Oracle VP Des Cahill: Get in Tune With Your Customer

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An expert in B2B software and marketing, Cahill has spent most of his career in Silicon Valley, helping companies develop, refine and tell their stories.

In this exclusive interview, CRM Buyer discusses with Cahill the evolution of customer experience management.

CRM Buyer: What are some of the common CRM challenges businesses face today?

Des Cahill: We're in an era of the empowered consumer, and the empowered consumer is a social amplifier. Now, if I have a problem with a business, I can tweet it out, and businesses are having to deal with this empowered consumer.

The second thing that businesses are dealing with is digital disrupters, like Uber and Airbnb. These digital disruptors are not encumbered by existing brands, existing distribution channels or existing investments. That's great for the empowered consumer -- but it's not so good if you're an incumbent.

The third challenge is that we have a hypercompetitive global environment, and we're in a state of sustained, slow economic growth around the globe. In a slow-growing economic environment, companies can only grow by taking share away from competitors.

So, how can you compete when you've got more demanding consumers, you've got these disruptors nipping at your heels, and you've got this hypercompetitive environment? These challenges are what are driving customer experience to be a CEO-level concern.

CRM Buyer: How can businesses best deal with these challenges?

Cahill: We're moving from an era of point solution to suites or platforms. If you're trying to appeal to these empowered consumers and deal with these digital disrupters, you have to provide an omnichannel customer experience.

Suites or platforms for customer experience provide a single source of truth and the ability to share that information around an organization, to help break down silos.

There are two pieces to that. First, they have one view of me and they treat me as one customer. That's the consumer part of it. The flip side is that the company needs to break down its internal barriers -- between sales and service, for instance.

We're seeing a lot of trends around the blending of roles within industries to better accommodate customer experience and to drive better customer loyalty.

CRM Buyer: Why is it important to engage customers across multiple channels?

Cahill: The number of devices has exploded, and our digital fluency has exploded. In the old days, we had to deal with fax and phone and email and Web and social. But now I'm engaging with a company on YouTube, Instagram, Facebook.

There are conversations going on about a company's brand everywhere. There are new social networks popping up all the time. There are more devices and more user-generated content, and buyers are doing much more research today.

If you're in a traditional model and you're not able to deliver a consistent experience across channels, you're falling behind the curve.

CRM Buyer: How can a company discover new capabilities in the CRM software it already owns?

Cahill: The hardest piece is the cultural piece. You can have the best software in the world, but if your company culture isn't oriented to providing a good customer experience, then the software isn't going to work.

Companies need to put in place subjective measuring tools, such as net promoter scores and customer satisfaction surveys.

Companies need to establish the baseline of their key customer satisfaction metrics, and then measure those over time to see if their software and their culture incentives are driving the right business results.

CRM Buyer: How has the cloud changed CRM practices?

Cahill: The good thing about the cloud is that it has empowered a business to make its own decision about the right CRM solution. That's a good thing. It's a bad thing if that is being done without thinking across the silos.

CRM Buyer: How can a company change its culture so there is not as much siloing?

Cahill: The hardest thing to do in a company is to change its culture. Maybe the answer isn't changing the culture, but taking advantage of the culture as you change the incentive structure. Don't try to change the culture; use the culture to develop a good incentive structure.

Everyone always has the best intentions. People want to do their jobs. People want to deliver good customer experience.

CRM Buyer: What's in the future for CRM? How is it evolving and changing?

Cahill: If we break down silos, I have all sorts of information available to me. There's a lot more data that a CMO has access to. Then the question becomes, how do you break down that data? Data analytics is going to play a big piece going forward.

CRM Buyer: How can companies best adapt to the changing CRM world?

Cahill: It always starts with being in tune with your customer, who is your buyer. If you're in tune with your customers and what pressures and issues exist for them, you can anticipate their needs and deliver the right solution.

Freelance writer Vivian Wagner has wide-ranging interests, from technology and business to music and motorcycles. She writes features regularly for ECT News Network, and her work has also appeared in American Profile, Bluegrass Unlimited, and many other publications. For more about her, visit her website. You can also connect with Vivian on Google+.

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