The notion of the customer experience (CX) has been radically shifting over the last decade. Not only has e-commerce quickly gained traction, but organizations are also placing a high emphasis on the quality of customer experience. Over the past year, we’ve seen more changes in the CX space, as organization have adapted to hurdles and barriers imposed by COVID-19. Things like QR codes and curbside pickup have steadily become more commonplace.

ASUG recently had the opportunity to talk with Bob Stutz, president of SAP CX, to talk about the changes he’s seeing in the field, the effect of COVID-19, the future of CX, and what SAP CX is doing to help customers.

ASUG: You have a very diverse background. What are your past professional experiences and what is your current role?

Bob: At 16 years old, I dropped out of high school and hitchhiked around the country until I joined the army on my 17th birthday and shipped off that same day to Fort Dix, New Jersey, to start basic training. I spent 22 years in the military before getting into the tech field. Out of the military, I joined Sybase as a director of engineering, and after a few years I left to join Siebel Systems where I was responsible for building the industries and became head of application engineering.

In May 2005, I was recruited by then-SAP executives Shai Agassi and Henning Kagermann to join SAP, where I built SAP CRM 7.0 and then ran the industries. After over five years, I left and joined HP to run software products. From there I went on to Microsoft, running Dynamics CRM and building out the new CRM products and platform. I then went on to become the chief analytics officer for Salesforce, also taking on the role of CEO of the Marketing Cloud. I decided in the summer of 2019 that I would retire and move back to Germany. By chance, then-SAP executive Jennifer Morgan reached out to me about coming back to SAP to run SAP CX. After great discussions with her and Christian Klein, I decided to take on one more challenge. As the president of SAP CX, I am responsible for defining and driving the strategy and product portfolio of SAP CX.

ASUG: What are some of the main emerging trends in CX that are of particular interest to you?

Bob: For me, some of the biggest emerging trends are privacy and consent management, AI and ML, and hyper-personalization. As customers and governments become more and more conscious about what happens to their data and how it will be leveraged, companies need to ensure they treat their customers’ data not only according to government regulations, but also in a way that allows customers to trust the company with their personal data.

AI and ML are probably not considered emerging trends but will continue to play a crucial role moving forward. Customers expect to interact with software that is “intelligent” and can adapt to their habits and needs. A good example of intelligent software would be the autofill function you can use when you’re shopping online. The browser can remember the information you have entered before your next purchase. This small function would have been special a couple of years ago, but today it is something we see as a given function. The same will also be true for software, as there are endless opportunities to embed AI and ML functionality that will improve product quality.

Hyper-personalization is something that customers expect more and more from their favorite brands and it will influence their brand loyalty as well as buying decision. Customers have higher expectations that their favorite brands will suggest content that they would be interested in. Amazon is a good example of offering successful hyper-personalization as they know what you’re interested in and will improve their suggestions every time you buy something. This encourages you to buy more as you will see new things that you could be interested in every time you go on Amazon. If customers get a newsletter from one of their favorite brands with a recommendation that turns out to be addressing the wrong gender, style, and size, this leads to disappointment. If this happens multiple times with the same brand, customers are likely to lose trust in the brand and go somewhere else where they will feel better understood. Brands will only be able to succeed in the long term if they can personalize offers to their individual customers.

ASUG: We are a few months into 2021. What does SAP’s vision of CX look like this year, keeping in mind everything that has happened over the past 12 months?

Bob: Our vision is to provide our customers with “extensive functionality that runs on a dynamic platform to enable Business to Everyone (B2E) anywhere, at any time, and at any moment.” This means that we want to help our customers reengage with their customers in a better and simpler way. We want to move away from standard business models that differentiate between B2B and B2C and in some cases B2B2C and transition to B2E to allow customers, regardless of their current or future business models, to use our products in the way that works best for them. Enabling our customers to use our products on any device, anytime, and anywhere—regardless of channel—is a key part of our strategy.

ASUG: How do you think COVID-19 has affected CX? How has this influenced what you and your team are working on?

Bob: The COVID-19 crisis has forced many companies to change their business models from in-store to online overnight and accelerated the transition to cloud-native software. Commerce sites especially popped up overnight. This trend also showed how much businesses are moving away from traditional business models and software where long implementation times and complex systems are acceptable. Once the crisis hit, many companies needed to get e-commerce sites up and running in mere days at a low cost, since many of them did not have any in-store IT departments available to help set up the sites.

The CX industry is one of the few industries not negatively affected by the crisis, and I’m very fortunate to say that the same is true for our team and strategy. We were able to continue to follow our strategy and execute against our product road maps, even when our working environment changed overnight. Our teams did an amazing job executing along our strategy and the pandemic has actually shown us that we were on the right path with our long-term strategy.

ASUG: What mindset towards CX should companies establish even before they implement SAP CX solutions?

Bob: Before thinking about CX solutions, companies should consider what kind of company vision they have and how their customers play into this vision (e.g., will your company be product centric, customer centric, or focusing on customer strategy). Once the vision is set, companies should think about how to achieve this vision.

Once the necessary steps are defined, companies should start looking into the available CX solutions to support them in achieving their individual steps. A careful evaluation of each segment—like marketing, sales, and customer data—should be conducted to identify the best-fit solution for the company’s individual processes, as most solutions on the market are similar from a functionality perspective but differ from a user experience point of view.

ASUG: How can SAP CX be a vital part of a customer’s overall digital transformation strategy?

Bob: SAP CX is in the unique position to support customers in their digital transformation, as our solutions are not only focused on supporting our customers in their transition to the cloud, but also on connecting the front office with the back office. No matter if customers want to move fully to the cloud or use a hybrid model with front-office cloud solutions and back-office on-premise solutions, SAP CX solutions complement both scenarios very well. We’re constantly innovating our cloud solutions to allow customers to make the move to the cloud and profit from rapid innovations to adapt to ever-changing business environments.

ASUG: Some SAP customers are still using SAP CX solutions on-prem, while many new SAP CX offerings are in the cloud. Is the future of SAP CX in the cloud?

Bob: The future of SAP CX is definitely in the cloud, and we’re going full steam ahead in delivering exciting and innovative cloud solutions while we also work hard on modernizing some of our older, existing solutions to allow our customers more flexibility in how they will leverage our solutions in the future.

While the cloud is our future, we have not forgotten our existing SAP CX customers currently using on-premise solutions, and we’re supporting them while actively working on creating a path for them to be able to move to the cloud.

ASUG: For those customers that are still on-prem, how can they begin to prepare for a move to the cloud, and what could they do even before they start that transition?

Bob: I would recommend that all customers currently running our on-premise solutions who are interested in a move to the cloud evaluate their current system to define which of their functionalities also have a significant business benefit to them. I have talked to a lot of customers that plan to move to the cloud, and most of them run very complex and highly customized systems that overcomplicate a lot of their customers’ actual processes. A move to the cloud could present an opportunity for customers to take a step back and evaluate their current processes and see if they can and want to simplify them with this move.

ASUG: What should customers expect over the next year with SAP CX? What does the future hold?

Bob: We have some very exciting things coming up around customer data, customer engagement, and commerce. Our recent acquisition of Emarsys and the launch of our Customer Data Platform, as well as the new Multitenant Cloud commerce solution designed for direct to consumer, are just some of the new innovative offerings that we have. More surprises will be shared during SAPPHIRE NOW. Our customers can expect a lot of innovations around these products as well as our core CRM solution, where we’re currently working on some very interesting Microsoft Teams integrations. Overall, SAP CX is on a great path and I think our customers will enjoy our innovations.

Hear more about SAP CX from Bob Stutz during ASUG Executive Exchange Virtual Summit: Lead with Innovation, June 1517. The virtual summit will kick off the ASUGFORWARD three-week experience, including content focused on moving towards an intelligent enterprise, accelerating business agility, and centering on business and technology together to create the best customer experience. Apply to attend the virtual summit.