In a conversation with BW Businessworld, Rob Tarkoff, Executive Vice President- CX and Data Cloud, Oracle Corporation, speaks on the importance of customer experience (CX) against the backdrop of growing fears of recession, importance of AI and more. Read on for the excerpts from the interview.
Rob, you are one of the foremost CX leaders in the world. Could you tell us about the importance of CX in the current context of difficult economic environment?
CX is one of the most important things right now, particularly as we head into a recessionary economic environment, where customer loyalty is going to be more important than ever. We have to work with our clients to make sure that they have the right strategies, technologies and the right way to leverage intelligence on their own customers. So, it’s critical now more than ever because in a constrained economic environment, you have to be much better at knowing and anticipating what your customers want.
Could you help us understand the kind of trends that are prevalent across businesses today with regards to them wanting to understand customers?
There are three major trends that we’re seeing. One is consumer choice. Customers are continually pushing to make sure that any business that interacts with them has a contextual understanding that they need to have a consistent experience, regardless of channel. Whether they are interacting with you over email or in-app, or through advertising, or through service conversational channels, digital channels, they want every company to have contextual awareness of them. In order to do that, you have to really master your first-party data.
The other big change we’re seeing is a change in the way people consume products. Today, there’s a lot of shift happening from transactional models to subscription models. Every business is trying to figure out a way to move from what I will call “individual transactional purchase moments” to an “ongoing recurring revenue relationship” with a customer, where you buy a subscription to access the products.
Finally, more and more customers care about how businesses use their data today. And so, we’re being very careful about how we think about privacy and permissions – in the way we use customer data to provide a better experience, making sure that it’s secure and that we have the appropriate consent. We also ensure that we’re using data in ways that customers agree with.
Given the conversation around artificial intelligence (AI) today, how important is AI for CX?
It is central and critical to every one of our flows. We think about our business not as point products, but as flows between a customer and their consumer, or between our customer and their customer. Machine Learning (ML) and AI is built into every Oracle product. That can be everything from the marketing suite, send-time optimisation or, subject-line optimisation in an email context. In service, ML can be used to predict when a customer might have a problem or an outage by monitoring IoT signals or asset-based service requests and so on.
ChatGPT is a particular implementation of AI. It’s a linguistic model that basically looks at patterns and behavior and learns from that, like all machine learning. And it’s showing the power of ML in terms of auto-generating responses to questions. At Oracle, we have been doing that for a while in service, having digital assistants and bots, that learn and become smarter about how to optimise a service experience and when to escalate to a human agent. So, we think it’s critical and AI can really help you learn more effectively on how to service a customer. We think it’s just the beginning, to be honest.
What are your key takeaways from your latest visit to India? And what is the messaging like and what is your intent when it comes to India?
We have had a lot of success as of late in India in selling to great customers, but also in finding customers who are really going push us on innovation. And I continue to see that we have customers here that are pushing the envelope on what they want to do with our products and we get the benefit of becoming better at what we do for that.
Oracle was early to invest in India as a development centre, as a Centre of Excellence, for not only helping us augment our whole labour force, but really tapping into the best and brightest engineers here to drive innovation. And I continue to see that. We have deeply integrated teams across our India and North American geographies that work together as one. And because of that we think we’re an employer of choice here. We happen to be very invested in India and will remain invested because we’ve built such a corpus of talent here.