What is GDPR and how does it affect the customer experience? Alicia Tillman, chief marketing officer of SAP, tells CXOTalk about how general data protection regulation protects customers’ data with more transparency and trust, while changing the way businesses and CMOs operate.

“If somebody selects us as a partner to deliver any product or a service, they expect that, as part of that relationship, we’re also educating and working with them to help them understand different dynamics that are going to affect our relationship,” she explains. “This certainly will because this is something that is new and emerging and is, in fact, going to affect the way that we operate. And so, we live in a world today that’s very transaction oriented, and what becomes lost when that is the method in which you operate with customers is you lose this well-rounded relationship that customers expect when they partner with a person or an organization. Part of that is information sharing, helping to guide them through ups and downs or things like GDPR that are going to have an effect. That’s when the notion of trust comes in.”

Tillman is the chief marketing officer of SAP, where she’s responsible for creating and accelerating the company’s marketing strategy and brand recognition across the globe. She is focused on driving the company vision of helping the world run better and improve people’s lives by building marketing programs and thought leadership to promote our exceptional product innovation and purpose driven initiatives. She previously worked at American Express, where she created the first ever business travel industry forum in China and created the first customer loyalty product in the industry that used gamification mechanics.

Transcript

Michael Krigsman: We're speaking with Alicia Tillman, who is the chief marketing officer of SAP. Alicia, thank you.

Alicia Tillman: Yes, thank you. Yeah, it's wonderful to do this together.

Michael Krigsman: Okay. Is GDPR, from a marketing standpoint, mostly about transparency? Are there other dimensions?

Alicia Tillman: It depends how you look at it. Yes, it is certainly about transparency for the protection of the consumer. But, it is also an opportunity to look at it and, even if I think about the CMO study that we did, there are three areas in particular. It's a way to protect customer data. It's a way to view how you manage customer experience differently. Then, related to that, it's an opportunity to think about how you further build trust and loyalty.

If you think about it across those three dimensions, yes, it's an opportunity to drive greater transparency, but we have an obligation to protect that. By protecting it, it gives you this ability to really further the notion of prioritizing customer experience to become more at the forefront, which is really truly what all marketers should be focused on today.

Michael Krigsman: Okay. Now, then draw the link for us between GDPR and trust and customer experience.

Alicia Tillman: If somebody selects us as a partner to deliver any product or a service, they expect that, as part of that relationship, we're also educating and working with them to help them understand different dynamics that are going to affect our relationship. This certainly will because this is something that is new and emerging and is, in fact, going to affect the way that we operate. And so, we live in a world today that's very transaction oriented, and what becomes lost when that is the method in which you operate with customers is you lose this well-rounded relationship that customers expect when they partner with a person or an organization. Part of that is information sharing, helping to guide them through ups and downs or things like GDPR that are going to have an effect. That's when the notion of trust comes in.

Michael Krigsman: What's the relationship between data and this trust that feeds into both brand reputation and customer experience that we were just talking about?

Alicia Tillman: Used correctly, data can further how well we build customer experiences with our customers. There are so many benefits to increased access to data, but one of the greatest challenges to that increased access is abuse of data. That's another role that marketing and companies need to play, which is how you protect it and still use it to your benefit to continue to enhance the overall customer experience.

Michael Krigsman: I think there are two aspects to this. One is when it comes to data. Number one, eventually, almost every company is going to suffer some type of data incident. Let's just say, companies are at least at risk. That's one piece, kind of the crisis, averting a crisis. But then, a second piece is, on an ongoing basis, how can companies use data to deepen that experience, to deepen the trust and, therefore, deepen that relationship?

Alicia Tillman: Everywhere, across every industry, whether you're in the consumer industry or you're in a B2B industry, there is a desire to have more personalization across every aspect of the journey because consumers today have more choices than they ever had before. This notion of personalization is top of mind because it exists. It doesn't exist as broadly as it can, but I do believe that's where we're going. The more you have access to data and treat it with the utmost caution and protection, entirely to help enhance an experience, that is what consumers are after today, and that's what we have the obligation to use data for.

Michael Krigsman: What's your advice for CMOs to take advantage of the opportunity that GDPR presents for deepening that customer relationship?

Alicia Tillman: Number one, understand it. Understand what it is and how

Michael Krigsman: We're speaking with Alicia Tillman, who is the chief marketing officer of SAP. Alicia, thank you.

Alicia Tillman: Yes, thank you. Yeah, it's wonderful to do this together.

Michael Krigsman: Okay. Is GDPR, from a marketing standpoint, mostly about transparency? Are there other dimensions?

Alicia Tillman: It depends how you look at it. Yes, it is certainly about transparency for the protection of the consumer. But, it is also an opportunity to look at it and, even if I think about the CMO study that we did, there are three areas in particular. It's a way to protect customer data. It's a way to view how you manage customer experience differently. Then, related to that, it's an opportunity to think about how you further build trust and loyalty.

If you think about it across those three dimensions, yes, it's an opportunity to drive greater transparency, but we have an obligation to protect that. By protecting it, it gives you this ability to really further the notion of prioritizing customer experience to become more at the forefront, which is really truly what all marketers should be focused on today.

Michael Krigsman: Okay. Now, then draw the link for us between GDPR and trust and customer experience.

Alicia Tillman: If somebody selects us as a partner to deliver any product or a service, they expect that, as part of that relationship, we're also educating and working with them to help them understand different dynamics that are going to affect our relationship. This certainly will because this is something that is new and emerging and is, in fact, going to affect the way that we operate. And so, we live in a world today that's very transaction oriented, and what becomes lost when that is the method in which you operate with customers is you lose this well-rounded relationship that customers expect when they partner with a person or an organization. Part of that is information sharing, helping to guide them through ups and downs or things like GDPR that are going to have an effect. That's when the notion of trust comes in.

Michael Krigsman: What's the relationship between data and this trust that feeds into both brand reputation and customer experience that we were just talking about?

Alicia Tillman: Used correctly, data can further how well we build customer experiences with our customers. There are so many benefits to increased access to data, but one of the greatest challenges to that increased access is abuse of data. That's another role that marketing and companies need to play, which is how you protect it and still use it to your benefit to continue to enhance the overall customer experience.

Michael Krigsman: I think there are two aspects to this. One is when it comes to data. Number one, eventually, almost every company is going to suffer some type of data incident. Let's just say, companies are at least at risk. That's one piece, kind of the crisis, averting a crisis. But then, a second piece is, on an ongoing basis, how can companies use data to deepen that experience, to deepen the trust and, therefore, deepen that relationship?

Alicia Tillman: Everywhere, across every industry, whether you're in the consumer industry or you're in a B2B industry, there is a desire to have more personalization across every aspect of the journey because consumers today have more choices than they ever had before. This notion of personalization is top of mind because it exists. It doesn't exist as broadly as it can, but I do believe that's where we're going. The more you have access to data and treat it with the utmost caution and protection, entirely to help enhance an experience, that is what consumers are after today, and that's what we have the obligation to use data for.

Michael Krigsman: What's your advice for CMOs to take advantage of the opportunity that GDPR presents for deepening that customer relationship?

Alicia Tillman: Number one, understand it. Understand what it is and how you need to change your operations to support it. But, as you go through that learning process, think about how you can embrace it and drive it beyond this notion of compliance that it feels to be on the surface.

There are many times in our lives where you've had these top-down directives where we've been forced, if you will, to do something in our companies, in our lives, and it doesn't necessarily mean that it is embraced the way it was intended to be. It all comes down to how well you drive the benefit of it, and marketers have an incredible role to look at this beyond the surface level impact that it was intended from a compliance standpoint, but more as another way to build trust and to round out what it means to truly create customers for life. If you view things like rules and process and compliance, all these ugly words that we talk about often in business, but more as a means to help you run better and to create dynamic experiences because that's truly what sets one company apart from another in today's environment, GDPR can help you think that way if you have the right mindset and are willing to tackle it from that perspective.

Michael Krigsman: GDPR enforces a certain type of customer-focused mindset.

Alicia Tillman: I don't like the word "enforces."

Michael Krigsman: [Laughter] My bad.

Alicia Tillman: Yes. Actually, I like that you used that word because if you see it as that, then it will be difficult for you to see it as a way to think about it from a loyalty and a trust angle. See it as an opportunity to win customer trust, then to get the customers kind of on their back feet because they feel like they're being forced to do something, and that's what I think. There's this incredible opportunity that this provides for us if you have a willingness to be open-minded and use it more as an opportunity versus an obligation.

Michael Krigsman: All right. GDPR is the trust function. How's that?

Alicia Tillman: I like that.

Michael Krigsman: All right, thank you.

Alicia Tillman: Much better than "enforcing."

Michael Krigsman: [Laughter]

Alicia Tillman: Thank you so much.