SAP On Keeping The Customer Experience Smooth During A Time Of Chaos

Paula Hansen, CRO of SAP Customer Experience (formerly SAP Hybris), is juggling what’s become a typical work-from-home situation: a responsible job, two kids under 13 homeschooling on their iPads and a dog running around in the background.

The transition hasn’t been too tricky, though, she said. SAP was a big supporter of remote work even before the COVID-19 crisis kicked off, and she’s lucky enough to have a home office with a pretty view.

“I can look out and see the San Francisco fog sitting over the city,” Hansen said. “And I have a chance to get fresh air when I need it.”

But for many SAP clients, including retailers, fashion brands and CPG companies, WFH has caused upheaval for their business.

In mid-March, SAP launched a “Remote Readiness and Productivity Academy” program through its online training platform, Litmos, with practical modules on how to set up a remote office, how to use collaborative tools and how to manage a remote workforce. Engagement has been high, Hansen said.

SAP Customer Experience comprises all of the solutions within SAP that touch sales, marketing, customer service, commerce and the associated data management services that support those business lines, including Hybris Commerce, SAP Marketing, Gigya and Qualtrics, the survey software company SAP bought for $8 billion in 2018.

Hansen joined SAP in February of 2019 after more than 18 years in executive sales roles at Cisco. AdExchanger caught up with Hansen for a few hot takes on the coronavirus situation.

On client disruption due to COVID: They’re concerned about the way the economy is going, about changes in the supply chain and whether they’ll actually be able to engage with their customers and through which channels.

Basically, [they’re asking] how do I make sure that in all of this madness I don’t lose or minimize the relationship I have with my consumer?

On what clients are asking about: One primary issue is employee enablement and wellness. People who touch the end consumer are working from home, and they need help ensuring minimal disruption to their productivity and ability to do their jobs.

Once it’s clear that employees are safe, the question becomes: Do they have a home office? Do they have the collaborative tools they need to be successful? Salespeople need to reach out to prospects and build pipeline. Service people need to take calls and have the same information at their fingertips that they would have if they were on premises.

On embracing digital transformation, whether you were planning to or not: Companies need to think completely differently about digital selling and ecommerce and turning that into a replacement for the experience your customers are used to having with you. That is true whether you’re a retailer seeing a dramatic drop in foot traffic to your stores for obvious reasons or whether you’re a marketing and sales organization that’s had to cancel all of your events for the foreseeable future.

On whether it makes sense to advertise right now: It does. But you have to show respect, because you don’t know where people are emotionally and in their personal life with everything that’s happening. Do they know someone who is sick? Are they sick themselves? It’s about being mindful. If it looks like you’re trying to maximize an opportunity, that could be very detrimental to your brand’s reputation.

On sussing out sentiment: We’re pretty excited about the position we’re in with our Qualtrics investment, which gives our customers the ability to learn where their customers are from a sentiment perspective, what they are and aren’t ready for – even the mood they’re in.

But this is constantly changing – daily, even hourly – and it’s going to be like that for a while. You have to keep a finger on the pulse. Consumers are craving community, so how does a brand create that in parallel with the commercial opportunity?

On the coronavirus situation as a chance to combat techlash: Don’t be fearful of asking your customers questions and, more importantly, make sure to really listen to what they’re telling you. I think what customers say right now is going to be different than it was six months ago. If you can demonstrate as a company and as a brand that you’ve picked up on the shift and responded to it – that is an incredible opportunity.

This interview has been edited and condensed.

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