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Exclusive interview: Advice from 2 Oracle executives on getting ahead in the Experience Economy

Exclusive interview: Advice from 2 Oracle executives on getting ahead in the Experience Economy

To celebrate the launch of the SurveyMonkey Technology Ecosystem Program (STEP), we’re highlighting one company that we’ve partnered with—in one way or another—every day in August. Check out all our integrations partners here.

The number of customer experience (CX) executives has grown by an astonishing 1000% in the past 5 years. Yet delivering good experiences should have been a priority for as long as businesses have been around. Why has it gotten so important now? We talked to two leading CX experts to learn more.

We were lucky enough to sit down with Joshua Rossman, vice president of customer experience strategy at Oracle and Stephen Fioretti, vice president of product management for Oracle Cloud CX. Stephen has experience in multichannel service and support, partner relationship management; sales, and marketing. Joshua has worked in CX for “almost 3 decades.”

Companies are putting a huge emphasis on CX, but having dedicated teams is still relatively new. If you’re a professional CX person, you may still be looking for ways to quantifiably define your goals and measure progress. You may also be looking for new metrics so you can prove success and show traction quarter-over-quarter. And who better to provide them some than seasoned customer experience leaders? We decided to ask them about it. Joshua’s reaction was a smile. “The better question is—are metrics really the right thing to focus on?” he said. 

Why looking for fast metrics is the wrong question

What’s wrong with looking for metrics? Neither Joshua nor Stephen is against tying your goals to numbers. After all, Oracle is a data company. Their real issue is with companies that chase metrics blindly and/or hold themselves to an aggressive quarterly cadence, choosing short term benefits over investing long term in the customer experience. 

Stephen and Joshua explained that focusing too heavily on specific numbers every quarter forces companies to be short-sighted, optimizing for temporary fixes instead of long-term solutions. 

“The companies that win in the end are the ones that invest in creating a truly better customer experience—even if they have to sacrifice in the short term so that they can get it right,” says Joshua. “You need to keep measuring feedback and taking the time to understand what it really means. Take a numbers-driven approach, but focus on the things that will make the biggest difference in the long-term.”

Jeff Bezos had a famous quote from 2017, when a journalist asked him about Amazon’s exceptional earnings that quarter. “When somebody congratulates Amazon on a good quarter, I say’ thank you’—but what I’m thinking to myself is: those quarterly results were actually pretty much fully baked about 3 years ago. Today I’m working on a quarter that is going to happen in 2020.” 

That’s the type of thinking that Stephen and Joshua advocate for. When you’re analyzing customer feedback, don’t assume that the loudest voice is the most important issue.Both execs cautioned us that it takes time to understand the full story. For example, let’s say you have a minor annoyance that comes up for quite a few customers, but also another issue that comes up more rarely but is a total deal breaker. A team that’s moving too quickly, or too closely tied to one single metric, might miss the bigger problem (the deal breaker) in the noise caused by the smaller one. 

CX data is a muscle that you have to practice to strengthen—so give yourself time to get it right. At Oracle, they said they took a full year for them to feel like they had their CX program down pat.

Why long-view CX matters (from a business perspective)

Let’s take a step back for a minute. One important thing you need to understand is that Joshua and Stephen are not only saying that you should optimize for long-term customer experience because it’s the “right thing to do.” They’re also saying that it’s better for paying dividends. Customer experience is legitimately more important for business now than it ever was before—which might also explain that increase in demand for customer experience executives.

The reason for that is what Oracle calls “the Experience Economy.” As a consumer, you’re probably already familiar with the experience economy—the expectation that engaging with a company is an ongoing experience, instead of just a transaction. Think about the sleek design, layout, and functionality of an Apple store, the quirky jokes printed on the packaging of your favorite snack, the birthday email you get from your gym or the personalized recommendations that you get from an ecommerce brand. 

One reason that the experience economy is so impactful is the rise of the subscription-based model. According to Forrester, we’re living in the “Age of Subscriptions”—even car subscriptions are becoming common. Big, one-time transactions are becoming a thing of the past, and keeping customers is as—if not more—important than winning new one. Here are some stats that show the extent of the financial impact:

  • A report in the Harvard Business Review found that companies with a large amount of customer loyalty grow revenues roughly 2.5 times as fast as their industry peers.
  • According to Bain, boosting retention rates by 5% could improve bottom line by up to 95%.

How to hold yourself accountable for a better customer experience

We asked Joshua and Stephen how to set goals that reflect success in the Experience Economy. If asking for short-term metrics is the wrong question, what is the right one?

Joshua urged companies to focus on staying connected to customers, saying: “It should be about showing consistent improvement in experience, based on customer feedback.”

It’s important to invest in a feedback program rather than a one-time survey: According to McKinsey, measuring customer sentiment throughout the customer lifecycle is 30% more predictive of clients’ overall satisfaction than evaluating how they feel at a single point in time.

One great way to collect, analyze, and act on this feedback is by using SurveyMonkey + Oracle Eloqua to track customer insights over time, map the customer journey, and understand what really matters to them. After that, it’s time to turn that feedback into tangible change, which is where the solution gets less straightforward. 

Stephen offered this advice: “Something that’s hugely important is building a culture where everyone is empowered to take action on behalf of customer experience. Rather than having it come from the top down, empower every employee to improve CX. One way to do this is by having company values that make the priority clear. Executive support is another big piece of it.”

Expanding on that idea, he shared these principles, which companies should adopt if they want to meaningfully improve their CX:

  • The experience must be seen as just as important, if not more important, that the actual product or service.
  • You must accept that the customer is the driver of innovation, not your company. (SurveyMonkey research backs this up: 91% of people believe that companies should fuel innovation by listening to buyers and customers, compared to only 31% who think they should hire a team of experts.)
  • The customer journey in every domain (sales, service, marketing and commerce) is completely non-linear—meaning interactions shouldn’t be a means to an end. It’s an ongoing relationship.
  • Data, experience and intelligence must be connected across all functions–marketing, sales, service and commerce–in order to succeed.

Focus on creating experiences that are holistic and connected, without leaving customers siloed in one area of the business or another. Joshua and Stephen ended our interview by giving an example of a company that’s done this especially well. 

Chewy is a company that enables pet owners to subscribe for regular shipments of toys, treats, and other necessities. Like many other ecommerce companies, they offer great service and high-quality products. But Chewy also goes above and beyond: when one customer on a service call casually mentioned craving a key lime pie he hadn’t had in 40 years, the representative had one overnighted. Other customers have gotten a touching bereavement gift after a beloved pet passed away, or been compensated and shipped a replacement when they bought the wrong brand of kitty litter. 

Those types of investments might not change any metrics in the short-term, but customers remember that type of care and service. In the Experience Economy, customer loyalty is ultimately your most valuable asset. Joshua and Stephen left us with these final words: “Be like Chewy.”

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