We have been diving deeper into the topics that we think will drive the Future of Business such as the new expectations around customer experience.

Our next future of customer experience interview is with Tim Minahan, (@tminahan) the Chief Marketing Officer for SAP Cloud.

We live in an increasingly networked age. At what point do the traditional ways of organizing companies to deliver customer experiences (headquarters, field, online, call centers, resellers, etc.) get rethought or replaced?

The customer today is more connected, empowered and demanding than ever. You’ve got one billion people in social networks that are talking about brands. In fact, I was just reading a recent study that showed Fortune 100 companies were mentioned on social channels like Facebook, Twitter, and LinkedIn a total of 10.5 million times in one month. These comments are really shaping brand images. They’re influencing customer views and buying decisions and really empowering that next competitor.

Today’s consumer is also mobile. There are more than 15 billion mobile devices and twice as many smart phones and tablets in use than there are people on the planet. And we’re seeing an emerging middle class of five billion consumers sprouting up in emerging markets around the world. Guess what? They’re all unwired and connected in a mobile environment too.

All of this is changing how we share information, how we shop, and the levels of service that customers expect today. So the business techniques and principles that worked 10, five or even three years ago are no longer relevant. And in fact, they can be a detriment.

In today’s fast-paced business world, companies really need to be able to predict the future with confidence, assess the right response, and then have the agility organizationally and systems wise to quickly adapt their business processes to capitalize on these market dynamics and stay ahead of the competition.

They need to be able to harness the insights of disruptive technologies of our day, technologies like social, business networks, mobility, and cloud to become this predictive business. The predictive business is not going to be an option going forward. It will be what’s required not only to win, but eventually to survive. Customers are demanding it and companies’ livelihoods are going to depend on it.

What technologies do you see as enabling better customer experience?

Leading companies are combining agile computing models like the cloud with new insights that can be gleaned from social and business networks and big data analytics, to create entirely new customer experiences and competitive advantage.

Take Cisco. Their strategic marketing organization mines historical data around what prompts people to buy, or what they have bought, and what their profiles are. They marry this with real-time social media mentions to look for customers, ferret out customers, who reveal a propensity to buy and a high readiness to buy.

They then arm their sales team, push these signals out to their sales force, and recommended the right offer that would likely convert that customer to buy. That’s had a massive impact. They saw a sales uplift of more than $4 billion by bringing all of those activities together.

And we see similar efforts in other industries like healthcare. Mount Sinai Hospital in New York, for instance, examined the historical treatment approaches, survival rates, and the stay duration of the hospitals to determine the right treatments to optimize patient care.

It constantly runs and adapts simulations to optimize its patients first 8–12 hours in the hospital. With improved utilization based on those insights and the ability to adapt how they’re handling their patients, the hospital not only improved patient health and survival rates, but also achieved the financial effect of adding hundreds of new beds without physically adding one.

How do you balance the need for a better customer experience with the return on that investment?

If you deliver a better customer experience, you will ultimately drive greater returns on investment. Harrah’s is a great example of this.  Using its loyalty card, the casino’s computers track the play of thousands of customers at any time. Out on the gaming floor, the systems monitor the machines and tables. If a good prospect is having a run of bad luck at the slots, a “Luck Fairy” staffer descends with an offer of a free show or meal later that night – just enough to keep the player playing.

Harrah’s knows that players’ luck eventually changes. If they can get customers to stick around long enough, they’ll leave winners and come back. By building a highly personalized customer experience and deepening loyalty, Harrah’s captures stunning wallet share.

What is the most extreme future that you could envision for the customer experience?

When businesses become more data-driven, when they adjust their culture, take advantage of some of these new tools and recognize the shift in customer behavior, you get a whole new world of business. You get a business model and organizational and systems infrastructure that have the ability to adapt to all the massive transformation and the rapid changes taking place. You get a predictive business that will transform every function within the enterprise and across the value chain.

Just think of sales and marketing. Sales and marketing professionals, will be empowered to engage customers like never before by tapping into social activity, buying activity on business networks, and geo-location insights to identify prospects and develop optimal offers and engage and influence perspective customers right at the point of purchase.

I think of pushing offers, coupons, to mobile devices of prospective buyers based on their social finger print and their actual physical location or service organizations. We talk about this Internet of Things. We haven’t even scratched a surface on this, but companies can massively drive customer satisfaction and loyalty to new levels by predicting and proactively resolving potential product or service disruption even before they happen.

Think about your device being able to send a signal and demonstrate a propensity to break down in the future. It may be possible to send a firmware update to fix it without your even knowing…

How can large companies optimize the customer experience across all the channels available today?

Number one is that they can’t have the fear of change – whether it’s the new empowered customer who is more informed and connected than ever before, or the new millennial workforce that’s eager to look at new organizational structures and processes and collaborate more, not just with other employees but their peers, and even competitors, in new ways.

Number two is they need to move beyond a single-technology focus and embrace a lot of the new technologies that are out there. Big data alone is not enough. Cloud alone is not enough. Social and mobile alone are not enough. Companies need all of these enabling technologies working together and leveraging each other.

They need to start with the convenience and the agility of the cloud and basically use everything as a service – apps, infrastructure, and platform – so that they can dial up the capabilities, processing power, or the resources they need to quickly configure and adapt their business processes at the business level, without massive IT or consulting engagement and gain the agility they need to create new and differentiated customer experiences across multiple channels.

Then they need to leverage the insights and rich new data sources, real-time market and customer sentiments, social listening and analytics and countless bits and histories of transactional and relationship data that social and business networks provide.

They also need to advance their analytical capabilities. They need the power and speed of big data, in-memory analytics platforms, and exploiting new architectures like Hadoop and others to aggregate, correlate and assess just countless bits of information about their customers that is available today and doubling every 18 months.

And in doing so, they can assess multiple scenarios and determine the best course of action to create new and differentiated customer experiences across multiple channels faster than ever before.

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