Exploring the Future of Customer Experience with SAP’s Sonny Dasgupta – Futurum Tech Podcast Interview Series

On this episode of the Futurum Tech Podcast – Interview Series I am joined by Sonny Dasgupta. Sonny is the Head of Product Marketing for the SAP Customer Data Cloud, a foundational pillar under the SAP customer experience business. The SAP Customer Data Cloud solutions – which includes the SAP Customer Identity, SAP Customer Consent and SAP Customer Profile solutions — enables businesses to deliver better customer experiences, and develop trusted relationships with customers by allowing them more control over what data is used — a must have in today’s world.

Our conversation covered several aspects of the future of customer experience including data analytics, the cloud and how enterprises and customers are going to be impacted as data continues to drive customer experience changes. It was a fascinating conversation and one you don’t want to miss.

The Future of Customer Experience

My conversation with Sonny also revolved around the following:

  • How businesses need to change their business models to deliver better experiences and stay differentiated from the competition especially now.
  • The challenges companies must overcome to offer best in class personalization for their customers and how that enables trusted relationships to flourish. We also explored the impact that lack of trust can have on the bottom line.
  • Ways businesses can embrace the regulatory and compliance environment while still delivering a personalized customer experience without becoming invasive or creepy.
  • Where companies need to start to deliver top notch customer experiences including a step by step process for dealing with fragmented customer data. We also explored how to focus on what your company does best without getting overwhelmed by the process of delivering personalized customer experiences.

In my opinion, the future customer experience is not just the job of one department, but actually a responsibility shared across the organization. If you are part of delivering an outstanding customer experience then this episode is one that needs to be on your ‘must listen’ list.

Watch my interview with Sonny here:

Or listen here:

Disclaimer: The Futurum Tech Podcast is for information and entertainment purposes only. Over the course of this podcast, we may talk about companies that are publicly traded and we may even reference that fact and their equity share price, but please do not take anything that we say as a recommendation about what you should do with your investment dollars. We are not investment advisors and we do not ask that you treat us as such.


Daniel Newman: Welcome to the Futurum Tech Podcast. I’m your host today, Daniel Newman, Principal Analyst and Founding Partner at Futurum Research. Excited about today’s Interview Series Podcast where I’m going to be joined by Sonny Dasgupta, of SAP and we are going to be talking about the future of customer experience, we’re going to be talking about data analytics, a little bit about the cloud and we’re going to be talking about how companies, enterprises and consumers are going to be impacted in the future as data and user experience continue to drive the customer experience of the future. Without further ado, Sonny Dasgupta, welcome to the Futurum Tech Podcast Interview Series. How are you?

Sonny Dasgupta: Thank you. Thank you, Dan. Excited to be here.

Daniel Newman: Yeah, it’s great to have you here. As always, I always like to jump into these shows and learn a little bit more about my guests. Why don’t you go ahead and do me a favor and just introduce yourself, tell me a little bit about your role at SAP and of course, what that really means on a day in and day out basis.

Sonny Dasgupta: Yeah, absolutely. Be happy to. I’m the head of product marketing for SAP Customer Data Cloud. And I understand that’s a mouthful so let me explain what is the SAP customer data cloud. SAP customer data cloud is a foundational pillar under the SAP customer experience business. It’s also a setup solutions and the primary purpose of these solutions would be to deliver personalized customer experience by knowing your customer, because we believe that you cannot deliver a personalized customer experience without really knowing your customers. To that end, our focus is to help our customers to collect customer data, to collect their customer’s data at every interaction, at every touch point, but always doing it with customer permission, to deliver a personalized customer experience.

As the head of product marketing, my core focus is to deliver revenue and we in marketing deliver revenue through pipeline generation. In our types of business generally, marketing the technology business, technology marketing, marketing is responsible for generating about 25 to 30% of the pipeline and sales is responsible for generating 70 to 75% of the pipeline. And the way we deliver the marketing pipeline is through marketing campaign. To that end, what I do and my team does is that we create marketing content, exciting marketing content that will do awareness of the market, awareness of our solution and hopefully build interest, which then will go into consideration, evaluation and eventually close.

We also influence the sales pipeline through sales enablement. We train our sales teams on the market drivers, things that are happening in the market, mega trends that we are seeing, industry trends, customer pain points and how to best position our solution in a differentiated way to their customers. I really like my job. Every day brings something new. It’s like going to the gym where it’s painful while you are doing it, but you know that it’s good for you.

Daniel Newman: I’ll tell you what Sonny, as a guy that goes to the gym a lot and has been doing that every day for more than 20 years, a former collegiate athlete that is now a weekend gym warrior, I can tell you two things. One is the pain gets better as you keep doing it. And two, there is a ton of value and return on that kind of routine. Congratulations on all your success. Sounds like a really interesting job day in and day out. And I’m excited to have this conversation with you. I’ve got a, let’s just say less than a half a dozen questions, but some good ones here because I want to talk about this.

You are in this really interesting intersection of being involved in generating pipeline, partnering up with the sellers, working with the customers to build testimonials and customer stories and we’re at a really interesting point where things like the CDP, customer data platform, the customer experience generation, data congruence is becoming more important in terms of delivering experiences. I’ll just jump right in here, with customers more connected and informed than ever, how do you think companies need to change their business models to deliver experiences and stay differentiated?

Sonny Dasgupta: Yeah, I think it’s really important for companies to get to know their customers really well, especially in today’s environment. The importance of knowing your customer in delivering revenue, this is not a new concept. Peter Drucker talked about this many years back when he said, “When you know your customers really well, the product or service that you’re offering will practically sell itself.” I couldn’t agree with him more. Peter Drucker doesn’t need my validation. But I agree with him.

In the experience economy where we are now, look, customers are truly in control. Customers are telling us that, “Don’t worry about the customer journey. It’s practically impossible.” Because with so many channels, so many touch points, the variety of customer preferences, it’s impossible to predict a customer’s behavior through the scope of something called a customer journey. Instead, it’s better to really get to know the customer, in having an authentic interaction at every touch point and deliver a five star experience just like you would do with your family members. If you make a promise, make sure you honor that promise. If you’re going to take customer data, always take it with customer permission. Make sure that you only use the data for the stated purpose. Customers today, they’re happy. They’re very informed. They understand the importance of their data and they’re happy to share their data with brands, but they also want to know that they’re going to remain in complete control.

These are some of the things that customers are demanding. And if you don’t fulfill those demands, the consequences are dire, that they’re going to leave your brand in a heartbeat. What we do is we help our customers to meet their customer’s demands. The first thing we talked about is just making sure that you get data right. Collect customer data from every interaction, whether it’s online, offline, transactional, behavioral, POS, but always, always, always do it with customer permission. The second thing is, understand your customer. And now that you have collected the right data, use the data to build this unified view of the customer so that you have complete visibility of the customer. You understand the customer really, really well.

Now that you have built a unified single view of the customer, it’s really important to share that insight in real time with your engagement systems that are directly interacting with your customer, which would be your marketing systems, your commerce systems, your sales systems, your service system, that are directly interacting with the customers. And finally, making sure that you must satisfy all the data privacy requirements. Give customers access to their data at all times and make sure that in this day and age of GDPR, CCPA and new regulations cropping up every day, you meet data privacy and compliance requirement. If you can do this, if you can deliver this consistent, personalized experiences across channels, across locations and devices, you will develop more valuable, trusted customer relationship that drive increased loyalty, which will result in increased revenue.

Daniel Newman: Absolutely. And I think you sort of touched on where I was going to take this next, which was talking a little bit about some of the key outcomes of personalization, because ultimately we’re in this situation in this world now, where if you get it right, you keep customers. If you get it wrong, you lose customers. I still remember, I wrote my second book, it was called, The New Rules of Customer Engagement and it was what I used to refer to the 80/8 rule. And it was 80% of brands believe that they’re truly differentiated based on customer experience yet only 8% of their customers actually see that. And then there was another one, I don’t remember the exact data so please don’t quote me as exact here, but it was something like, “Every great experience warrants or yields something like six or seven people that you’ll tell about it. And a terrible experience, people will tell 25 people.” And I’m sure that actually exponentially more now because of social media, that’s actually gotten bigger because instead of telling people one to one, we tell people in bulk.

I was going to talk to you about the outcomes of personalization, but you really did cover this well so I want to jump to a question about data tools and technology, if you don’t mind here, Sonny. SAP is a company that focuses on the tools and the technology and of course, making the data accessible. But this whole data tools and technology is easier said than done. You’re working side by side with companies every day, talk a little bit about what you’re suggesting and what companies must really do to make this best of breed personalization that you shared about, really take place, to happen.

Sonny Dasgupta: You are absolutely right, Dan. Know this all too well. It’s easier said than done. The first challenge is the data silo. This is one of the biggest challenges customers face, our customers face in delivering customer experience, in getting to know the customer, is because customer data. According to a recent survey, customer data could be spread across 15 to 45 systems within your organization. And it’s not surprising, Dan, the reason it happens, one of the reasons it happens, it happens because of many reasons but one of the reasons it happens is because the definition of customer varies from organization to organization.

For example, if you asked marketing, the marketing organization, “Who is a customer?” The answer is anybody that would buy your products or services could be a potential customer. You can see how broad the definition of customer is. Now you go to sales, you talk to your sales colleagues and say, “Hey, who is your customer? Who do you think?” It’s a prospect, a qualified prospect. That’s a customer to a salesperson or somebody that they can upsell, cross sell to. But again, very qualified, much narrower than what marketing thinks a customer might be.

And then if you go to customer service and you ask, “Who is a customer?” It’s somebody who has already bought the product or service. The definition of customer would vary depending upon who you were talking to. And you have to remember this, each one of these organizations are storing customer data in their own system. This is one of the reasons the same customer is being captured by different systems, with different attributes and characteristics, which makes it absolutely impossible to have this complete view of the customer.

The second challenge is that for the longest time, companies have taken massive amounts of customer data without customers’ knowledge or permission. And while those days are gone, the results are still lingering. We have been dealing with a crisis of consumer trust. As a result, one of the things that we are seeing and I’m sure your audience is very aware of this, we are seeing regulations like GDPR, CCPA, LGPD in Brazil, cropping up every day in different parts of the globe, this data privacy, consumer data privacy regulation. And it is difficult to comply with these data privacy requirements because if you don’t, you are going to be subjected to massive fines and penalties. And the last thing which makes it super challenging is that the data volume and the data velocity. Back in the days, we used to deal with one channel, the web.

And now you’re looking at mobile, social, SMS, IOD, bot, text, pictures, videos. We are creating more data in a day than what we created in a year. Eliminating noise from the signal is becoming increasingly difficult.

And you talked about the impact, if I could summarize what you are saying that customer trust is earned in drops, but lost in buckets. Today, 86% of customers prefer customer experience over products and services. 67% percent of customers will not do business with you if they didn’t trust your brand. Loyal customers are five times more likely to recommend your brand or make a repurchase. If you’re not building a trusted relationship with your customer or delivering a compelling customer experience, look, it’s going to have a significant impact on your revenue and your longterm viability. I think it’s really important to remember that in terms of when you’re thinking about some of these key drivers.

Daniel Newman: Yeah, absolutely. And you made a lot of great points. The complexities of data volumes and customer privacy and being thoughtful about customer expectations, the evolution of privacy laws and the desire to try to be really 360 when it comes to customer, has created a ton of complexity. And technology is the catalyst. It is the gateway to making this work. And there are many companies that have done it and of course, SAP has been doing this a very long time, has a very strong reputation and I would imagine is really trying to develop a complete set of tools through both your legacy and acquired technology to really meet the customer where they are today.

And so you alluded to this, you’re kind of reading my mind. It was almost like you’ve seen the question. I want to dig in just a little bit more about the regulatory and customer environment. You sort of mentioned that. I’ll reiterate that. I’ll continue to beat that drum, but with all these data rules, what should companies be doing? How do they really continue to collect data? Do it in a way that’s effective? What are you seeing? What are you hearing? How do you get the businesses to embrace regulatory environments and compliance and yet still deliver world class experiences while not being creepy?

Sonny Dasgupta: Yeah, yeah, yeah. No, no they’re very relevant questions. And our customers, every time I talk to our customers, they are really thinking about this. This is top of mind for most of our enterprise customers. Look, they recognize that for years, companies have gathered massive amounts of uncorrelated data just because they could. And the idea was to figure out, take the data now and we’ll figure out what to do with it later. But in this new paradigm that we are going to, where customers are truly, truly in charge, they are in control of their data, you should only collect the information from customers needed to fulfill that immediate need for that stated purpose. You should collect customer data only to benefit your customers, whether for personalization, whether for improved security, if it’s for any other reason, but make sure that the data that you are taking is benefiting the customer.

And one lesson that we have already learned is that yes, customer data is a huge asset. But my gosh, if you don’t secure that data, if it’s not properly protected, it can become an infinitely bigger liability than it’s an asset. These are some of the things to remember and customers now understand the value of their data and that it is in fact, their own data. Consumer data, privacy regulations are cropping up every day. To comply with this regulation, you need to collect consumer data with consumers’ explicit consent, making sure that their preference is honored and they are always in control because the cost of noncompliance is massive fines. And most importantly, it is a huge damage to your brand reputation. And now we’re seeing some of these fines and penalties are being imposed by different data protection authorities and governments. That’s our advice to our customers and with our solution, we make this happen.

Daniel Newman: Yeah, I think that’s going to be really important that companies are building solutions that really take compliance into consideration from the ground up. Being able to do it at scale, being able to solve that problem so customers can focus on their marketing or their product development, their customer experience management. If they’re worried about meeting all the compliance at scale, it’s going to be really hard and it’ll eliminate a lot of businesses that don’t have resources as these rules and laws become more complex. GDPR is very complex, CAN-SPAM is very complex, California spam laws are also very complex, but having big firms like SAP step up, say, “We’ve got this covered in our platform.” That’s going to be important. And that’s going to be an expectation for you.

You know what? I guess I’d like to kind of circle back to and bring it home, as you would like to say here is, I’d like to tie it all together a little bit, Sonny. We’ve talked about tools. We’ve talked about data and mass. We’ve talked about the expectations that customers have. Talked about regulatory environments in complexities and compliance, but let’s tie this all together. You every day, you work in this space, you’re working alongside a sales force that’s deploying these technologies. You’re working with in developing a marketing collateral to encourage people to buy these solutions. If you’re trying to help a customer understand how to deliver best in breed CX, where do you suggest they start? Where do you rope them in? And of course any examples would be awesome.

Sonny Dasgupta: To deliver personalization, when you deliver the right kind of personalization, it will create lasting customer loyalty. And to do that, you have to know your customer at every touch point. This really boils down to two core elements. One is collecting customer data with customer permission and then your ability to manage that data. Customers interact with a multitude of systems across their life cycle, what it does, it enables you to collect rich customer data that can be used. In the days of artificial intelligence, machine learning, you can take good quality customer data voluntarily given by the customer, to deliver exceptional, personalized experience in real time. The challenge, as I said, of the fragmented customer data is one of the challenges that I talked about. Look, fragmented customer data is not a new thing. And when you look at our customers in general, they’re at different levels of maturity when it comes to this customer data, but our customers are already thinking how to solve these customer data challenges.

The way I think about it is that at a high level, you have to think about this as a four step process. The first step would be to start with your digital channels and you have to let your customers securely identify and engage at every digital touchpoint. And the focus should be really to get first party data and to build trust. The second thing you need to be thinking about is the data privacy aspect. When you have to taken, stored massive amount of customer data, it is your responsibility to protect that data at any cost. We talked about GDPR, other regulation, data privacy regulation. Establishing data protection, data governance should be the next logical step. This is what we see customers are looking for. This is an area by the way, this is also an area of strength and differentiation for us, for SAP.

The next step is then to think about your non digital channels. You’ve got your digital channels covered first and now you’re looking at your non digital channels. Then you can focus on offline data, unknown second party, third party data and then using technologies like identity resolution to build that unified customer view. Then you can take that data, use AI, ML, artificial intelligence, machine learning, natural language processing, predictive analytics, on top of that to build robust segmentation and then activation of the data through the engagement channels.

And the last tip is to then kind of step back and really focus on building a competitive differentiation by looking at, by focusing on your core strengths and as an organization, you are unique and so the customer experience that you provide, that only you can provide is also very, very unique. That’s only an experience that only your brand can offer. Kind of stepping back, focusing on that competitive differentiation and figuring out, fine tuning it and out what’s the best way we can deliver that.

I give you an example. Being SAP, we have access to different types of data. You know our history. We started with ERP and now we are into customer experience. We are in so many different lines of businesses. We have solutions for different lines of businesses. As a result, we have access to different kinds of data and customers. We have customers from all industries. And so this is not industry specific, but mostly retail, CPG companies. One of the things that we hear from them is that customers, good example, we are making solid offers to our customers, but customers are not registering. Another challenge could be mobile registrations are not happening as frequently as we expected.

If you looked at the operational data, it will tell you what’s broken. It tells you that customers are not registering when offers are being made. That’s a problem. It also, it tells you mobile registrations are not happening as frequently as we expected. Basically, you know what’s broken, but it doesn’t help you solve the problem because you don’t know why it is broken, but then you have to look at experience data, which helps us better understand the emotions, the sentiments from each one of these digital interactions. By looking at customer feedback from different channels, by looking at customer behavior, we truly understand what the root cause and then we can close the experience gap that you talked about in the beginning. You talked about 80% of executives believe that they are providing really exceptional customer experience, but only 8% of customers agree. And that creates this experience gap.

We can close that gap by bringing these data sets, the right kind of data to solve the problem. Going back to, well, maybe you’re making great offers, but customers are not picking up because when you look at the emotions data, the feelings data, the survey data, you can start to see that customers’ feedback is that I couldn’t register with my social account from my phone. Or the mobile registrations are not happening because your terms of service was very unclear and so I did not sign up. You see shopping cart abandonment. People were starting the process, they got products in the shopping cart and then it was abandoned. And you see a trend of that.

Just knowing that doesn’t allow you to solve the problem but when you get customer feedback saying, “Oh, your shipping terms or your shipping time is too long or your shipping cost is too high.” Now you go, “Oh, I know exactly how to solve the problem.” That’s the advantage we have. We can bring the right data and use that data with today’s technology to better understand the customer, to deliver personalization, to honor their privacy and preferences and deliver that customer experience that they are looking for. Hopefully I was able to bring it all together for you, Dan.

Daniel Newman: Yeah, I think you really did. And I really appreciate it as we’ve sort of hit the end of our time here, Sonny. But yeah, this is really important. I think you’ve touched on all of it, personalization, where it’s going, how it’s driving the future, the complexities of it, the systems requirements, the compliance, the governance and of course the management and the accelerations that deliver that best of breed personalization that makes a difference. Sonny Dasgupta, thank you so much for joining me here on the Futurum Tech Podcast Interview Series. It’s been great to have you.

Sonny Dasgupta: Dan, thank you so much for having me. I’ve really enjoyed our conversation. Looking forward to more talking to you next.

Daniel Newman: Absolutely. For everyone out there, hit that subscribe button. Join us for more great interviews with folks like Sonny and of course our regular podcasts that we have on the Futurum Tech Podcast series. Check out the show notes. There’s a lot more information.

We’ll make sure we get you over to learn more about SAP and the work that Sonny is doing. But for this episode and for now, I got to go. I got to say goodbye. Thanks for tuning in. We’ll see you later.

Image Credit: CallMiner


Author Information

Daniel is the CEO of The Futurum Group. Living his life at the intersection of people and technology, Daniel works with the world’s largest technology brands exploring Digital Transformation and how it is influencing the enterprise.

From the leading edge of AI to global technology policy, Daniel makes the connections between business, people and tech that are required for companies to benefit most from their technology investments. Daniel is a top 5 globally ranked industry analyst and his ideas are regularly cited or shared in television appearances by CNBC, Bloomberg, Wall Street Journal and hundreds of other sites around the world.

A 7x Best-Selling Author including his most recent book “Human/Machine.” Daniel is also a Forbes and MarketWatch (Dow Jones) contributor.

An MBA and Former Graduate Adjunct Faculty, Daniel is an Austin Texas transplant after 40 years in Chicago. His speaking takes him around the world each year as he shares his vision of the role technology will play in our future.


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