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SAP launching better support for BusinessObjects customers

SAP is looking to repair relationships with BusinessObjects customers that don’t run SAP software, expanding its support operations and allowing for feedback into product roadmaps.

SAP shops know that their vendor has spent a lot of time and energy on the marriage between the enterprise software...

they run and BusinessObjects.

But the BusinessObjects-sans-SAP customers have felt more than a little jilted since the acquisition. Many were turned off by a bad support experience when they were moved to SAP Service Marketplace from their own website and were frustrated they had little visibility and say over product roadmaps.

Now, SAP is launching a number of initiatives geared toward improving and enhancing relations with those thousands of BusinessObjects customers who don’t run SAP. These include a team of 16 people dedicated to ensuring the BusinessObjects customer have the best overall customer experience, a hotline any customer can call for help with account management questions or with reaching their assigned SAP sales executive (1-866-951-2706 for Americas), and a website that will allow users to pitch and vote on product improvements. Customers can now find information on all of this in one place: the SAP BusinessObjects Customer Experience Workspace.

Some customers say that it’s not too late, and they are encouraged by SAP’s efforts to address past missteps.

“Coming from the BusinessObjects side, we did have concerns about how we were being treated by SAP,” said Simon To, the technical team lead at Rent-a-Center, which, with 20,000 users, is one of BusinessObjects' largest customers. “I’m really happy that SAP’s addressing all of the issues. I think SAP is taking care of the customers from the BusinessObjects side.”

When SAP acquired BusinessObjects more than three years ago, there was general unease about being taken over by such a large company, customers interviewed said. Then, in July 2008, SAP moved users from the website they used for support and communication, known as Diamond, to SAP’s Service Marketplace on SDN, billing it as a better offering.

But that change happened with 7,500 BusinessObjects customers still missing the user ID needed to log into the support portal. The passwords were snail-mailed to them, many on the same day the Diamond site was taken down in July 2008. In the process, support tickets were lost, customers couldn’t get help, and users didn’t know whom to go to with problems.

“I remember a customer calling me and saying where do I log in?,” said Mico Yuk, an SAP mentor. To quell the confusion, Yuk started her own website, Everything Xcelsius.com , a community for BusinessObjects and SAP customers who also run BusinessObjects. The website now has 6,000 members.

In the spring, SAP decided to take a step back and examine how it could improve the entire Business Objects customer experience – from support, to visibility into products, to customer engagement, according to David Weisbeck, senior vice president of solution management, business intelligence and information management. It worked with SUGEN, a group made up of representatives of user groups worldwide, to launch a survey around what BusinessObjects customers wanted.

In response, SAP is launching several initiatives.

It’s seeking to improve customer technical support, and it’s now offering early watch alert reporting – a summary of the landscape and configuration that will enable easier problem resolution – root-cause analysis and remote support with support agreements. These are available to customers on Standard and Enterprise Support contracts.

For better visibility and influence over product roadmaps, SAP is launching a website called IdeaPlace. It will allow customers of certain products to weigh in and vote on what product improvements they’d like to see. SAP BusinessObjects customers using Analysis, Crystal Reports, EPM, Explorer and Web Intelligence, for example, can weigh in here, and there are plans to roll it out to several SAP products as well. The website is still in the beta stage.

IdeaPlace will funnel requests for more granular improvements, such as a report or usability suggestion. ASUG, on the other hand, has started a strategic special interest group (SIG) for BusinessObjects customers, to give customers visibility into and allow feedback on product roadmaps, as well as education around new products and product improvements. ASUG has a one year plan with SAP for monthly collaboration on support and maintenance, product direction and strategic roadmap, SAP integration and education, according to CEO Bridgette Chambers.

BusinessObjects customers can get free ASUG memberships through 2011. In turn, ASUG is aware of the importance of the BusinessObjects partner community, and has plans to offer a BusinessObjects partner summit and allow partners to participate in the customer influence programs.

Information on everything is available on the BusinessObjects Customer Experience website.

“We’ve heard SAP customer experience until our faces were blue,” Yuk said. “The BusinessObjects customer experience … we haven’t heard someone talk about that in a long time. It’s a great way to start off a new year.”

Courtney Bjorlin is site editor for SearchSAP.com.

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