S4e18 The Data Is The New Water Edition with Ratul Shah

S4e18 The Data Is The New Water Edition with Ratul Shah

James chats with Ratul Shah, Head of Product Marketing at SAP Custom Data Solutions.


Ratul has over 15 years of experiences in building and launching customer experience solutions for companies to service their customers, and has infused the voice-of-the-customer into the product roadmap and marketing plans, and is highly experienced in building marketing strategies and executing the go-to-market plans.


As the Head of Product Marketing for SAP Customer Data Solutions, he continues to expand his passion for customers into everything the team delivers.


Ratul has held various leadership positions at Aprimo, Passageways, ExactTarget (now Salesforce, and ININ (now Genesys). Ratul holds a B.S. in Electrical Engineering from Purdue University, and earned his MBA from Indiana University.


They discuss generation Alpha, solving problems for our customers, using data and data models, new value chains, the new water, business evolution, experience evolution and the value and power of data.


Contact Ratul:


Linkedin: www.linkedin.com/in/ratulshah/
Twitter: twitter.com/Ratul

Click For Full Transcription

James Nathan  00:54

Hello, and welcome to The Only One Business Show with me your host James Nathan and I have a really exciting guest for you today, all the way from Indiana. With over 15 years experience in building and launching customer experience solutions for companies to serve their customers. This gentleman has infused the voice of customer into product roadmap and marketing plans and his highly experienced in building marketing strategies and executing the go to market plans. As the head of product marketing or actually Global Head of Product Marketing for SAP customer data solutions. He continues to expand his passion for customers into everything the team delivers. He’s held various, leadership positions at some fabulous companies and now holds also a BS in electrical engineering from Purdue University and an MBA from Indiana University as well. Please welcome Ratul Shah. Ratul, how are you?


Ratul Shah  01:48

I’m wonderful. James, thank you so much for having me today. And thank you everyone out there listening to us.


James Nathan  01:54

Well, it’s an absolute pleasure. Thank you for giving me the time. It’s it’s not always difficult across the time zones. What’s the weather doing over there for you today?


Ratul Shah  02:01

Today is bright and sunny. We’ve got beautiful skies. And if I look at I believe there’s a few hot air balloons rolling around.


James Nathan  02:07

Oh, wow, that sounds absolutely fantastic. You know, hot air balloons are one of those things that…. have you been in one?


Ratul Shah  02:14

I have not had the fortunate pleasure.


James Nathan  02:17

Me and my wife had a present years ago from my father in law and we went up in a hot air balloon, and it lifts up and you don’t even know it’s taken off. It’s so stable. And it’s absolutely beautiful until it lands. It lands with a hell of a thud but then drags you across a field. But the whole experience apart from the landing but, absolutely amazing. Ratul what got us so heavily into into the stuff you’re doing today. How did you get to where you are now?


Ratul Shah  02:45

You know, part of that I think it has to do with my upbringing. My parents, my… I love my Mom and Dad and they have always saw that I was a tinkerer. And so they, they saw I was good at math. And they sent me down the path of engineering. And I really enjoyed engineering because it gave me a look at, you know, how things are put together. The end to end processes of things coming apart, are coming together, I should say. And it probably got me stopped…. My mom probably put me in there because it got me to stop taking apart her electronics in our home. And I also think that I love problem solving. I’ve had a knack to think about problems at a big level at a small level. And now that I’ve got a little girl being a father, I’d say that passion of trying to create a better world, a safer world for children and her, opening more opportunities for everyone is something that I’m really passionate about.


James Nathan  03:39

Okay. And what, you know, having a daughter, I’ve got a couple of kids and you know, you watch the way that they interact with the world, it’s quite different, isn’t it the way we might do it?

Ratul Shah  03:51

It’s extremely different. I think, you know, when I was I was reflecting on a recent experience. And when I was a child, it would pretty much be when you had a certain dollar amount you would go into a specific store. And whatever was in that store was pretty much what you could select, and now, through the powers of the internet and searching and the ability to compare prices and see hundreds of things you’re able to find anything, almost anything and get it delivered in well, sometimes on time but a lot of times that’s what’s changing is now kids are able to realise that the digital experience what used to be buy click and get right away. You now have to start asking your questions are organisations able to actually you know deliver. Do they have supply, do they have all of this? Can they actually do what they’re promising?


James Nathan  04:42

Right okay, because I get that the the feeling at times that I’m almost clicking on the drop shipping business, you know, they take my order then they go and get the stuff. Quite different to what you know…. How are how old your daughter?


Ratul Shah  04:57

She’s nine years old nine.


James Nathan  04:59

So what generally Should we call her? Is she Alpha?


Ratul Shah  05:02

Yeah, I think she’s Alpha


James Nathan  05:03

I lose track of time for these things. But, you know, I look at my kids and they they are still…. they have instant expectation. If I want to watch something on TV, it’s there. If I want to buy something, it’s delivered. They don’t wish to wait. They’re incredibly impatient. And I think that’s, that’s a shame. But, but that’s also, you know, the mass expectation, is it going to continue? Is alpha going to become even more expectant? Or are they going to start to slow down a bit?


Ratul Shah  05:31

I think for me what I’ve seen the differences in like, in our recent experience, for example, with purchasing items for Mother’s Day, and ultimately Father’s Day, I could see that the questions that we ask are, it’s not necessarily instant, because depending on when you go into a specific action, but it is something that they’re heightenedly aware of, is now that the order you place does need to have some level of service to deliver and that people on the other side need to have an understanding of who I am, and make sure that they can answer my questions. I think those are the things that we’re all looking for, that companies need to solve these problems. And they need to make it easier for customers. And I think that the, the challenges are not every demographic and human uses the same type of technology, some want to go through a smartphone, some still do, pick up the phone, I mean, my Mom is someone who would rather call to order a plane ticket, then just use then use a website or the mobile app and just click and purchase. So I think, as organisations look, and I think the expectation is set, by who we are, where we live, and all of our experiences, you know, I think that there’s a very different expectation in Europe than there is in America, various demographics. And all of those things make it really difficult for organisations to truly understand their customers know their customers, and continue to access and build them.


James Nathan  07:00

Well, that’s an interesting thing you say about your Mum, because quite often I get the feeling and it’d be just a whole lot easier to speak to someone, but then the level of service that that your Mum expects is not wildly different to what our kids would expect. But this is just the way they like to go about it. And are you finding that businesses are starting to sort of ignore that end of the market now stop worrying about allowing people to phone and just forcing them down the digital road?


Ratul Shah  07:28

No, I still think there’s there’s there are phone numbers everywhere. Like I think if you pick up a bag of your favourite snacks, you’ll still see a telephone number, which means they still exist. Most people do, do prioritise, or at least in recent memory, newer businesses have prioritised the digital channels. Oh no if you can, if you can phone into a Netflix or a Disney plus or HBO Max, but you definitely can through the app, raise a support ticket, open a chat and talk with someone directly. However, I do believe a significant large percentage of GDP still comes from the non digital channels, and they do still have ingrained, let’s call it a contact centre or call centre, where you do have this interaction. And for the longest time, I think that’s where companies are looking. And companies do need to solve these problems, right at the end of the day, it’s about how they solve their problem for their customers, how they can make it really easy for customers. And Alan sometimes with the digital versus voices, the number of options. So when you go to a, you know, maybe a website, they give you a form of like, hey, here are one of like five challenges that you might be having, or in a few simple words describe what you’re having. But when you’re having a conversation, that conversation can go anywhere much like this podcast


James Nathan  08:51

Well up and I kind of liked the fact that you can, you can develop the conversation, because for a lot of purchases, you don’t know what you want. I was talking on a podcast recently, I’ve taken up scuba diving, and me and my son are going away soon. And I wanted to buy a computer… it looks a bit like a watch. But it’s bigger. And it’s a safety device really let you know how long you can stay under, that sort of thing. And you know, you can read as many reviews as you like, but until you talk to someone who knows what they’re talking about, it’s very difficult to decide between the products. And it was interesting with that guy, that company, that they phoned and said, Hey, look, you know, we’ve seen your query, it’s probably easy to have a call with you. And then a lot of ways, you know, relationships with businesses are much better that way. But then there’s the amount of data that businesses are gaining. And obviously this is your your world. How do businesses use customer data to improve these processes and where do they get it from?


Ratul Shah  09:47

I mean, it’s it’s a really great question. So if we take a step back, and we think about, you know why customer experience is important, before we get to the data question, it’s kind of you got to have an understanding of like the evolution of business and customers. So we kind of talked about the customer but businesses themselves, they’ve always built been built around specific industries. You know, as he talked about maybe the scuba diving industry or the hot air balloon industry. They’re all kind of in that space, or insurance or automotive or manufacturing or health care. And every one of these have different data models. They’ve got different supply chains, they’ve got district different distribution models, whether it’s b2b or b2c. And, of course, the different the different data models is critical in terms of what’s under regulatory control, who are their customers, and how this these structures have built. And I think for the longest time, a large part of our economy, probably over 60 to 65%. We’re starting to see these advancements of digital technologies, which are fundamentally built on data, breaking these sectors down. And we’re seeing new business models evolve, new value chains, which then leads to a tremendous amount of growth opportunities. And so when you think about those things together, businesses wanting to grow, wanting to innovate, wanting to solve problems for customers, whether it’s in the digital channels, whether it’s in the physical world, removing frustration and making things easier. Digital has taken a bigger part more important role in the journey, which is what’s driving that value. And what fuels digital is that data, and we’ve heard stories around data being the new oil, we…. I think it could also be considered the new water, in the sense of it’s everywhere, everyone needs it, we need access to it. And that’s how you’re going to actually make this connectivity to all of these people. So in the customer data world, you know, customer identity used to be something that businesses owned, we would, you could buy this data from third parties, you could learn about individuals. And one way to do it. I think in the contrary, now we’re starting to see more a shift, data privacy regulations, GDPR in Europe, PA in California, various regulations in Latin America, and in Asia, all these residency laws have made it really interesting to think about for business for a CFO, where all this data sits, how I’m getting it, how I’m processing it, and how I’m making it available. All of those things we talked about earlier, whether it’s the supply chain information, how I’m going to actually distribute this, or I know what my customers, want I know my products, what can I actually sell, is it available, all of those pieces then, are digitally connected. And I think that’s fundamentally when you think about what a customer experience is. The businesses job is to be in business to, to work with their customers, create a customer, attract them, retain them, and build customer for life. And not just necessarily in one industry, but in multiple.


James Nathan  12:55

Well, you used a very interesting expression, then, which is customer for life. And it’s obviously the goal for all of us has to want to work with people for now and for the future. But how do you develop a process? Or how do you put together a plan so that you are truly developing those long, long relationships?


Ratul Shah  13:14

Well, I think it goes to thinking about where you are as a business today, and where you’re ultimately want to end up going forward. You know, as as I talked about these industries coming together, and how businesses evolve. We are trying to stitch different experiences together for our, for our customers, whether it was in the physical world, or now in the digital world, all of that revolves around the data. And organisations that really understood their customers gave rise to these industry leaders, I think we all can say, at some point, it was in the best position to be number one and number two. And to get there, you really had to understand your customer. And you really had to keep and retain them. And now, when you can have a bigger and a fuller understanding of the person, of the organisation, of the relationships between them, you know, in a B2B context, it’s not just understanding one person, but it’s understanding the dynamics within that organisation, whether they’re going to be a customer of yours, whether they’re going to have multiple clients, are they a supplier? Are they part of your network, all of those, all of those datasets become very interesting to get a full understanding and have context. And then your ability to adapt your model and evolve that value. So for example, when I think of like the telecom industry, think of my Mom, she’s calling in back today. Here in the States, we would have green, a green telephone or a yellow telephone, so you would have to call in, you would purchase this device, and they would send it to you. And that was kind of the end of this relationship from a physical phone standpoint. And then you would pay, you know, 50 cents or $1 a minute to make local calls and long distance calls. But now when you call in they need to know the context of who retool is, why am I calling? What’s my immediate problem, maybe I’m having a challenge with my cell phone, or I need to adapt the plan. But that context is only in the context of that call. What if you were able to give, you know, to this agent, who I am in one system, you know, they might have these things in like 20 different systems. So you’ve got to think about the employee experience. But then the second side is, in that moment, am I able to see that retool is a loyal customer, 10 years plus, grown, he’s changed his device every year, he also has internet with us. And not only do I solve his immediate need, but I can start to understand the context of patterns, to begin to say, there’s gonna be a potential problem, a new phone is dropping, why don’t we go ahead and preorder it now? What are the things that you can do and go on offence from a business perspective to build a relationship and keep that customer for life? It’s not as much to just solve the specific problem. But how do you solve the longer potential problem that people didn’t even know? And that is the shift, that a lot of these organisations can start to take and move service to a position of a way to build that relationship and drive that retention and long term value?


James Nathan  16:17

Well, as you know, as a salesman at heart, I guess, I look at that, and I think there is such enormous opportunity, you know, and it rather than, you know, we see that at all changes his phone every year or James, you know, as soon as Apple bring out a new one, I want it… because I’m a gadget person, but, you know, for them to then say, hey, look, this, this phones, if they were able to come to me, tell me this thing was available, tell me what the price would be… I’m much more likely to buy it there and then, but nobody does it. Or I haven’t seen it. Are businesses doing this better?


Ratul Shah  16:55

I think some are, because I think if you if when you were let’s reflect upon who the customers are. A lot of customers get services in very different ways. And customers at the end of the day, I think if you reflect upon yourself, you’re very eager to get your problem solved around your needs. Yep, we have needs that we, that we that everyone’s essential to if you think about the Maslow Hierarchy of Needs, you want to get those solved. Other things are ancillary. But if they’re made easier, you probably would…. It would reduce the barrier to purchase, for example, go back to the cell phone, it’s really easy to buy the device. We all say we need these now to kind of live. I think anyone born in the last 20 years, from my niece, to my daughter to all their friends would say that it’s an essential part of life probably equal to water.


James Nathan  17:48

Well, it sits at the bottom of Maslow’s hierarchy of needs, doesn’t it just above Wi Fi?

Ratul Shah  17:53

Wi Fi? And ability to stream. But cell service now is becoming an essential service. But what else? Can they add on top of that to extend the value chain? Is it as much to say, hey, that they could be able to provide insurance on these phones in a costlier way in a more effective, bundled way? Could they look at maybe maintenance on the devices? What are the things that could go with these things, battery replacement services, all of these things that come secondary or tertiary could be part of that value chain to build ultimate value back to the customer. And I think those businesses that do figure out how to organise their businesses in a different way, can deliver that end to end experience. That’s what really happens. I think that’s where you get these transformational valuations. And that’s where you see VC firms going in, PE firms, you see businesses investing, and you see customers migrating too


James Nathan  18:50

Yeah, I don’t mean, you mentioned B2B In part in the conversation, then. A lot of the examples that we talk about in these conversations tend to be around B2C because they’re the things that sort of, we bump into and day to day life. But how does it differ then between B2C and B2b?


Ratul Shah  19:06

Well, let’s start with an example of B2C that everyone kind of understands, right? When these business models, continue, digital is breaking things down. I think we can all agree that that’s not a new trend. But when you reflect on it, you got to look back at what are the new models that you can see? How are these shaping economic patterns? And what kind of comes out of it? So let’s go with one of these. Everyone needs essential products, right? So everyone kind of thinks about what do you need? Do you need it now? Do you need an on subscription basis, and companies need access to customers? So when you put these two things together, you created a marketplace, these marketplaces come together, and now all of a sudden you have a trillion dollar marketplace. I don’t need to mention the name of the company, but you can start to understand that. So in this, what’s the key piece here? The weapon in this new battle is data. And the value of the data is not just these use your use cases like we discussed, it’s not just customer service, of course, you can look at it in that vacuum, you can look at efficiencies, you can look at your products. But it’s really understanding that customer within the context of those pieces and beyond. So if you, if you think about, let’s go with this traditional story. So IT usually was set up was it was it was considered a vendor, not always a business partner. So the CIOs job was to build out this infrastructure. Sometimes it was on premise. Now it’s emerging in the cloud. But it was all about, you know, setting up this infrastructure to help businesses operate, sometimes transform digitally, but build these infrastructures and systems to, to be compliant with regulations, and get the job done, but maybe not always seen as a partner.


Ratul Shah  20:49

If you think about customer service coming in, and saying, Look, we want to not just make my employees experience better. But look at these new models, I need to understand the customer in a very different way, I need to see in my in my distribution model who are buying the equipment that I’m manufacturing, and how am I going to make sure that I’m suppressing? In partnership with let’s say, marketing or commerce, how am I suppressing those who have recent supply or recent issues? Who are potentially contractually up for negotiation? And let’s move those out of the marketing stream right now, because they’re having one to one sales conversations, right? It has to think about that and say, Look, how am I going to think about this data and not just unlock the B2C use case for the B2B use case. But the the B2 everyone use case, you know, the motion is of these things? And what are the ways to make? What are the ways to find these patterns in the data that are essential based upon what you’re able to do if you bring together you know, Ratul as the as the consumer, Ratul is my partner, employee data, all of the purchase history, the event streams, the case and ticket information, contractual information, and you can start to see patterns about how you can look for new business models. So IT doesn’t just become a vendor, they become a business partner, the areas of the business that we traditionally thought about how data was helping: customer service, product development, efficiencies, cost reduction, you can start to look for different models, and begin to look for ways to innovate. Like one of my favourites is Lego. I mean, we all can think about Lego as a as a massive success with the toys, but they’ve also looked at new business models in terms of amusement parks and movies. And able to move into that because they could look at who their customers were, where they’re located, but also who are their partners, who’s going to help them actually develop a movie, who’s going to help them build the amusement parks, these are relationships that they’re able to understand and ascertain through the data.


James Nathan  23:06

They’re also very good, Lego, at marketing back at us, the older generation. And I say that, you know, in the nicest possible way Ratul but you know, we, those of us who grew up by, you know, getting Legos for Christmas and playing with them on the floor and loving them and loving them. And living through Space Lego, and all the good stuff, if they’re now marketing very carefully back at us. And I will say that turning around in my office here, where I’ve got a Fender Stratocaster Lego guitar, you know, that as a child would have been of no interest to me, but right now, you know, I’m happy to spend whatever it is 80 $90 to buy it. But they are, they are marketing beautifully back at their core base, when they’ve already lost them. They’ve got them back.


Ratul Shah  23:51

Absolutely, 100% I agree with you there. And when you think about those things, it’s what’s essential. I think that you have to understand your customer, you understand that context, you understand that those kids that love Space Legos are now fans of Star Wars Legos. You understand that those individuals are going to buy the maybe those mega sets that they have that are in the $4 to $500 for you know, £400 range. And then they have children that probably need sets that are slightly easier, maybe similar looking in the in the $10 to $20 pound range for the for the different age groups, so they’re able to help connect fathers to children, topics, and everything that goes with there. And I think that’s an example of what you when you think about what the data is, you have to understand the familiar relationships. You have to understand how you can create sets, because I think Lego also does the great thing about having team builds and TV shows and encourage people to build not just by themselves but as a as a community. It’s a really interesting proposition.


James Nathan  24:59

Very, very interesting business. And the more you dig into it, the more you look at it, the more interesting it becomes, I think. Who else is doing this stuff where he’s using data…. When you look at and maybe your client base Ratul, or people that you just come into contact with who are the shining stars?


Ratul Shah  25:15

Yeah, you know, one of my favourite examples, I think of that we’ve talked about is when you think about what a customer’s needs are, and what that core value is, and how you can build on top of it. So for example, as we think about the data and understanding the customer and understanding the pattern, you can look at, like, for example, in the automotive industry, we see companies like BMW initially kicked off this in a few countries to talk about subscription services. And what does that mean from BMW being the one that adds the radio, or the heated seats or access to new functionality or driving patterns within a car, to something that is even more adjacent? That Volvo is doing. So Volvo is doing this one price, and you’re all in. So you pay a monthly fee, you get the car, all the maintenance is included, we’ve seen some of that before. All the insurances included, all of the services are included in that monthly fee. At the end of your term, you can trade it in for a new car. So they’re solving the need problem and the want problem. They’re helping connect those dots with their customers. But you can see this in the B2B applications as well, where you understand the relationships, you understand the supply chain, you understand the patterns, you can look at sustainability. And you can bring in a similar model like Volvo to, how am I going to help you set up this factory? How am I going to bring this mission this equipment in there? How am I going to maintain it distribute field service to keep it up to date, new technologies, using digital twinning to understand how to make sure that one line in a second line is up, understanding your supply chains, understanding your customers, so that you can understand how you find the right customers, how you maintain those customers, keep them for life, and find those adjacent services to once again go deeper in that end to end value chain and drive more value. Because ultimately, at the end of the day, that’s what organisations are really looking to do is grow as well as reduce costs.


James Nathan  27:22

You’ve said so much there, I’m not even sure which question to ask next Ratul. I mean, certainly profit is the reason we’re in business. And reducing costs is certainly one way of doing that. And understanding processes can help us in that direction. But certainly growing our business case, well, growing our customer base has got to be one of the better ways to to grow a business, certainly. And there’s there’s a lot to think about in just that last little conversation. Before we finish, though, and I thank you for you know, for a lot of thoughts, because I know listening back to this, people are gonna think, wow, there’s a lot I need to consider. But what would be the one thing you would suggest people do now the one golden nugget, you could give them to take away right, or something that they can do for their in their business that would make their businesses better for today, and also better for the years to come? What would that be.


Ratul Shah  28:15

So depending on your role in the organisation you have, you still can move things forward for your customers, you can always move and think about what you can do differently to to avoid being disrupted. I think if you’re in a traditional business, or if you’re in a digital business, you can see that the pace of innovation continues to change, the customer base is continuing to evolve. And CX has to be your way of thinking about how you can avoid your business being disrupted, and expand your customer base. So how you’re acquiring customers has changed, but also how you think about the retention side. And sometimes CX So my tip is sometimes CX has had a narrow purview. You know, it used to only focus on marketing and advertising. So they would use the data. So how do I attract customers at the top of the funnel? And how to market to them? How can I bring in new companies, new customers that maybe at a costly rate? But reality is how can you use some of this data across the different channels? Like we talked about sales and service? As we talked about in the telecommunication example, how can you turn a service case into a sales case? How can you get the whole view of connecting those dots between not just marketing and advertising and the acquisition side, but sales service, the survey data that you have from the customer? How can you get super deep by understanding the profitability of these these customers who’s buying? How are they returning? How are they keeping? What’s the warranty? How do you bring all of that profile data together? How do you understand the relationship them in a beat everyone model? And how do you truly understand the lifetime value to focus on the right segments, I think those are so that my tip would be, don’t think of CX in this narrow view, broaden your horizons to think about how you can reach across the aisles, how you can, how you can work with IT as a business partner, to start surfacing more of this data, the relationships of that data to drive different innovations within your business, within your models, and across your sectors.


James Nathan  30:26

Ratul, that is fabulous. Thank you so so much for all your time and your thoughts. It’s been fantastic.


Ratul Shah  30:33

Thank you, James. It was a pleasure.




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