Stephanie:  Hi! Welcome to the SAPinsider Podcasts on interviewing customer experience. My name is Stephanie So, and I am a Marketing Manager of SAP Cloud Platform at SAP. I’m your host today, and we are joined by a panel of experts to discuss the latest trends in digital technology and transformation.

First on our panel we are joined by Sheryl Kingstone, who leads the 451 Research Coverage for customer experience and commerce, which covers many aspects of how customers experience is a catalyst for digital transformation. She oversees the company’s coverage on a variety of customer experience software markets, expanding ad techs, marketing, sales, commerce and service.

Second on our panel we have Shalini Mitha, who is the Global Head of Solution Marketing at SAP. She leads the experienced team of marketing experts to help best run companies understands their customers, transform their business models, and provide the most exceptional experience, so that they can fulfil the purpose and win in the marketplace.

Finally, we have Emily Mui, who is a Senior Director of SAP Cloud Platform, part of marketing at SAP. She develops high impact awareness content and programs, to educate customers on the value of SAP Cloud Platform for innovating new business applications and launching new capabilities throughout the product life cycle.

Welcome Shalini, Sheryl, and Emily. I am pleased to have you here today, to share your insights on today’s latest trends in digital transformation and technology, and what it means for all SAP customers.

My first question is for Sheryl. What are some of the new approaches, customers are using to build long lasting customer relationships by building strong brand equity?

Sheryl:        Well, isn’t that the holy grail of a question, you know. Seriously, it really is fully loaded. There are so many different approaches to solve that problem. There’s lots of different technologies out there, and we’re going to go over a lot of that in today’s podcast, but you know, fundamentally, why it’s really important, is there really is a dramatic shift in the balance of power between organizations and their customers, and it’s across all industries. This is impacting consumer industries, B2B industries and basically, the situation is that price and products are no longer enough, and customers really value those experiences, I say this over, and over, and over again. When it comes to these technologies, organizations today, what they’re really looking to do, is digitally transform their businesses and essentially to best attract, win, retain and support.

It’s about that customer life cycle, and you look across that whole customer journey, so what customers are looking to do is they leverage these different applications, the analytics and the infrastructure. That is what’s going to help them deliver a differentiated customer experience. That’s really a luxury today, it’s a necessity for survival, and that’s a lot of the research that we have.

When we look at where we’re really taking that customer experience digital transformation research, we look at it as a catalyst in a lot of these projects. As businesses invest in these new technologies, they really have to understand how these technologies can impact their business processes. It really isn’t about a one and done scenario, it’s about understanding how to effectively use the technology, to engage your customers, or even partners. Even these technologies can help employees, it’s about employee effectiveness. That’s why we take a look at it, but we’re here today to talk about customer experience, and an interesting data point, is that when we look at our survey, improving the customer experience is finally one of those top drivers. Historically, it’s been very much about improving operational efficiencies, and it’s really nice to know that we move beyond lip service into truly understanding how we can leverage a lot of these technologies, to finally improve the customer experience.

That’s what it’s all about, it’s looking at how to build long lasting relationships with customers, and how we can look at the role of digital transformation, and understand how we can provide this ideal customer experience, but that has to go beyond multiple different departments. It really isn’t just about sales, marketing, service, field service, HR or finance. We have to look at it holistically across the company, but interestingly enough, only 30% of customers that we’ve surveyed actually have formal digital transformation strategies. The definition of that is to understand what they are doing to strategize around, engaging their customers, optimizing the processes and then digitizing that experience.

When we look at it at 451 Research, it really is about that Four Pronged Approach, looking at it across the digital experience, across digital strategy, meaning executive lead digital strategy along with the digital platform which is absolutely critical, and we’re going to go over, why the digital platform is so important and how that digital platform can operationalize the entire strategy for digital transformation because it’s about putting the tools to work in a transformative way, but it’s also ensuring that you have the right data to support that strategy, because it’s all about the inside that connect the people with the information that ultimately leads to a better customer experience.

Shalini:       You know Sheryl, the whole concept of pushing products and services has really become commoditized. In every industry, customers have so many choices, and it really is about driving that experience, customers want brands to value them, and want them to understand them and not just push their products and services. I think it’s so important that companies are realizing that they need to step back, and really put the customer in the center of all they do. It’s interesting that you bring up the data point that only really 30% of companies have a formal strategy for digitizing their business. There’s 70% of customers that are probably going to get beaten out by their competition because they’re not they’re not prioritizing.

Sheryl:        Absolutely! We do have some data that talks about that. The other point I want to taste, not even products and services, is everyone is also potentially trying to differentiate on price and we have studies to show that price is no differentiator at all, across a variety of different strategies. What are we doing to make sure that it is about the experience?

Stephanie:  Shalini recently released some consumer research. Can you tell us more about the findings?

Shalini:       Yes, so we recently did a survey of 20,000 consumers worldwide, really trying to understand what customers wanted in a relationship with brands, and what creates these, meanings the long-term relationships, because as we know, in this new customer driven economy, the entire power rests with the customer and the consumer, and understanding what their needs are, their preferences and really about being transparent. We wanted to see what makes them tick from a customer perspective, and what could make or break a customer experience and cause a customer to break up with a brand. Some interesting points that came out is we found that in the US, 71% of consumers are willing to share their information but interestingly enough, that number drops significantly, almost in half, just about 44%, if that information transcends across international borders.

They’re willing to share in the US but if they know that their data is going to be used outside of the US, they are not willing to share it. It’s also interesting that, you know, they’re willing to give us their contact information but they definitely don’t want to use in a global sense. 80% of users will break up or leave a brand we use their information without consent. As we’re seeing today, in this climate of all the data breaches that have happened with Facebook, Yahoo and Target, it becomes more important that we have to protect customer data, consumer data, and really be transparent in how we’re using it, and gain their consent before using it in ways that they don’t support.

Service becomes really important, there’s an expectation that we’re going to be responsive and 71% will break up with brands if they don’t receive resolution to enquiries within 24 hours, you know, with GDPR going into effect May 25th which it causes brands to really understand how data is being used, how the consumer wants it being transparent, but it is a stepping stone for really evaluating your relationship with the brand, so you can build trust and consent but really better engage, and actually give you the competitive advantage because you’re developing a relationship on but what the consumer wants, and you’re building that trusted relationship, so that you are in sync with a customer and their needs, and you can help bridge the gap, you can help carry them on their journey because they trust you, you’ve gained consent, and your relationship is transparent. It’s really important that companies now are stepping back, and really putting the customer at the center of everything that they’re doing, to really create that trusted, simple, personal, helpful, and connected relationship with their customer today.

Emily:         I couldn’t agree with you more, you know, especially with what we’re seeing today, and all that’s happening on the social front, and how data is being sold and used without consent, it’s a huge concern. A lot of customers want to make sure that they’re using the right technologies to support those needs, to secure the data that companies are using because like you said, companies do not want to be losing their customers because of misuse of that data.

Shalini:       Absolutely! Emily, one the things I actually just recently put a post out on this, regarding the potential step back and the impact on the consumer privacy standpoint, and it’s interesting enough that we’ve been tracking this over time, and it’s kind of sad because over the years we’ve really seen five points, 10 points willingness to share increases, and now with the next rev coming out, I really hope we don’t fall back on that because there had been an increase in willingness to share, and now with all the news we really have to understand how to do it right, and how to do it effective, and be transparent and privacy by design.

Stephanie:  Absolutely, yes! I agree, you know, thank you Sheryl and Emily. I completely understand, I think, transparency is really important especially with all the things that’s happening around data surrounding, you know, all the breaches and so forth. Transparency is really important.

Going back to Sheryl, my next question is, what are some of the technologies that companies are using to improve these interactions with customers?

Sheryl:        That’s a really good question, and it’s a very difficult one, and to be honest, it’s really all the above, you know. When we take a look at things, like, AI and machine learning, and some of the bots that we’re looking to get at, but then, it’s also about the platform and the ability to synthesize some of that data, and understand where it’s going. When we do look at a lot of these technologies, what our data is showing as I said earlier, is there are technologies that span the customer experience, and where they’re going at, but what is most interesting, is when you take a look at digital leaders and where their interests are lying, and you take a look at digital laggards, that’s where the differences come out.

Across three areas that we do look at, for instance, machine learning, intelligent business applications and conversational technologies, there is a wedge between leaders and laggards, and some of the data that we have, and for example, the machine learning, the difference between organizations that want to adopt persons ones that do not, when we take a look at these digital transformations whether they have formal plans or quote unquote no formal plans, there can be a 24 point gap, and that’s significant because vendors that are not vendors, but companies that are looking at taking a look at these new technologies are going to leapfrog their competition, especially ones that aren’t evaluating some of these new technologies.

That’s what’s significant about the gap because it’s a signal of a fundamental shift, in the way that applications are being built and deployed, but more importantly the value that can be derived from using them. There’s a lot that is really about the data. That’s why, when you bring it back to the Cambridge Analytics and the Facebook issue, and everyone’s trying to get at the data, that’s what’s so important.

When we look at the technologies to understand how we use the data properly and we take a look at the trends that have to put in place, leading businesses can understand how to embed it in a business process. It’s not just about how to use it in an ad tech environment, it’s about how to improve the next best action maybe for the customer service rep, or the next best action for the self-service initiative, and the interaction itself, and that’s what’s really important, and this cuts across both consumer oriented and B2B oriented businesses, and where machine learning comes to do it, is doing it at scale.

In the past, we used to have to hard code a lot of this but now we can use a lot of the machine learning technologies because it helps us with not just on the ability to understand the data, the ability to capture, analyze, understand and then act on the information, that’s where machine learning can really help, and it includes things, like, understanding the ability to recognize a pattern, images or sentiment, so that you can make sure that you’re creating the right action and you’re doing it very dynamically in real time, based on the situation at hand. That’s what’s driving the demand for a lot of these intelligent business applications because of that data.

Eventually, this will all pan out and we will understand the rules of consent in the privacy by design because we really don’t want to take a step back into the real business case for improving the overall customer experience. The last thing that we really wanted to talk about was, you know, those customer experience issues, and something that’s very hot in the market, which is the rise of those invisible interfaces.

Lastly, we do see things like Alexa and Apple Siri, and how they can improve customer engagement, and why I’m bringing this up, is some of those new technologies, it’s because of the stat we have, around 40% of consumers would prefer to chat with the business through Social Media Messaging or SMS because they really prefer those digital channels, and it’s a prerequisite for loyalty. When they want to communicate in this mobile environment, we really have to make sure that we’re doing it more effectively, we’re doing it more intelligently because we have to do it in a way that the consumer wants to engage, and some of these new digital technologies is embedded into an intelligent process, that’s where the differentiation can really come, by embedding it into the platform and the customer engagement experience.

Shalini:       You know, Sheryl, I agree with you, and I think what I’ve seen is, more and more, what customers really are looking to do is to be more experiential in their interactions versus transactional. So, data is great but what the insights and the ability to use it in a prescriptive way, not just predictive anymore, it’s about prescriptive, like, being able to provide next best actions, being able to be proactive, like, things like you said, like, service. We have some customers that really understand the importance, and for them to be competitive, they are leveraging technologies, like, machine learning and predictive analytics, to help deliver better customer experiences.

One example is Karma Automotive, who is based in Southern California, and they really wanted to go out, just drop the auto industry, and engineer the most highest quality luxury electric vehicle, but at the same time, their mission was to make it as simple and easy as possible for their customers, from design to manufacturing, into delivery, even to servicing and post-sale care. Being able to connect with their customers and make it a really transformative experience for them.

Once a user bought a car, being able to predict and do that proactive service, where they would know ahead of time if a car needs to be serviced, they have sensors that would know when certain parts of the car were coming up for malfunction or being able to be proactive in providing that level of care that customers required. This is definitely what keeps brands, like, Karma Automotive, you know, ahead of the competition because they’re really putting the customer at the  forefront, and trying to be as proactive as they can, to make sure they’re delivering those exceptional experiences.

Another customer is Hoerbiger. They wanted to digitize fuel efficiencies and as you know, the demands for energy increase and natural resource are depleted, they wanted to use technology to really simplify the ability to take compressor units that are on top of gas wells, and just ability to get out more gas and leverage the natural resources. Their machines are all out in the fields in Mexico and Argentina, and for the field technicians to go out, took a couple hours to get out to those facilities to service, and so they wanted to use digital ways by using IoT Sensors and machine learning to be able to monitor these machines, and be able to cut the amount of onsite time and manual tasks for the agents, and to be able to automate and connect the processes, so that you didn’t have to go out and service every time, and also to be able to make billing easier, so they could leverage different billing scenario, to make it really easy to track the billing for each of the machines that were out in the field. It really kind of changes the way that we are delivering this experience to our customers, it’s flexible and it requires platforms that are flexible, ability to extend, and to really meet the demands of the industry, as well as the customer.

Emily:         Shalini, you’ve been bringing up some really interesting stories about how our customers are using our technology, and I completely agree with you about, you know, not being transactional anymore, and the fact that many of our customers today, they have a lot of different applications in place, but in order to deliver that true customer experience, in the way that they want it, they need to have some type of platform, a cloud platform that will be able to integrate all the different data across all the different transactions that a company has had with their customers, bring it together really quickly, be able to provide the insights, as well as be prescriptive and be systematically prescriptive, and then the leverage some of those technologies that Sheryl talked about, right? Including artificial intelligence with bots, and then as you mentioned Shalini, with IoT, to bring all that together, so that customers are able to live with that customer experience because it’s not just on the front end, it’s not just the responsibility of the field service agent, it’s not just the responsibility of the call center agent, or someone in marketing developing that initial outreach to a customer, or the sales rep that is servicing the customer as they walk through the door.

It’s everyone within an organization to deliver that world class experience that requires all those different types of data points coming together, all the different processes coming together, and all that really has to take place and happen in the cloud, so that a cloud platform will help deliver those experiences by bringing it all together. These are really great stories that you’re sharing, and you know, as I’ve been working on the cloud platform product for the last few years, what I’ve seen, is a lot of customers, understanding the need to adopt a cloud platform. I’ve seen the product grow exponentially, and we’re talking, I think, like, 400% since I start working on this product in terms of the number of new customers we’ve acquired just because customers are really fully understanding that they need to use a platform as a service technology to bring it all together.

Shalini:       Yes, and it is also taking the front office data of it, the rich CRM data that gives you information about your customers across sales, service, marketing and commerce, couple with the back office: the operational data, like, product inventory, pricing, accounts receivable. Being able to connect and build that 360 review on a flexible platform, such as the cloud platform, where you’re able to extend and to integrate between your front office and your back office, to create essentially one office, and then leveraging the power of artificial intelligence, and machine learning to provide those predictive and prescriptive information. It ends up being a very powerful suite that helps you kind of run this intelligent enterprise.

Sheryl:        Absolutely! Just to support that whole story, I can’t push more the power of actually all three together or four together, actually, because when I look at the digital leaders and laggards data that I have, I talked about the machine learning in a 26 point gap, what I didn’t mention earlier, is the fact that same gap also exists when you’re talking about platform as a service for companies that want to understand and improve their business processes, and create custom apps on top of that 360 degree view, on top of those more intelligent business applications that are there, and then, I also want to point out how important it really is about prioritizing the shift to the cloud, so that’s another easy 20 point gap about companies that are really prioritizing the cloud applications. If you’re a digital leader, and your informal digital transformation strategies, these are key elements that are really creating your platform of the future, and as a CRM Analyst, to me and a Customer Experience Analyst, it really is about the power of the platform because it’s about that next generation, 360-degree review.

Stephanie:  Well, this has been an impressive discussion. Thank you, ladies! We heard from Sheryl the different types of technologies and strategies, companies need to adapt to be truly successful, you know, in delivering customer focused experience. Shalini, thank you for sharing all the great examples of how SAP customers are doing in today, and Emily, you’re talking about cloud platform, I agree, we need to have the right infrastructure, and the cloud platform is a great way to optimize business processes.

As we’re closing down this podcast, I would like to thank again our panel for being our guest today and sharing their insights on innovating customer experience through digital transformation and technology. In the meantime, please visit to learn how SAP helps best run companies understand their customers, transform their business model and provide the most exceptional experiences.