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Bilafer’s BHAG: Our Customers Are Our Greatest Resource

What can an Australian utility company learn from Nike? As it turns out, a lot.

As we work to get our message of innovation out to our ecosystem and introduce them to all of our new products, let’s not overlook a very important resource: our customers.

I’m not just talking about case studies and customer references. I’m talking about connecting customers in different industries so they can discover solutions to their common business problems.

One of the things we’re seeing now is that companies are very sophisticated in terms of understanding what’s happening in their industry. What they might not be seeing is what their problems have in common with companies in other industries, and how a solution from one industry can be adapted to solve business problems in another industry.

Let me give you an example of how powerful these cross-industry connections can be.

I was in Melbourne Australia last month for a BusinessObjects event, and we took the speakers out to a thank you dinner.  I had a guy from Nike on my left , I had a guy from Australia Gas & Light (AGL) next to me on the right, and next to him there was a guy from an Australian retailer called Good Guys, which is different from Good Guys in the U.S. although they sell a lot of the same things. So you have an apparel company, a utility and a retailer.

After listening to them talk to each other for a while, I realized they were all talking about the same problem: improving customer intimacy, although none of them initially called it that.

The guy from Nike was talking about customization. They have that whole Nike ID program where you can go in and customize your shoe and they manufacture it just for you. They’re embedding chips in the shoes that tell you how far you ran and how many calories you burned, or what they call “points”. They take all that information that they capture in the chip and just give it to customers, under the theory that it improves loyalty and improves the relationship with the customer.

The guy from AGL was talking about how in Australia, anybody could setup shop and sell electricity and gas because it’s been deregulated; all you need is a license and you’re in business. So imagine if a Telco or a retailer wanted to get into this business, it might be hard to compete with someone who is very intimate with their customers.  This constant threat has forced them to compete on price, but they’d like to do more to establish customer loyalty. He liked the idea of consumer-focused analytics and was amazed to learn that there are utility companies around the world that are already doing something similar with SAP in its Smart Meter program.

The Good Guys exec was talking about how currency fluctuations were impacting the retail business. When the Australian dollar hits a certain point, it actually becomes cheaper for customers to go on line and buy from Amazon and have products shipped to Australia than it is to buy locally. So they’re trying to build up their online infrastructure to compete with global online providers. He didn’t know about the customer relationship management (CRM) and clickstream tools that North American retailers have been using for a number of years.

Those three guys exchanged business cards and talked for an hour and half over dinner about all the things that they’re doing. Each thought their problem was unique, and they had no idea that it’s one common business problem, and that they could leverage SAP solutions from one industry to another to solve it.

It was a fascinating look at three companies at different stages of innovating ways to move away from competing on price by getting closer to the customer. The best part was, I didn’t have to sell a thing, just sit back and let them sell one another.

You often hear SAP speak of customer-driven innovation and this is exactly what we mean: our customers are bringing their problems to SAP and we are collaborating to find the most efficient ways to address their needs and help make them Run Better. 

If you or your client has a problem that can’t easily be solved, please let me know and let’s see what SAP can do to help you Run Better. Chances are another SAP customer may already have a solution.

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