Oracle Cloud adapter for Service Cloud integrations

Oracle has announced recently the Oracle Cloud adapter for Oracle Service Cloud. It is one of the Oracle Integration Adapters in the Oracle SOA Suite 12c, part of Oracle Fusion Middleware platform.

It will allow developers to seamlessly connect Oracle Service Cloud with other applications (on-premise or cloud) using a wizard-based tool that helps to configure the connectivity and build the integration.

The adapter supports integration with Oracle Service Cloud via the “Connect Web Services for SOAP” API, enabling developers to perform the following operations:

  1. CRUD – Create, Read (Get), Update, Delete (destroy)
  2. Query – ROQL
  3. Batch – CRUD/Query Operations

With the Oracle Cloud adapter developers will have the ability to:

a) Browse and select objects and operations.

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b) Model ROQL queries

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c) Create bulk interactions to create contacts, incidents and accounts in a single request

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It is possible to chain CRUD operations to process objects in a single request. e.g. create a new Contact, and a new Incident, associated with that Contact.

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With the Oracle Cloud adapter, integrations between Oracle Service Cloud and other applications (e.g. Oracle e-Business, Oracle Siebel, SAP, Oracle Sales Cloud, SFDC, etc.) can be built easier and will be faster to deploy.

Related documentation: Oracle Fusion Middleware – Oracle Cloud Adapter for Oracle RightNow Cloud Service User’s Guide

November 2014 release is now available

Visitor Browser History

When dealing with an incident coming from the Ask a Question page in the Customer Portal a staff member could see the customer’s browser history. For that he just needed to go to the “Web Visit” tab (part of the standard Incidents workspace), which showed the out-of-the-box report “Incidents Web Visit Tab”. That report showed list of all actions and pages the customer visited before submitting the incident – as well as the customer’s IP address, OS, and browser.

This was something that many companies using Oracle Service Cloud were requesting for chat engagements too. The “Page Peek” functionality was released one year ago, but it was not enough for some. It showed a snapshot of the page the customer was visiting before requesting a chat session, but not the whole journey.

The new “Visitor Browser History” responds to the requests of Oracle Service Cloud users. It enables staff members to view the pages that the customer has visited, when engaging via the chat channel. Similarly to “Page Peek”, the “Visitor Browser History” will work alongside Engagement Engine.

Dock Tools Windows to Status Bar

The Dynamic Agent Desktop is, in my point of view, one of the greatest assets of Oracle Service Cloud. It is fast, efficient and most of all flexible. But some users would sometimes struggle with the lack of space in the console, particularly when working in smaller screens. It seemed that more functionality meant less space.

In the previous release Oracle started to address that. The big chat media bar across the console and below the ribbon was replaced by a small media bar on the top-right corner. Furthermore, the tools windows could now be re-located and collapsed.

With this release, Oracle gives even more flexibility. Staff members can now dock any of the tool windows – Recent Items, Quick Search, and Navigation – to the Status Bar. This means they will have even more space and freedom to re-arrange the UI. (see below the Quick Search bar docked to the status bar).

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Context and Pinned Recent Items

The “Recent Items” section was always useful as it displayed the records and items a staff member was working on recently. But the truth is sometimes the list could get long and sometimes not big enough for the number of records a staff member opened in a short period of time.

The new release of Oracle Service Cloud will allow staff members to select items from the context menu in search fields. An example is: when opening a contact from a contact search field in an incident, the menu will display other recently opened contacts (see screenshot below). Notice that this will only work for incidents, contacts, organisations, tasks, chats, assets, custom objects workspaces.

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On top of that, staff members will also be able to pin recent items. For that they just have to click the pin icon that displays when hovering over a recent item. Those pinned items will be fixed at the top of the “Recent Items” tool window.

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Enhanced Drop-Down Menus

Sometimes a long list of values in a drop-down menu could be a pain for staff members, forcing them to scroll down to find the right value. The new release of Oracle Service Cloud brings an enhanced drop-down menu capability, displaying the last 10 selections at the top of the menu (in a section labelled “Recent”). Furthermore, the list of values will be sorted alphabetically and filtered as the staff member types the letters.

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Sub-Tabs in Message Template Editor

Any experienced admin knows that it was only possible to edit one Message Templates at a time. This is due to the fact that when selecting a Message Template and clicking the “Edit” link, the Message Template editor opens in a new window, and it is not possible to open a second one.

The Nov 2014 release brings a new Message Template editor that uses the sub-tab functionality (introduced in the Aug 2014 release). This means that it is possible for an admin to edit more than one Message Template at the same time.

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Conditional Subject Lines and Content for Message Template

Furthermore, the new release lets admins create conditional subject lines, in order to have different subjects for different types of customers. By using advanced subject editing it is possible, for example, to change the subject line dynamically based on product, category, or any other custom field. Notice that it is possible to add up to 10 conditional subject lines per Message Template.

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And that is not all for Message Templates. It was already possible to include conditional sections in Message Templates using a variety of fields, but now admins can also define the content to show, based on the number of threads included within the sent message, using the Message Thread Count record located in the “Special Fields” folder (see screenshot below).

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Email Response to Single Address

Before, if a customer had more than one email addresses, a response from a staff member was sent (by default) to all those mailboxes.

Now, with the Nov 2014 release, staff members can select a single email address for the response and limit the responses to be sent to a single email address. For that, admins need to enable the OE_SVC_SENDMAIL_SINGLE_ADDRESS configuration setting (that can be found in Common > General > Outgoing Email).

Notice that the default value for the response is the primary email address. However, if an incident is created from the CP, chat session or by the Techmail, the value is set to the email address the request was sent from. That email address will remain for the life of the incident.

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New Merge Fields for Survey Notification Message Template

The Survey Notification message template would allow admins to use merge fields from Account, Contact and Surveys, as well as some special fields.

With the Nov 2014 release, admins can also use merge fields from Chat, Incident, Opportunity and Question Sessions.

Support for IPv6 Values

From the Nov 2014 release, fields and URLs used on the Dynamic Agent Desktop can now support IPv6 values (Note: IPv6 is intended to replace IPv4, which still carries more than 96% of Internet traffic worldwide as of May 2014).

Single Sing-On (SSO) Enhancement

This functionality was introduced a few releases back, but the information describing the service providers a staff member was logged in to using SSO was stored in a cookie located on the user’s machine.

From now on, that information is stored in a table in the database, removing any constraint in relation to the number of service providers a user can be logged in to, as well as enhancing security since the logout process continues regardless of the user’s browser closing before the process completes.

Furthermore, the SSO SAML token can now support multiple sites, meaning that the SSO framework supports the seamless exchange of SAML tokens across different interfaces of a site that are on different domains, preventing users from being asked for login credentials if they log in to one interface and then try to access a service provider that is configured on a different interface located on a different domain.

Invalidate Password

Admins will now see an “Invalidate Password” check box when creating or editing a staff account. This option will let admins invalidate a staff member’s password, disabling at the same time the “Change Password” button.

This functionality brings best practice in terms of security. Before, the admin would send the password via email to the staff member. Whereas with this functionality the staff member is forced to request a password reset using the “Login Help” (on the Login window).

The “Login Help” requires the staff member to have a valid email address, and uses a form post to reset the password. After the staff member resets the password, the check box is automatically cleared.

Skill Requirement Relaxation Timer

Chat Advanced Routing was introduced in the May 2014 release, making it possible to route incoming chats to agents based on their specific language, product skills and workload.

This functionality was now enhanced with the Skill Requirement Relaxation Timer, which improves the assignment of chats to staff members based on their skills while eliminating long wait times for customers to be matched with a staff member with the right skill set.

Enhanced Co-Browse

Co-browse has been part of Oracle Service Cloud for a long time. It is a functionality very much appreciated by companies that use this platform.

The Nov 2014 release brings an updated version of co-browse making it support more browsers, complex browser technology, computer platforms, one-click co-browse launching, and custom security.

The only thing to be aware of is that this newest version of co-browse will only work with the Customer Portal Framework Version 3.2. and there are two new widgets in the CP:

  • chat/ChatCobrowsePremium
  • utils/CobrowsePremium

Search Dialogue Enhancements

Two enhancements have been added to make it easier to use menu fields with a large number
of options when searching reports and dashboards.

  • Search text area: Staff members now have a search text area where they can start typing the value they want to locate. As they type the letters the menu changes to display only the values that match the text that is being typed.
  • Splitter bar: A splitter bar was also added to the menu filter. Clicking the bar expands the list of menu items to display the menu items a staff member has selected. The list of selected items is not displayed by default, but can be expanded and saved as the default layout by report users and when editing reports on the report designer.

Browser UI in the Nov 2014 release

browserui

It’s been a long time since a part of the Oracle ecosystem (customers, partners, employees, advisers) started being vocal about a browser based user interface (UI) for the Oracle Service Cloud Agent Desktop.

There were many reasons for this. Among those were…

  • The Agent Desktop thick client had to be installed in every machine
  • The Agent Desktop was based on Microsoft .NET technology
  • The Agent Desktop look & feel was very similar to Microsoft Outlook
  • The stronger competitors all have browser based user interfaces

In my opinion some are pertinent, others not so much. The click-once deployment makes it easy to install the Agent Desktop. The .NET client is much faster, efficient and flexible than a browser based UI – how do you access Facebook, Gmail or online banking in your smartphone or tablet? via the browser or via an app? App… obviously! Get it?.

Also, what the competition does (even if all of them do) is not necessarily the right or best thing. Did the most successful companies and man follow others or believed in their own idea? And if the technology and framework is good (.NET) why change it? – ok, I accept if the reason is standardisation. On top of that, if the look & feel is familiar, the adoption rate is naturally high.

Anyways, the browser based UI for the Oracle Service Cloud Agent Desktop has been on the roadmap for a while, and it is going to become available in the Nov 2014 release, despite it is on its first steps.

The browser UI will come with some basic but important functionality. This first iteration will bring some Service functionality for Customer Service staff, giving them the ability to view, manage and fill their inbox. Users can work on incidents as well as create, read, update Contacts, etc.

Custom Fields can be displayed in the workspaces but workspace rules or workflows will not be supported for the time being. Add-ins like CTI or Chat media bars, or Sales and Marketing functionality are also not supported, but are obviously on the browser UI roadmap.

The browser UI is not intended to replace the Dynamic Agent Desktop console. At least not for the time being or the coming releases. In my point of view, it will only serve to address those mobility and accessibility challenges for a few customers and customer service staff.

Improving CX… What vs How

The advent of internet, mobile and social media transformed the way we live and interact with our family and friends. And we now expect to use the same means and devices to interact with companies. That changed the world of business.

It is now a hyper-competitive world, where companies are no longer competing within the boundaries of their cities, regions or countries. They now have to go head-to-head with companies from all over the world.

A new breed of customers emerged on the first decade of the 21st century. People that are always connected, better informed, extremely demanding and constantly sharing. From anywhere, at anytime, using any device.

To satisfy this type of customer, companies are looking to improve the Customer Experience (CX) they provide. And for that they are listening to what CX gurus have to say. Amongst many opinions, some are very common:

a) “Be where your customers are” – meaning, you should be on social media. Create a Facebook page and Twitter profile, etc.

b) “Customers prefer text-enabled conversations” – meaning, you should open new channels. Offer Live Chat, SMS, etc.

c) “Be trustworthy and transparent” – meaning, provide a service that makes your customer love and be loyal to you.

This is great piece of advice. It tells companies “What” they should do. But it does not tell them “How” they should do it. So many companies get stuck not knowing how to go about this “improving CX” stuff. Many questions arise…

a) What happens after I go to social media and a crisis comes in my direction? How can I manage or even prevent that?

b) Are the new channels going to overload (even more!) my contact centre? Do I need to hire more agents to deal with chat and SMS?

c) How can I, as a company, build trust? Moreover when conversations are increasingly less face-to-face or voice? I can’t even build a human rapport!

This is where technology can help. But be careful! Without a proper consulting exercise, and a specialist support, companies tend to get it wrong. They usually go and buy new (and cheap) application(s) to cope with the need.

Invariably this leads to failure. It only makes companies increase head count in the contact centre, increase disruption between teams/departments/channels, and consequently deliver a poorer service, ultimately loosing customers’ trust.

Technology is like a nuclear weapon – when in wrong hands… What companies need is to work alongside business solutions specialists that know the various options in the market and how to align the technology with the business. Finally complementing the “What” with the “How”.

A customer-centric/omni-channel strategy and platform needs to be put in place. That platform should be able to receive and manage interactions regardless of the channel, in order to allow agents to work cross-channel.

It should enable proactive, consistent and authentic interactions, that ultimately drive trust. It should allow companies not only to be where their customers are but also to monitor and engage them via their preferred channel.

It should give means to better communicate via these new channels, and collect all data and information necessary for agents to better know who, when and how they are talking to, delivering a truly personalised and convenient service.

Versioning of Answers with VersionCX from Ideqa

Oracle Open World 2014 was very fruitful to me. From an Oracle Service Cloud perspective, it was really great. a) I had the chance to confirm some of the great features and functionalities in the roadmap, and b) I was able to get in touch with people/companies that work everyday to improve the customer and user experience of those who interact with Oracle Service Cloud.

One of those companies is Ideqa. A New Zealand-based company, that focuses on CX and partners with Oracle for the implementation of Oracle Service Cloud. But they were not satisfied with what the product had to offer, and went on to build a very clever functionality: VersionCX, which helps companies manage versioning of Answers in the Knowledge Base.

VersionCX is an add-in for Oracle Service Cloud that allows companies to store historical versions of Answers. This will allow knowledge managers to consult or roll back to prior versions if necessary (for business or even legal reasons). VersionCX also allows the scheduling of Answers.

But the coolest thing about VersionCX is that the new/updated version of the Answer always takes the original ID, which means that a) the Answer retains its score and historical usage, and b) ensure the embedded URLs and Google searches continue to return the correct result.

VersionCX-Image

To know more about VersionCX (prices, packs) visit Ideqa’s website.

Kodak faced 3 challenges and chose Oracle Service Cloud

Kodak is one of the most well know companies in the world, when it comes to imaging solutions. Over the years, Kodak has acquired a number of other companies. This was a big challenges with regards to the way they serviced their customers. Mainly because all these businesses they acquired used different systems and ways of servicing their customers. Kodak needed standardisation and consolidation, alongside capability and scalability.

Challenge #1 – To have a 360-degree view of the customer
Kodak “did not have an enterprise-wide view of its customers“. Kodak needed “to standardize its customer relationship management (CRM) environment across its business-to-business (B2B) operations

Challenge #2 – Consolidate knowledge across the business
Each business that Kodak acquired had “its own service system and knowledge base“. Kodak “wanted to globally consolidate knowledge that resided in more than 40 distinct knowledge bases“.

Challenge #3 – Choose an omni-channel and future proof system
Kodak was looking for a system that would allow the company “to understand how to best serve its customers, manage interactions consistently across all channels, seamlessly transitioning from self service to assisted service when necessary“.

Kodak chose an Oracle solution to address these challenges. Oracle Service Cloud is now the main customer service and customer-facing solution for “Incident Management, Knowledge and Web Deployment“, integrated with the back-office system, SAP, that manages service contracts and entitlements.

See Kodak’s Web Self-Service Portal, deployed by Oracle Service Cloud
See Kodak’s success story on Oracle’s website

The IT System as an scapegoat

Customers with complaints about their gas or electricity service typically have to contact their supplier 6 times before their issue is resolved

A report from the Office of Gas and Electricity Markets (OFGEM), that regulates the electricity and gas markets in Great Britain, says that “57% of customers who had complained were not satisfied with the response“.

OFGEM’s CEO, Dermot Nolan, said that the research findings were “frankly awful” and approached the energy company bosses demanding an audit to their complaint handling processes, and improvements in their Customer Service, by being proactive, better communicate and quicker in response.

Customer satisfaction was particularly low with Npower and Scottish Power, who blamed the installation of a new IT system, saying that the transition had been “challenging” and claimed to have recruited more than 250 extra staff to deal with the problems.

Now this is something interesting: a) The report’s findings are not breaking news. Energy sector companies have been laggards when it comes to Customer Experience, and the results are out there – see image below; b) The excuse used by that Scottish Power is recurrent. Given by internal Managers to the Board, and by the Board to the public.

I truly believe that Scottish Power – as well as all the other companies that try to improve their Customer Experience by the introduction of new technology – face a real challenge. But it’s so easy to blame the “IT System” because it is not a person and cannot defend itself.

As a Consultant, specialised in Customer Management (CRM/CX) solutions and working with companies to implement those, I ask: What about the people that chose and bought the “IT system”? The people who designed and managed its implementation? The people who actually implemented it? The people that planned and managed the change?

“IT System” implementation failures are common. But it’s not the “IT System” fault, is people’s fault! Because people forget to focus on Customer and User Experience. Because people forget to put themselves on the shoes of the customer, and analyse his/her journey, in order to have an outside-in perspective of their internal processes and procedures.

Because people forget that such a project should be owned, led and managed by the business (not by the IT department), and implemented with the business. Because people forget to start by the desired outcomes and get it wrong when it comes to scoping. Because people assume that the project has to be big, long and complex, with a big-bang deployment.

Because people build an “IT System” rather than a “Business Solution”. Because people try to adapt their business to the technology, and not the other way around. Because people try to shove all siloed departments into a monster “IT System”, rather than having a broader and strategic approach, re-designing processes and changing the way they do things.

Technology and IT Systems are the best way to improve Customer Experience. They can enable omni-channel, quick, consistent and proactive communications. They can provide a 360-degree view of the customer. They can offer an end-to-end view of the customer journey. But they need to be handled with care, by people who have the right knowledge, experience, specialism and skills.

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