From swagger to sweet talk

Last week, as OpenWorld drew to a close, Ron Miller at TechCrunch wrote about how the rise of cloud computing has demanded a “kinder, gentler Oracle.” Miller picked up on a shift in tone among various Oracle execs (with the possible exception of founder Larry Ellison, whose signature move has always been candor, not coddling) in regards to centering the customer, rather than locking them into costly long-term contracts.

As an Oracle employee, I can agree that this is certainly true. Put simply, it would be stupid to not jump on the customer-centricity bandwagon, whether you’re Oracle or any other company selling any other widget or service. Consumers are spoiled for choice, and they have incredibly far-reaching access to research and reviews. When it comes to price, comparison shopping has never been easier; but even being the cheapest isn’t an automatic win these days. Often, it comes down to the holistic customer experience, rather than a single factor like price.

When I book air travel, I usually have a couple of choices in terms of carrier. A lot of factors go into choosing a flight: direct or layover, time of departure, price of course, and that ineffable quality of “experience.” Now, I’m no million-miler; I’m always looking to book an economy seat. But I still find myself choosing experience over price and sometimes experience over convenience. In as much as you can actually “enjoy” a flight in economy, I tend to prefer Delta, for example, over a lower cost carrier like Frontier or Spirit. In fact, I’d go to some lengths to choose Delta, even if the ticket were a bit pricier or the route involved a layover.

For some consumers, price will always be king. And there is almost always going to be a product or service that meets that single requirement. But for other types of customers, the quality of service (both in terms of the value and the…je ne sais quoi, if you will) weighs just as, if not more heavily, than the price tag.

To bring this back to OpenWorld and Oracle’s changing approach, Ron Miller says it “remains to be seen” if the gambit will pay off. But I think it’s less of a gambit than just a somewhat-delayed embrace of the status quo. Customer centricity is the new way forward – ignore it at your peril.