Oracle sees sales opportunity in the customer experience market

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Oracle held a ‘Customer Experience’ summit in London last week for 250 attendees. I must admit to being a tad cynical about Oracle talking about customer experience. After all, Oracle has built its business and reputation on its highly efficient and aggressive sales execution. The customer-centric luvvy-dovey approach implied by ‘customer experience management’ doesn’t really seem a good fit.

Oracle’s main message was that you can extract more money (premium prices) out of your customers if you give them a great customer experience. Oracle’s president, Mark Hurd, said that to grow Oracle’s enterprise market share from 6% to 12% there is no chance of Oracle acquiring another 400,000 customers. He wants to increase his share of wallet from the customers he already has. His goal is to sell more standardised (non-customised) products to Oracle customers to gain economies of scale. In summary, he wants to sell you the full Oracle enterprise product stack, which is now being extended through Oracle’s customer experience products.

Over the past 2 years Oracle has acquired 8 customer experience software product companies: ATG for eCommerce, Fatwire for web experience management, Rightnow and InQuira for customer service, Endeca for Search, and Vitrue, Involver and Collective Intellect for social media marketing.

Oracle is fusing these product lines together into a suite. On the upside, there are many excellent products here, many of which could be considered ‘best-of-breed’. On the downside, ‘fusion’, even with 4,500 Oracle developers on the job, seems to take a long time. Fusion apps were first announced in 2005, and finally appeared in the market in late 2011.

However, many of Oracle’s acquired customer experience products are Cloud-based, which should simplify the task. Oracle has a renewed appetite for the Cloud and now has a fast-growing $1Bn SaaS business. Oracle also offers multiple Cloud deployment options – Public, Private, and Hybrid, which is a differentiator from its arch-rival, Also CaaS (Consulting as a Subscription) that enables fixed monthly payments for consulting over a 1, 2, or 3 year SaaS project is a nice idea.

But the Oracle customer experience pitch is very product oriented. Phrases such as ‘change management’, ‘cultural change’, ‘business agility’, ‘learning organisations’, ‘front-line staff empowerment’ and ‘innovation’ were little mentioned by Oracle presenters. However, these are the type of concepts that are burnt into the DNA of organisations like Virgin that truly take customer experience seriously. For those organisations wanting to transform into customer centric organisations, a long and difficult journey lies ahead – Aviva for example has been working at it for over 7 years. ‘Customer experience’ product investments are no quick fix for failing organisations.

Maybe their partners, such as the digital marketing agency LBi and Deloitte Digital, are expected to fill this services void in the Oracle value proposition. Also I am still unsure as to how Oracle Customer Experience “empowers people” and “powers brands” or even “drives business value and advantage” as it says on the tin. If Oracle is going to be successful in the Customer Experience market it needs to behave like a company that truly believes in delivering its own quality customer experiences. Just using its own Customer Experience products internally is not enough.

Oracle has acquired some truly outstanding companies and products to enable it to compete in the customer experience market. Oracle now needs to accelerate its product integration and go-to-market with a more balanced product and services proposition. It’s not a ‘done deal’ that Oracle’s 400,000 customers will invest in Oracle’s customer experience proposition. They need to see that Oracle is truly drinking its own kool-aid first.

Mark Hurd is proud of Oracle having one of the largest sales organizations in the (Tech) industry, but as the LBi speaker Tom Burrell said tellingly in his presentation “customer advocacy is the biggest sales channel”. Some might say Oracle wouldn’t need its large salesforce if it could truly count on customer advocacy. Now that would be a cost saving.