Why Every Company Should Be an Experience Company

As an avid cyclist, I rely on my smart training device to measure and provide feedback on my performance — it is an important part of my daily training routine. When my indoor trainer stopped working, you can imagine my frustration when I contacted customer service. They quickly responded back showing empathy for my situation and committing to ship me a new trainer.

What they did not know was that I was considering buying my wife one over the holidays. Their level of support and customer care not only inspired me to stay a customer, but to buy more.

Empowered by new technologies, today’s customers are more informed and have more choice than ever before, translating into higher expectations of companies. Customer experience has become the key differentiator and unique value propositions are created based on the customer’s experience with a brand. When customers have a great experience with a company, all the brands they engage with thereafter are compared to that level of service. According to a global study by Accenture, 42 percent of consumers walk away from a brand in frustration and one in five never come back. If customers are unhappy with one brand, another is waiting to take their business. And the change to subscription models across industries makes it easier to switch.

Business leaders anticipate an impact on their business, with 81 percent predicting they will compete primarily on customer experience in the near future. Only 22 percent of these leaders, however, are confident that their business delivers an experience that exceeds customer expectations. We call this disparity between customer expectations and the experience a company delivers the experience gap — a gap that will be plugged by the burgeoning process of experience management (XM). XM is a philosophy and a tool set that monitors and measures every customer interaction with the goal of improving the customer experience.

Here at SAP, we understand the power of a strong customer experience. I want to share some of the work we’ve done so far to make ours better.

Putting the Customer at the Center of Everything

Over the years, SAP has innovated, acquired, and expanded its global reach and portfolio tremendously. While we have never lost sight of our customers, we recognize that the experience we deliver can sometimes be fragmented and inconsistent. In response to this challenge and the opportunity to differentiate SAP, we introduced the Customer First program and I have the extreme honor of leading this transformation. Customer First is a global, Board-sponsored initiative focused on creating the best customer experience in the software industry. It has three core areas of focus:

  • Changing the way we engage with and care for customers and designing an engagement model that delivers a better experience
  • Fostering a cultural change where all 100,000 employees put customers first and possess a mindset of relentless focus on the customer’s business outcomes
  • Building a team of talented people who are accountable for customer success

Focusing on People

Our customer engagement executives (CEEs) are on the front line with our customers, helping them deploy, adopt, and derive value from SAP technology. In addition, a newly created function, the customer success executive (CSE), is responsible for orchestrating solution adoption across a multi-cloud, hybrid landscape to help ensure the customer achieves the desired business outcomes from their SAP investments.

It has long been said that business is done between people, not companies. The employee experience and customer experience are inextricably linked: Highly engaged teams are 21 percent more productive, according to Gallup, and are the secret to delivering a world-class customer experience.

Changing Customer Engagement

We have introduced a new engagement methodology that aims to bring customer relationships into a new era, starting with executive alignment and an enterprise relationship assessment. The SAP-customer relationship is collaboratively assessed across nine dimensions of success in order to measure where we stand against the customer’s goals for the partnership with SAP. We then identify areas for improvement and develop an outcome success plan to address the gaps and maximize the customer’s value from SAP solutions and services.

With intelligent workflow management, we can collaborate as a team and help ensure the right people are involved at the right time to deliver an exceptional customer experience. We are using digital tools and services to expand our reach by engaging with customers virtually. Customer will be guided through onboarding and adoption, and will receive access to a community of experts and peers as well as helpful resources.

Enabling People and Processes with Technology

Our customer success platform Totango provides a 360-degree view of our customers by aggregating data from multiple sources into a single platform. Our customer engagement teams use Totango to track and monitor engagement activities, analyze trends, assess customer health, and gain critical customer insight at every step of the customer journey, including adoption and consumption rates.

Driving customer success requires us to continuously gather customer feedback to ensure our engagement strategy and resources are meeting their needs. We are using our very own XM solutions from SAP (Qualtrics) to measure customer sentiment (net promoter score, or NPS) across all the moments that matter and combining that with our operational data in Totango.


The feedback on Customer First from customers and analysts has been overwhelmingly positive. In Gartner’s annual vendor rating, SAP’s rating in Account Management improved from variable to positive in 2019, putting us ahead of many of our competitors. In the report, Gartner largely attributes the change in perception of SAP as a sales-driven company to a company committed to customer success to Customer First.

I recently participated in an episode of
The Experience Revolution podcast series from SAP,
sharing the story of our customer success
transformation in more detail. Check it out on
Apple Podcasts, Spotify, or openSAP.

Martin Mrugal is global head of the Customer First initiative at SAP.