In this Age of Social, customer service is a form of marketing. To stay up with this trend, Oracle is today announcing enhancements to its Service and Social Clouds.

The largest change is that Web self-service and Web community are now unified as Community Self-Service. This is becoming a standard integration across the industry, especially in light of data like Nielsen’s that reveals over one-third of customers prefer to contact brands through social channels instead of by phone or email.

Similarly, Gartner has reported that peer-to-peer communities can reduce support tickets an average of 20 percent.

Previously, VP for Service Cloud product management Stephen Fioretti told me, a visitor with a question for a site that uses the Clouds would conduct one search in the self-service area for knowledge-based results, and another in the community for related comments. Now, the search engine is unified.

An Oracle mockup screen sbowing both Community and knowledgebase answers.

Above: An Oracle mockup screen sbowing both Community and knowledgebase answers.

This is, he noted, one of the ways in which the Social Cloud is being brought into the Service Cloud. But the Social Cloud is also gaining the ability to listen to and analyze (in real-time) conversations in communities’ posts, chats, and survey data, as well as logs of phone calls into the contact center. In other words, the Social Cloud is listening to private sources in addition to the social networks it monitored previously.

The third update is the ability to add contextual data to the Service Cloud based on posts in the Social Cloud. For instance, a community might have comments and field reports related to a shipping problem that are appended to a particular service ticket. That complaint can then be routed manually or automatically to the right customer service personnel.

The updates, Fioretti said, reflect the company’s conviction that these are the days of “customer-centricity, [when] we’re not competing on price or product, but on customer experience.”

This, of course, is a common refrain from all kinds of companies, given that users can access a competitor’s online offering in seconds. Nevertheless, it emphasizes the current sea change in corporate understanding of the chief marketing task, given that it comes from a company that was built on a uniquely powerful product, its database.

Fioretti acknowledged that “a lot of companies are doing customer service and community together.” Other companies in the social customer service space include Lithium, Zendesk, Sprinklr/GetSatisfaction, Salesforce’s Desk.com, and Kana.

VP of product strategy for Social Cloud Erika Brookes told me that Oracle was best positioned to deliver self-service within a community “at scale” and in a multi-channel environment. She added, as an example, that “we’re the only provider that can show side-by-side public and private data,” such as adding social posts to a service ticket.