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Author's profile photo Dietmar Bohn

Digital Transformation & Customer Centricity for Industrial Manufacturers – Part Two: Customer Insights


This is my second blog in a series on customer centricity in a digitalized world.  My first blog covered customer engagement, my third blog describes the value of digital channels for customer centricity, and the fourth blog covers new business models for manufacturing companies.  This blog will explore how leveraging customer information and demand signals while improving sales team collaboration can provide amazing insight into your customers’ needs, wants, and expectations.

“There is nothing so terrible as activity without insight.”

– Johann Wolfgang von Goethe (German poet)


Leveraging all relevant explicit and implicit customer information is key to success in today’s world of B2B sales. Having the right tools in place makes it easy for sales professionals to understand when they could sell which product to which customer and how.  This type of customer and product knowledge is not only valuable for new hires but also for more seasoned sales reps, especially when customers are re-assigned to different sales professionals, or when contacts on the customer’s side have changed.

Insight is one of the key points of a differentiating, personalized customer engagement approach, considering:

  1. Deep understanding of your customers and the key contacts, recognizing  their  buying behaviors, wants, needs, and expectations
  2. Demand signals for event-driven, contextual customer engagements, powered by predictions
  3. Solution and value selling instead of selling just product features and functions
  4. Collaboration with all relevant internal experts, partners, and customers
  5. All relevant information available anytime, anywhere on any device – for every type of customer interaction
  6. Channels of choice for your customers and partners, in a true omni-channel environment


Deep Customer Insight

To get a deep insight into customers and contacts, sales professionals need to leverage all available, relevant company-wide customer information (from CRM, ERP, and other internal sources of customer data) plus all valuable information from external sources (including social media) – blending transactional and social information to enrich the views of the customers. Sales reps want to anticipate customer behaviors by discovering hidden trends, understand motivations, and gain insights into customer sentiments with predictive analytics. For a productive analysis, sales professionals appreciate easy-to-use tools which analyze structured and unstructured information in real time (leveraging new technologies such as SAP HANA) and visualize results in an easy-to-understand manner. For maximum convenience, provide all relevant information in every step of the sales cycle with embedded analytics, on every type of device. This is especially important for new sales professionals or for veteran sales reps after a re-allocation of customers to different sales professionals.

Event-Driven, Contextual Customer Engagements

Benefit from new technologies, helping your sales and marketing organization to consider every relevant visit (including anonymous visits) on your physical and digital channels (your website, portal, eCommerce shop, etc.) to initiate an event-driven, contextual 1:1 marketing and customer engagement activities. Leverage both, implicit and explicit customer information and signals, and use real-time contextual information to target at the right point in time. Also leverage predictive tools to provide the right offer to the right customer with the right information in the right point in time, and anticipate customer wants, needs, and buying behaviors, based on real-time analysis of all applicable customer data.


Digitalize all valuable information for your customers to make it easy to analyze and share it with all internal and external stakeholders, using modern collaboration tools for a productive collaboration in context instead of collaboration through e-mail messages on a customer case file. Ensure that your customers can easily deal with you, by uploading digital information such as photos, drawings, or videos when your customers are interested in similar products, spare parts, and service offerings and want to use a self-service environment.  All these points will help you get additional valuable information and signals from your customers – key success factors for your next customer interaction.


Leverage new technologies and mobile solutions to ensure that your sales professional have access to all pertinent information anytime and anywhere – in the office, during customer calls, when traveling, at home, etc., and on their preferred mobile devices. Make it easy for them to capture new information about and from their customers, in every interaction on every channel.

Digital Channels

Consider every physical and digital channel which is requested by your customers (and partners) to provide all valuable information and self-services as well as online buying to make it easy for your customers to conduct business with your company. Digital channels will help you obtain additional information from your known customers or anonymous prospects, and can also help signal which channel you should use to trigger an activity in context.

Considering these points which have become even more important in our new digital economy, manufacturing companies will not just meet or exceed customer expectations, but also increase the productivity of their sales and marketing teams – and at the end of the day,  be able to

  • drive profitable growth in a challenging market
  • provide transparency, including reliable forecasts
  • enhance customer (as well as partner and employee) satisfaction

These benefits can happen in every channel, at every sales location, including smaller subsidiaries. The key objectives sales and marketing executives are measured on can all be improved with a laser focus on customer engagement and commerce.


Digitalize your customer experience with SAP! SAP provides a single platform that brings together marketing, sales, services, and commerce to ensure seamless digitization of the entire customer experience. SAP Customer Engagement and Commerce solutions powered by The SAP Cloud Platform enables a 360-degree view of your customer, real-time interaction and sophisticated predictive analytics, fully integrated to the core transactional system. SAP provides valuable solutions supporting the digital transformation through a differentiating customer engagement approach based on insight, such as SAP Hybris Marketing Cloud, SAP Hybris Sales Cloud, SAP Hybris Commerce Cloud. For more information on SAP’s “Beyond CRM” solutions check out the SAP Solution Explorer.



My third blog describes the value of digital channels for customer centricity, and the fourth blog covers new business models for manufacturing companies, as another important pieces of the puzzle to achieve a differentiating customer experience in the “digitalization game.”

Looking forward to your responses and new ideas on how manufacturing companies leverage Digital Transformation and Customer Centricity to grow their businesses and attract customers.


Dietmar Bohn is a Vice President of Industry Solutions Management at SAP SE, focusing on customer centricity and digital transformation. He brings more than 15 years of CRM experience from both outside and inside SAP and more than 25 years of industry experience. Dietmar has held various executive roles spanning CRM strategy projects, CRM implementation projects, CRM development and CRM product management. Before joining SAP, Dietmar has held different management positions in R&D, IT and Global Sales & Marketing organizations at Heidelberger Druckmaschinen AG. Dietmar holds degrees in Electrical Engineering and in Telecommunications.

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