Jeb Dasteel is the Chief Customer Officer at Oracle. That was a role that evolved over time, but he is still one of the longest-tenured customer-facing executives in the tech sector.
In our conversation, Jeb discusses how the role has evolved, how he has built the team, and how he engages engineers and a very action driven culture to care about and improve customer experience.
I ask every guest my “pay it forward” question at the end: namely, what do you know now that you wish you knew then? I hope some young, burgeoning CCOs listen to all these episodes and take away something from that section of each interview. Because of Jeb’s wealth of experience, though, his responses there (I included them below) are some of the richest you’ll hear in all my interviews. I love all my guests, of course, but Jeb packs a punch in that area.
About Jeb Dasteel
Jeb holds the position of Senior Vice President and Chief Customer Officer at Oracle. He is responsible for driving customer-focus into all aspects of the Oracle business. In this capacity, Jeb serves as a customer advocate and works with the Oracle organization to develop and deliver customer programs that increase customer retention, value delivered, satisfaction, and loyalty.
Jeb has been with Oracle for eighteen years, in a number of corporate and field-based roles. Prior to joining Oracle in 1998, Jeb worked as an IT strategy and business consultant at Gemini Consulting, helping Fortune 500 organizations define and implement IT strategies that supported their business objectives.
Framing The Role
Here’s a humorous irony: when Jeb started doing this work, Oracle was using one of the “worst” (his words) survey tools imaginable to collect customer feedback. Why is that funny or ironic? It was an Oracle product. Thankfully for Jeb and his team, it’s long since gone. “We had a very disconnected references team that worked with customers too,” remembers Jeb. Essentially, they asked customers questions — and then had very little idea where the feedback was going or if it was benefiting product enhancement. “Beyond very granular, product-specific feedback, there was no real mechanism for actionable feedback,” admits Jeb.
Between 2004 and 2009, there was a gradual evolution in what Oracle did with customer feedback. “In those five years, there was a growing recognition that this work was big and strategically important,” says Jeb. Having his title changed to CCO in 2009 didn’t necessarily change Jeb’s job a lot; it did, however, give him more organizational authority.
Jeb’s team has three core functions:
- Collect, analyze, report out customer feedback
- Develop programs to respond to that feedback (individual customers and whole segments/classes of customers)
- Getting the biggest, strongest brands on the planet as advocates for Oracle
Every single person reporting to Jeb — and those reporting to those people — work along those three objectives. It’s obviously more complicated than that — Oracle is a huge company — but that’s the baseline. Jeb’s team has about 180 employees, which is a relatively small team for Oracle.
Two Roles You Can Play
When a customer issue comes up in feedback, there are two basic paths you can take in CCO work:
- You act as the change management lead
- You hand off the information to the organization with an action plan and the tools they need
“The more we can empower different parts of the organization to do this work themselves,” says Jeb, “the better.” I often call this the “teach them to fish” approach.
Jeb’s team focuses mostly on helping other departments with analytical tools — how to organize and present data in a variety of ways around customer data and feedback. His team will also help other divisions with change management tools and approaches too.
The “Significant, Overnight Change”
What’s one of the biggest epiphanies Jeb has experienced in his work? It’s when he, and other senior leaders, realized that employees were seeing the same issues/concerns as customers. There was actually huge alignment between the sentiment of employees and the sentiment of customers. Treating employees similarly to employees proved to be a huge asset to his toolbox.
“What I Know Now That I Wish I Knew Then”
This is the question I referenced above in my introduction to this post.
Jeb initially opened his answer with “I don’t think I’m that smart, but… I’m a lot smarter than I was then.”
Some of the key things he wished he did when first assuming larger customer-centric roles included:
- Cross-functionality: Jeb wishes he could go back and tell himself to empower his whole team to work cross-functionally (i.e. across silos, or what I call “One-Company Leadership”). “It’s interesting that we collect feedback and do analytics and reporting,” says Jeb, “but what’s more interesting is how everything works as one system.” Employees need to be specialized, yes, but it’s a big difference to the business when they can understand other departments and work with them.
- Where do you spend your time? Spend the majority of your individual time with (a) individual customers, then (b) groups of customers, and then (c) Oracle strategy. It should go in that sequence. Individual customer experiences cannot be acquired any other way. “Those individual customer experiences give you a level of credibility within the organization,” he says, “which is really impactful.”
- Constantly question yourself: Your team should always be asking two questions: What can we do more of? What can we do less of? (Another way to look at it: What can we outsource? What should we handle ourselves?) The Oracle leadership team does this quarterly. Jeb also does it with his team.
- Don’t let others define the role for you: CCO work is new/confusing/different to some other C-Suite players. Don’t let them define what you do and the role you can play. “Earn the right to take liberties and experiment,” says Jeb.
- Regardless of scale, you can be successful: “You don’t need a great, big organization to be successful,” says Jeb. “If I had no team at all, my priorities would probably be exactly the same as they are here.” Jeb loves working at Oracle, but this is a good point — especially in the Age of Disruption. You don’t need to be enterprise-level with tons of resources to be successful. You just need the right pieces, ideas, and methodology in place. You earn the right to do the work that way.
I’ll be back on Thursday with a new blog post and then next Tuesday with a new podcast. Thanks, as always, for reading and listening.