While the year started out optimistic with much of the world getting a handle on the pandemic and many countries starting to get back to business as usual, dark clouds appeared on the horizon in the form of resource scarcity and economic unease. Worst of all, the world bore witness to a war in Europe.

When we started to talk, Andreas Heckmann, executive vice president and head of Customer Solution Support & Innovation at SAP, stated, “Although it was one of the most challenging years in my professional history, it was still a year filled with opportunities. We are seeing traction in the transformation of customer support I described 11 months ago, and we delivered a great amount of product innovations to our customers.”

In this interview, Heckmann gives insight into how the transformation is continuing.

Q: How has 2022 been going for you in the transformation?

A: I’m proud of the notable, award-winning product releases that are directly relevant to supporting economic needs and helping with sustainability. Take, for example, the Stevie Award-winning SAP Intelligent Agriculture solution. We’re enabling agribusinesses to tap into their vast source of farming data by leveraging data science and machine learning. This farming intelligence helps them leverage processes and services to better forecast and increase farming yields and quality. It will also help them use the right balance of water resources and help keep fertilizer and crop protection to a minimum. This will help agribusinesses play their part in becoming more sustainable and efficient.

Let me also point out the Hasso Plattner Founders’ Award-winning SAP Information Collaboration Hub for Life Sciences. It’s helping prevent pharmaceutical drug counterfeiting by enabling traceability and verification of products. With an estimated 50% or more of drugs in Africa being counterfeit, this product is definitely helping businesses to protect their intellectual property and, more importantly, people’s health and lives.

Another exciting sustainability-focused app release this year is the CHOOOSE Climate App. In this project, we developed a solution extension to help neutralize carbon emissions. Our customers can access data collected from business travel and consider ways to watch their carbon footprint.

All of these solutions make me proud of our Customer Solution Support & Innovation organization and underscores the many ways we have our customers’ goals and priorities front of mind.

With SAP Cloud ALM being available for a while now, how do you see it being taken up?

SAP Cloud ALM is the strategic platform to help customers manage their entire application lifecycle, both on premise and in the cloud. We will close out this year seeing quite an amazing uptake and increasingly more customers using the solution to help implement and operate their cloud and hybrid environments. There’s a big uptake on SAP Cloud ALM, with functions being used more intensely for managing project teams and business processes. And it’s also getting third-party products integrated to give customers even more access to content such as guidance, tools, and checklists for their implementation projects and operations.

What progress are you making around Real-Time Support during this transformation?

We’re seeing momentum in continuously transforming the support experience for customers towards a more personalized and preventative experience. This could be when they search for a support answer in SAP ONE Support Launchpad or SAP for Me, or when they report an issue. At the beginning of this year, we received a Hasso Plattner Founders’ Award for the innovative way we’re capturing our customer problems in a structured and guided fashion. It’s what we call support assistant. This assistant guides customers through the process of logging an incident. Machine learning functionality suggests answers from our knowledge repositories along the way. Often the answer is found in the first bunch of suggestions and no incident needs to be created.

If no answer can be provided instantaneously, the incident information collected is packaged for a support engineer to process further during a real-time chat or a scheduled appointment. We found that real-time interactions get completed on average within 30 minutes and two of every three issues are solved in the first chat. And these interactions support nine different languages, allowing for multi-language dialogues in real time. For either way the customer decides to go, the support assistant and Built-In Support help customers get their issues resolved much more quickly and efficiently.

Now imagine, we’re already working on the next generation of the entire support experience for customers to look forward to. With Built-In Support, we’re making significant progress as the tool for continuous two-way dialogue with customers. It’s our goal to proactively notify customers about critical issues or relevant new features and to take care of any potential problem before a customer becomes aware of it. We’re also eagerly awaiting the go-live of our new customer facing portal, SAP for Me, with its completely redesigned user experience.

SAP is getting into customer-centric observability. What does this mean?

Customers trust us with their critical business processes. Service availability is the foundation of that trust and naturally a prime topic for us. We see it as a prerequisite for customer success. A focus of our transformation is to become more predictive and proactive. It’s what we’re calling customer-centric observability. This is a methodology that focuses on observing real user experience and outcomes to get advanced warnings ahead of customer-reported incidents and to quickly react upon them. By monitoring 1.5 billion system actions daily, we’re proactively watching for potential issues and preventing them from happening.

What can we expect for 2023?

Personally, I’m excited to see the launch of the bi-directional dialogue in Built-In Support and SAP for Me. This means customers can look forward to getting an even better support experience in 2023. In addition, they should expect to get significantly improved results and optimized recommendations when searching for solutions or creating incident tickets for support. Plus, there will be more times when potential problems are resolved without customers even knowing any problems existed. While we will certainly not be done next year, given all we’ve planned for our customers, I’m confident that we’ll already begin reaping the harvest.

Follow Andreas Heckmann on LinkedIn and Twitter.
Regina Postman is part of Customer Solution Support & Innovation Communications at SAP.