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CXBuzz Interview with Michael Creal, Market Unit Leader, CE&X NA CX Customer Success – Emerging Segment at SAP

Hi Michael, tell us about yourself and your background.

I began my career at SAP over 10 years ago, and have held a variety of ‘cloud-based’ roles (i.e. Sales, Process Owner, Customer Advocate, Support Liaison, Pre/Post Sales process mgmt and Vendor Ops lead to name a few). Not to mention, 10+ years in the Financial Services industry (i.e. American Express & Bank of America). This diverse operational exposure and cloud product background across NA, APJ & LATAM have served me well. During these dynamic years of Industry, Organizational & Transformational change, I’ve had the opportunity to develop a strong track record of creating demand generation leads, customer references and enhance strategic adoption across the entire SAP CX portfolio. I humbly classify myself as a dynamic & authentic leader, with meaningful knowledge as it concerns the CX business model’s evolution, as well as its impact on both domestic & international customers alike.

How did you start working in the customer experience space?

I was one of the first employees at AMEX to embrace the use case (i.e. led governance approval efforts). As the cloud model has always been intriguing, CX is just the natural extension of this fundamental premise across multiple organizational use cases – with the ultimate goal of ‘proactively’ achieving 360 insight on one’s overall business.

What do you think the top priority should be for a company that wants to improve its customer experience?

E2E connection (i.e. systematic & operational integration); meaning not only looking at the consolidated data analytics, but how does your ‘physical’ team/org react to it – what levers are pulled to take advantage of opportunity or mitigate market risk. Simply put, can this be done in real-time to realize sustainable value?!?  which is why the advent of AI/ML is fast becoming so important.

How can companies better listen and understand their customer base?

There’s a fair abundance of customer focused listening tools & resources out there (i.e. Qualtrics).  But the key/trick is, how can you get these touchpoints in place at strategic moments along the customer’s transactional journey; meaning not just before or after – but during the process … so adjustments and/or corrections can be done more real-time – that’s the new frontier for CX to conquer … in my humble opinion.

Many companies are currently undergoing digital transformation processes. What are your tips on a successful digital transformation?

Right — I would safely guess between 35-45% are actively exploring and/or engaged in Digital Transformation, but again — this is just a guess. But my tip would be, do not allow your on-premise infrastructure and/or custom coding requirements hinder you from the ultimate goal of improving cycle times. Integration hurdles can be discouraging from an initial costing perspective, but as more nimble competitors jump right in – pursuing & growing long term value (i.e. return on investment) is the Customer Success journey we all must take.  Of course, while confirming that the overriding thought & objective for C-suite personnel are around enabling top-line growth via reducing bottom-line operational efficiencies & minimizing infrastructure overhead. SAP Business Transformation Platform (BTP) is a great place to start. I know, it’s a shameless plug!

What are some CX companies or solutions you’re keeping your eyes on right now.

I believe Emarsys (SAP Mkting) – from a segmentation & campaign perspective is fairly cutting edge, as its relatively easy to deployment – w/ companies both large, mid-sized & small, and can make a solid & positive $$ impression in the eCommerce space.  As well, I’m watching companies like Spryker Commerce, as their ‘transitional’ business model opens the possibility of Commerce scenarios across multiple industry verticals.  It’s headless & API-based – thus allowing for the 360 integration possibilities to be fully leveraged coming right out of the gate! LAST, is Sprinklr – this is a Social Suite that’s truly trying to bring the 360 view to life. As I previously mentioned, the use of AI/ML to gain insight for real-time actioning is the ‘secret sauce’, they are enabling/selling.  And utilizing social media is not only a natural fit, but the obvious gold mine of data to maximize ROI for any organization looking to do so.

What are some of your tips for people who want to work in the CX sphere?

Try to stay as personally & professionally flexible as possible. Because change is all about adapting to the inevitable market possibilities.  Here’s a quote I’ve shared in past that helps frame my thoughts in this regard ‘Learn to embrace CHANGE, and you’ll begin to recognize that life is in constant motion, and every change happens for a reason.  When you see boundaries as opportunities, The WORLD becomes a limitless place, and your life becomes a journey of change that always finds its way’  In short, people in the CX space are truly on the frontlines of pioneering the 360 customer experience & view – that can only mean more exciting times & opportunities are ahead for us all!

So many things changed in 2020. While some things are going to return to “normal,” what are new trends and habits you think will stay with us in the long term?

Virtual & Digital exchanges will most certainly increase.  People are redefining their consumer oriented interactions to include both a physical & virtual/digital component.  Just think of going to a restaurant … there’s not only reserving a table, but pre-ordering and social media interactions before, during & after.  How do we leverage this even more from a 360 perspective via other industry use cases? that’s what CX is aiming to resolve and/or enhance.

eCommerce boomed in 2020, and consumers started leaving more product reviews online. How can we make the most out of this momentum?

Recognize that this is only the start, enhancing a 360 customer experience (i.e. operational, transactional & experience data driven opportunities) to be even more tailored to their interest … this is the momentum this will continue to fuel eCommerce.

What is your favorite CX metric? Why?

Churn Rate (%) vs Lifetime Customer Value.  Basically going from ‘transactional’ data mitigation (Churn) – to ‘collective & consolidated’ data point insights … aimed at maximizing overall wallet share, per customer.  Simply put, analyzing how these two metrics play off each other to enhance the e2e Customer Experience.

About the author

Efrat Vulfsons
Efrat Vulfsons
Efrat Vulfsons is the CEO & Co-Founder of PR Soprano and the editor of CXBuzz parallel to her soprano opera singing career. Efrat holds a B.F.A from the Jerusalem Music Academy in Opera Performance.


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