The big tech vendors have been busy reframing their CRM solutions to reflect their clients' desire to improve customer experiences. This time it's more than just a rebranding exercise.
Early in June, SAP revealed it was rebranding its suite of customer management solutions.
Gone, in name, are all things Hybris – the various components consolidated into five integrated platforms: SAP Commerce Cloud, Marketing Cloud, Sales Cloud, Service Cloud and Customer Cloud.
Collectively the tools will now fall under the umbrella of SAP Customer Experience.
The rebrand is the most recent in a series of chess moves by the globe’s leading tech platform providers as they shift their rhetoric away from CRM to CX: SAP has previously flirted with rhetoric around ‘relationships’ and ‘customer engagement’, prior to its June announcement.
Adobe switched its messaging from data-driven marketing to the ‘Experience Cloud’; IBM announced its own ‘customer experience suite’ in 2017. Microsoft Dynamics dropped CRM from its product suite in 2016.
Even Salesforce, so often steadfast in its affiliation with being the cloud CRM software, has increasingly plugged its status as a bona fide ‘customer success platform’.
Why CX? Why now?
Rebrands are – in isolation – no surprise. But what is so germane is that the globe’s largest tech platforms are now doing it collectively in order to fight for recognition as leaders in experience.
Experience is modus operandi. Experience matters. Delivering better experiences, on the other hand, is complex.
“Organisations largely struggle to fulfil customer expectations because they’ve grown up focusing on solving problems within certain channels and departments and often in a siloed way, which is no longer good enough,” says Roland Van Breukelen, marketing director for SAP Customer Experience UK.
“It’s now about being present at the point of time where your customer needs you, and having the right context to help someone through their journey at whatever stage they’re at – whether it’s pre-purchase, during a purchase or post-purchase, i.e. understanding what’s happened to a product, when it’s getting shipped etc.
“Experiences need to be more holistically viewed across channels and across departmental boundaries, as a result. Most importantly, experiences need to be focused on the customer, not the organisation delivering them.”
These last two points are crucial, because experience has become a key differentiator for today’s consumer. According to Gartner, 89% of companies now compete mostly on the basis of customer experience, versus 36% in 2013. Customers also expect their experiences with a brand to be in-the-moment, something that requires said brand to have a clearer, more holistic understanding of its customers.
This isn’t a requirement reserved for B2C engagement, either. B2B customers are becoming increasingly expectant:
Yet competing on CX is nothing new – customer experience has dominated the business buzzterm bingo cards for over 10 years. So why have tech brands like SAP only recently decided to commit in earnest to being CX platforms?
“It’s taken a long time for the importance of customer experience to be recognised. And delivering on the CX promise is, as we’ve said, so difficult,” adds Van Breukelen.
“The reason it’s difficult is the fact that we all have organisational boundaries that are not easy to break down. But what’s been required on the technology side is fully-integrated platforms that helps those organisational departments speak to one another, and within that you need effective data management.
“If you look at SAP, we have invested in our data strategy and infrastructure and that means we’re now able to ensure we can manage a customer’s identity more effectively now; without that we can’t build the truly holistic view of a customer.”
Van Breukelen believes that data integration, alongside organisational silos, is now the most significant sticking point standing in the way of organisations hoping to improve their CX.
Indeed, in a benchmark study last year, ‘centralisation of customer data’ (80%), ‘improved data quality and value’ (70%) and ‘improved visibility of communications and activities’ (60%) were stated as the three most fundamental business requirements.
Despite this, of the 85% of respondents in a 2017 NVP study that stated their firms had started programmes to create a more data-driven culture, only 37% reported success thus far. This highlights that the leap of faith required to invest in both data integration and the culture that surrounds it can be too huge for many businesses.
Experiences need to be focused on the customer, not the organisation delivering them
“It is not easy to manage data across the many systems that require customer data to run.
“We know customers struggle with effectively managing this data which is especially risky now with new legislations in place and this often leads to data being out of sync, inaccurate reporting and a below par customer experience.
“However, where we’re all trying to improve is to provide the vehicle that allows a central point for customers and their data. In SAP’s case we have shared master data to support the processes so that the customer record (and other master data like product) is created and managed centrally and is simply consumed and enriched for processing, rather than physically sending the data around.”
Fundamentally, this should mean organisations are more agile and more collaborative. While 41% of customer experience professionals state that ‘operational’ silos are a significant barrier to providing a seamless customer experience, 70% of companies are “a long way from having integrated channels and a complete customer picture”.
From CRM to customer experience
Van Breukelen believes this paradox is proof that the gauntlet has been thrown down for organisations.
“This really challenges the way businesses are set up, the way they measure success (because they’re set up departmentally and individually with KPIs and product focus). It’s about connecting those pieces, ensuring the customer journey is connected end-to-end and that you have consistency across the channels.
“That then needs to be connected up by a platform, so it’s consumerable and connects an end-to-end process that’s genuinely focused on the customer.
“A lot of leadership put in place to deliver customer experience tends to have responsibilities that expand those departmental boundaries. We’re seeing a shift in thinking among the leaders that are focused on delivering customer experience.”
This point, in turn, also reaffirms why the big tech platform players have shifted their communications away from CRM in recent years, to CX.
“If we look at the majority of traditional CRM deployments, they’re focused at driving improvements for employees to have better visibility on internal process – how many tickets is a service agent working on, how many sales has this team made, etc,” adds Van Breukelen.
“The need is to turn CRM on its head to ensure systems are focused entirely on the customer. Yes there’s internal focuses but this shift in thinking is affirmation that the customer wins at the end. The customer is at the forefront of the process and therefore the boundaries between sales, service, marketing and the back office are broken down.”
Chris was an Editor at MyCustomer from 2014 to 2022. He is a practiced editor, having worked as a copywriter for creative agency, Stranger Collective from 2009 to 2011 and subsequently as a journalist covering technology, marketing and customer service from 2011-2014 as editor of Business Cloud News.