AiThority Interview with Ritu Bhargava, Chief Product Officer at SAP CX
Please tell us a little bit about your journey and what inspired you to go down this particular career path?
I grew up watching my parents’ careers. My mom worked in education, taught in colleges, and did voluntary work with students from low-income families, and my dad was an architect. They both worked hard, were deeply passionate about what they did, and had extreme pride in their careers which left an indelible impact on me.
I am a product of that great combination that instilled not only a great work ethic in me, but the important lesson of doing the right thing even when no one is watching.
I did not study to be an engineer, but I knew that no matter what I did, I would do it with grit and perseverance. I have a raging fire in my belly that dragons would envy, and I use that fire to march ahead, adapt, and keep my mind open to every opportunity.
How do you define customer experience (CX) and what are the key characteristics of excellence in this area?
The last few years of the pandemic and socioeconomic conditions changing along with so many other events have made us all adapt to new ways of operating. And expectations are continuing to evolve. But one thing is clear — organizations that put the customer at the heart of everything will outperform all others.
And that’s why customer experience is not about being great in a single interaction but scaling it to every single customer touchpoint.
It is an ongoing endeavor to meet ever evolving customer expectations be it during discovery, evaluation, purchase, consumption, reuse, or return of goods and services.
Three key characteristics that drive excellence:
- Understanding your customers needs across technological, process, or organizational boundaries
- Engaging with them in personalized ways across any conceivable channel be it in-store or online
- Helping them grow and scale with the right information, at the right time, and for the right customer
How has SAP seen CX evolve in recent years in its customer base?
The CRM market has evolved beyond business and operational processes, to delivering highly personalized digital engagements.
And CX, which combines digital experience and CRM, has moved even beyond that – to be obsessed about omnichannel experiences.
Remaining agile, resilient, and sustainable is key. But increasingly businesses are being asked to do more with less; to be scrappy yet innovative and still deliver outcomes. And they are expecting technology to help by breaking organizational, process, and technical silos.
No matter the industry, these silos hinder the experience and move customers further from delivering their business outcomes.
This isn’t just true for consumers, but also customers in a business-to-business relationship. Those buyers are doing more of the discovery and research themselves and buying through self-service channels like ecommerce stores. However, at the right time they need support and strategic advice from the sales team. This is a shift from purely being sold to and requires a next level of understanding and insight to help in growing lifetime value and customer loyalty.
Organizations that are willing to transform into more sustainable and intelligent enterprises and support the ever-evolving choices of the customer will be more resilient in the future.
CX is a continuous evolution, thinking that each journey has a start and end is fundamentally wrong. If you’re not moving forward, you’re losing the infinite race to a loyal customer base.
What role do you play in ensuring SAP CX continues to innovate?
Every modern company is a technology company and is in constant need of innovation. And SAP, which is one of the top enterprise applications companies on the planet, is on the frontlines of helping every company be that innovative technology company. CX, specifically, is focused on bringing innovation — be it through powering experiences with data and intelligence, Web3, or even Web4 — to every interaction point a customer has.
One of my roles is to provide a space where teams can make bold decisions and take risks. Some innovations will land, and others may not, but we will get nowhere if we don’t try.
The team delivered amazing innovation in 2022 with the Intelligent Service Cloud and Sales Cloud which has native AI/ML capabilities and integration to ERP as well as the new SAP Commerce Cloud, Composable Storefront that helps customers innovate faster at scale.
We’re working on several new initiatives, some of which will be released in 2023 like investments in circular economy which will give more choice to customers of Commerce Cloud. We’re also extending engagement channels to another dimension with Web 3.0 investments in NFTs and metaverse pilots and going beyond the typical earn and burn strategies to experiential loyalty management. We’re also bringing more out-of-the-box industry focus to the CX portfolio.
And all of this is happening as we continue the evolution of the CX portfolio to cloud native, microservices based, API-first, headless solutions that connect the front and back office into a “one-office” suite.
What do organizations need to consider in project plans to improve CX?
A leadership team mindset that extraordinary customer experience is a differentiator,
a deep understanding of your customers pain points and expectations,
a co-created roadmap with your enterprise software vendor; and
a strong implementation partner.
Your top investment should be in winning the hearts and minds of the key stakeholders and leadership team. CX cannot be siloed — technology is fundamental for a modern organization, but if there’s no buy-in, the project will not succeed. In addition, you should have a common understanding of success criteria with your implementation partner.
How does SAP support CX improvements and evolution for customers?
In addition, our core is getting constantly updated with the Business Technology Platform and S/4 HANA that are the foundation to SAP’s product portfolio.
CX is an inherent part of our customers’ and their customers’ digital transformation. CX as the front-office to the back-office processes enables support for industry specific needs of our customers across geographies.
What sets SAP apart from other companies that offer CX/CRM solutions?
Companies need to constantly transform their business to stay relevant and deliver results. Customer experience is important, but it is also important to focus on operational processes and business model transformation.
If focus is only on the front office, one could miss expectations in delivering on the promise. Some vendors offer solutions for front-office experiences and others for back-office processes. But without connectivity of the back-office to the front-office, the experience is incomplete. You need to delight and deliver, respect and be transparent, serve yet be agile, support and be trustworthy — all at the same time.
And that’s where SAP CX sets itself apart; we offer a personalized “one-office” experience by enabling native integration of CX to ERP, Digital Supply Chain, and Procurement and take it further by offering Industry tailored solutions. This suite of integrated products helps companies find the perfect balance between delivering delightful experiences and delivering on the promise.
Thank you, Ritu! That was fun and we hope to see you back on AiThority.com soon.
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Ritu Bhargava is the Chief Product Officer of SAP Customer Experience (CX/CRM). In this role she leads product strategy, development, product management, user experience, security, and operations for the entire CX portfolio. In 2022, she was appointed to the Qualtrics Board of Directors.
Till late 2021, she was at Salesforce as head of engineering for Sales Cloud, its flagship product. Having started her career as an SAP developer, Ritu went on to work at Oracle for a decade, responsible for financial applications in various roles. With extensive experience in the enterprise applications and CX space, Ritu brings a strong market focus, both from a business and engineering perspective, and from an employee-focused and customer-first mindset.
She co-chairs the West Coast Advisory Board for Asian University for Women (AUW), a Bangladesh-based nonprofit dedicated to women’s education and leadership development.
SAP’s strategy is to help every business run as an intelligent, sustainable enterprise. As a market leader in enterprise application software, we help companies of all sizes and in all industries run at their best: SAP customers generate 87% of total global commerce. Our machine learning, Internet of Things (IoT), and advanced analytics technologies help turn customers’ businesses into intelligent enterprises. SAP helps give people and organizations deep business insight and fosters collaboration that helps them stay ahead of their competition. We simplify technology for companies so they can consume our software the way they want – without disruption. Our end-to-end suite of applications and services enables business and public customers across 25 industries globally to operate profitably, adapt continuously, and make a difference. With a global network of customers, partners, employees, and thought leaders, SAP helps the world run better and improve people’s lives.