How the Holy Grail of the single customer view evolved from chimera to necessity: Oracle’s Chris Bosch

For years it was a chimera, an aspiration at best. In this regard, the single view of the customer is less of a goal and more like a process – something akin to the pursuit of happiness.

But Moore’s Law, innovation and simple customer expectations have compelled providers in the market, and the Grail is now within reach. Contemporary giants like Facebook and Google simply couldn’t operate without it.

That’s why it is at the heart of Oracle’s digital marketing mission. In Part Two of our series on digital marketing technology leaders, Which-50 interviewed Chris Bosch, director, CX applications for Australia at Oracle.

“Many digital marketing initiatives over the last three to five years were very much built around creative and branding, and the online experience,” says Bosch.

The problem however is that they were not really connected into the customer data or to what companies really knew about their customers as individuals.

It’s what Donald Rumsfeld might have called the “known unknown.”

The big trend we are seeing today, ” according to Bosch, “is the convergence between the online channels and the customer information that organisations are holding.”

“Getting this right means they are able to deliver not just a generic branding message to a set of visitors online but now they are actually able to recognize who the customers are, discover what they know about that customer, and determine the best potential offerings they can send to that customer.”

Central to Oracle’s thinking in recent years is a recognition that customer engagement shouldn’t end for a company once the sale is made. Instead, under it’s operating model this merely represents an inflection point in the nature of the relationship as the customer moves from the buy-cycle to the own-cycle.

“We spend a lot of time with our customers trying to understands what their customers’ journeys look like and at which points can they deliver a better customer experience. This is important from the perspectives of acquisition, retention or efficiency outcomes .”

Bosch says the best way to think about the shape of the customer journey is to imagine it as a figure eight. “As a customer you are going through a journey. You have a specific need and you start to do some research. In that process you gather the information until you reach a level of confidence that it’s the right solution for you.”

That needs-and-research cycle from the business perspective is how a marketing department operates, says Bosch

The trick, is to go a step further and think of it from the customer’s perspective. “After you make the purchase you transition to the other side of the figure eight – into the own-cycle.”

Key to Oracle’s platform philosophy is recognising that managing customers through the own-cycle is not just about shrinking to the occasion by driving down costs.

”It is also about providing a better customer experience, ” says Bosch, “And that is important because it provides an opportunity to move the customers back into the buy cycle for an up sell or cross sell.”

Single view

At the heart of Oracle’s approach is the idea of the single view of the customer. That might seem self evident but think about your own experience with the bank. 15 years ago banks struggled with the idea of a single view of their customers when they only had two channels to manage; the branch and the call centre.

Now they have to deal with as many as seven or eight channels, from consumers who’s idea of identity was forged in the era of Login-with-Facebook.

Luckily now, at least the technology is catching up with the promise.

“If you look at where banks and Telco’s are going this is an area that is getting a lot more attention. Once you have that single view then it really is possible to engage with customers through whatever channel that customer wants to engage with you.”

Realistically it is early days for many organisations, he acknowledges. “Those we are talking to are looking at more tightly integrating those capabilities and some have already done that. But the big focus is on making sure that they have an integrated view of the customers.”

Oracle’s digital marketing platform is built upon three layers.

“The first is to be able to understand the customer and this is why the single view is necessary. A key component of our customer experience portfolio is managing customer data completely across the life cycle of the customer, and across the products and services.”

Customer relationship management makes up the next layer, he says. The company’s acquisition of Siebel in 2005 was a big stake in the ground for its enterprise CRM but more recently it has been filling its offering out to enable its clients to either pursue a traditional license based approach to CRM or to deploy to the cloud. Either way, you need to understand what you are offerings and what value you will provide to that customer, says Bosch.

The third leg to the platform is what he describes as the last mile to the customers –basically the customers experience.

“If you look at digital marketing for example this means the ability to engage online with a customer and to provide targeted content through things like web site optimization.”

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