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SAP CX tools evolve in the face of data privacy, AI

'Experience data' from Qualtrics will help SAP boost its customer experience offerings. The company is also considering how AI can help and where privacy concerns fit into the CX landscape.

SAP has plenty of challenges in the CX arena, as it competes with traditional rivals, such as IBM and Oracle, and relative upstarts, including Salesforce and newer startups. Then again, SAP continues to develop and evolve its core products and has been busy transitioning from on-premises offerings to cloud services.

Part of the transition for SAP CX involved several big acquisitions, including the $8 billion purchase of Qualtrics, which closed earlier this year. Qualtrics pioneered experience management software that analyzes customers' experiences with products, services and brands. Alex Atzberger, president of SAP Customer Experience, played a key role in the acquisition and other moves.

Here, Atzberger explains how the sales and customer experiences are changing and how SAP CX technology can make a difference.

Where do you see the market for SAP CX services today? How has it changed versus what was being pitched three years ago?

Alex Atzberger, president, SAP Customer ExperienceAlex Atzberger

Alex Atzberger: In 2017, we saw there was a new category of customer experience. We could see that CRM was evolving from being sales-focused to customer experience, which is looking at every touch point a customer has with a company and optimizing those interactions.

Providing a good customer experience is no longer simply about what your salesperson says or what your website feels like, but connecting demand to a supply chain and keeping the promises a company makes.

There is a lot more data out there that can influence how a company interacts with customers. How so?

Atzberger: You have to be cognizant of the consent you have and get a full picture of the customer. Data privacy became very critical for us and one of the reasons we bought Gigya.

If you look at the original CRM systems, the customer opportunity came from salespeople writing in the names of prospects and customers. Today, the level of personalization and interactions with digital -- B2B and B2C -- is completely different. We designed the system to ask both, 'How can the salesperson do the job?' and 'How can I improve the customer's experience?' That's a different design decision.

How does that work in practice?

Atzberger: Take sales. At SAP, we have many ways to look at how a salesperson performs. But to really look at how he or she performs with a customer, we have to look at, for example, the time it takes to give a customer the information they are looking for. When a customer asks for information about a product or service, with some companies, there are a lot of approvals and steps to take as they wait for the proposals.

In 2017, we bought CallidusCloud because we liked their solution. It's not just about automating the sales process, but improving the customer experience. And for salespeople, it's about more than just wanting to know what their sales forecast is.

So, asking how many calls you made this week is very old-school?

Atzberger: Absolutely. We want to be sure the salesperson has a holistic view of the customer.

There is operational data, like how many meetings you had, but there is also social data about the customer and how they interact online with the company. There is also the notion of 'experience data' and what the customer is feeling right now.

But it's not just about collecting the data; it's also how to act on it.

With compliance and regulation, the world is moving extremely fast.
Alex AtzbergerPresident of SAP Customer Experience

To what extent is AI a game changer for SAP CX?

Atzberger: It's deeply embedded in our roadmap. Things like how the system can suggest 'next best action' and what to do next -- that's where we see customer demand. On the automation side, we want to make the system more intelligent.

The salesperson doesn't want to spend time on the phone collecting data the company already has. That's where AI and machine learning can be so helpful. For example, it's important for the salesperson to know what the support department is already doing for a customer or prospect.

There is also all this experience data out there; that's why we're so excited about having Qualtrics. If someone has a bad experience in a store, you don't have to wait three months to see it in a report; you know about it right away and can take action.

How to do you handle the increased concern over privacy and data sharing?

Atzberger: We saw pretty rapidly with customers that GDPR may not be in practice everywhere. With compliance and regulation, the world is moving extremely fast. And as companies go more digital, it's extremely difficult to keep up with standards. We see our job to help companies keep up and not worry about it.

We manage over a billion profiles in our data cloud, and things like the right to be forgotten [are] really important. Companies that don't act on these concerns because they are not in Europe might be surprised to find how quickly it will impact them.

Privacy regulations limit what you can do with customer data, but at least it brings some guidance to the issue.

Atzberger: Yes, and then you can build on the consent as to which data you can use to offer a personalized experience.

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