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Staying a Step Ahead

How Systems of Engagement Are Transforming the Customer Experience

by Jamie Anderson | SAPinsider, Volume 16, Issue 2

April 2, 2015

With customers in control, companies need a new approach to engagement. Technology that simply manages customer information is no longer enough — organizations need a new kind of technology that uses context, integration, and an omnichannel model to deliver a consistent and compelling experience across all modes of communication. This article looks at how systems of engagement meet these needs with a personalized, integrated, and simplified approach to customer interactions.


No company in business today wants to fall behind the times. Sales reps do not run to pay phones to call their answering service, and presentations are not delivered using acetates or carousel slides. This extends to customers as well — no customer today wants to wait six to eight weeks for delivery.

Yet most organizations manage their entire customer experience in an outdated fashion, based on a funnel system that is over a century old — a network of silos and channels that evolved from a time when customer interaction was limited, and took a centralized “command-and-control” approach to customer relationship management (CRM).

Siloed experiences may have been acceptable in that analog era; a time when the seller was in control of the flow of information. But the customer now controls the journey. Customers can reach a vendor across a range of touchpoints, and expect to do so many times throughout their relationship — from initial research and discovery through purchase and support. And with social media, customers have a voice: Happy customers are willing to serve as brand advocates and references, and unhappy customers are equally vocal about bad experiences.

This shift of control has fundamentally altered the type of technology that companies need to engage their customers, and the way that SAP and hybris, an SAP company, approach this technology. The market has moved into a space where the management of customer information — the mainstay of traditional CRM — is no longer enough. While this system of record is important, it is the new systems of engagement upon which future growth depends.

Personalized Interaction with Systems of Engagement

Systems of engagement transform big data into a context that can be used to personalize every customer interaction. They make real-time recommendations to help sellers and support teams better serve their customers. They make evaluating, purchasing, and getting help effortless. And they do it all in real time across digital and physical channels.

An integrated solution is needed to deliver a seamless customer experience; the complexity of integrating individual solutions from different vendors defeats the point of implementing a system of engagement in the first place. That’s why SAP and hybris have built a portfolio of customer engagement and commerce solutions — including SAP Cloud for Customer, SAP hybris Marketing, and SAP hybris Commerce, as well as additional on-premise solutions — around the very idea of customer engagement.

The Building Blocks of the Perfect Customer Experience

SAP sees context, integration, and an omnichannel model at the core of the perfect customer experience. This model brings together all the different modes of communication across the various touchpoints in a customer’s journey, rather than treating them as a collection of individual pipes that lead to different experiences. Channel complexity is a business killer, and SAP knows that your customers don’t really care about channels anyway. They only see your brand — a brand that represents an experience. Our job is to make the access to that experience simple.

This simplicity begins with context. By determining your customers’ intent based on their past and current behavior, you can provide information that is tailored to their needs and relevant to their goals. For example, people complain about marketing emails — even those that they opted into — cluttering their inbox. The problem is not the emails themselves, it’s that these emails are not really personalized beyond the greeting, making them feel like marketing. If those emails contained information that the customer perceived as valuable, then they would be viewed as essential communication from the brand instead of noise. An example might be an email letting you know that the pair of jeans you looked at online yesterday is now on sale, versus an email telling you that there is a sale starting on clothing and accessories.

Simplicity also requires integration. Marketing, sales, commerce, and customer service are all inextricably linked in the customer’s mind. These organizations cannot operate independently and still keep the customer experience unbroken. This also means that their systems must be connected, sharing customer information across the enterprise, seamlessly executing business processes without boundaries, and creating consistently compelling customer experiences both online and in person. If there are problems with the integration of these systems — or if there is none — the customer will feel it.

Finally, simplicity is about allowing your customers to interact with you across channels. This omnichannel approach doesn’t simply mean offering different channels, but rather making the channel irrelevant. The customer should be able to research your products on a mobile phone but buy in person, or ask a product question on Twitter and then follow up with an email, with all these interactions integrated. From the customer’s point of view, their engagement with your brand is like a threaded conversation that spans time, channels, and devices.

A Portfolio of Solutions for Navigating the Road Ahead

SAP’s relationships with thousands of companies serving billions of customers have afforded us the opportunity to deeply understand the challenges that businesses face. We have seen a consistent theme emerging across industries and countries: The systems of the past cannot drive your organization forward to deliver the competitive differentiation you need. In response to this reality, we have created a simple and complete portfolio of customer engagement and commerce solutions to help you stay a step ahead.

Learn more about the customer engagement and commerce portfolio at

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Jamie Anderson
Jamie Anderson

Senior Vice President, Marketing
SAP Hybris

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