Wednesday, December 12, 2018

Oracle CX - act upon a negative customer experience

Customer experience is becoming more and more important both in B2B as well as in B2C. When a customer is having a bad experience with your brand and/or the service you are providing the changes that this customer will purchase something or will be a returning customer in the future is becoming very unlikely. Additionally, if the customer is having a good customer experience however is lacking the emotional binding with your brand or product the changes that he will become a brand advocate is becoming unlikely.

The challenge companies are facing is that it becomes more and more important to ensure the entire customer experience and the customer journey is perfect and at the same time an emotional binding is created. As a large part of the customer journey is being moved to the digital world a good digital customer journey is becoming vital for ensuring success for your brand.

As more and more companies invest heavily in the digital customer journey it is, by far, not enough to ensure you have a good working and attractive looking online shopping experience.  To succeed one will have to go a step further than the competition and ensure that even a negative experience can be turned into a positive experience.

The negative experience
The below diagram from showcases a customer journey which has a negative experience in it. Is shows that the customer wanted to purchase an item and found that the item was not in stock.

This provides two challenges; the first challenge is how to ensure the customer will not purchase the required items somewhere else and the second challenge is how to ensure we turn a negative experience into a positive experience.

Turning things positive
In the example for a number of actions are taken on the item not in stock issue.

  • Company sends offer for their website
  • Company emails when item is in stock
  • Company tweets when item is in stock

This all takes the assumption that we know who the customer is or that we can get the user to reveal who he is. In case we do not know the customer, we can display a message stating that the customer can register for an alert when the items is in stock and as soon as the item is in stock a discount will be given. The promise for a discount on the item in the future also helps to make sure the customer will not purchase somewhere else.

Making a connection
The way you can contact the customer when the item is back in stock depends on the fact if we know who the customer is and which contact details we have from this customer. If we assume that we know who this customer is we can provide a discount specific for this customer only or provide another benefit.

The default way of connecting with a customer in a one on one manner is sending out an email to the mail address we have registered for this customer. A lot of other methods are however available and depending on the geographical location and demographic parameters better options can be selected.

As an example;

  • A teenage girl might be more triggered if we send her a private message via Facebook messenger.
  • A young adult male in Europe might be more triggered if we send a private message via WhatsApp.
  • A young adult female in Asia might be more triggered if we use WeChat
  • A Canadian male might want to receive an email as a trigger to be informed about an item that is back in stock
  • A senior citizen might be more attracted if a phone call is made to inform him that the item is back in stock. 

Only depending on email and a generic tweet on twitter will provide some conversion however much less conversion than might be achieved when taking into account more demographic parameters and multiple channels.

Keep learning
One of the most important parts of a strategy as outlined above is that you ensure your company keeps learning and ensures that every action as well as the resulting reaction are captured. In this case, no reaction is also an action. Combining constant monitoring of every action and reaction and a growing profile of your individual customer as well as the entire customer base provides the dataset upon which you can define the best action to counteract a negative experience as well as ensuring a growing emotional bonding between your customer and your brand.

Integrate everything
When building a strategy like this it needs to be supported by a technology stack. The biggest mistake a company can make is building a solution for this strategy in isolation and have a new data silo. Customers are not interested in which department handles which part of the customer journey, the outside view is that of the company as one entity and not as a collection of departments.

Ensuring that your marketing department, sales department, aftercare department, web-care department and even your logistical department and financial department make use of a single set of data and add new information to this dataset is crucial.

To ensure this the strategy needs to make use of an integrated solution, an example of such an integrated solution is the Oracle Cloud stack where for example the Oracle Customer experience social cloud solution is fully integrated with Oracle marketing, services, sales and commerce.

Even though this might be the ideal situation and provides a very good solution for a greenfield implementation a lot of companies will not start in a greenfield, they will adopt a strategy like this in an already existing ecosystem of different applications and data stores.

This means that breaking down data silos within your existing ecosystem and ensuring that they provide a unified view of your customer and all actions directly and indirectly related to the customer experience is vital.

In conclusion
Creating a good customer experience for your customers and building an emotional relationship between customer and brand is vital. Nurturing this is very much depending on the demographical parameters for each individual customer and a good customer experience as well as building a relationship requires having all data available and capturing every event.

Adopting a winning strategy will involve more than selecting a tool, it will require identifying all available data, all data that can potentially be captured and ensuring it is generally available to select the best possible action.

Implementing a full end to end strategy will be a company wide effort and will involve all business departments as well as the IT department. 

Tuesday, December 11, 2018

Oracle DEV – Automated testing with Selenium

When developing a solution, and more specific a web application in this example, part of your CI/CD process should be automated testing. Ensuring automated testing will save a lot of time and money and will support a fail fast principle where developers are made aware of issues in the application in a very early stage of the development process.

Part of a fail fast strategy is developing in a business driven development or test driven development manner and ensure that developers will develop automated tests to validate every part of the application. The growing set of tests can be executed every time the CI/CD automation triggers the automated testing.

Selenium for testing
One of the test automation tools commonly used is Selenium. Selenium is capable of running a web browser and interact as a user would interact with the system while checking every assertion defined in the test code.

Selenium example with XML output
The below example showcases a very small testcase which will execute two tests and which has been tested using a Oracle Linux instance to run the Selenium code. The difference between a standard selenium test and the below example is that it ensures that the test report is generated as XML and is stored in a default location.

Storing the test reports in XML will enable you to combine and report multiple testcases into a single test report while building individual tests instead of one large testcase. Selenium supports multiple development languages to define your testcases, the below example is a Python based testcase.

import unittest
import xmlrunner
from selenium import webdriver
from selenium.webdriver.common.keys import Keys

# set some generic variables used within the wider test scripting
geckodriver = '/usr/local/lib/selenium/drivers/geckodriver'
options = webdriver.FirefoxOptions()

class PythonOrgSearch(unittest.TestCase):

    def setUp(self):
        self.driver = webdriver.Firefox(executable_path=geckodriver, firefox_options=options)

    def test_search_in_python_org(self):
        driver = self.driver
        self.assertIn("Python", driver.title)
        elem = driver.find_element_by_name("q")
        assert "No results found." in driver.page_source

    def testCaseFindTitle(self):
        driver = self.driver
        self.assertIn("Python", driver.title)
        elem = driver.find_element_by_name("q")
        assert "No results found." not in driver.page_source

    def tearDown(self):

if __name__ == "__main__":
        failfast=False, buffer=False, catchbreak=False)

Executing the test
If you execute the above test you will notice that one case will fail and one will succeed (at this very moment). A standard execution looks like the example below:

[root@testnode12]# python 

Running tests...
ERROR [15.376s]: test_search_in_python_org (__main__.PythonOrgSearch)
Traceback (most recent call last):
  File "", line 23, in test_search_in_python_org
    assert "No results found." in driver.page_source

Ran 2 tests in 27.462s

FAILED (errors=1)

Generating XML reports...

As an addition you will find the XML report in the ./test-reports directory for future references and to enable you to parse the individual XML reports into a single report. 

Oracle Cloud – add new nodes to your loadbalancer automatically

Services that requiring you to balance requests over multiple backend services are very common. Moving away from monolith based applications and building more smaller components increases the need for good load balancing. Adding to this that within a cloud environment the number of instances can scale up and down whenever required makes it a requirement for a loadbalancer to quickly adopt to the scaling up and scaling down of nodes.

When you design your solution right the configuration of your loadbalancer should automatically adopt changes in your landscape. As an example, if a new instance of a service is created it should automatically result in the fact that this node is added to the loadbalancer configuration. Additionally, when removing an instance this should result in the fact that this instance is removed from the loadbalancer in a graceful manner.

Oracle Cloud Load balancers
As part of the cloud offerings Oracle provides a load balancing service. When deploying your cloud based applications you can leverage the Oracle Cloud load balancing service and ensure that it spans multiple availability domains.

The below diagram showcases a simple deployment with a high available load balancer service available in two availability domains which will balance the load over six machines who are spread over three availability domains

The above diagram showcases a simple implementation of the Oracle load balancer service in the Oracle cloud. You can use this blueprint as a starting point for building your more complex and sophisticated deployments for enterprise deployments in the Oracle cloud. 

Design for automation
The intention of your designs and architecture should be to support full automation of the loadbalancing process. The processes of adding and removing an instance of your backend services should never result in manual actions which need to be performed by a human. 

Taking this into account when you design your solution will give you a good starting point to ensure your solution is elastic and capable of reacting to changes in the landscape without any additional effort. 

When building the logic for your bootstrapping to ensure automated registration and de-registration of your backend nodes you can leverage the APIs from the Oracle Load Balancer. The two main choices you have are using either the REST APIs or the SDK to call out to the loadbalancer from your bootstrap logic. 

The REST APIs provide you an easy way to work with the loadbalancer in a programmatic manner, this will enable you to call the API endpoints with any programming language you like. As an example, you could use bash scripting under Oracle Linux for your bootstrap process and call out to the API endpoints to register and de-register your nodes. More information on the APIs can be found at this page

The SDK(s) for Oracle Cloud infrastructure, including the Oracle Cloud loadbalancer are provided in a number of programming languages such as Java, Go, Python and Ruby. As an example you can read the documentation of the Python SDK used to work with the Oracle Cloud Loadbalancer at this page

Bootstrap your services
A big part of ensuring that your solution is capable of automatically register and de-register instances at the Oracle Cloud Load Balancer is ensuring the bootstrapping of your instance is done right. This is especially of importance when you need to balance load over custom components that run on a virtual environment in the Oracle Compute Cloud. 

The importance in this is to ensure your services, virtual machine images, have a good bootstrapping. The bootstrapping should ensure both the registration and de-registration of an instance with the loadbalancer. 

The importance in registration and de-registration is that you take the service into account and not the running operating system. This means that part of your bootstrap will require checking if the service itself is up and running, only after the service is available you can register the service at the loadbalancer. Having the operating system up and running and not the service will result in requests being routed to the new node while it is not able to serve requests yet.

Design concept positioning
The concept of adding and removing instances automatically to your load balancer can be named as “Automatic load balancing registration” and could form a part of your enterprise architecture blueprint library. Including the concept in your enterprise architecture library and ensuring all your deployments are done in this manner will ensure a mature and unified way of working across all your solutions.