You might have heard through various webcasts, events or mails that SAP is investing heavily into fortifying our solutions for customer self-services. Some of you talked to me directly in recent months and some I met just last week at the SAP for Utilities conference in Huntington Beach, CA. One thing became clear to me. Utilities across markets and regions are asking how to improve customer engagement and how they can approach this endeavor within their companies. The following blog discusses our plans to help utilities define a multichannel self-service strategy and provide solutions to make it a reality.
First of all, I woud like to share exciting news. In just a few weeks in November, we have planned to release a major development. The SAP Utilities Mutlichannel foundation. This development is one major building block of our strategy and solution offering.
As many of you know, we have offered web self-services for a number of years. In late 2012, we decided to invest again in not only bringing new self-service application to the market but also making it easier and cheaper to implement and run apps for any current and future channel.
What is the SAP multichannel self-service strategy about in detail? Here is the rundown.
Utilities are asked to provide better self-service options. Customers are more engaged on many levels with service providers in general. These expectations do not change when dealing with their utility. Moreover, in some markets regulators have requested utilities to increase customer satisfaction in light of major weather events. And compeitive utilities and retailers always can use an edge.
Customers expect exceptional service from their utility. Just imagine power is out. As one keynote presenter said: Just imagine when your water is out! But also for everyday tasks we as customers expect somewhat of the following:
Essentially, customers want more apps to make their lives easier. Mobile apps, social apps, better apps when calling in (via the IVR), better experiences when answering e-mails or when busy with facebook, twitter or other social channels. Another keynote speaker highlighted that utility customers are shifting their preferences based on their age and exposure to technology that they experienced in their lifetime. We have to be aware of the fact that a 30 year-old customer had the internet at their disposal basically since he/she was in their early teens.
Utilities have been asking us to provide a way to deploy and develop self-service apps in an affordable and scalable way.
Our approach is two-prong.
1. SAP continues to deliver self-service apps.
An important milestone has been our mobile self-service app. In June we shipped version 2 available via iTunes and GooglePlay (search for “SAP Utilities Customer Engage”).
Another important building block will be our new web self-service app planned to be released in November. It is a beatiful HTML5 web self-service application featuring the deep out-of-the-box integration into SAP.
Both apps are not only new apps that utilities cannot deploy right away. The web self-service application and any consumer app that SAP, partners, utilities and 3rd parties provide can now run on the this new self-service “platform” (see 2.). Already today we ask customers and partners considering implementation of UCES to take a look at the new developments. In fact, we recommend implementing the new apps and platform. However, we are still supporting UCES as part of SAP ERP until 2020.
2. Our new SAP Utilities multichannel foundation supports any consumer app and any channel – connected to any CIS or other systems like OMS
The SAP Utilities Multichannel foundation is essentially is a Netweaver Gateway server that “speaks utilities”. It connects consumer apps with backend business systems using web standards like OData and HTML5 and that in the context of the requirements of the utilities industry.
As such, the foundation creates a development environment for consumer apps that allows web developers to connect to backend system without the need to to know the backend system at all. For example, In case of SAP CRM and SAP ERP/ISU, web developers do not need to know ABAP or how the process looks like in SAP. All they need to know, is the OData service for a move-in/out, view bill, pay bill, enter meter read and so on. Same for retrieving outage information for a mobile app or to post to Facebook. They only need to know the OData service.
This results in faster and cheaper development. Moreover, the foundation is not just another integration server. Besides the utilities Odata services, the foundation offers customer preferences, user management, channel analytics (to monitor usage of apps and self-service processes) – in short transparency of Utilities self service operations. When the utility runs SAP CRM and.or SAP ERP/ISU ready-made Odata services provide a great jumpstart to any implementation.
Since the foundation is built for B2C business, utilities and partners will enjoy scalability and robustness.
What about the SAP mobile platform (SMP)?
The SAP Mobile platform is an integral part of the multichannel strategy. We recommend using the SMP for any mobile consumer app, being mobile apps or mobile SMS. You need the scalability and security especially in the B2C environment. Moreover, every utility should have a mobile strategy today. As such, SMP is the perfect solution since it provides one environment to operate and develop mobile apps no matter the target group, consumer, technicians or employees. The SMP can communicate to the SAP backend systems via Netweaver Gateway and in our case the SAP Utilities mutlichannel foundation.
Hopefully, the picture above gives you some clarity.
SAP has decided to invest a good chunk of development dollars to help utilities implement modern customer engagement applications. The release in November is just another step in this direction. We plan to extend the offerings in 2014.
We also would like our partners to support our strategy and solutions, especially the SMP and the Multichannel foundation. For the future, we plan enhancements to web and mobile self-service applications, add additional apps likemobile SMS (push notifications) and support messaging in general (e.g. for marketing purposes or based on predictive analytics). The multichannel foundation as well as SMP can be run in the cloud which opens new possibilities and flexibility for utilities and partners,
Partner workshops are planned once the multichanne foundation is released – again planned for November.
I am looking foward to your comments.