By Joe Mullich, Contributing Writer, SAPinsider

For all the talk about the importance of a great customer experience (CX), many companies are struggling to provide it. Only 26% of respondents to a survey conducted by SAPinsider said they are currently investing in CX initiatives and could confidently say that their organization has a dedicated CX budget.

This lack of commitment proves perilous for businesses as today’s customer expectations rapidly evolve across the buying landscape, including direct to consumer (D2C), business to business (B2B), or business to consumer (B2C).

A well-designed CX uses technology to anticipate customer needs, while promoting continuous innovation based on an ever-greater understanding of those customers as individuals.

COVID-19 has raised the ante on CX even more. “There has been a dramatic change in how we all shop,” says Don Swalinski, Vice President, SAP CX Practice Leader at Capgemini, North America, a multinational technology consulting firm. “What got us to buy yesterday isn’t the same thing that gets us to buy today.”
Convincing customers to buy and creating great customer experiences starts with your own buy-in to the CX.

A Total Commitment

Creating a great CX is not an initiative a company launches, but a commitment that resonates through every part of the organization.

It begins with the statement: I want to be a trusted partner in the solution, product, or experience I’m selling. Digital transformation is about listening to customers, and driving a one-on-one interaction that not only satisfies, but also delights and connects with the customer. “This approach requires more time and personal attention, but it results in a larger reward because you are truly engaging with the customer,” Swalinski says.

The challenge is bringing that attitude and that CX to the entire selling ecosystem. “Transformation is not just about how technology interacts with the customer, but about how every function — from the sales team, to the executive team, to fulfillment, to customer service, to supply chain — touches, influences, or impacts the customer,” Swalinski says. “A lot of change management needs to be thought through and communicated as you make these changes. The companies that succeed in creating a compelling CX think about keeping customers engaged from beginning to end.”

Few companies are doing that extremely well, even as they realize its importance. The Capgemini Research Institute (CRI) found that 80% of consumers are willing to pay for a better experience, across sectors. Around 9% are actually willing to increase their spending by more than half to receive this great experience. But this is where the disconnect starts. Some 75% of organizations consider themselves to be customer-centric; however, only 30% of their consumers agree with them. Many customers don’t see the great CX that companies believe is being delivered.

Truly Understand Your Customer

In an ever-changing business landscape, companies need to examine their customer interactions with fresh eyes. This is especially true in light of the changes brought by COVID-19, which has accelerated buying trends and customer expectations.

Pam Koerper, Principal, Digital Customer Experience at Capgemini, cites the example of a large grocery company. Prior to the pandemic, people who came to the grocer’s online site were more often browsers: they would shop over several days and often abandoned their charts.

As we move to a new normal, the grocery company has noticed a shift in online customer behavior, with customer shopping becoming more focused: they spend more time on the site, build their carts faster, and check out, buying larger amounts more frequently.

The starting point for creating a great CX: make sure you are in lock step with your customers. For example, the way you direct and market to a browsing customer is very different from how you should support a directed customer.

“Don’t assume you know your customer. We’ve learned it is critical to truly understand your customer’s wants, needs, and buying channels and communication preferences. It is important to learn about your customer by investing in research,” says Koerper.

Most organizations know the value of site analytics. However, utilizing feedback management tools such as Qualtrics allows companies to validate assumptions and identify customer needs and pain points to avoid surprises. This first-party feedback can be utilized to drive prioritization of investments for technology innovations, internal process changes, and brand experience changes.

Another set of feedback information can come internally from an organization’s own employees. This can be done by internal surveys, benchmarks, and key performance indicators (KPI) that in turn lead to a better customer experience.

Personalize Content

When it comes to successful customer experiences, personalization is the key factor, and “has to move beyond a persona level to a one-on-one level,” Swalinski says. Personalization could be achieved through content delivery, by analyzing previous orders, or by analyzing what solutions customers viewed.

Consider a company that sells a wide range of products, on both the high end and the low end. “If you put all these products in front of your customers, they have information overload,” says Koerper. “They have too many choices to make a decision.”

Instead, companies should personalize the content they show based on previous shopping and buying experiences. If the customer previously bought a high-end couch from Brand A, for example, then prioritize showing them items in that same class category and brand when they are searching for end tables. That’s what a good CX is all about.

In both B2B and B2C, creating a satisfying CX means having an end-to-end perspective of the customer journey. “You need to understand the customer journey from presales to sales to post sales,” says Sree Gogineni, Chief Technology Architect at Capgemini. “You need to thoroughly understand each interaction the customer has with your product or service, and then you need to use analytics to understand the trends and patterns that emerge from those interactions.”

This approach enables companies to use recommendation engines to suggest additional products based on the clickstream and/or purchasing habits of previous customers. For example, SAP Commerce Cloud context-driven services can be leveraged to increase conversion by recommending products to specific users/segments based on several parameters, including product sales performance and predictive analysis of what the customer is most likely to click next.

Successfully following this approach requires having a data solution that allows all customer data, from any physical or digital touch point, to be in one place to provide a unified profile of the customer. “You can then get to a state of truly understanding the customer and making that understanding actionable in all the different channels where you interact with the customer,” Gogineni says.

Maximizing personalization across multiple brands requires a centralized customer identity and profile. SAP’s new SAP Customer Data Cloud helps to quickly identify and profile customers using its social login capabilities, and dramatically improve customer conversion rates from unknown to known. The solution can further be used to establish a central identity and authentication across all of your brands, channels, and services to your customers. By putting customers in the driver’s seat and allowing them to manage their data brings transparency, confidence, and brand loyalty. Companies can also lower the cost of compliance and operations while centralizing these processes. This leads to customers feeling a sense of cohesiveness with a seamless experience and increasing trust.

Self-serve Enhances the Buying Process

Customers today, both B2B and B2C, are digital natives. They are used to being able to get the information they need to make decisions right away. They don’t want to make phone calls; they want to go online and self-serve.
Consider how Fast CPQ for SAP Customer Experience solutions, specifically developed by Capgemini, can quickly and efficiently transform configure, price, and quote (CPQ) processes. According to Capgemini, the solution offers buyers intuitive self-service capabilities and fully integrates data flows between SAP Commerce Cloud, CPQ systems, and SAP S/4HANA. From car companies to phone companies, organizations across all industries are developing new solutions and the CPQ process is where multiple customer journeys begin to intersect.

Self-service and data integration capabilities allow customers to be in control of configuring a complex product. For example, the customer might ask for a quote based on a specific configuration. That information is routed to a salesperson, who might suggest a different and better configuration. This virtual mechanism takes the place of a traditional face-to-face sales interaction.

The emerging expectation that self-service will be available is having widespread consequences. Gogineni points to a manufacturer that had traditionally used manual processes to serve its customers. The company’s national account reps would take calls and process orders. This long-standing approach became insufficient — and it was the customers themselves that pushed for a change. To satisfy them, the manufacturer implemented a self-service portal that customers could use to place an order, track it, and put in a request for assistance if an issue arose.

The manufacturer implemented a CPQ system with a visualization tool that allowed customers to see the configurations of all the parts, as well as the landscape of all the solutions the company offered. This experience engaged customers, drove better self-service configuration of products, and reduced sales team costs, while improving customer interactions and the overall CX.

Other companies have seen a tangible payback from bringing B2C capabilities to the B2B arena. A manufacturer that provides specialty pipe and tubing products faced numerous problems with its standard approach toward customers. The customer-facing sales experience was slow and cumbersome. Call-in orders often took more than an hour to process. To solve this challenge, the manufacturer built a tailored e-commerce site that uses a customized load builder and enables customers to pick and place the parts they need while optimizing delivery times — a key factor in profitability. This presented a win-win outcome: 21% of all orders now come from the site, representing 80% of revenue from new on-boarded customers.

Another manufacturer transformed its selling framework by launching a subscription model. “This enabled the business to transform its selling model allowing for enhanced engagement through self-service capabilities,” Swalinski says. The manufacturer was able to create subscription products based on those customer interactions leading to a 300% increase in subscription revenue and a 350% increase in total customers.

Why B2B Companies Need to Care About a Better CX

CX has long been considered the province of B2C companies which must identify and satisfy the needs of a large customer base. The B2B space, which often focuses on large sales and dedicated account reps, has traditionally taken the stance that CX is inherently baked into their processes.

“Historically, much of the B2B industry was about relationship selling,” Gogineni says. “The customer experience wasn’t a function of technology in that space.”

However, B2B customers are not immune to the D2C trend, nor to the “Amazon effect,” where ease of use being offered to consumers is now expected in every buying situation.

“Those needs and wants are being funneled to the B2B space,” Gogineni says. “B2B customers are asking: Why can’t I have an online system where I view order status, configure my products, see what inventory is available in real-time, and pay my invoice, just as I do on consumer sites?”

How SAP Technology Supports the CX

Swalinski notes that reshaping the CX is not an “all or nothing” approach of a portal or online offering. It’s about providing the right experience to customers in the channel they want to use. The online channels satisfy customers who might need a switch or panel — the type of one-off orders that the company didn’t even realize it was missing out on before.

The SAP Customer Experience portfolio provides a suite of products that deliver a unified digital CX, from marketing to commerce, to service after the sale. As Gogineni notes, the point is not to simply provide good CX — it is to provide a unified omnichannel CX. Customers should feel they are dealing with the same company, and having the same experience, whether they are buying on a mobile app, a commerce solution, or placing a phone call to a sales agent.

“Piece by piece, the SAP Customer Experience portfolio is compelling and unique,” Swalinski says. “But the real difference is how the pieces all tie together.” Those pieces include SAP Commerce Cloud, which ensures a personalized, comprehensive e-commerce experience with end-to-end commerce processes; SAP Service Cloud, which bridges the gap between front-office engagements and back-end processes; SAP Marketing Cloud, which enables marketers to successfully generate demand, increase lead conversions, and drive more sales; and SAP Customer Cloud Data, which allows customers to manage their own consent data, and shift from anonymous visitors to loyal customers.

“The biggest conversation is always about how to integrate systems together,” Gogineni says. “SAP has different components that solve different parts of the puzzle, and they all come pre-coupled and pre-integrated. That enables you to get to the end solution quickly and leverage the true benefits of a unified solution and landscape much faster.”

And quick is good. Because customer expectations are changing rapidly and constantly, so companies must be ready to turn on a dime — and keep turning as those needs change. As companies work to improve their CX, the key principles to keep in mind include the following:

  • Good CX is all about truly understanding the individual customer through rigorous research.
  • Personalizing the experience is critical; and this can only be done by truly knowing your customer.
  • Think about self-service as it enhances the buying process and the overall customer and employee experience.
  • And finally, rethink your business model through the lens of CX.

Keeping these principles top of mind will ensure your company can: 1) pivot when needed to meet the changing expectations of customers; 2) deliver successfully and seamlessly across the entire customer journey; and 3) drive revenue and growth for the business.

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