The rapid pace of digital change, customer demand for instant gratification and ever-elevating competition has businesses engaged in deep soul-searching for continued market relevance. By understanding the individual customer better, and providing a personalized solution — in other words, by managing the customer experience (CX) – businesses can create stickiness and brand loyalty that increases competitive advantage.

For most companies, this all comes down to taking advantage of massive data stores that reside on the cloud, the global reach of the internet, and the advanced computing power that drives advanced analytics and artificial intelligence. In fact, these technologies can enable traditional B2B companies to embark on direct-to-consumer (D2C) journeys — either B2C or B2B2C — to directly influence end-customers.  

Getting there, however, requires them to deliver the same individualized and clairvoyant experiences more commonly seen in the D2C context, and then continuously manage and enhance the experiences through a closed-loop feedback cycle. By taking advantage of these capabilities in SAP solutions, companies are able to deliver a consumer-grade experience on their B2B platforms/channels that is very similar to what their customers are accustomed to in their personal interactions and transactions with their favorite digital brands.

Seeing the Customer Experience through Consumer Eyes

Here are some examples of businesses that are now approaching CX with a consumer-oriented lens.

  • A leading European appliance manufacturer traditionally approached customers by primarily advertising its products and their features. This company is now engaging customers with a narrative around how its “smart products” help improve quality of life. By understanding and addressing individualized customer needs and wants — in other words, bringing in the human touch — this company now delivers a differentiated experience for its customers during the sales and post-sales service cycles. As a result, the business is keeping customers loyal, engaged and transacting.
  • Pharmaceutical companies have traditionally relied on a complex, multi-layered distribution network to manage their supply chains. A global leader in this industry has made significant investments in a CX program, which is now enabling direct connections with “last-mile” stakeholders such as hospitals, pharmacies, etc. through new digital channels.

    Most importantly, the purchasing teams at these businesses are able to easily adopt these channels due to the “consumer-grade” experience enabled with the latest cloud-based web and mobile technologies. This has helped make significant improvements in the supply chain, thereby ensuring critical life-saving drugs are available in a timely manner, even at the most remote locations.

The Next Frontier: “Managing” the Experience

We are deep into the “experience economy,” where customer experience is playing a key role in business model evolution. While digital has enabled B2B brands to pivot to B2C and B2B2C business models, the COVID-19 pandemic has further accelerated this shift to deliver a superior CX.

Businesses are beginning to deploy experience management (XM) techniques to continuously improve the customer experience. This involves a closed-loop cycle that requires investments in systems and processes to collect feedback from customers about their interactions with the brand at different moments of truth during the customer journey.

This feedback is then used in conjunction with operational data from the organization’s enterprise systems to generate real-time actionable insights, which in turn drive customer experience improvement initiatives. Measurements of key parameters related to CX (such as net promoter score) are performed in real-time on an ongoing basis, to assess the efficacy of the improvements, and also to identify additional enhancements.

Companies  that do this successfully will be the true trailblazers in the ever-evolving digital economy.

SAP’s Evolution into Experience Management

SAP has created an overall ecosystem (organically and through acquisition) during the past decade that delivers a 360-degree view of an enterprise and its customers. In fact, SAP’s CX suite now covers key activities across sales, service, CPQ (configure, price, quote), e-commerce, marketing and field service management.

Although SAP systems have traditionally functioned as a system of record for operational data, newer solutions such as Qualtrics focus on the experience data that is typically available through social media, online feedback, etc. By combining these disparate data types, organizations can achieve the long-elusive goal of obtaining a 360-degree view of their customers. For many enterprises, the customer relationship management initiatives of the recent past are now quickly converging toward experience management, and the SAP CX suite is helping to accelerate this journey.

Looping in the Business

While the technology platform is a critical component for any CX transformation program, success will be limited if the transformation is treated primarily as a technology initiative. CX (and continuous experience management) must be treated as a business issue, with a detailed focus on business model change and the associated process redesign, as well as applying persona-based, human-centric, design-thinking principles. This approach allows organizations to connect business processes and technology, seamlessly.

To succeed, domain experts (in the lead-to-cash value chain) and SAP CX architects must work with business subject matter experts and create a blueprint for meaningful customer experience improvements — and the processes that underlie it. Agile, DevOps, continuous integration/continuous deployment (CI/CD), etc. enable the technology platforms to be delivered with agility and flexibility.

Business stakeholders must be continuously involved in the entire process. They must spend significant time in design thinking upfront, and understand that the flexibility provided by Agile development demands their ongoing engagement for early and frequent feedback during the process. If there is a risk of failure, it’s best to fail early; this opens an opportunity to learn and adapt, or even end a program before too much investment has been made.

The Impact of CX + XM

While it is early days for businesses following the constructs of experience management, the following examples clearly illustrate how CX + XM is playing out among early adopters.

  • A 100-year-old brand that specializes in outdoor products faced dwindling interest in its brand. By investing in CX and understanding customer needs and wants through Qualtrics, the company has been able to pinpoint the reasons for declining sales and loss of market share.

    The insights from Qualtrics led to a change in marketing strategy and product assortment. Additionally, significant CX improvements were made to the web and mobile sales channels. All these together have tripled customer lifetime value and increased the customer count for the first time in years, while reducing the SKUs and inventory that the brand carries.

  • Years ago, a global automotive giant created a customer satisfaction program to ensure brand promises were met by its dealer network. Three decades later, it was clear the program was not delivering results; both repurchase rates and service visits to dealers were down.

    By leveraging CX and XM closed-loop approaches, the business achieved a 23-point net promoter score increase in nine months, and also improved service levels, which resulted in an increase in repurchase and service visits.

It’s essential for businesses to understand that a structured CX program is not a one-time activity. In fact, it requires a continuous cycle of delivering a compelling and meaningful experience to customers, listening to their feedback, and then determining actionable insights through the confluence of operational and behavioral data through SAP’s CX suite.

By approaching CX holistically, businesses can continuously enhance the experience they deliver to customers — keeping them happy and loyal — which can only improve their competitive standing.

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Sajid Hussain

Sajid Hussain

Sajid Hussain leads the SAP CX Practice at Cognizant. In a career spanning more than 25 years, Sajid has envisioned, planned and... Read more