With the experience economy impacting how both business-to-consumer (B2C) and business-to-business (B2B) companies operate, organizations have started to shift from focusing purely on delivering services and products to delivering delightful experiences.

However, these experiences do not start and end at the point of purchase. In order to remain competitive, today’s companies must provide end-to-end experiences that continue to benefit the customer — even post-purchase. With customer needs and expectations constantly shifting, how can organizations ensure they are delivering the personalized experiences that modern consumers demand?

 Closing the Experience Gap with X-Data and O-Data

According to a survey conducted by consulting firm Bain & Company, 80 percent of CEOs believe they are delivering a superior customer experience. However, only eight percent of customers believe this to be true. This stark contrast between perception and reality, commonly referred to as the “experience gap,” is an area that many organizations need to tackle.

This is especially true in the services and support industry, where SAP has traditionally relied on purely operational data (O-data) to determine the effectiveness of offerings and quality of services. While this data does provide some insight into overall performance, it surely does not show the whole picture.

As SAP looks to transform the ways in which it delivers support in the experience economy, it is clearer than ever that customer sentiment, feelings, and desires should be the golden rule in support delivery. This experience data (X-data), in combination with the O-data, will provide a holistic lens into the business value that customers feel they are receiving. X-data will also help inform targeted improvements to product and support delivery.

Anticipating Customer Needs

Traditionally, product support was considered to be a reactive, mundane process. In the past, customers would be required to log an incident when they faced a problem and sometimes wait hours or days for a support engineer to help address it. In some cases, time was wasted trying to identify the right team to deal with the problem.

Customers no longer have the time, energy, or patience to log incidents and wait for assistance. They want and need this support in real time, and they now even expect to be told what issues they may face before they even face them. Luckily, integrations of advanced technologies such as artificial intelligence (AI) and machine learning are expediting the transition to proactive support, and, eventually, predictive support.

At SAP, these kinds of innovations are reflected in offerings such as Incident Solution Matching, support assistants and intelligent swarming methodology from SAP brings in the right product experts in a real-time and collaborative way, in order to handle issues that span multiple areas or products across a business.

Looking ahead, SAP is also working on ways to leverage robotic process automation (RPA) implementation to cover key business processes, as well as using the power of AI to provide customers with exciting technologies such as component predictors and resolution time predictors. The same AI technology will also provide SAP the capability to predict escalation triggers and intervene before a situation becomes critical.

As service providers, businesses are responsible for minimizing downtime and interruption for customers, so that they can concentrate on their journeys to becoming intelligent enterprises. SAP will continue to invest in future support technologies to enable companies and customers along the way.

Support for the Intelligent Enterprise and Intelligent Customer

While SAP works to transform its own business processes and become a truly intelligent enterprise – something that is now deeply rooted in our DNA –its mission is to provide the fastest way for customers to turn data into business values and deliver greater value to their own customers. This has and will take a mix of digital innovation, coupled with building strong relationships with customers, to gain a deep understanding of their unique needs, processes, and goals. Using and analyzing O-data and X-data, SAP is now providing valuable insights that will help inform the way it provides services and support that deliver the highest values possible.

It is also important to keep in mind that the needs of today’s customers and the ways they consume support will look very different in the years ahead. By 2025, there will be around 40 billion Internet of Things (IoT) connected devices – nearly five times the world’s population. The future “customer” may actually not be a human, but a robot or a device as automation continues to grow, and it is important that we stay attuned to this possibility to ensure that the support services we are developing now, can cater to the customer of the future.

Mohammed Ajouz is senior vice president and global head of Product Support at SAP.