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“Systems will adjust to people, not the other way around”

Bild von Thomas Wieberneit, Managing Consultant bei valantic Customer Engagement & Commerce

Thomas Wieberneit is a longtime CRM practitioner; according to Data2CRM, he is one of the top 20 experts in his area and regularly one of the top 10 authors on CustomerThink. At valantic, he is responsible for the topics of sales, marketing, service, cooperation, and customer loyalty and experience in the CX/valantic CEC division. In the interview, he tells us how he regards the future of digital customer experience and which trends companies should anticipate. 

valantic has been working for years as a SAP partner in the Customer Experience Management sector. How has your business developed in recent years and what are you focal points today?

In the last five years, business has changed in two ways. On the one hand, it has moved in the direction of the cloud; on the other hand, we at valantic have developed from technically oriented consulting to user-oriented consulting. We are focusing increasingly on creating a solution that is developed from the end user’s point of view, and in the process, examining the customer journey instead of a technically oriented blueprint. Our customers’ satisfaction confirms us in this user-centered approach.

Which CX topics are currently in the most demand?

Of course these include E-commerce, which has received a push thanks to the Corona pandemic. Many companies have determined that a functional digital sales channel is a decisive success factor for them. The second area is digital sales support. Here, we can see a trend away from the classic core of the transactional sales information system toward data-driven support and recommendations for sales employees. Automatic scoring and suggestions for action are becoming more important, also to help relieve employees of less-productive data maintenance work. This works better the better the data quality is. However, unfortunately in the course of our projects, we are noticing insufficient data quality. This brakes a company’s ability to reap the full value from CRM and CX solutions. Another area that is becoming more important is the service area.

What, in your opinion, is the greatest customer benefit that customers can achieve with the introduction of SAP CX solutions?

Here I have to give a typical consultant’s answer: It depends. SAP CX solutions can, if used correctly, add value to two critical dimensions: Top line (sales) and bottom line (profit). On the one hand, they can, classically thanks to the deep integration and strong process orientation of SAP, contribute to making processes flow much more efficiently. This reduces costs and increases profits. Furthermore, employees can focus better on profit-making activities. The intelligent evaluations that the SAP CX solutions provide, help companies take the next important steps in the sales process and determine the focus. This also contributes to the company’s success. Especially in connection with the underestimated SAP Marketing Cloud, interested customers can become aware of more relevant offerings. Offerings that customers frequently didn’t see before. This can happen with a more targeted approach or due to intelligent product recommendations. The up- and cross-selling that is possible this way increases sales and thus also influences profits.

And just for fun: What was the strangest business requirement that a customer has wanted to implement with your products?

Good question. Of course it happens from time to time that a requirement seems strange to us. However, this is generally due to incomplete information on both sides or different use of the same terms. If something seems strange or nonsensical, then we ask how we are supposed to understand this requirement and where it comes from. Generally, the next thing we see is a smirk; then we find a solution that fulfills the customer’s actual desire and one that can be implemented well with the technologies with which we work. For example, recently I spoke to a customer who absolutely wanted to have customer portal software to enable customers to login to the website. That didn’t seem reasonable to us. In the subsequent discussions, we determined that we had a less technical and sooner conceptual definition of customer portal. Of course, we worked with the customer to find a solution.

What general trends do you see coming at you and the customer in the CX sector in the next few years?

Companies will distinguish themselves and their offerings less and less via the classic “Ps” (product, price, placement, and promotion); increasingly, products and services are becoming commodities and are therefore fungible. Instead, the decisive competitive advantage that companies can gain will rely on ensuring customers a smooth process for fulfilling their needs and thus good experiences.

Clearly, the rising trend is toward the “customer managed journey,” where instead of having the company define a customer journey, the customer defines the contact points – and I’m consciously not using the term “touchpoints” here since this word is overused by marketing – from the communication channels offered by the company that suit him.

Furthermore, I think that customers’ patience will decline further and their desire for accurate time estimates, e.g. for deliveries, will increase. Keyword: “My time is valuable.” This will mean that more real-time interactions will be handled by truly capable chat and voicebots.

Augmented and virtual reality are becoming more important. People can easily perceive and process visual information – and in service scenarios, keep their hands free to be able to implement the information gained.

Interaction with systems will also become the norm that best meets human needs. Systems will adjust to people, not the other way around. Interactions with information technology will become humanized. Companies can anticipate that their customers want to be bound less and less by the companies’ restrictions. Text and voice as natural forms of human communication are becoming a more important factor for interaction with systems.

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