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How a two-time CX award winner takes a look at the customer experience

Marcelo Scalia talks projects, chat bots, the importance of CX and more
Marcelo Scalia (Ekulus)

Marcelo Scalia (Ekulus)

Ekulus Consulting has been doing business with Oracle for over a decade and has climbed the ranks to reach gold partner status.

Fast-forward to December 2019, and consulting director Marcelo Scalia is still managing to keep his company relevant in the customer experience (CX), something he expects to continue into the future.

The consulting firm started out with Siebel CRM, which was acquired by Oracle in 2005, so transitioning to customer experience was natural, according to Scalia.

“Our business is around what we call DXA, digital experience automation, and it's really about modernising CRM [customer relationship management], customer portals, mobile applications and bringing them together through data,” Scalia said.

During those 10 years, Scalia estimates the first half of the decade mostly on-premises with Siebel CRM, while the second half was focused entirely on cloud.

The firm performed its first rollout in late 2013, and since then, Ekulus’ focus has been on transitioning and acting as a leader in the market, Scalia claimed, looking at marketing cloud, sales cloud and service cloud.

In the last few years however, Ekulus’ shift has been towards investing in specifically Platform as-a-Service (PaaS) as Scalia claims “it’s really what helps you to connect that data together”.

Ekulus has been making waves in the customer experience (CX) space, winning awards from Oracle for its CX efforts in 2018 and 2019 across the Australia and New Zealand region. For Scalia, this success stems from responding to the needs of customers.

“It's not an easy thing to do because responding to customer demands is about what demands you respond to and which ones you don't, right? Businesses are different; someone has been able to respond to those demands and whether they make sense to your business or not,” he said.

“To the ones that do, it's about making it easy, seamless and consistent. Every time we're journey mapping, there is four key attributes; we’ll call them CX key attributes: consistency, value, seamless and responsive. It's basically how your customers are measuring you.

“In general, organisations have grown into complex technology landscapes, so seamless is not an easy thing to do because you've got different organisations working in silos," he added. "Putting that together, really bring that data into one place, it gives you seamless and consistency. You can be very responsive but if you don't have the data accessible to respond to that demand, then it slows you down into that experience.”

That focus on PaaS is something that Scalia sees as a way to differentiate his business from others.

“With CX, there are SaaS applications available, so they're meant to be packaged standard solutions that you tailor to a degree," he said. "But you can really create a unique experience with a PaaS because it allows you to really put a vision in place and work without limits,” he said.

“The SaaS world is more around adopting what's already there and living in efficiencies as opposed to reinventing the wheel.

“We certainly see that that's not something we would stop doing in the foreseeable future,” he added.

While Ekulus’ focus on PaaS is Ekulus' predicted future, its present has seen the company chalk up a number of wins over the last 12 months.

One major win for Ekulus was its work with the Australian Finance Group (AFG) to enhance the home loan process for both customers and brokers, leveraging Oracle technology in its solution.

Initial planning began in September 2018 and its resolution wasn’t until June 2019. The first stage of work on a customer portal spanned from July 2019 to December 2019.

“That first phase took us six months, but it did require building a unique portal for them,” Scalia said.

“This was not about picking up a SaaS application and just delivering to your customers, they really wanted to engage with them. So, they actually built a unique experience for their customers and our job was to take that experience and execute it on Oracle cloud.”

That is to say, it wasn’t a seamless experience. Scalia said there were a number of different systems that had to be brought together, which included a marketing platform, an engagement platform and Siebel CRM.

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With a project that spanned months, using technology from Oracle meant Ekulus had to handle multiple quarterly updates, so every quarter resulted in extra work to manage.

On top of this, the consulting firm had to deal with a heavily customised on-premises environment that needed to be completed.

“This is a 24 month project we are in together, and this was just the first phase. So, that hosted on-premises legacy application needs to live there for 24 months until its fully replaced,” Scalia said.

“And when you move it across, you always have other problems you need to deal with and those problems brought surprises to the project, but we resolved them together.

“It was really having that open conversation with Matt [Faries, chief information officer at AFG] and AFG and his team to make sure that whenever those surprises were appeared, we had an agreed plan on how to resolve them.”

Another issue Scalia mentioned was that Oracle’s breadth dealing in the CRM, HR systems, enterprise resource planning software and PaaS spaces has meant that Oracle has been lagging behind their competitors and facing issues when transitioning from on-premises to the cloud.

But over time -- about three years according to Scalia's estimates -- Oracle did make that transition, and staying with the company has been worthwhile in Scalia’s view.

“You truly have now everything on the cloud as opposed to having a very early CRM, but then you need to work out everything else,” he said.

“And also they're 40 years in the industry; so, they’ve transitioned their own legacy applications and migrated their customers to the cloud.

“In that time, they have dealt with complexities that are probably other vendors in the market didn't have to.”

Other wins for Ekulus this year include projects with Kmart, which saw the deployment of an enhanced contact centre for customer service and Kmart Online, and a multi-phase job with Victoria University, impacting on multiple aspects of the university including domestic and international students and research and development

Looking forward to 2020 and beyond however, Scalia has his sights first and foremost on the completion of their project for the AFG.

Past this however is Oracle’s generation two data centre, as Scalia said Ekulus has an operational data centre on the generation two technology, and plans to use it in conjunction with chat bots, or in Oracle’s case, its digital assistant offering.

In regards to the customer experience, Scalia spoke very highly of the digital assistant.

“It's the one product where you can unify every need from your customer and having that unified messaging or conversational interface to capture questions and bring the response back to the customer literally immediately,” he said.

“Chat bots are not just an online chat; it’s really how you respond to customer demands quickly and effectively.

No matter what project Scalia and Ekulus find themselves working on, the solution is something that is “not just technology”, he said.

“When you bring one of these solutions to life, it's not just technology; it's bringing that whole business mindset and changing it in many different ways,” he said.

“We find success when businesses like AFG start with a very clear vision and get everybody on board and committed into that into that change.”

With the company's current project, the AFG looked at multiple vendors and Scalia admits from a technology capability perspective, there’s little that differentiates them from each other.

“Ultimately, they're all copying each other in one way, so, it's really how you approach that technology from within the business, and the customer has a massive role to play in that space as well, he said.

“But when the change comes from within the organisation, it is so much, much more powerful.”

When it comes down to the bottom line, for an Oracle partner, Scalia says that that while there can be there can be HR partners, CX partners, finance partners or PaaS partners, there’s always an experience that needs to be delivered.

“The way we see it is that regardless which area you are in, there's got to be a way you can link what you're doing to delivering customer experience,” he said.

“It doesn't matter which function you do, and you don't need to be a CX partner to link it into experience, but it's how businesses are measuring their results today.”