SAP’s Customer First Initiative Seen as Bold Step in Right Direction

SAP’s Support/Account Management rating in Gartner’s Annual Vendor Report improved from ‘variable’ to ‘positive’ in 2019, a change believed to be inspired by the launch of Customer First.

SAP launched Customer First last November with the mission of creating the best customer experience in the technology industry. Less than a year into that journey, Gartner has credited Customer First for inspiring a big improvement in the quality of SAP’s support and account management, with its rating in that category shifting from ‘variable’ to ‘positive’. Customer First is helping to change the perception of SAP from a sales-driven company to one focused on customer success.

The report highlights that “the GCO [Global Customer Operations] has taken several bold steps, including disrupting SAP’s own teams and business model.” Some of these improvements include restructuring the sales organization and refocusing sales goals, processes and compensation to focus on customers’ business outcomes and the customer experience. And for good reason: 70% of buying experiences are based on how the customer feels they are being treated, according to McKinsey.  They want simple, positive experiences and trusted innovation partners to help them effectively navigate their digital transformations.

SAP is a large organization with a vast portfolio of solutions and services, and this can sometimes result in fragmented, inconsistent service. Our goal with Customer First is to redefine SAP’s approach to customer care and cultivate a company-wide mindset of customer empathy so customers can enjoy a simple, unified experience while benefitting from our powerhouse innovation credentials.

What is Customer First?

Customer First is a board-sponsored initiative to transform how we partner with and care for customers. It is a mindset, an engagement model, and an organization that puts the customer first in everything we do.

The Customer First approach can be broken down into three areas of focus: people, processes, and technology.

  • People: We recognize the importance of individual talent and effective and empowered teams. A core SAP team including the Customer Engagement Executive (CEE), responsible for onboarding and adoption of cloud software, the Industry AE, Customer Success Manager, and a newly-created function, Customer Success Executive (CSE), all work together to ensure customer success. The CSE oversees the holistic SAP-customer relationship, bringing the right people into the right rooms at the right time to achieve the customer’s business outcomes.
  • Processes: We’ve introduced a cross-LoB engagement model that assesses the customer relationship and identifies areas for improvement, as well as delivers prescriptive success plans that help customers achieve business value and innovate faster. Digital engagement strategies allow us to scale our engagement approach to reach more customers. Our partners also play an important role in Customer First and we must enable them to deliver customer success on our behalf.
  • Technology: Our engagement process is powered by a unified customer success platform that aggregates data from multiple sources to create a 360-degree view of customers. Analytics is embedded in every step of the customer journey, including opportunity management, adoption monitoring, customer health scores, and churn. Machine learning and predictive analytics capabilities help the team detect risk early and intervene proactively. We also use Qualtrics to collect and take action with customer intelligence to capitalize on the moments that matter.

While we’re proud of the progress we’ve made, we’ve only just begun our journey to becoming a world-class customer success organization. Success is when Customer First is no longer necessary as an organization within SAP but is embedded into our DNA. The best is yet to come.

Martin Mrugal is the global head of Customer First at SAP, a customer success organization focused on transforming the way SAP engages and cares for  customers throughout the entire life cycle. In his previous role as chief innovation officer, Mrugal was responsible for driving the company’s innovation agenda in North America. Since joining SAP in 1998, he has held a number of diverse management and executive leadership roles. including chief operating officer for Cloud Procurement and Business Networking at SAP Ariba; senior vice president of Global Business Development and Innovation; and senior vice president and global head of Manufacturing Industries and Solutions. Before joining SAP, Mrugal spent 12 years at Consolidated Rail Corporation (Conrail), where he held a variety of roles of increasing responsibility in sales, marketing, finance, and supply chain strategy. He holds a master’s degree in business administration from Pennsylvania State University in State College, Pennsylvania. Follow him on Twitter @martinmrugal.

Disclaimer: Gartner, Vendor Rating: SAP, 19 September 2019, Paul Saunders, Fabrizio Biscotti, Patrick Connaughton, Fabio Di Capua, Donald Feinberg, Ilona Hansen, Kimberly Harris-Ferrante, Christian Hestermann, Duy Nguyen, Chris Pang, Massimo Pezzini, Helen Poitevin, Bill Ryan, Lori Samolsky, Christian Titze, Tonnie Van Der Horst, Adam Woodyer. This graphic was published by Gartner, Inc. as part of a larger research document and should be evaluated in the context of the entire document. The Gartner document is available upon request from [insert client name or reprint URL]. Gartner does not endorse any vendor, product or service depicted in its research publications, and does not advise technology users to select only those vendors with the highest ratings or other designation. Gartner research publications consist of the opinions of Gartner’s research organization and should not be construed as statements of fact. Gartner disclaims all warranties, express or implied, with respect to this research, including any warranties of merchantability or fitness for a particular purpose.