Our latest interview on the future of customer experience talked about how improved customer experience is a matter of survival in the future of business.

We also heard that real-time analytics, human relationships, and scalable personalization are key components to make this a reality.

Today, we will hear from Gurdeep Dhillon (@gurdeepd), Head of Marketing Execution and Campaigns at SAP.

How do you balance the need for a better customer experience with the return on that investment?

The two go hand in hand. The extent to which brands can provide prospects and customers with a unique, engaging experience will determine the ROI earned from the investments required to create that experience.  The proof will be in the pudding on this, as the ones who do this best will see the strongest growth.

What is the most extreme future that you could envision for the customer experience?

Whatever the device du jour is in 2020 (a watch, sunglasses, smartphone, brain implant), that is what will define who we are as an individual.  The information this device gathers about us (or that we tell it) will help companies create experiences that make the “segment of 1” a reality.  I envision the world around me being aware of my demographics and psychographics, as well as the contextual information about my current state.  When I walk into a store, or visit a Web site, I will have the option of making this information available so that my experience can be tailored to me.

Will companies stop selling products and services and start selling experiences?

I think this is already happening.  I don’t think Virgin America sells air travel.  They sell an experience for travelers which they position as unmatched by any other provider.  B2C is the sweet spot here right now, but I can see this happening in B2B as well, as tech vendors start pitching business scenarios / experiences rather than products / solutions.

How important is customer experience for B2B companies?

We’ve all heard the stats about 70 percent of the buying cycle being complete before customers engage with sales.  We also know that the average buying cycle lasts roughly 10 months, with most customers reporting a desired length of 6 months.  I think that providing an amazing customer experience can bridge this gap.  B2B vendors need to meet their prospects and customers somewhere in the middle, by helping them find answers to the questions they care most about.  The “buyer’s journey” is the experience, and this experience must be positive, from prospect all the way to promoter.

What technologies do you see as enabling better customer experience?

Mobile is the key, but not just the device.  It’s also important to have applications that are context-aware, and to have privacy standards that allow the customer to own the decision about if and how their data will be used.  On the consumer side, the mobile device is the coupon book, the customer service portal, the wallet, and the feedback mechanism.  On the B2B side, I think commerce is huge, especially omnichannel which will fully take advantage of mobile.  Also, data management will be critical, as vendors will need both internal and external data available to them in real-time, regardless of source or structure, and that data will need to be the single source of truth.

Gurdeep Dhillon is Head of Marketing Execution & Campaigns for the Customer, Financials & Suite Applications business within SAP Cloud. He is an 8-year industry veteran and has held multiple marketing roles, including Competitive & Market Intelligence and Marketing Strategy. Gurdeep has an MBA and an MSIS from Boston University. He is married with three wonderful daughters and lives in the Bay

This post originally appeared on Business Innovation.

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  1. Alex Litoff

    Really enjoyed this series on the customer experience.  Too often companies think of sales, marketing, and support as separate entities…when in reality they are all apart of the entire customer experience. 

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