SAP is a big company that likes to take big steps. The SAP 360 Customer solution introduced at this week’s SAPPHIRE NOW/TechEd conference in Munich, which SAP says will “revolutionize” how companies engage with customers, certainly qualifies as a big step.

The Revolution Rests on HANA 

Based on the SAP HANA in-memory computer platform that supports applications, analytics, planning, predictive analysis and sentiment analysis, SAP 360 is designed to allow faster transactions and customer service responses through enhancements in areas such as mobile functionality and collaboration. There are three key real-time elements of the new customer engagement solution:

  • Real-time insight -- SAP says a real-time 360-degree customer view based on quick access to front and back-office transactions and public social network data will enable marketers to better understand customers and predict their future behavior.
  • Real-time interactions -- SAP 360 Customer is designed to allow personalized, one-on-one customer interactions via any channel based on current customer data.
  • Real-time execution -- SAP says users will able to instantly execute customer-facing processes across the enterprise, leveraging industry best practices that are “inherent” in SAP solutions.

SAP says the new Support pack stack 5, a non-disruptive increment for SAP HANA that includes online transaction processing optimizations and integrated text analytics, allows it to run SAP CRM completely on HANA. The HANA-based CRM module is one key component of SAP 360 Customer, which also includes Customer OnDemand, the new SAP Jam social software platform and various mobile applications. SAP also plans to make HANA-based SAP CRM available as a standalone solution.

SAP Opens Doors of Customer Perception

SAP is extremely bullish about the disruptive potential of SAP Customer 360. In a Forbes column, SAP Director of Global CRM solutions Jamie Anderson pays the solution the ultimate tribute of comparing its impact on enterprise applications to the one that seminal psychedelic group The Doors had on human consciousness.

While typical enterprise applications provide customer information based on overnight data extracts, Anderson says,

with HANA as the single transactional and analytical database layer, enterprise applications can move from systems of record to true systems of engagement, able to engage today’s digital customer literally ‘in the moment’ and predict next best actions or next best offers based on real contextual awareness of the customers situation via their location, channel of interaction, social profile, transactional history, and recent interaction history.”

It’s hard to imagine Jim Morrison with a job in digital marketing, but he was all about “the moment” and obtaining a deeper understanding of the reality beneath outdated conventions. IF SAP Customer 360’s real-time, cross-channel analytical and collaborative capabilities really do live up to what is being promised, then strange days of new customer insights lie ahead. 

Social, Mobile Promote Proactive Customer Care 

A recent CMSWire interview with John Hernandez, Vice President and General Manager of Collaborative Business Applications at Cisco Systems, suggests SAP is on the right track by focusing on providing real-time customer insights based on social and mobile channels.

Learning Opportunities

Hernandez said the proliferation of smartphones and social media represents a great opportunity for customer care to become more proactive, urging companies to “transition to a shared responsibility” in responding to social care inquiries to present a “single face to the customer.”

A potential use case of this kind of merged customer care in the age of mobile, Hernandez said, is lost luggage. For example: an airline customer, standing at the baggage claim, doesn’t see his bag and contacts the airline via a contact link in a social media app on his mobile device. Social media, he said, is causing changes to customer care that are “much bigger than mobile.”

A consumer could be on, say, Facebook and bad-mouthing a brand because of a product issue that they can’t get fixed -- like a lost luggage bag. In this case, Hernandez noted, customer care needs to be proactive, made possible by the numerous social media tools that are becoming standard in customer relationship management/customer service platforms.

SAP 360 Customer will be implemented and offered by SAP and partners.