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February 2014

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Eight Predictions for Customer Service in 2014

As Oracle’s Group Vice President of Applications Development, David Vap drives product strategy, development, and management for Oracle’s software-as-a-service (SaaS) customer service offering, Oracle Service Cloud.

In his role, Vap has access to deep knowledge about global customers' real-world business needs spanning multiple industries and segments. The following are excerpts from his eight customer service predictions for key investment trends in 2014.

Customer service becomes a boardroom priority. We are in year three of what has been defined as the age of the customer. By now, the strong correlation between customer service, brand equity, and sales engagement has become conventional wisdom. This year, we expect executives to respond by sponsoring the kind of cross-organizational initiatives that focus on the customer’s journey across all channels and stages of interaction and that are necessary to deliver truly engaging customer experiences.

Your customers don’t want to talk to you. Talking on a phone is considered old school by Gen-Y and Millennials. When they do need to talk to a vendor, they expect a seamless transition and fully connected experience—no repeating information, no writing down a service request number, and no on-hold music. Today, voice is still the most-used service channel, but expect channels that allow customers to self-serve and self-solve to continue accelerated growth.

Mobile, mobile, mobile. Research shows that in 2013 consumers spent more time with online retailers via mobile devices than via personal computers. At the same time, we have seen a proliferating number of operating systems and device formats. Amidst all this complexity, two things are clear: one, providing support in the mobile format for the most common transactions is a must; and two, a smooth transition between mobile and other support channels is becoming a strong competitive differentiator.

Your coffee maker serves itself. Sales of connected devices, from game consoles and TVs to personal fitness devices, are expected to grow to US$25 billion in 2015. This, too, makes the seamless transition between support channels a differentiator. You need to be able to link customers to their device as well as enable your team to access support data for the device. If agents know the status of the device, they can more easily take corrective actions.

Knowledge is everywhere. Customers expect everything to be fast, easy, and accessible. That includes access to wide array of accurate knowledge. Knowledge can’t be a separate destination, living in the support or service portal only, or spread across disparate siloed repositories. Comprehensive, context-aware information needs to be woven into the entire customer lifecycle, at the point of need.

The web comes alive. Customers may be on the web now more than ever, but they still want personalized, humanized interactions like they were used to in the store and on the phone. To meet this new demand, expect companies to deliver more human-like interactions by adopting technologies such as virtual assistants to act as a personal online concierge.

Social gets real. While many companies are pulling back from their failed social initiatives, social behavior itself has matured and become infused into customer expectations. Oracle’s own customer usage data tells us that 30 to 40 percent of self-service interactions are now coming through established peer-to-peer communities. Expect businesses to increasingly adopt a more tightly integrated social platform that can serve the brand and engagement strategies by enhancing existing business processes.

Employee experience takes the limelight. The quality of the customer’s experience can be driven by an organization’s own culture and investments in employee experiences. With this in mind, in 2013 we saw a growing interest in investing more in employee engagement technologies—and we expect that to increase in 2014. This translates into more training, integrated platforms, and better tools that empower employees to have and deliver great customer experiences.

Read more from David Vap and other Oracle customer experience experts. Visit the Oracle Customer Experience Blog and follow the Oracle Customer Experience team on Twitter.

This content is intended to outline our general product direction. It is intended for information purposes only, and may not be incorporated into any contract. It is not a commitment to deliver any material, code, or functionality, and should not be relied upon in making purchasing decisions. The development, release, and timing of any features or functionality described for Oracle’s products remains at the sole discretion of Oracle.

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