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Over the last few weeks SAP has run several events for both customers and the analyst community to herald the launch of SAP 360 Customer in an attempt to regain ground in the CRM market and convince everyone that it has sorted out its cloud, mobile and collaboration strategy. One of the main user events was Sapphire NOW in Madrid earlier this month. From reports that I have seen, it seems that customers at that conference were far from convinced – and if customers are not convinced then prospects are likely to be even less convinced.

At the beginning of the year Ventana Research predicated six things would impact how companies procure software: collaboration, mobility, analytics, cloud computing, social media and big data. On the surface, SAP 360 Customer ticks all these boxes, so to some degree I sympathize with the SAP executives who were left baffled by the negative customer reaction. Others providers have got there before SAP, and I suspect that after several false starts by the company, many customers are skeptical that everything will work out this time.

Earlier this year I carried out benchmark research in adoption of the contact center in the cloud where I broke the systems into three groups: communications, business applications and analytics. The results showed companies have adopted more business applications in the cloud than the other two categories. CRM is by far the most advanced business application that has been adopted in the cloud, with the way being led by Salesforce.com. It has convinced the market that the cloud is the only way forward, and Salesforce is now the vendor others have to match up to. Salesforce.com’s Service Cloud has already demonstrated success in CRM, cloud, collaboration, mobility and analytics; others have to run to catch up.

In contrast, the SAP 360 Customer messaging is heavily weighted toward performance and how HANA delivers CRM at the speed of light. HANA allows companies to run CRM in memory, and it thus works extremely fast. While this is important, I don’t find that technology turns business users on. Does it really matter if it takes one or five seconds for users to get a response from their CRM systems? Where accessing customer information quickly becomes critical is during customer interactions. Even though more interactions are being carried out electronically, customers in the main want answers to questions in real time, and the information they need in all probability comes from multiple sources. So fast data access is not just a CRM issue, it is a system-wide issue and an analytics issues, because employees need to know information about customers and the outcome of interactions as soon as possible, so they can raise alerts if further action is needed – for example to prevent negative comments on social media or stop the customer defecting to the competition. As I understand it closer links are planned with SAP’s Business Communication Management systems, which could have a major impact on interaction handling and the customer experience.

SAP says its products deliver a 360-degree view of the customer, something I know from experience companies have long craved, but that my research into customer relationship maturity shows only 31 percent companies have achieved which represents more mature organizations. Here the challenge is the number sources and formats (structured, unstructured, events) companies have for customer data. Unless an application can access, process and analyze all of these then it will fall short.

SAP is making a lot of claims about SAP 360 Customer:

  • Improved marketing, sales and service capabilities
  • More granular customer segmentation capabilities, supporting marketing, sales and service and allowing improved personalization of responses
  • Many capabilities accessible through smart mobile devices supporting both mobile workers and customers
  • Better, faster available predictive customer-related analytics
  • All in the cloud

If these claims all can be delivered to customers, then they would indeed add up to a major advance in CRM.  I feel, like many of the customers in Madrid, that we will have to wait and see how this initiative plays out with customers and prospects. I will be keeping a close eye on developments over the coming months to see how successful SAP will be in providing its customers the critical applications and technology to fulfill on this mission of providing a 360-degree view of a customer.

Regards,

Richard J. Snow

VP & Research Director

The parent company of mplSystems, Message Pad Ltd., was founded in the U.K. in 1994 and provides the infrastructure to support contact center operations. mplSystems’ main product family is intelligentContact (iContact), which is available either on premises or in the cloud. It is an interesting mix of products that covers call, email, chat, SMS, social media management and routing from a universal queue, a new social media product that routes social media posts to agents and provides the interface through which agents can respond. It offers some WFO capabilities, such as call recording, quality monitoring and workforce management, along with a new tool set that allows companies to build mobile customer service apps and a suite of reporting and analytics tools. Companies can choose to deploy as many of these applications as they require, adding more at a later date based on business demands to build a solution that meets the organization’s business requirements. mplSystems provides services to work with customers on these type of projects.

Based on user case studies, companies can rapidly build solutions that meet business and user expectations. The resulting systems can then be deployed on the customer’s premises or can be hosted in the MPL Aurora cloud and accessed through the public Internet or a private cloud. The latter option allows companies not only to choose functionality on a needs basis but also to scale the number of users based on demand. The system can be integrated with existing PBX or ACD systems, allowing companies to continue to gain value from existing systems. It includes integration with Microsoft Dynamics CRM so that companies can embed a softphone in user screens, simplifying the process of handling calls while providing access to required customer information. The system integrates communications management and WFO, the two core components required to support multichannel contact center operations.

Another key component is intelligentDesktop, a smart desktop web interface that companies can build by dragging and dropping components to offer any or all of the other functionality to employees handling interactions. This is unique way to custom-integrate capabilities. My recent research into the agent desktop shows that an appropriately customized desktop can make a vital difference to the customer experience. Mature companies have found it makes agents’ lives easier, allows them to support more types of interactions and communication channels, makes them happier and thus leads to improved customer experience and better performance against key customer metrics (and average handling time goes down as well).

The final product in mplSystems’ portfolio provides field service management, allowing companies to better manage their field service engineers. intelligentMobile is available as a mobile app, allowing integration with key smartphone capabilities such as maps and location intelligence and providing capabilities for service engineers to manage tasks through their phones. Although designed with field service in mind, from what I saw companies could use intelligentMobile to management other customer-related tasks.

mplSystems is not a globally recognized contact center provider, but it now has more than a thousand customers in 10 countries. Its portfolio of products is different from that of most companies I cover, and its integration of interaction management, WFO and the desktop is especially interesting.  I recommend companies that want to support multiskilled employees handling multiple types of interactions and communication channels take a serious look at mplSystems as they seek to improve interaction handling and the customer experience.

Regards

Richard J. Snow

VP & Research Director

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