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