SAP and Customer Experience Technology

Customer Experience Management (CXM) continues to trend within the CRM industry and has become an organizational mandate by business leaders. An IBM Global CEO Study performed about a year ago noted that "getting closer to customers" was the #1 priority for CEOs over the next 5 years. So it shouldn't be a surprise that CRM and enterprise software vendors are taking note and positioning business applications to facilitate this business strategy.

In prior posts I've discussed the factors driving a CRM to CXM transition and also shared some thoughts and analysis regarding the Oracle CX push and new product announcements.

Several readers quickly reminded me that it's difficult for enterprise software buyers to evaluate an Oracle solution without comparing to how rival SAP addresses the same business problem or opportunity. And in this case, SAP has been delivering CXM messaging for at least as long as Oracle.

Making CX Strategies Sustainable

In my podcast discussion a few months back with Vinay Iyer, Vice President of SAP CRM Global Marketing and coauthor of the book The Customer Experience Edge, he fully subscribes to CX strategy, but also advises a measured approach to CXM.

Vinay wisely acknowledges something we don't hear too often – that it is as dangerous to throw too many resources at a CX deployment without giving enough thought to sustaining the experience and profiting from your investment as it is to put too little into the CX.

From my own customer experience I can take heed with his cautionary advice. For example, the Barnes and Noble bookstores I enjoyed frequenting consistently delivered an exceptional customer experience—comfortable chairs and couches, good music, free WiFi, great coffee and more—all the way to their bankruptcy.

CX Strategy and Technology Not In Lockstep

SAP executives recognize Customer Experience Management is a global trend and share that customers who approach CRM from an enterprise wide perspective are also much more inclined to pursue CX objectives along the same lines. However, the ERP software leader also acknowledges that CX is many times driven from departmental objectives or in a scenario where technology leads strategy. For example, customers of all CRM vendors seem to have purchased fleets of iPads and then approach their CRM technology partner to see how they can better take advantage of the devices.

Sure the tablet technology is empowering and obvious benefits exist. Enabling sales people to instantly enter meeting updates before they leave a customer's building or otherwise extending processes to anywhere/anytime/any device makes sense. But as we've learned from over two decades of CRM software deployments, applying technology to operational silos or without an accompanying strategy puts deployments at risk and fails to accomplish strategic objectives in the shortest timeframe and with the highest payback.

From SAPs experience, the mixture of a business strategy without consensus and still maturing technology expectations often results in project driven exercise.

CX Begins with CRM

SAP positions CX software differently than Oracle. For Oracle, achieving CX objectives is aided with an autonomous application software suite which integrates with and extends CRM, but is nonetheless a separate and distinct collection of best of breed software products which individually (or sometimes in small suites) position themselves at the point of customer interaction. These purpose built tools effectively extract data from CRM and other enterprise software and apply that data at the point where company and customer connect in order to consistently deliver a CX that meets or exceeds customer expectations.

As opposed to Oracle's autonomous CX software suite, SAP looks at CX as integral to the Business Suite and facilitated with tools such as business intelligence and mobility. From a CRM perspective, SAP noted at the prior SAP Influencer Summit that the company intends to reposition the focus of its CRM proposition from 'relationship' to 'experience'.

SAP executives suggest that CRM software is a key customer facing component, but far from the only component needed to satisfy customers. The company views the challenge and opportunity more holistically. Also needed are applications which support end to end process integration, not just data integration, in order to enable business processes with information visibility for customer services delivery.

SAP & Customer Experience Technology

Not surprisingly, SAP's view of CX parallels its software suite and in many ways dovetails traditional ERP messaging by suggesting that achieving CX is best accomplished with accessible customer information, end to end process automation, fully-integrated enterprise-wide business systems, business intelligence (BI) and mobility more so than any particular new personalization, collaboration or customer-centricity tools.

SAP makes the argument that to achieve the oft quoted 360 degree customer view and leverage that knowledge to best serve customers, customer facing staff must have access to all customer information be it in the CRM system (sales activities, opportunities, incidents), the accounting system (available credit, credit terms, outstanding invoices, aged receivables), the warehouse system (available inventory quantities, inventory locations, Return Merchandise Authorizations), the manufacturing system (product lead times, scheduling delays, available to promise quantities), the supply chain management system (shipping information, expected date of arrival, landed goods costs) or any other system possessing information that needs to be relayed to customers.

Company executives suggest that CX business objectives require some new thinking that will likely result in new or modified business processes, key performance indicators (KPIs), information analysis and new forms of delivery. And they acknowledge that just having the customer information in a data repository is not enough—as it must be understood, actionable and delivered to the person who can leverage it at the point in time of a customer interaction.

To facilitate this process execution, SAP proposes its HANA in-memory analytics engine to synthesize the volumes of data, uncover patterns, correlations or other insights that can then be applied to customer processes and delivered in advance, on-demand or just in time for the customer interaction.

For CRM or CX to affect the CX, there's a multi-step journey from data to information to process interaction to delivery vehicle to action by customer facing staff. HANA is the tool to advance customer data to information that with a bit of analysis can be designated to particular customer processes and interaction points. SAP on-premise, cloud or mobile solutions are then the delivery vehicles for the journey's final leg.

The SAP CX Evolution

SAP clearly recognizes the CX business opportunity and while still in the developing stages has tools which contribute CX process support, customer analysis and mobility. HANA and SAP mobility deliver a synergistic combination - creating new dynamics by using faster technology to increase speed for new insights and delivering those insights to mobile devices, effectively making big data personalized and available in real-time.

For example, when sales managers can drill down on territorial analysis or roll-up new combinations of forecasts, instantaneously or even during a flight, the data becomes actionable now, as opposed to a few days from now.

However, the company would be well served to match its thought leadership on this topic with greater application specificity. And SAP may better help its own customers by stepping up the specifics of how its application software can enable and empower business leaders to achieve CX objectives at the many customer interaction points—such as e-commerce, self service, contact centers, social and more.

The need is real and the need is now. CX has captured board room support and CEO agendas because existing customer strategies supported by existing CRM and application software systems aren't sufficient.

A research study by New York University professor Liel Leibovitz found that more than half of consumers (55%) surveyed called their experience of communicating with brands "disappointing" or "mediocre." Countless other studies over the last several years show even more disappointing findings.

With more information available to customers and lower barriers to switching suppliers, increased customer churn is inevitable, which will drive more businesses to adopt customer experience best practices and team with technology partners that can both avoid this disruption and capitalize on the opportunity.