Carl Lewis: Welcome to the Connected Enterprise Podcast. I’m Carl Lewis, your host from Vision33, and my guest is Annie Neubrech, regional vice president for SAP in customer experience management. Annie, please tell us about your typical day in customer experience management.
Annie Neubrech: Thank you for having me on your podcast, Carl. For background, I joined SAP in 2010 as part of core SAP. It's fun because when I say I’m with SAP, people ask how I joined the company – was I originally part of SAP, or was it through an acquisition? I think that’s when you and I met. If I recall, we were having an SAP Business One meeting at Nike. But I was part of the partner organization and ecosystem at SAP.
Then I moved into the SuccessFactors line of business and spent two and a half years as the COO, which led me to the Qualtrics team when SAP acquired them. Because SuccessFactors was an HR platform, it was natural for us to work with Qualtrics because they have employee experience software. They asked if I wanted to be part of the experience management SWAT team to integrate Qualtrics into SAP. Taking a small company like Qualtrics and integrating it with a hundred-thousand-employee company like SAP doesn't happen without some muscle to align everyone.
That’s my role. It's fun because I feel like I'm part of two companies – a very scrappy, agile, small company in Qualtrics and then the large SAP enterprise – and bringing them together. It's challenging but interesting. I’m on the experience side, so I talk to customers about their experience management strategy versus their operational data, supply chain, and finance strategies. It's fun to bring the two together. And that’s a day in the life of Annie.
I work directly with account executives at SAP and Qualtrics. We discuss accounts, account strategy, conflict resolution, and understanding each other's points of view. I talk to customers about their experience management strategic plans and what’s possible – much like you do with your customers, Carl. Where are you, where could you be, and what could a two- to three-year journey look like?
Carl Lewis: It's interesting you mention acquisitions. We've done eight or ten through the years. And you're right – melding the two cultures is always a journey that takes work. Annie, some of us live and breathe these business terms, but “experience management” is relatively new. What does it mean to SAP, and why was acquiring Qualtrics so important?
Annie Neubrech: SAP has been an old operational data machine for our customers, meaning we’ve centralized enterprise resource planning (ERP). We call it ‘intelligent enterprise’ now, but it means making sure business process workflows are optimized and data is centralized and shareable. We’ve perfected that. That’s the WHAT. We’re great at telling you WHAT is going on with your company – employee retention is down, turnover is up, your NPS is this, your costs are decreasing, etc. But we didn't have the WHY things are happening.
The WHY comes from listening to your employees and customers and getting feedback about your products and from your supply chains. And Bill McDermott, who was CEO at the time of the acquisition, and the board saw this experience – the WHY – was becoming more critical. Especially in omnichannel or multiple channel sales models. Several companies do experience management, but Qualtrics takes it beyond just surveys to create an authentic experience management platform that listens to feedback in text, comments, and voice.
They do more than traditional surveys once a year – they have a constant listening mechanism that comes into a platform and says, “Here's WHY you're seeing this WHAT.” Then it makes correlations to that data, makes recommendations, gives you real-life dashboards, etc. SAP’s board realized that’s where the intelligent enterprise journey must go. We must merge operational and experience data for meaningful business outcomes you learn about immediately instead of a year later.
Carl Lewis: Getting a handle on that type of thing seems critical in the context we're living in right now – pre-pandemic to post-pandemic. What do customers think as they practice experience management in today's world?
Annie Neubrech: The customer conversations from January/February are much different than the conversations now. Experience management hasn't gone away; it's even more critical because people are so virtual. People want to know what their employees are thinking. CEOs worry about ensuring good employee experiences because losing employees is costly.
The focus has been on everything from onboarding to new managers to employees’ life changes, and that’s not changing. Qualtrics stepped up in a big way, but suddenly they needed to know about their employees immediately. How do they feel? Do they have the tools they need to succeed? Or (if they’re furloughed), how can we convey we want them to come back?
What we’ve heard from employees is surprising. For example, we assumed the biggest challenge would be people with children at home – juggling work, their kids’ Zoom calls with teachers, noise in the background, and other disruptions. But by listening to our employees’ experiences, we learned that the people struggling most are those who live alone. It changed HR's approach regarding “What do we do?”
How do we communicate with them? How do we not lose touch with them? What resources can we offer people who feel isolated and lonely? We have COVID free-pulse surveys and dashboards that 9,000 companies have taken advantage of in the 45 days past the pandemic. And the feedback, again, is surprising. We’ve changed things based on what we’ve heard because even if they were small things, they could have grown into significant things. It's important.
Carl Lewis: Absolutely. You're saying SAP and Qualtrics allowed a lot of free software use during this pandemic. Has it been effective as customers have taken advantage of that offer? Have you heard stories because of it?
Annie Neubrech: Yes. Talking about Qualtrics – there's a lot about the employees and the customers. Our business has ramped up because Uber and Amazon are customers, and they want to understand the buying changes, patterns, what they’re doing right/wrong, what people are saying about their service, etc. And SAP has the Ariba free software, which is supply chain purchasing. We’ve used it to find N95 masks and gloves for a small hospital without access to that supply chain network.
They weren’t sure how to get what they needed, but they found it in 45 minutes using Ariba. It feels good that SAP and Qualtrics can do that for businesses – customers and non-customers. No one has said, “No, you're not an SAP customer, so you can't use this.” It's been helpful for many companies, and people have sent feel-good stories that tell us we’ve helped companies be better to their employees. We've helped them solve meaningful problems.
Carl Lewis: That's great. With experience management, Annie, do you see significant challenges when small and midsized businesses (SMBs) try to use these technologies, or do they fit them well?
Annie Neubrech: You’ll appreciate this: It’s like going from Excel spreadsheets to Business One. These technologies can fit SMBs well, but they start using survey tools without a platform, and then individual users and the company use their own survey tools. Then they might do a spreadsheet analysis or PowerPoint – a here's-what-we've-learned presentation. But that’s not a platform. It’s not dynamic. They’re not sharing the feedback. And they’re only using a one-dimensional feedback tool, usually a survey.
Could small businesses start on Qualtrics? Yes, and many do. Then they evolve to more of the platform play. And there are four pillars to a platform, including the customer base and employee base. Those two often interact because a customer’s experience might be negative due to an interaction with an employee. Then, which products am I selling? Are they optimized? Am I listening to the negative product feedback? You can’t just consider the stuff that gets sold and the reviews on Home Depot or Amazon; those brands should pay attention to that feedback so they can improve their product.
That also affects overall brand. So, customer experience, product, and brand are important. And an SMB should think about building an experience management platform so it can grow; then I'm sharing that versus having a single user do a one-dimensional survey. There's also a security and data risk. CIOs and IT leaders should care deeply about that. It’s one concern we see. Customers say, "GDPR. I need secure data. I don't want my employee to be able to leave my company." Feedback and contacts are now in their personalized account with some other small survey tool.
Carl Lewis: I can see that. Annie, do you see that SAP is excited about anything new on the horizon?
Annie Neubrech: There are many new things SAP is interested in, but what I’m seeing is that our customers want to think about the whole enterprise, including the supply chain. And this is really pivoting now, given the pandemic. Customers ask, “How do I make sure my digital transformation gets accelerated to have a tremendous impact on my business?” A lot of that is in the supply chain – but there’s still an experience component to that supply chain.
Things like how it's packaged or palleted, etc. How do you listen to feedback to ensure you’re an optimized supplier throughout the supply chain, especially for critical products and parts? We’ll see more focus on the supply chain end-to-end and pulling in experience information/insights throughout the whole process versus relying on the purchasing department to share feedback if they hear it. That's the biggest area. It’s probably more of an acceleration of something versus something new and different, but the pandemic has definitely accelerated some customers’ digital transformations.
Chipotle is a great example. I don't know if you've read their earnings release, but they didn’t have a negative quarter, despite the pandemic. Because they already had such a strong digital footprint, they mobilized their stores, and instead of being eat-in, they were takeout or have DoorDash, Uber Eats, etc. deliver. They have a great app. I've used it. I think we’ll see more of that happening.
Carl Lewis: Those are great observations. And this re-energized focus on the supply chain’s efficiency is something I'm seeing with many businesses we work with, too.
Let me get a little more personal, Annie. What are your observations about what's changed with business communications? I started with tin cans and string, but things have changed a lot in my lifetime regarding transitioning from one type of technology to another. Social media seems to be part of communicating with customers and other people in my life. What's going on with you and communications?
Annie Neubrech: I started when there was no voicemail. Secretaries used little pink Post-it notes to take messages. I’ve lived through the journey to voicemail, then the journey to email, which everyone is overwhelmed with. And now it’s the journey to heavy Zoom use. Not just conference calls, either – seeing each other face to face. And Zoom fatigue/video fatigue is happening internally and with customers. But what I've been most surprised about, Carl, is how pervasive texting has become.
It's, “Hey, I just want to talk to you quickly.” Many customers want a text now. They're used to it. It's quick and easy. There's a little trail of our conversations. I don't know what the next evolution will be. I haven't found collaboration tools like Slack to be used as frequently because sometimes they’re harder to filter through. But texting is something you do with friends, not just colleagues, and the more intimate customers feel with you, the more they want texting. That's an observation that’s gotten stronger over the last 12 months.
Carl Lewis: That's an interesting observation, and I agree. My only concern is that most people I text with expect me to answer immediately. Although I'm good at that because I like to do one thing at a time – I have no multitasking capabilities – it means sometimes they’re impatient texts. But that translates to me!
Annie Neubrech: The other thing I’ve found regarding texting is that customers use it instead of email after hours or over the weekend when something's on their mind. They know you’ll see it because everybody looks at their texts, whereas they may not check their email during off hours. It's a bad thing, right?
Carl Lewis: Yeah, it is. Well, it's been great, Annie, to reconnect with you. Thank you for sharing with us today. I hope it's not so long before we talk again.
Annie Neubrech: Carl, it's been my pleasure. Thank you.
Carl Lewis: You're welcome. And as I always say: Everyone, please stay connected.