Understanding industry nuances will drive the next wave of customer experience apps

Oracle’s Mike Sicilia and Rob Tarkoff on how next-generation customer experiences will spark change across industries, and how Oracle is helping the communications industry through this time.

By Margaret Lindquist | November 2020

Digital Experience for Communications

One of the stories that Rob Tarkoff is most proud of from the past few months involves the state of New York, where in March 2020 public employees suddenly had to work from home at the same time citizens had a flood of questions about how to get public services. In four days, New York was able to launch an Oracle CX-based COVID-19 telephone response system that let employees working from home help people with problems ranging from getting a COVID test to renewing a driver’s license.

Tarkoff, who leads the Oracle Cloud CX team as executive vice president and general manager, knows that it takes a lot more than a cloud-based software app to make something like that happen.

“You have to understand the industry well to be able to make that change,” he says. “If you have only part of the equation, you can’t move countries, move healthcare systems, move cities the way that we’re going to be able to do this.”

To meet these needs, Oracle is now taking the decades of expertise it has working with industries, such as telecommunications, and blending it into its cloud-based applications for delivering great customer experiences.

Paul Greenberg, the founder and managing principal of The 56 Group, recently talked with two people leading that effort—Tarkoff and Oracle’s Mike Sicilia, executive vice president of Oracle’s global business units, which serve the needs of specific industries. They talked about the burning issues facing different industries today, and about a new cloud service, Oracle Digital Experience for Communications, that demonstrates how Oracle is merging deep expertise in industries with its customer experience capabilities. Here are some of the insights that came out of this conversation.


“The more we had these conversations around digital transformation, which were fueled by cloud conversations we were having with customers, the more we understood the totality of what we had to offer and how we could bring it together to make sure that it solves the problem of industries.”

Mike Sicilia, Executive Vice President, Oracle Global Business Units

Greenberg noted that technology providers, such as Oracle, need to fine-tune applications to industry needs. If you don’t understand the context of your customer’s industry, they’re not going to be interested in you at all. We’re talking about highly specific industries that have very different needs.

Mike Sicilia: We spend a lot of time thinking about industries inside of Oracle, and for a certain number of industries we have dedicated business units that cater to the mission-critical applications for industries like communications, retail, utilities, food and beverage, hospitality, financial services, construction, and health sciences. And I think we have a very compelling combination of horizontal IP [intellectual property] and vertical IP, and frankly, people who are experts in both. We’re meeting the needs of our customers in those industries with products that are built from the ground up, not veneers or bolt-ons to another CRM platform.

Hear more about CX transformation across industries.

Tarkoff: When I was heads down just building innovation in CX as fast as I could, I started to learn what we had in our industry portfolio. I was blown away. I knew that Oracle was in the industry sector, but I didn’t fully appreciate how much capability we have, not just operationally running back-end systems like billing and managing things—just all the knowledge that we had, all the IP and our industry-focused people inside of Oracle. So, Mike and his team approached us and said, ‘Hey, we love what you guys are doing for products like CX Unity.’ We took teams from both of our organizations, mashed them together, and gave them a mission to go build something.

Rob, you’ve always had a laser focus on customer experience. You’ve always understood the impact that a good and or bad customer experience could have. So how have you thought about taking CX and bringing it to the industries?

Tarkoff: There are some very unique industry flows that we want to capture—things like, how do you launch a product with a telco or a communication service provider? How do you handle customer care in a world where phone manufacturers and telcos are changing their distribution models and their supply chain models? How do you help people configure and order products? Many of these companies have acquired 10, 15, 20 different competitors or subsidiaries and now have different customer billing systems. We’re helping all these companies with this transformation. So why not build unique customer experience capabilities for that industry?

Digital Experience for Communications

Tarkoff and Sicilia talk industries: “If you don’t understand the context of your customers’ industry, they’re not going to be interested in you.”

So we’re launching Oracle Digital Experience for Communications. It’s really four purpose-built modules: How do you buy products? How do you launch products? And how do you do customer care and sales in an industry that’s undergoing massive disruption?

Sicilia: The more we had these conversations around digital transformation, which were fueled by cloud conversations we were having with customers, the more we understood the totality of what we had to offer and how we could bring it together to make sure that it solves the problem of industries.

Tarkoff: Mike and I said, ‘Let’s pick a really hard problem,’ which is telco. And it is a hard problem because it’s an industry that’s undergoing a lot of flux. And then let’s roll out that same model to industry after industry. We’re right at the beginning of that, so we get to benefit from that and purpose-build a CX experience for that.

We’re in the middle of a pandemic without a clear end in sight, but obviously whatever you build has to be ready to handle what happens afterwards. It can’t be just crisis built; it has to be purpose built.

Sicilia: With food and beverage, you have an industry that went from high touch to no touch overnight. In retail, I can’t remember the last time I went to a store for a sports jacket, but I’ve spent a lot of time shopping online for things I want delivered to my house. This sudden transformation caused by the pandemic impacts our customers and their industries in very different ways. They’re looking for technologies that will help them pivot. So when you think about customer experience, how do you think about loyalty when people aren’t coming to your physical location? I think it’s something we’ll be prepared to tackle.

Tarkoff: One thing I will say is, we’re scratching the surface of what we can accomplish. We’re right at the beginning of it. So that’s what’s going to be great.

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Illustration: Oracle

Margaret Lindquist

Margaret Lindquist

Margaret Lindquist is a senior director and writer at Oracle.