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Asian Couple Online Purchase.jpgRethink how to engage with your customers

If you are like me you spend a good amount of time online researching new products you are interested in… and in many cases you end up buying them on Amazon.com – because it is so convenient and reliable. This buying behavior has become a major challenge to many companies across industries, and not just for those in the retail sector.

I had many conversations with business leaders in the last 12 months or so where this topic came up, and let me tell you, many companies are afraid of how Amazon has changed and will change the competitive landscape and they are seriously concerned about the impact this may have on their future success as a business. So the question is: Should you be afraid of Amazon?

The answer is yes and no.

Clearly, digitally-connected and socially-networked customers have changed the rules of engagement. They are more empowered than ever; and with this empowerment expectations are on the rise. Let’s make no mistake: they are in control. They can whip out their iPhone pretty much anywhere and do price comparisons, check product reviews, look up promotion codes or coupons, and share their experience with your brand – in an instant – with the rest of the world.

In the age of the digital customer, customer experience has become the new competitive frontier. Simply look at some astonishing results of a recent Forrester study: While customer experience leaders increased their market value on average by 22% over 5 years, customer experience laggards saw their market value decline by 46%.

Now, a 22% increase may not seem to be very impressive (although the time period covered the recession during which the S&P index remained pretty much flat) think about it this way: If you are lagging behind in customer experience the value of your company may be cut in half in the near future. So, yes, you should be very afraid. Not necessarily of Amazon, but of what their brand represents; their obsession with customer experience and how they leverage information technology to engage with their customers and to consistently deliver on their promises, and – as a result – how they have changed the game to their advantage.

So unless you want to disappoint your shareholders and sacrifice your future bonus payments you better get started and figure out how to stay relevant to your customers. If you want to create an exceptional customer experience, you’ve got to start with the customer. You need to have an outside-in perspective and focus on what really matters to your customers – reliability, convenience, relevance, and responsiveness are key expectations! And you must engage your customers in the moment when it matters to them – anywhere, anytime, across all touch points.

While this is not really news to most of us, most companies still get it wrong. Your efforts to increase internal efficiency and to boost front office effectiveness may help you to stay in the game (for a little while) but it is no longer enough to win let alone to change the game.

My advice:

– Just like Amazon, you must invest in technology. Information technology has become the real game changer in the age of the digital customer.

– Don’t think in siloes: every part of your business needs to be aligned and focused on the customer.

Do not limit your investments to “CRM”. Customer experience is happening beyond the front office. Empower your customers!

Empower your customers


Yes, you’ve got to empower your customer-facing employees but you also need to empower your customers. This may sound paradoxical: “empower the (already) empowered customer” but that’s exactly what you need to do if you want to shift the balance of power to your advantage. Redefine how you engage your customers and aspire to turn them into advocates. Instead of just focusing on the single view of your customer, think about how you can provide your customers with a single view of your business and convenient access to do business with your company. And always deliver on your promises.

Many company stakeholders I have talked to have embarked on a journey to transform their business to become a truly customer-centric business. And they have realized that technology is not only key to their success but can be a catalyst of their transformation.

SAP understands the challenges of the age of the digital customer: With the addition of hybris to our market-leading business solution portfolio and break-through in-memory technology we can now provide a complete platform for real-time 360° customer engagement and omni-channel commerce.

Seize the opportunity: Don’t be afraid. Be bold. And engage your customers like never before.

Update: If you enjoyed this blog, you’ll enjoy: The Pulse Network WEBISODE on Sept 12 (and on replay after that):

Manufacturers, Distributors, and Brands: Your Customers Want More From You! Omni-channel Commerce & the Future of Customer Engagement” Register here!

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1 Comment

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  1. Shobhit Srivastava

    You are right Volker and i know “Customer is God” but sometime we expect our customer to understand till what extent they need this UI look ‘n’ feel and amazon-kinda-features at the cost of performance and development cost. I am ok with user friendliness and usability but some of the things like some user wants same look and feel and same features in ipad as well as on iphone, its hard to convince them on some part.

    Still we do provide what we can to improve the UX.

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