Live from SAPinsider Studio: Volker Hildebrand on Going Beyond CRM

June 9, 2016

Volker Hildebrand, Global VP of Customer Engagement and Commerce at SAP Hybris, joins SAPinsider Studio at CRM 2016 to discuss how digital disruptions and evolving technologies are pushing businesses to move beyond traditional CRM practices. 

Natalie Miller, SAPinsider: Hi, I’m Natalie Miller with SAPinsider, and we’re here at the SCM, CRM, and IoT event in Las Vegas, and I’m here with Volker Hildebrand, the Global Vice President of Customer Engagement and Commerce at SAP Hybris. Hi Volker, thanks so much for joining me today.

Volker Hildebrand, SAP Hybris: Hi, Natalie, thanks for having me.

Natalie: So I was hoping we could start by just telling the viewers about your role and what’s exciting about SAP right now.

Volker: A lot of stuff is exciting about SAP right now, of course. My role, I’m part of our customer engagement and commerce business unit, and my responsibility is primarily looking at our overall strategy for customer engagement solutions across marketing, sales, commerce and service, and looking at future trends and where things are going, especially in the context of digital transformation. What does that mean for our customers, but also what does that mean for us in terms of innovating and providing the solutions that our customers need in order to not only survive but also thrive in the age of digital transformation?

Natalie: You actually kicked off the event yesterday with the keynote, and you mentioned digital transformation and thinking beyond CRM. Can you give us a snapshot of what that means and how customers are driving that shift?

Volker: Absolutely, yeah. If you think about digital transformation and the technology that drives it, it changes everything. It changes how we live, how we work, it changes how we entertain ourselves, how we communicate and interact with each other. It also changes how we buy, how we sell products. And it has a really dramatic impact, of course, on organizations because they need to figure out how, in this digital economy, if you will, how they can stay relevant to their customers. And I’m always saying technology’s changing the game for organizations, but at the end of the day it’s the customers who are changing the rules of engagement. And this is really something that organizations need to address. We believe, that in this context, you need to think beyond traditional CRM, which used to be very siloed, very focused on internal processes like sales automation or how you would optimize call center operations and these things. What beyond CRM really is about is blending marketing, sales, commerce, and service all together, because the lines between, for example, commerce and service are more and more blurry.

The other thing we’re seeing is a proliferation of channels that customers want to use, whether it’s text messages, Twitter, chat, video chats, all of these digital channels that are emerging rapidly. So you need to be able to engage with your customers in the moment when it matters and through the channel that’s most convenient and the most relevant for your customers in a particular situation. So context is becoming absolutely critical, and in order to understand the context of an individual customer, and in order to be able to engage truly in a one-to-one interaction, you will need a lot of data. So in order to go beyond CRM, data is the fuel for these one-to-one engagements. And then, last but not least, what many organizations sometimes forget is, yes, customer engagement is really important, and the front office solutions need to support that, but you also need to bridge the gap between the front and the back office in order to be able, for example, to deliver on your promises because that also has a huge impact on the overall customer experience.

Natalie: Speaking of interesting and exciting things happening at SAP, can you talk a little bit about SAP and SAP Hybris coming together? I know that merge happened over the course of the last year.

Volker: That’s right, yeah. Very good point, thanks for your question. We acquired Hybris’s leading ecommerce platform, or digital commerce platform, about two years ago, and in the last year we brought together our existing CRM and C4C organization with the Hybris organization and formed one business unit. Then this year starting in January, we also merged the two brands, so basically merging the SAP brand with the Hybris brand, and we’re now known as SAP Hybris for our entire portfolio of customer engagement and commerce solutions.

Natalie: What does that mean for SAP customers?

Volker: Well, first of all, they benefit from the entire solution portfolio. And since we talked about digital transformation, digital commerce is really at the core of digital transformation. So there are a lot of vendors out there who claim to be leaders in that space, but they don’t even have any commerce solution. So how can you credibly talk about digital transformation if a core piece is missing? This is really what Hybris brought to the table, and also a lot of knowledge and expertise in that digital world as well. We already started with building a digital marketing solution, if you will, which already carried the SAP Hybris brand, that was already released last year. So customers really benefit from the strength of our solutions across the entire portfolio.

I was talking about the importance, in the context of beyond CRM, of being able to blend commerce and service and marketing and sales, so now that we’re all in one organization. That’s a main focus of the development organization as well, to blur the lines between service and commerce, etc. The other thing that’s important simply from a practical perspective, when customers now get an email from SAP Hybris, they need to know that this is not just about commerce, this about our entire customer engagement and commerce portfolio.

Natalie: When you’re speaking with customers, how do you advise on looking at their business in terms of how they’re reaching customers and responding to needs, looking at their solutions, and evaluating that market?

Volker: So digital transformation, everybody’s talking about it, and there are different flavors of how you want to look at it, but in general, everybody’s kind of aware of what’s happening. But I think a lot of organizations don’t realize how dramatic that impact is. And we’ve seen a lot of companies, whether it’s Uber, Amazon, or others, who really came in as disruptors in a particular industry, and this is something that we expect to happen in pretty much every industry. So organizations really need to be aware of that and understand what’s going on in their industry.

And in particular they really need to look at customer expectations and how customers are, like I said earlier, changing the rules of engagement. Because if you don’t stay relevant to your customers, you’ve got a big problem. And at the end of the day, yes technology is the trigger of this disruption and the digital transformation, but at the end of the day, the real disruptors are your customers. So you really need to understand customer expectations and also understand – and that’s what we’re talking about, thinking beyond CRM – you can no longer think in silos. You really need to have a holistic approach. It doesn’t necessarily mean you need to implement everything from SAP; you can have different bits and pieces. But you need to have that holistic approach. Otherwise, you’re going to fail.

Natalie: As SAP’s offerings are expanding in this space, how – along the same lines of what you were saying with looking at it holistically but not having to have everything – how do you advise companies on evaluating the solutions and finding which one is best for their business at the moment?

Volker: I would say, again, they really need to start with the customer, and look at what the modern customer journey looks like in the digital age, and be aware of, what is it that truly matters for their customers? I wrote a book a few years ago called The Customer Experience Edge, and we were actually looking at customer experience from a customer perspective, and we were trying to understand, what are the key components or factors of customer experience? And what was interesting is that, no matter what industry, whether it’s B2B or B2C, it comes down to four main factors. Number one is convenience. Then there’s reliability. There’s relevance. And there’s responsiveness, or real-time, because you need to engage with customers in the moment when it matters.

So this is where you need to start. And then you need to figure out, what does that mean? How can we make life easier for our customers? How can we make it convenient for them to engage with us, to find information about the products, to buy from us, to consume our services or request our services, to provide feedback? And this is where the digital channels are becoming increasingly important. And then the reliability aspect then forces you to look into your end-to-end processes, what needs to happen behind the scenes. How do you bridge the gap, like I said earlier, between the front office and back office in order to deliver on your promises? And you really need to map all of this out.

Then you can start looking at, what are the areas with the biggest pain points right now? You may want to address them first. And the other thing you may want to look at is, what are the areas for quick wins? So you may have an ecommerce website, and you want to improve customer service and support online. You may want to embed chat capabilities or you may want to start embedding something like an online support community in order to not only improve customer service and support, but also drive revenue on your digital channels. So it really depends on the organization. Maybe they have an issue in their field sales organization, and they need to have solutions that are mobile and modern from the user experience perspective, that run on your tablet, that can be used online or offline in all these situations, and can provide sales reps with all the relevant information about your customer. You may not have all that information in place right now, but you can start deploying that sales solution. But you need to have the bigger picture in mind and have a strategy of how you’re going to bring, at some stage, all these different bits and pieces together.

Natalie: Well, thank you so much Volker for being here and sharing your insights. I really appreciate it.

Volker: Alright, thank you Natalie.

Natalie: Again, this is Natalie Miller with SAPinsider, and we’ve been speaking with Volker Hildebrand of SAP Hybris. 

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