UPDATE: Oracle Shifts to Internet Sales in Europe

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DUBLIN - Oracle's European operation is shifting emphasis from the phone to the Web in selling products worth less than $80,000.

Earlier this month, the company changed the name of its Direct Marketing Group here to Oracle Internet Sales to document the new approach its 400 agents are taking in their outbound selling.

"We can use the Internet for remote demonstrations of our products," said Eric Duffaut, the Frenchman who is managing director of Oracle's Internet Sales division. "Customers don't have to move from their office but only need dial up our URL.

"The Internet is becoming our main tool for selling because you can present things visually on the Web, which you can't do on the phone. You can't show figures or demos. All you can do is listen to a voice."

Dublin is strictly an outbound sales operation. Technical support is offered to customers within the 29 countries Oracle reaches.

Oracle opened a call center in Dublin in January 1997 because "we decided to have one centralized center able to build critical mass and assuring consistency and the same process across countries.

"We picked Dublin because taxes were dramatically lower than everywhere else in Europe -- 15 percent in Ireland vs. an average of 35 percent in the rest of Europe."

The other reason for choosing Ireland, Duffaut said, was because Oracle, as a U.S. company, wanted to locate in an English-speaking country. "We believe English is attractive for young people, and Dublin is an easy city in which to socialize.

"Also, Dublin is a young city with plenty of foreigners, and its pub culture is part of the game, meaning there isn't as much culture shock for people who come here as there may be in other cities."

Ireland's economic boom -- the country has been called the "Gaelic Tiger" -- has led to a labor shortage so that "more and more, we are recruiting our people in their own country and thus making sure we get native speakers."

So far, Oracle has maintained its one call center pan-European approach to telemarketing. Duffaut conceded the industry was torn between those who favor one multilingual center and those who believe centers in a dozen countries managed centrally were best.

"So far," he said, "we are staying with the one center concept. But that could change." Oracle has three call centers in the United States -- two cover domestic needs and Miami handles Latin American sales. Singapore covers Asia.

Prospecting for new customers in Europe is limited, Duffaut said, "because 80 percent of our business comes from the installed base of Oracle customers. Most of our data comes from our own databases."

Data is drawn from national databases since local offices handle customer contacts in Europe's different markets. "For France, we still access our French database, but we are planning to have a worldwide contact base by the end of this year.

"We are trying to move towards one-to-one marketing by building customer intelligence and implementing CRM technology. We also use an online marketing approach through oracle.com."

These are targets who have left their profile on the Oracle Web site, Duffaut explained. "This is a good way of obtaining customer information, and, more importantly, that way we know exactly their areas of interest."

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