Delivering True Customer Success Requires Flipping the Engagement Model

Ten years ago, the term “customer success” meant little in the IT and services industry. Sure, all organizations wanted to support their customers and provide them with the tools and services they needed to succeed. However, the term itself, as we define it today, did not hold the meaning that it currently does.

Today, customer success is a huge priority for all major services and support organizations, but over 90 percent of the industry is still relying on traditional methods – methods that have not adapted much to the changing needs of customers and to the evolution of the customer base itself.

Emerging technologies, the widespread consumerization of IT, and always-on, real-time processes have prompted the changes taking place across the customer success landscape. They have also forced business-to-business (B2B) organizations to re-evaluate their offerings, processes, and overall mindsets.

Shifting Focus to Deliver Outcomes

Just as retail organizations improve their products to adapt to the changing demands of customers, so too must services organizations. While the needs of business-to-consumer (B2C) customers may differ from those in the B2B world, a shift in focus is necessary to remain competitive in today’s experience economy.

With the move to cloud, customer success has required B2B organizations to meet the customer where they are – through a tailored and personalized approach that helps drive continuous business value. In the past,  SAP mainly focused on optimizing systems, hardware, and performance, as well as improving products and services. We now take a more outcome-based approach by working to enhance business scenarios and support customers on their paths to becoming intelligent enterprises. With SAP customers adopting different solution architectures — from on-premise to cloud and hybrid scenarios — we need to help ensure that SAP provides a range of tailored product offerings that can help meet these evolving demands.

One Size Does Not Fit All

When delivering customer success, one size does not fit all. Every customer needs something different based on their own business models and various commercial perspectives. That is why SAP offers different levels of customer success services:

  • Project success services are project-based consulting services that include innovation, advisory, implementation, and value-assurance services.
  • Continuous success and support delivery includes services that help drive enablement, adoption, business continuity, and management services.
  • Premium success services are for long-term engagements specifically tailored to larger customers’ needs, such as with the SAP ActiveAttention and SAP MaxAttention programs.

The methods SAP now uses to service customers have evolved dramatically due to emerging technologies becoming available. Organizations that take advantage of these technologies, like SAP, are developing delivery channels that provide customers with various engagement options. The traditional ticket-based response model has been infused with artificial intelligence (AI) and machine learning – providing real-time interactions and faster resolution times.

Changing the Mindset for Continuous Value Optimization

Customer success is not just a process. It is a mindset, and it requires behavioral change from the top down. The ultimate degree of customer success will change every single function inside a company like SAP.

Customer-facing teams are at the front lines with those changes. As changes continue to take place in the modern support function, leaders will need to set up their employees for success. In an economy that is more and more digitalized, customer requests are real-time, ambiguous, and often mission-critical. As new support roles have emerged, old roles have changed to meet these new customer needs. Many of the technical skills that delivery teams have used in the past will now need to be supplemented by intangible skills, such as empathy, openness, and intuition, in order to truly service the customer well. Ultimately, the DNA of an organization needs to contain the intrinsic desire and a true sense of responsibility toward achieving the desired outcomes of their customers.

Flipping the Engagement Model

As customers continue to adopt and integrate new technologies, support organizations need to be there every step of the way, even when customers do not expect them to be. True customer success will require SAP to flip the current engagement model on its head – reaching out to customers before incidents occur plus pivoting and optimizing accordingly.

As SAP looks to the future of customer support and success, we will begin to see more investment in robotic process automation (RPA), which will help enhance the proactive approach used to serve customers. No matter how deeply this disruptive technology becomes integrated, it will also be necessary to maintain a blended interaction model, one that allows for both automation to simplify tasks and for human engagement, when desired.


Andreas Heckmann is the executive vice president and head of Customer Success Services at SAP.

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