Leave it to a chief revenue officer like Geert Leeman to show customer experience professionals where the money in generative artificial intelligence lies.
As CRO for SAP’s customer experience (CX) business, Leeman this week was preparing to help introduce a slew of gen AI capabilities the software giant is bringing across its entire CX portfolio. This not only includes tools like SAP Emarsys, but also Joule, the gen AI “copilot” SAP launched last month.
The feature announcements were part of CX Live, a virtual event that included Leeman among the speakers. One day before the event, however, he was well aware that CX professionals are like their counterparts in many other business functions trying to identify the most appropriate use cases for the technology.
“It always comes back to, ‘What can I do to drive really top line revenue?’” Leeman told 360 Magazine in an interview via videoconference. “(You accomplish that) by better positioning, better targeting, better price points, but it’s also about how you drive a better customer experience by using AI to have faster response rates.”
SAP’s Intelligent Q&A, for instance, can read a customer e-mail, point out the important questions within it and gives the salesperson a suggested written response that includes the latest product information.
While those kinds of gen AI opportunities are starting to become better known, Leeman said he is seeing just as much interest in e-commerce in product discovery: helping customers get greater visibility into all the assortment a brand might offer. SAP users will now be able to use gen AI to review product product tags and catalogs, generate and customize product descriptions, and help drive customers to the right choice for their needs.
“Whether it be the product’s texture, the color, the mood – capturing all of these elements requires a massive amount of labour that can now be replaced by AI,” he said. The same features can be used to build product descriptions in multiple languages, saving time and money on translation costs.
Historically, Leeman said, brands have tended to allocate 20 per cent of their CX-related budgets toward retention strategies, while 80 per cent has gone to strategies driving customer acquisition and growth. While that hasn’t flipped amid the rise of gen AI, he said he’s seeing more companies striking a better balance.
“It’s almost becoming 50-50 from an investment strategy,” he said. “We have customers in the B2B area that tend to be a little bit more conservative and are looking at how they basically can drive some bottom line improvements with respect to customer service, while in retail we still continue to see a lot of investment in the category expansion.”
Perhaps as a result, Leeman said he sees a future where more CX professionals focus on customer acquisition and less on figuring how to wrangle and get insights out of data. For example, another capability SAP introduced is designed to surface customer profile intelligence in context, so that frontline workers can use gen AI to summarize order histories and previous interactions to do a better job with delivering products.
Instead of worrying about gen AI taking their jobs away, therefore, Leeman said they should realize where their focus will shift.
“We had a couple of years where everybody was investing massively in hiring data scientists. Now that data is becoming basically more commoditized and we have access to large sets of data through AI, for the first time what I see is, in a way, systems are helping people rather than people helping systems.”
Leeman also didn’t see traditional CX metrics going away but some, like Net Promoter Score (NPS), could be obtained more quickly and with greater accuracy. He also suggested gen AI could herald a wave of secondary CX metrics, such as time to market for product launches, that will be important to demonstrate return on investment (ROI).
“As a CRO of the business, (I’m still looking at) my open rates, my conversion rates, my click through rates,” he said, adding that there are other critical ways to assess progress with gen AI. “What I’m looking at is how we are now personalizing every single communication with our customers by using these technologies in house.”
Shane Schick tells stories that help people innovate, and to manage the change innovation brings. He is the former Editor-in-Chief of Marketing magazine and has also been Vice-President, Content & Community (Editor-in-Chief), at IT World Canada, a technology columnist with the Globe and Mail and Yahoo Canada and is the founding editor of ITBusiness.ca. Shane has been recognized for journalistic excellence by the Canadian Advanced Technology Alliance and the Canadian Online Publishing Awards.