Artificial Intelligence: Expanding the Future of Customer Support Experiences

Most people envision the future, but only a few can challenge it, redefine it, and make it better for everyone. At SAP, opportunities to expand possibilities are everywhere, especially with one of the most misunderstood technologies and overly simplified experiences in the world today.

Although an increasingly important part of business transformation, artificial intelligence (AI) and machine learning have quickly become catch-all terms for relatively simple analytical scenarios such as process automation and decision support – which has very little to do with AI or machine learning in the first place. No one would question that this exercise of pulling together hundreds of thousands of interactions and data points within seconds allows companies to gain incredibly impactful outcomes.

Yet, the potential of this technology is much more extensive. Leading a team responsible for designing and operationalizing the best customer support experience, I am fundamentally rethinking how AI and machine learning can be best applied over the next few years. This means combining a real-time support experience with relevant information continuously streaming from every cloud-based solution and each support interaction. We analyze this information to detect potential issues, identify patterns of recurring problems, recommend next steps, and take preventative measures.

Pushing the Boundaries to Redefine Support

Companies now operate in a complex, multifaceted marketplace of colorful expectations, ambiguous disruptions, and various languages. And the Customer Solution Support & Innovation organization at SAP looks for every opportunity to help organizations unravel their challenges ‒ both large and small ‒ by getting the most value from their solution investment.

In today’s highly digital world, truly understanding business user needs and quickly delivering the right resolution is critical. However, organizations cannot afford to experience an application error, broken integration, or system-wide downtime before contacting a support agent. The customer support experience needs to be more proactive, personalized, and human, which can be delivered through a more mature approach to AI and machine learning.

So far, this view of the future of customer support experiences has produced leading-edge capabilities, such as:

  • Incident Solution Matching based on artificial intelligence programmed to help customers find answers to technical questions faster and receive solution recommendations automatically as part of our machine learning-enabled support process
  • Automated language translation of SAP Notes and SAP Knowledge Base Articles in SAP ONE Support Launchpad, giving customers quick access to machine-translated case notes, chats with SAP experts, and solution-specific articles at no additional cost
  • Cloud-based support assistant to discover solutions faster and create cases with a guided approach within our AI-enabled service that can personalize and expedite the support experience
  • Self-healing and predictive cloud software environment that continually learns how a customer’s business system usually functions and responds to any detected irregularities or potential errors to restore or maintain normal operations – mostly without the customer noticing.

All these features of the customer support experience are brought to life by infusing collective expertise, best practices, and know-how with each customer’s application performance data and interpreting that information into predictive insights.

For example, a customer with a specific configuration may experience issues when implementing a new solution release, such as unexpected system behavior or a disconnected data source. However, Customer Solution Support & Innovation aims to mitigate that challenge early by recognizing patterns within a real-time stream of interactions and identifying which customers are likely to encounter the same problems, analyzing the underlying root cause. Then, the appropriate customer contact is notified of recommended corrective action or, if the issue can be mitigated within the solution, SAP implements the update with most customers not even noticing an issue to begin with – a self-healing experience.

Modernizing the Culture within Customer Support

By maturing its use of AI and machine learning in the customer support experience, SAP creates a future-oriented culture. Support experts have the tools and knowledge to preempt many customer challenges with two-way interactions. They can recommend optimization practices, prescribe resolutions, and offer on-the-fly guidance to customers in a continuous dialogue.

No matter how large the customer base grows, Customer Solution Support & Innovation has the resources to help ensure a smooth, proactive, and precise support experience with a high first-time resolution rate. Using AI and machine learning throughout the process enables support experts to perform more strategic work, adjusting algorithms, introducing new ones, finding new ways to automate root-cause analysis, and accruing more profound technical expertise.

By setting the foundation for more meaningful work for support experts, SAP customers benefit from an infrastructure that is increasingly enriched, valuable, and enjoyable for both sides of the overall experience. Interactions are more impactful, the right content is curated and accessed quickly, and, as a result, resolutions are more precise.

Earning Customer Trust with Intelligent Services

For most providers, a genuinely great and embedded experience happens when a customer can send a ticket that accurately describes the problem to the right support expert. But SAP is turning this process into a more proactive, open dialogue of what the customer needs today to help ensure its technology runs smoothly tomorrow.

Don’t get me wrong ‒ it’s perfectly acceptable to log into a support portal or Web site to create a case and talk to a support expert. However, that experience is not necessarily the best, considering the rising intelligence built in cloud technology. Providers can already understand the context of customers’ usage, know their expectations, and see how the solution operates in real time.

Recognizing that opportunity, the entire Customer Solution Support & Innovation team is increasingly implementing support services enabled by AI and machine learning into cloud solutions from SAP. But more importantly, it is continuously reimagining the possibilities of the customer support experience across the entire solution life cycle.

We’re hiring! Explore career positions available within Customer Experience and Solutions.


Andreas Heckmann is executive vice president of Product Engineering and head of Customer Solution Support and Innovation at SAP. Follow him on LinkedIn and Twitter.