As with many SAP executive leaders, 17-year SAP veteran Rajeev Gurnani began his career with the enterprise software giant as a developer, igniting his passion for making customers successful and delivering outcomes to make the world run better. With the majority of his experiences in sales strategy and leadership roles, Rajeev recently took on new challenges as Chief Operating Officer, SAP Customer Experience, North America.

ASUG talked with Gurnani about the new role and responsibilities, priorities, and plans to “start strong” in 2023. He also provided his “simple ask” of ASUG members.

This is an edited version of the complete interview.

Question: Given your background, how has your career equipped you for this new leadership role?

Answer: I've had 17-plus years with SAP, and this great company has provided me with exceptional opportunities to learn and grow my career at my own pace.

In these years, I have developed a deep understanding of customer needs, expected business outcomes, and SAP differentiators. Managing high-performing sales teams across geographies and solution areas has empowered me to help customers succeed by leveraging SAP innovations and adopting our SW solutions to drive transformation in the cloud. In my last 10 years I have been assisting customers in transitioning to the cloud, at the core (RISE with SAP), foundational technology platform (Business Technology Platform), and most recently, front-office Customer Experience (CX). SAP enables our customers to take advantage of our vast portfolio with continuous innovations and tightly integrated industry-led business processes. CX plays a critical role in the SAP portfolio as we enable end-to-end business processes and drive customer journeys powered by digital transformation. CX brings my entire SAP career and experiences into action.

Q: How so?

A: It is essential to realize companies’ challenges in this arena. Whether a company is B2B, B2C, or beginning to blur the lines and become B2B2C, market trends make the customer experience space challenging for all organizations. As consumers, we all know the life-changing impact of digital on our daily lives. Not only have online and mobile selling motions disrupted the B2C industry, but they have also set the stage for the overall shopping experience and hyper-personalization that B2B organizations are expected to measure up to. With it becoming easier to switch brands, the power has changed to the customers and consumers while loyalty is declining at alarming rates.

At the same time, customers and consumers are worried about the data available on their preferences and activities. They have the regulatory right to control how they store and leverage information in buying experiences. Furthermore, supply chain disruptions and inefficiencies are causing additional pressure on companies (and their customer’s experience) significantly impacting service levels and deliveries, disappointing customers and consumers on a regular basis. Only SAP, specifically SAP CX, allows customers to leverage their digital core investments to optimize the customer experience by delivering seamless end-to-end business processes.

SAP CX empowers customers to be agile regarding market reach, to respond quickly to changing customer needs, and drive alternate channels for the new generation of users who leverage new technologies to drive their consumption behavior. I will take it upon myself to ensure every SAP customer and prospect, and different levels of their organizations, understand why SAP CX matters and how we:

  • Provide complete end-to-end solutions from customer acquisition to sale to profitability analysis. (CMO, head of sales, CFO)
  • Turn market opportunities into bottom line reality. (CMO, head of sales, CFO)
  • Win customer trust and loyalty with intelligent engagement. (CMO, head of sales)
  • Create a frictionless customer experience with end-to-end insight via connected commerce, marketing, sales, and service data (CMO, head of sales).

Q: In terms of customer experience, does the scope of your role touch on SAP S/4HANA, SAP Business Technology Network, SAP Signavio, or other key technologies?

A: Honestly, it touches all of them. If you look closely, you will realize that SAP supports the customer journey through an integrated process linking both SAP CX solutions and S/4. CX is a suite of solutions around online commerce, sales, CRM, service, marketing, customer data, access, privacy, and identity management.

The SAP CX Suite lets companies:

  • Deliver hyper-personalized experiences across multiple channels with consistent engagement.
  • Enable B2B, B2C, and B2B2C commerce transactions in the world’s largest single commerce solution.
  • Ensure compliance with data privacy regulations while leveraging customer specific information to market to, sell to, and service customers more efficiently and effectively.

You can easily see SAP differentiation; our CX solution is unique as an enterprise, including 11 Embedded Best Practices and optimizing end-to-end with 1,116 Standard Integrations.

SAP BTP becomes the secret sauce to connect the SAP front office to the SAP back office for a seamless customer experience and ultimately drive more value to the customer and consumer.

For example:

  • Our Customer Data Platform optimizes one billion identity checks per day.
  • Our engagement platform with Emarsys is helping manage 13 billion direct-to- consumer messages monthly.
  • We just released products for Sales and Services built on the new CNS platform.

Q: Under your new leadership, are you putting more resources into your team? If so, what type of resources, with what roles and responsibilities?

A: We've had a major, strategic investments made by SAP across this organization. Those investments and resources span across development, sales, pre-sales, and other critical areas. Our sales and service cloud version 2 is part of that investment many customers recognize as transformational. SAP continues to invest further across the CX roadmap, launching many innovations in the next six to 18 months.

In 2022, we put together a dedicated team of experts with deep industry and business knowledge to help our customers (1) understand the SAP CX value prop, (2) identify how CX meets business needs and priorities, (3) develop a simple but realistic plan to replace non-SAP solutions with state of the art SAP CX suite, and (4) build a business case to drive value and deliver business outcomes.

Q: It’s great to hear about product leadership and direction. What are your own priorities in this new role?

A: My priorities are to make our customers successful. I live and breathe customer success, driving outcomes for our customers as they consume and leverage SAP cloud solutions. From a 90-day perspective, I plan to make sure we jump-start next year with a robust framework around reaching out to our existing customers and helping them understand the SAP CX value prop. All SAP customers should look at the newest innovations in the SAP CX space and allow us to present the CX roadmap. I am working to build a structured framework to reach every existing SAP customer who has yet to see CX value prop in the last six months. I also plan to launch a program to target our net-new prospective customers who might be using a homegrown or competitive solution. I want an open dialogue about the roadmap, understand resistance to adopt SAP CX solutions, and develop a healthy, positive conversation with customers about their future with SAP CX. Customizing an approach for each customer allows us to develop a joint solution adoption plan for front-office digital transformation.

This requires a lot of time and investment from SAP, which we're willing to make. It also requires some time investment from executives on the customer side. In the end, the desired positive outcomes and customer success are the pillars that will drive this in the coming year.

Q: You define customer success based on customer outcomes. Can you illustrate that with some examples?

A: Yes. With everything happening around us—recovering from a pandemic, many people working from home, supply chain disruptions, many customers worried about what's going to happen from a recession or war-implication perspective, and everything else—outcomes are evolving. And, in terms of CX, that's how you engage your end consumer, right?

The role of an SAP CX solution is to empower customers with these pressures to stay focused on customer engagement, while they optimize costs and drive digital adoption by running efficient and effective organizations.

When we talk about the customer outcomes from the CX solution suite, we can demonstrate both Top Line revenue growth and bottom line cost optimization.

Whether it is a 94% increase in Online Revenue Growth or a 28% increase in Average Deal Size, SAP helps our customers grow revenue.

At the same time, we also optimize expenses with customers achieving a 70% decrease in order processing costs and a 50% decrease in call center costs.

But we also enhance the overall customer engagement with the brand, with customers experiencing a 92% growth in loyalty card subscriptions and a 90% positive increase in customer satisfaction scores!

Q: How does the portfolio breakdown today in terms of the customer base in B2B versus B2C?

A: It's pretty balanced. SAP is very, very strong in the B2C space and equally strong in the B2B space, whereas our competition might be different. And with the lines blurring, SAP CX solutions stand out as our competitors have no solution (or a mixed bag of non-integrated point solutions).

Q: Are there particular industries or markets where you are more focused on understanding customer needs?

A: No. Everyone is selling and buying. Everyone has salespeople who manage their business, opportunities, leads, etc. Everyone has some form of marketing, whether they do it directly through e-mail campaigns, cold-calling, or other mechanisms. The beauty is CX’s portfolio cuts across all industries.

Of course, we see seasonality in which industries prioritize going online or digital faster and sooner. We have some focused industries where we will start first in the framework and planning I spoke about earlier, but in the end, our objective would be to cater to and cover all.

Q: At the end of the 90 days, what will success look like for you?

A: At the end of the 90 days, it will be the start of a new year. We're all salespeople, so for us, the counter resets on the first of January. My personal objective would be that we have a strong team in place with a clear direction and strategy for how we will market. I aspire to have strong ties and conversations with customers in terms of their feedback on the product direction and meaningful dialogues around how we help our customers succeed.

The timing could not have been better. I started in the role a few weeks back, which gives me around two months this year to observe and understand the challenges from a business perspective across North America, then leverage the go-to-market and other planning activities to establish the charter for success in 2023.

Q: Speaking directly to ASUG members, what will they see and feel differently in 2023?

A: Speaking directly to ASUG members, I would make one very simple ask: please allow SAP Customer Experience (CX) to spend time with you and your leadership. Let us take you through the innovations that have come to life and the transformation that has happened on our product side. All ASUG members need to understand SAP strategy and our direction in the CX space.

Of course, there are perceptions, limitations due to prior investments, and baggage from the past. But you must hear from the SAP CX experts directly since the opinions and perceptions from the past might not be real today, and it is not that complex to replace with SAP CX Suite. So please, give us 30–45 minutes of your time. And I would assure you it will be time well spent.

Q: One of the main challenges for our members is integration across SAP solutions and point solutions that may have been acquired over time. Could you speak to that directly? What differences will happen?

A: That's exactly the perception I want to break. As I said earlier, our competition might have non-integrated point solutions and do not own the back-office stack to deliver smooth simple integration. On the other hand, SAP delivers seamless integration and business processes across the solution stack, and we have done a lot of work in the last two to three years in this area. We want to articulate this in the 30 or 45 minutes I am asking for. If it makes sense, we would follow up with demos and other creative approaches to prove that this is real and available right now. When you see it yourself, you will believe it.

It took us a long time to get to the point where we are, but I'm very confident that from now on the conversation will be: let's look at it together and let's plan the adoption and consumption of those functionalities, capabilities, and innovation that SAP is bringing to the table via the CX Suite integrated with SAP S/4HANA.

Thank you, and I look forward to speaking to you about the SAP CX Suite in the first half of 2023!

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