Oracle wants you to listen in on your customers' conversations. This morning it introduced new features to its Service Cloud and Social Cloud and enhanced integration between the two to help companies better listen to customers' conversations in both public and private social media venues. 

The "private" listening is not as creepy as it sounds. The new integration allows Oracle to capture internal customer conversations or comments made in surveys, chat logs, calls and communities, making it possible to analyze and incorporate sentiment gleaned from unstructured data already residing within the organization.

At the same time, Oracle Service Cloud has introduced a new peer-to-peer community offering for companies called Community Self-Service. Not many companies carve out such a venue for their customers, which is a surprise given that customers will inevitably discuss the product or service somewhere online. Better, Oracle says, for these conversations to happen under the corporate umbrella. 

Why Communities? 

Almost all companies offer customers an online venue to provide service assistance. This assistance can take many forms (e.g., an elaborate help section or FAQs). Sometimes it's more basic — to many customers' ire, as numerous surveys have shown they wish to bypass elaborate contact center phone tress and access help directly online. 

Few companies, however, offer both a robust self-service and community platform on which customers can dish about the product and service, for better or worse. That functionality is what Oracle has included in its Service Cloud.  

"We have combined the web self-service piece, where people usually first go to find company curated knowledge for help, and the community platform, where the P2P knowledge resides," Steve Fioretti, vice president of product management for Oracle Service Cloud told CMSWire.

The integration includes an overlay of analytics and administrative tools. The former allow the company to see which aspect of the combined service offering works the best — are users tapping the P2P comments more, for example, because the company-provided FAQs aren't cutting it? 

The latter allows companies to respond to, perhaps, misinformation being disseminated on the forum or chime in on more complicated issues. 

Granted, the controls also means the company can cut off a conversation it doesn’t like. However, except in the case of comments that are clearly abusive, most companies recognize they would be crazy to do so. 

"People are going to talk about a company whether it is on Twitter or Facebook or some other place," Fioretti said. "Better for it to be on a community platform provided by the company where it can offer its own comments as well without being seen as intrusive." 

"You ignore these online conversations at your peril." 

Gartner research has found that P2P communities drive down service costs (registration required) — an average 20 percent reduction in the creation of support tickets, specifically, after a P2P community is introduced, according to analyst Michael Maoz. 

The Value of Listening 

The introduction of new workflow and automation capabilities between the Social Cloud and Oracle Service Clouds allow businesses to attach contextual attributes and notes generated from posts or incidents identified by the Social Cloud to the Service Cloud. 

The improved connectivity includes extended social listening and analytics that can be applied to private-data sources including (of course) what is said within the new P2P community platform, as well as survey data and chat and call logs with the company. 

The analytics allows the company to analyze this unstructured data for terms, themes, sentiment and customer metrics. Another feature displays the private and public data side by side in the Oracle Social Cloud Relationship Management dashboard.

The aim of these enhancements is to make Oracle users as competitive as possible, Erika Jolly Brookes, vice president of product strategy for Oracle Social told CMSWire. 

"Oracle's perspective is that we are looking at world where companies must compete on customer service," she said. "And for most companies customer centricity is still challenging." 

Creative Commons Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 2.0 Generic License Title image by  Benson Kua