If you’ve seen the movie “Up in the Air,” you’ll remember that when George’s Clooney’s character hits the 10 million mile mark, he gets his name on a plane, a sit down with American Airlines’ chief pilot and a shiny silver card with a phone number on the back that provides him with a personal line to the reservation desk.
It’s the sort of image the mention of “SAP’s Premier Customer Network” conjures up in my head. If you spend a huge amount of money with SAP, Hasso Plattner invites you on stage for a demo at Sapphire, you get a golf outing with Ernie Els and a direct line to Bill McDermott and Jim Hagemann Snabe.
I may not be too far off, but seriously, what are the benefits of being a “premier” SAP customer?
Nina Simosko, senior vice president for SAP’s Premier Customer Network, and her team (hired specifically to cater to this network of about 125 customers) are aiming to add some clarity.
In North America, the Premier Customer Network is comprised mainly of SAP’s top accounts, Simokso said in a recent interview. But despite the program’s existence for the last five years or so, there’s really no definition of what exactly a premier customer is — whether it’s based on annual spend, best in class practices or some other factor.
Yet customers want into this club — two customers actually recently negotiated it into their software contracts before they closed deals, Simosko said.
Establishing what it means to be a premier customer, and what it takes to become one, is one of Simokso’s goals. She’s also working on putting in place a defined set of benefits. Here are the top three:
- Launching a Resource Gateway — a personalized portal for each customer with access to content they may like (SAP case studies, Sapphire and TechEd presentations, etc.) SAP’s working with 15 customers here now, and hopes to have it launched in the first quarter of 2011.
- Ambassador Service — Simosko says too often, account reps for the customers get questions like “what are the differences in this old product I have versus the new release?” Instead of that question being fielded by a sales rep, “ambassadors” will be dispatched for each customer. For instance, an ambassador is helping Pepsi plan its BI strategy. The team does need to figure out where the line is between what an ambassador would do for free, versus, what SAP consulting would charge for.
- Co-innovation – This is Simosko’s crown jewel of the new Premier Customer Network programs. Simosko’s hoping to facilitate collaboration between customers in the network, and identify ways SAP can help (i.e. Nike and Apple on the running shoe chip). SAP’s picked four projects it’ll work on currently.
Simokso will develop and pilot the program in North America, and, if it’s successful, it’ll be rolled out to the Premier Customer Networks in Europe, APJ, etc.
A few weeks ago, Forrester’s John Rymer blogged that SAP would survive, and maybe even thrive, if it focused on existing customers. He wrote:
The obvious place to find growth is by selling more stuff to existing customers. The question for customers heavily invested in SAP software: When SAP comes calling with a great new extension to your investment in apps, why should you buy? Hopefully, not only because it is easier that way.
Seems like Simosko is right on target here.
“Customers say, ‘Every time I talk to you, you just want to sell me something,’ or something like, ‘We talked about doing this five years ago, what happened,'” she said. “We want to make sure we gain the trust back from some of our largest customers.”