SAP has improved UK customer communication, says MD

SAP building

SAP has got better at talking to its customers, according to its MD of UK and Ireland.

Cormac Watters said he has spent his first year in charge of SAP's UK and Ireland business working to improve customer relationships, after admitting they were often left in the dark about SAP's various policies and strategies.

He told IT Pro his background as a customer implementing SAP as CIO at DCC Technology meant fixing this was a priority when he stepped into the role of MD in October last year.

"[Being a customer] is one of the most important things to me, I wanted to bring that [experience] in," he said. "As a customer I was lucky enough that I felt I was knowledgeable enough about the industry that I was able to ferret out the information I needed to find out, with or without my account manager. I was lucky I had a little bit of access, but what if I didn't?"

As he explained on stage at the UK & Ireland SAP User Group Conference in Birmingham yesterday, Watters is tackling SAP's communication breakdown on three fronts.

Firstly, he said, SAP is working more closely with customers to make them aware of various licensing policies, offers and support they may not have been aware of previously.

At last year's conference, Watters admitted he had joined SAP unaware of its cloud extension policy, which allows customers to replace license agreements with subscription payments when they move on-premise applications to the cloud.

He said at the time that it was on SAP to make customers aware of such policies, saying: "I felt a little bit dumb, but it's not my fault, it's actually SAP's fault for not telling me."

This year, he said: "I kind of felt that when I said that last year. And then customers can choose to be [in the dark] and it's up to SAP, to us, to help them get greater visibility. You will never get in trouble about being overly communicative.

"Initially there were a lot of questions around [licensing] and once I managed to find it was actually a lot of information that wasn't available, so how do we best make that available?"

This involved creating customer success panels, which share success stories from different industries, as well as making sure customers know about offers and policies they can take advantage of.

"Of course, most customers would say you're expensive because they're buying something, and we have to work through that," admitted Watters, before adding: "It's more the availability of clarity that's important. So that people knew what there was, so the myth and legend stuff got taken away.

The second step was to make sure staff knew that a customer survey, called SAP Listens, is now extremely important Watters told IT Pro that now any UK or Ireland SAP employee will know about the survey, and take it seriously.

He said the new attitude to the poll of customers' experiences with SAP has been reflected with hugely improved scores though did not share the results with IT Pro.

Thirdly, Watters wanted to improve account managers' interactions with customers, which typically occur when SAP is pushing to hit sales targets at the end of each financial quarter.

"So we're working to change this mentality and building a calendar of activity that supports more regular engagement," he said on stage yesterday.

In conversation with IT Pro, he added that customer engagement has typically been with a small number of account managers, all covering different topics, without them offering any general knowledge.

"Why can't they all be generalists, and give a general covering, and if there's something of interest then we can get a specialist in?" Watters said.

"Using those three or four people we can cover far more accounts if they can all just turn up. And that seems to have been well received as well. Customers seem to be telling me they have more access now to someone at SAP who can at least be a conduit to getting them to the right specialist."