Announced during the recent SAP Customer Experience LIVE event, SAP CEO Christian Klein made no mistake about it: SAP is doubling down on its road map for customer-centricity. This is not surprising, considering many organizations today are looking to better connect and engage with their customers as means to not only staying competitive, but also to stay in business altogether.

ASUG sat down with Adrian Nash, who was the VP of product at Gigya before SAP acquired the company, but currently serves as the head of strategy for customer experience at SAP. “My previous role involved strategy, which involves being able to look out two to five years and determine the best path to innovation,” Nash said. “That’s what I continue to do today as far as understanding where best to invest while also thinking about what comes next.”

We discussed the SAP customer experience strategy, as well as how it can help businesses not only respond to today’s growing demands, but also better plan for a changing future.

Sharon: This is a fairly new role for you in what is a rebrand of the SAP Customer Experience portfolio. From a high-level overview, what goals have you set in place, and what are your plans to achieve them?

Adrian: Thinking about the customer experience portfolio, we have individual solutions that are very important in the spaces where they operate, and making sure that they're set up for success is my overall goal. I will approach that by engaging with the product organizations in those individual solutions and then making sure to connect them into the broader topics around the end-to-end processes.

When I moved into my current role, I was first tasked with thinking about how all the solutions connect together; second, that we have a consistent way of engaging with our customers about the strategy; and third, making sure that we incorporate feedback from our customers to continue innovating the customer experience portfolio.

The thing that is really important for me is that we have a strategy that sits over the portfolio, and then connects what we do from an investment perspective inside the portfolio to achieve our greater goals.

Sharon: Customers have been hearing about SAP C/4HANA for a couple of years and have recently been introduced to SAP Customer Experience portfolio. How are the two different, and can you talk about the strategy going forward?

Adrian: The SAP C/4HANA suite meant customers had to adopt a “suite strategy,” and the reality is that not every organization is in the same place with their digital transformations. The SAP Customer Experience portfolio, however, has great products that complement each other, but you could start exactly where you need to start. The idea is that we’re not forcing the whole thing as a pre-packaged suite of solutions, but instead supporting our customer’s choice of which solution(s) they want and then making it so that they all complement each other.

We need to make sure that it’s an open kind of ecosystem that also supports other vendor solutions as part of that. The integration—whether that’s with SAP or non-SAP products—is a big part of the SAP Customer Experience portfolio capability.

Sharon: How does Emarsys—SAP’s newest acquisition—fit into the portfolio?

Adrian: Emarsys fits into the puzzle because it’s a solution that allows organizations to engage at scale and across many different channels with their customers, but it also provides great tools for the marketing teams. Tools such as the industry tactics and AI-based personalization make sure that there’s consistency and continuity between different channels. Emarsys provides focused tools to really leverage the data that we’re getting from capabilities such as the recently announced SAP Customer Data Platform.

Sharon: Let’s talk about the SAP Customer Data Platform. What is the most important thing for customers to know about how this capability will help in their end-to-end business?

Adrian: The SAP Customer Data Platform is a new solution, which is part of the SAP Customer Data Cloud. Its main function is to look at the broader context of customer data.

To take a step back, the SAP Customer Data Cloud now has an identity management solution, a consent and preference management solution, and a customer data platform (CDP). The CDP consumes all the data from an identity management solution, as well as from the consent and preference management solution, and makes it available to applications—SAP or non-SAP—in real time, while still obeying permissions set in place by the consumer.

So, let’s say a customer has opened a service ticket, or they’re browsing the website without being a known customer, or they’ve activated a loyalty platform, the CDP combines all of that data together into a living and breathing customer profile, and an organization can use that profile in the right moment of engagement across different channels. It is more real-time, up-to-date view of the customer than we’ve ever had in the market before.

Sharon: What is the message to the CIOs about integrating customer experience into the road map of their organizations?

Adrian: Let’s look at from the perspective of 2020. It’s a year we’re all going to remember for a long time. Consumer habits all over the world changed literally overnight, and they continue to change even still. And although we have been seeing patterns change for a while now, and have been preparing, it became that much more necessary to move quickly.

For CIOs, they need to look at having customer-centric processes as opposed to business-centric processes, or ultimately customers will vote with their feet and move to competitors. What we’re seeing is that those organizations that are most resilient and that are most agile and have been able to weather the storms of the things like 2020 have been those organizations that have brought the customer into the heart of those processes as opposed to building a business process that has the customer kind of bouncing around.

To be customer-centric, you need to be able to support the different customer preferences as well as be able to deliver the right moment of engagement at the right time on the right channel.

Customer experience is an important piece of the puzzle for digital transformations and therefore should be a priority for CIOs.

Sharon: Why is SAP’s vision of customer experience one customers should adopt? How does this affect their bottom line?

Adrian: There are a couple of things that make SAP unique as an organization when it comes to customer experience. First, we have a customer experience portfolio, which is critical to the intelligent enterprise, but we also have back-office ERP technology. That view of data that we have—from customer experience in front-office engagements to the vast ERP footprint that we have—enables us to blur the lines and make it a seamless experience.

Another area of customer experience SAP has an advantage is with customer privacy. We really understand the importance of data privacy and how that plays a role in a good customer experience. Our approach to data and third-party applications is driven by customer-centric strategy.

These are the core principles of how we’re approaching customer experience.

Sharon: What trends do you see emerging in customer experience? How will customers want to navigate their experience, and what do organizations need to do to meet those demands?

Adrian: One of the most important things for an organization to consider is to always look for a way to meet their customers where they live. As we see more consumers shopping via different channels, whether its social media sites, or websites, or hybrid experiences, an organization needs to have a commerce engine on the back of all those channels and be ready to engage.

Those trends from a consumer perspective will be vitally important. Those brands that understand those context changes between one channel and the next channel will be most successful.

This same type of experience will influence how we engage on the business side as well. The level of expectation of experience doesn’t drop because the interaction is no longer about buying a car but instead about fulfilling a job or meeting a KPI. Those organizations that can use customer experience in that unique moment and deliver the best experiences in those moments will be those organizations that really win in those competitive landscapes.

Sharon: As organizations are starting to accelerate their digital transformations, what message do you have regarding prioritizing customer experience as part of their plans?

Adrian: It's an iterative change to think about building a process around the customer. I recently read the quote by an Amazon insider who said, “One problem is that the customer isn’t really there at every meeting. So, what we like to do at every meeting is we reserve a seat for the customer.”

That’s a small thing, but I think it’s important to see the customer there in the decisions that you make as an organization. Always remember that the customer is at the heart of every business, and those organizations that are most resilient think about that at the core of their belief.

ASUG members can register for the on-demand SAP Customer Experience Management Strategy and Road Map webcast to learn more about the SAP CX portfolio. 

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