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If you’re a SaaS company (or any company, really), then customer success is important crucial the single most valuable thing you can invest in. Big talk, I know. But according to Totango, 70-95% of revenue comes from renewals and upsells. Ensuring the success of your customers over the lifetime of their relationship is critical to securing your business’s main revenue pipeline.

In businesses big and small, SaaS applications are used more and more often. The SaaS model often reduces the time it takes for companies to keep up with industry trends and best practices. But for the same reason, its easier for companies to drop SaaS vendors in favor of newer, (perhaps) better SaaS vendors.

In a great post from Jamie McDonnell entitled “Customer Success for Change,” he calls attention to the fact that implementing a SaaS solution, from the SaaS customer’s point of view, means change. And people hate change.  Thus, he writes, it’s important to see it from the customer’s viewpoint:

A user needs to understand the product/service, its value and how to use it, because a tool is just a tool if you haven’t been told (trained) what to do with it.

The take-away from this is huge—and overlooked so often. SaaS companies are selling a product. But they’re not selling a product to corporations and businesses; they’re selling their products to people. If your customers (or users) doesn’t understand why they should use it, or how they can get value from it, or why there needs to be change in the first place, they’re not going to stay your customer for long.

The change, and the resistance to it internally, begin during the sales process. And that’s why customer success should begin there, too.  By helping to manage the (fear of) change in your customer’s organization from the first contact to the closing handshake you’re setting up your customer for success during onboarding, and beyond.

So how can you manage the fear?

By delivering content that creates smarter customers. By content, I don’t mean marketing materials. You don’t need to sell them on your brand. You need to sell them on the idea of them successfully using your product. Show them how they will become product experts, and show them the VALUE of becoming a product expert. Change is only worth it if you’re getting more value than before.

That means the content that is the backbone for your customer onboarding and support are the content. Engaging customers with content that provides them value as your (prospective) customers—that puts them on the path to becoming product experts—is crucial to driving sales. This content is the lifeblood of how they will get value our of your product, so why keep it locked away for post-sales? Knowing that what their investing in works for them is what allays the fear, what makes change okay. Or even enjoyable, if you’re content is easy to find and use.

 

Good customer experience will bring customers and businesses together.

In today’s ultra-competitive business arena, more and more companies are focusing their efforts not just on attracting new customers, but retaining the ones they already have. After all, according to Gartner Group statistics, 80 percent of a company’s future revenue will come from just 20 percent of its existing customers. And research from Bain and Co. tells us that a 5 percent increase in customer retention can increase a company’s profitability by as much as 75 percent.

How then to improve customer retention? A critical key to cultivating long-term customer loyalty and retention lies in providing a better online customer experience. With that in mind, here are five ways to improve retention by enhancing the customer experience.

1. Consistently Exceed Customer Expectations

Today’s tech-savvy customers are informed, empowered, and have very high expectations for the companies they deal with. While the old sales motto, “underpromise and overdeliver” may have worked in the past, companies that subscribe to that strategy in today’s world of increased competition will find that it no longer works. Today it’s all about promising more and then delivering more. It’s about consistently going the extra mile, not just with respect to the obvious things such as products and services, but on seemingly little things such as always being prompt, positive and courteous.

In the online arena, this translates into providing multiple avenues of customer service, including online FAQ pages and live chat options, as well as designing pages that are easy to navigate and comfortable to use. By beta-testing your site to determine how well it will be received by the average user, you can identify its the pros and cons, and rebuild where necessary.

2. Use Social Media to Build Relationships and Trust

Customers want to know that they matter to the companies they do business with. And, in today’s socially connected world, a great way to show customers that they are important is to engage them through social media. This is not about brand promotion; it’s about giving customers a voice and a means to connect with and interact with the company and other customers. Through social media platforms such as Twitter and Facebook, companies can engage with fans and followers and stay up-to-date with what they are saying about the company.

Responding quickly and honestly to both good and bad comments shows transparency and helps build relationships and trust. Rewarding loyal customers with personalized emails containing coupon codes and other special offers also helps to build long-term loyalty and trust by making those customers feel appreciated.

3. Value Customer Complaints

While many businesses view customer complaints as annoyances, the truth is that those open expressions of dissatisfaction can be worth their weight in gold. Statistics show that 96 percent of unhappy customers don’t complain. They just quietly take their business elsewhere without giving the company they are deserting any explanation.

Of course, that silence seldom carries over into their other interactions, and customers that feel as though they have been mistreated by a business go on to share their negative experience with an average of 16 people (as compared to positive experiences, which only get shared with an average of nine people). So when a customer actually takes the time and effort to issue a complaint, they are giving the company an opportunity to discover what they are doing wrong or at least what they could be doing better. Winning a complaining customer back should be a major priority, as it will result in greater customer loyalty and advocacy.

4. Embrace Analytics

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Image: Paul Jacobson

As analytics tools become more widely available, more and more businesses are leveraging the power of analytics to attract and retain customers by enhancing the customer experience. When customers use the Internet, credit cards, and social media, they leave distinct digital footprints behind. By utilizing analytics tools, companies can sift through all of this rich customer data to better determine what customers truly want and need. Armed with these insights into customer behaviors and preferences, companies can then tailor their products and services to better deliver on those needs and enhance the customer experience.

Analytics tools also allow companies to track and respond to customer behaviors in real-time. This capability can avert potential problems before they occur and enhance the customer experience through meaningful and relevant interactions.

5. Invest in a CRM tool

Customer relationship management (CRM) tools are complex computer systems which are designed to be able to keep track of specific data related to customers and transactions. Of course, while these systems are perfectly suited to providing businesses with the information they need to make the most out of their customer relationships, they can also be used to provide customers with the best possible experiences.
Of course there are other methods for improving retention by upping the customer experience. But the above five ways are especially effective in helping increase retention and loyalty by enabling companies to gain a deeper understanding of their customers and thereby engage and interact with them more effectively.

 

Featured Image: Pixabay

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Perhaps one of the greatest misconceptions about customer success is that it is a “support” issue. Companies will rebrand customer service organizations to be “customer success” organizations. The name changes, but the objectives stay the same.

Everything the company does is geared towards customer success. So every organization in your company is a customer success organization.

Customer support will be integral to your customer’s success. But if support is the only part of your company focused on customer success, then the likelihood of customers failing somewhere along the line increases.

So what does customer success mean to the other departments?

Marketing

Marketing usually represents the first place your (prospective) customers interact with your company. They’re the department that gets your customers in the door.

Marketing’s role is not just to make the doorway attractive, but also to make sure customers come in the right doorway.

Content marketing is the key. It serves to effectively frame your products and educate your prospective customers. Attracting the right customers with the right content, controls expectations and sets them up for success as they move into the sales funnel.

The other element here is branding. Brand recognition is important. But it shouldn’t be limited to marketing. If you treat all of your documentation (product documentation, training, etc.) as marketing touch points, your controlling your messaging and promoting learning for your customer.

If you want to learn more about how customer success and marketing align, Gainsight has outlined some of the benefits of marrying customer success and marketing.

Sales

Sales departments usually have the goal of successfully getting customers. But getting customers to be successful is a whole different ball game. Both have the desired effect (generating revenue). Like with marketing, Sales Reps need to put customers on the learning pathway towards becoming a product expert.

The further along your prospective customers are on the path to learning, the easier the sales cycle will be. If prospective customers can learn your product before they’re even your customers, you’re creating the brand advocates who are going to help drive the negotiations within the organization. Show them the value of your product specifically for them.

Your best resource is the documentation that is created for training, support, and onboarding. Making this easy to access, explore, and learn from will get you smarter customers who want to close the sale fast. Plus, you’re setting the customer up to be successful throughout the onboarding and beyond.

Production/Engineering

Nobody is closer to your product than the Product team responsible for it. Yet, they can seem the furthest from the customer at times.

But these are the experts in your company with your product. They are the ones who have the knowledge to make your customers the experts.

The challenge for companies is making it easy for product documentation to be authored, published and readily available for customers to learn from it.

Knowledge is a two-way street, though. The Product team needs to know how the customer engages with the product. Where are the pain points? What are the highlights? By tracking customer support calls and online self-service usage, these things become clear.

These are the places where your organization can measure customer success. Ultimately, with this information, the Product team should be able to develop the product into something that is going to make the customer more successful by delivering a more valuable product. 

 

The key to all of these departments’ ability to ensure customer success is the content. Good content—and the right content—delivered at the right time throughout the customer journey makes becoming a product expert simple.

 

Future Change Set for March 2015: Comments Removal

  • As a reminder, the page comments functionality will be removed in the March release and will be replaced by a feedback form that will allow your users to rate articles. If you’re interested in providing your users with a social discussion experience, please check out our Feedback Best Practices. If you would like to remove your page comments functionality earlier than March or have questions about the removal, please contact the MindTouch Customer Success Team.

New Feature for MindTouch TCS Deployments: Article Rating and Feedback

  • Article Rating and Feedback will replace Page Ratings in your MindTouch TCS deployment. With this new feature, you will be able to rate a page without having to submit feedback. Read more about this great enhancement at the MindTouch Customer Success Center.

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Feature Enhancement: Recursive Permissioning

  • In the next release, you will notice a speed enhancement when adding page restrictions or modifying user’s permissions to your articles via the Restrict Access page. The speed of page restriction processing has been increased by 3x. This will be particularly noticeable when you set page restrictions or modify user’s permissions to a large hierarchy of pages.

Feature Change for Site Administrators:

  • When changing login settings for a user that is utilizing an external authentication system such as SAML or LDAP, you will notice that the inputs to change the email and password are now disabled. The reason for this is that email and password settings for externally authenticating users should be managed in the external authentication system. To learn more about the different authentication systems and determine which may be the best approach for your MindTouch deployment, check out the MindTouch Customer Success Center.

New and Updated Documentation:

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Onboarding is one of the most difficult parts of the job for hiring managers (and new-hires). How do you convey the figurative tons of information on a new employee in a way that sets them up to be successful in their first few weeks?

Although MindTouch is often used as a publicly-facing help site to promote customer success, those same features and principles can be used internally to drive employee success in the onboarding phase.  Like new customers, new employees need to be put on a learning pathway.

Here are a few of the common onboarding pain points that MindTouch can help businesses overcome.

  1. Exit Knowledge, Stage Left

Onboarding often falls into the lap of the hiring manager. The method and knowledge reside solely in his or her head. This is a huge problem if and when the hiring manager leaves the role or the company. The next hiring manager is left to reinvent the proverbial wheel.

MindTouch allows businesses to capture knowledge and structure it into learning pathways. So not only can you retain the knowledge hiring managers have, but it can be organized and refined.

  1. Sifting Through Silos

A new hire wants to feel like a part of the company and to understand his or her role in the scope of the company. But the knowledge hiring managers have can be specific to their own department. This effectively creates silos of information, segregating departments.

Allowing easy access to all of the documentation that employees need to be successful helps the company in the long run. While hiring managers just want to get employees up and running, taking time during onboarding to allow a new employee to understand the roles of the different departments makes a huge difference.

With MindTouch, all of your content is in one place—online. This always-available content can extend the onboarding time by allowing new employees to continue learning on their own.

  1. Training Resources Lagging Product Releases

One of the most difficult things for an organization is keeping consistent help documentation to match the new product releases. It’s even more time-consuming to update training documentation to match, especially in SaaS companies, which are constantly updating their products

MindTouch reduces the time to author, structure, and publish content and makes it instantly available across the entire organization. With new product release documentation being easier to create, it’s easier for hiring managers to keep the onboarding process up-to-date.

  1. From Field to Office

The best companies are constantly tweaking their processes and workflows to better serve the customer. Some of this knowledge is accrued out in the field during on-site training. This knowledge should be captured to enrich the onboarding process, but training documentation that is on premise inhibits this.

Since MindTouch lives online, using and capturing this knowledge is easy. By consistently providing new hires with the most up-to-date training knowledge, you’re reducing the learning curve inherent to learning any new job.

  1. Road Map to Success

Few things are more intimidating than your first day of work. A flood of forms and information can overwhelm even the most Zen people. And that feeling gets worse when new employees are left in the dark about where the training begins and ends.

A road map for onboarding is crucial, because it allows hiring managers and new employees to measure success along the way. With MindTouch, the knowledge necessary to get new employees up and running is all there and highly organized. So there’s a clear beginning, middle, and end to the learning process. Plus, the analytics and feedback built into MindTouch allow managers and employees to assess the effectiveness of articles—and if need be, to improve content that is lacking or to highlight content that is exceptionally useful.

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“Customer Success” is a popular industry trend among large and small companies alike. But as with any trend, there are varying interpretations and varying degrees of success. At MindTouch, customer success is all about making customers into the product experts who become loyal brand advocates.

If your business focuses on customer success, it’s important to do occasional check-ins with the organization to see how the initiative is doing. Much like a quarterly business review with your customers, a review of the successes and failures of the customer success goals in your organization is crucial to ensure the value of customer success is being realized.

Here are three of the most common stumbling blocks of customer success programs in an organization. Any one of these will derail your company’s customer success goals—and worse, jeopardize your customers’ success.

 1. Partial Company Buy-In

Customer success takes your whole company. “Customer Success” is not a re-branding term for Customer Support. Customer success affects Sales, Marketing, Support, Product, and Administration in different ways, yes, but all play vital roles in turning your customers into product experts.

If customer success isn’t at the heart of every department in your organization, then your company’s messaging and the customer’s experience are going to be confusing at best, but more than likely detrimental to your customer’s success.

It’d be like going to a three-ring circus where the clowns lecture on Shakespeare, the lions and tigers make you cry, and the trapeze artist has an existential crisis in the middle of the tight rope. You’d walk away a confused mess and probably demand your money back.

By determining what customer success is—and what role each department plays in that goal—you can ensure that the customer experience along their entire journey is geared towards them becoming successful.

 2. Error 404: Resources Not Found

No customer success resource? Big problem.

No customer success resource? Big problem.

Nothing will deflate a customer’s chances of success like not having the right resources. The journey to customer success begins with the first customer contact, before they’re even your customers. Everything from marketing materials to support center staff and documentation should be geared towards promoting customer success.

Your company has the experts on how to succeed with the product. It’s crucial that all of the knowledge that they have is accessible to customers. Ideally, all of this knowledge lives online, as SEO optimized, highly structured content so it’s easy for customers to find and use.

With the proper resources available through online self-service, you’re lowering the customer effort bar tremendously. Instead of sifting through PDFs or having to rely on customer support phone calls, customer should be able to explore the learning pathways that will make them successful with your product.

 3. Customer Success is Cost-Driven, Not Value Driven

Perhaps the worst way to approach customer success is a cost-cutting initiative. Of course, a successful customer success initiative will drive down support costs.  Successful customers who can self-service don’t require as much help.

But the spirit of customer success is about providing value to your customers. That’s why we stress our customers becoming product experts. That’s why we have a rigorous onboarding program. That’s why we have all of our knowledge in our online Customer Success Center. With these tools, customers can become kick-ass users of our product.

Customers don’t want to feel like they’ve wasted their money. If they feel like they’re getting as much value from the product as possible, then you’ve not only got a satisfied customer on your hands—you’ve got a brand advocate.

Because when the customer succeeds, your business succeeds.

 

 

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This past weekend I had family visiting my house, and that got me thinking about customer experience. Family visiting of course meant several hours of furiously cleaning until it looked like a model home. As someone who recently began living on their own, it was important to me that my family believes I had my act together. And a clean house, more than anything, would scream Hey! He’s doing all right! to my relations, especially since it was the first time many of them had visited me at my new digs.

In many ways, Google is your business’ digital abode.  What kind of impression does a Google search provide visitors—your prospective and current customers? Is everything in its right place, like everything at my house for exactly three hours on Sunday? Or is it disorganized, difficult to find things, and characterized by a lingering odor of too-ripe bananas? In other words, what kind of customer experience does going online and doing a search get your customers? I think many businesses would be shocked at how disorganized the search experience is.

People and businesses are overwhelmingly turning towards the Internet to begin their buying processes.  That means that before any marketing or sales person can reach out to frame your product for the customer, they’re encountering the documentation on your help website to learn about the capabilities of your products. And that means the customer experiences begins at the search bar of your customer’s browser.

Customers who are concerned with getting a successful return on their investment want to know before they even begin to talk with the company that the time and money they’re going to invest in your company are worth it. That means getting into the nitty-gritty of technical documentation and help content.

But even the most quality content can’t overcome organizational disarray. When customers use the Internet to research your company and products, you want them to get to your website, not a third party site.

And once they’re on your site, you want them to stay on your site.  Multiple Google searches and painful navigation equals high customer effort. If the customer effort is high before the customer has even talked to your company, it doesn’t portray a great picture for how their experience will be implementing your product.

You can get your digital house in order with MindTouch by putting everything in its right place. MindTouch turns your static content into dynamic, search engine optimized content to help drive current and prospective customers to your website. With the capability to create highly structured and intuitively organized content, customer effort is low—meaning customers will visit longer and learn more.

And they’ll want to keep coming back—which is great if they’re customers, but not so great if it’s the in-laws.

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Knowledge has to be improved, challenged, and increased constantly, or it vanishes.

-Peter Drucker

The Internet is filled with knowledge. According to wisegeek.com, the Internet contains nearly 5 million terabytes of data—and Google has only indexed 200 terabytes, only .004% of the total size.

Compared to these numbers, the content produced by companies is insignificant. But the knowledge companies put online for their customers often falls woefully short of being helpful.

What’s frustrating about this phenomena, as a customer, is that the bar is set so high in terms of how much effort it takes to learn how to use a product. Knowledge and help content are immensely valuable resources for customers that allow them to become product experts.

There are two main reasons that knowledge—especially help content—from companies fails customers.

  1. Organization

A typical knowledge base is a flat container. Articles are compiled with little order, like index cards that have a question on one side and an answer on the other that were thrown in a shoebox and mixed up.

When a customer hits an article, they’re stuck in on that one question. There’s no reference to explain how the articles relate to each other, let alone a learning pathway for customers to follow.

  1. SEO Optimization

Google’s web crawlers, the algorithms that determine what webpages to return during a search query, LOVE organization. Highly structured content that links to other pages skyrocket up the results list.

This is fantastic news for your customer. It makes it easier for them to get the authoritative knowledge your company produces.

And this is fantastic news for your company. Instead of turning to the third party websites or customer forums that aren’t controlled by your subject matter experts, they can get the authoritative knowledge from your company.Higher search results drive greater organic search traffic to your site. (Because, honestly, who ever goes past the first page of Google results?).

 Turn Knowledge into (Online) Power

If you’re not optimizing your content for being consumed online, then you’re not helping your customers succeed on their own. MindTouch makes turning your knowledge into highly structured, SEO-optimized help content simple.

Seriously, simple. Put your knowledge to work; maximize it for the Internet Age.

Future Change Set for March 2015: Comments Removal

  • As a reminder, the page comments functionality will be removed during our March release. The page comments functionality will be replaced by a feedback form that also allows your users to rate articles. If you’re interested in providing a social discussions experience to your MindTouch users, please read more about our Feedback Best Practices. If you would like to remove your comments earlier than March or have any questions about the removal, please contact the MindTouch Customer Success Team.

New Form Options for GeniusLink:

Feature Change: 404 Page Not Found

  • Previously, community and anonymous users that attempted to load a non-existent page would see a display of search results to assist in locating the correct article. The search results on 404 page will no longer display the “last updated date” of the article.

Bug Fix for Authors

  • The editor dialogs such as “Update Link” and “Insert Image” would have a delayed load for FireFox users on Mac. We’ve resolved this issue and the delayed load will no longer occur in the following release.
  • If you edited a table’s caption in our WYSIWIG editor, you would be unable to edit it via the “Table Properties” dialog. In the next release you will be able to edit the table’s caption in both the editor and the table properties dialog.
  • Text files such as pdf and word files used to have the same icon as MindTouch articles in our “Update Link” dialog. The Update Link dialog will now display unique icons to distinguish between articles, images, and text files.

New and Updated Documentation

 

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SAP to Resell MindTouch SaaS Solution as SAP® Knowledge Central by MindTouch

SAN DIEGO, Calif., Feb 17, 2015 – MindTouch, a provider of cloud-based software that helps companies drive user adoption and customer success, today announced the signing of a global reseller agreement with SAP (NYSE: SAP).  As part of the agreement, SAP will resell the MindTouch cloud-based Software-as-a-Service (SaaS)solution as the SAP® Knowledge Central application by MindTouch. The solution is available now and enables customer-service agents to provide more appropriate content to customers consistently across channels, helping reduce service-interaction times, increase the value of responses, and ultimately improve customer satisfaction.

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SAP Knowledge Central delivers relevant information to customers and agents using sophisticated and natural-language search and processing, content-ranking technology, and powerful analytics capabilities to allow companies to make more intelligent and targeted decisions about content and to update support knowledge in real-time. This, in combination with other SAP solutions, allows customers to better manage their customer-service and employee-service interactions in contact-center and self-service scenarios and to transform their users into experts.

“SAP’s cloud product portfolio constitutes the most comprehensive application portfolio for customer engagement and commerce as well as human capital management,” said Aaron Fulkerson, CEO of MindTouch.  “For over two years, we’ve seen firsthand how customers have benefitted from layering MindTouch solutions with SAP software, allowing their business to benefit from increased strategic value. We look forward to bringing the solution to even more customers following this new reseller agreement with SAP.”

The solution integrates with the SAP Cloud for Service and SAP Cloud for Social Engagement solutions, as well as the SuccessFactors® Employee Central Service Center solution for the human resources line of business. Integrated solutions include both agent-enabled and self-service customer-interaction scenarios.

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SAP Cloud for Service and SAP Cloud for Social Engagement are part of SAP’s Customer Engagement and Commerce suite of solutions, which are designed to help companies meet the needs of today’s empowered customer. This suite of solutions delivers a more consistent, omni-channel experience across the buying journey, helping provide the insight, experience and execution needed to engage customers at the right time, with the right offer or response to deliver a more superior experience that helps drive brand loyalty and, ultimately, revenue.

“By adding SAP Knowledge Central to our solution portfolio, we hope to enable our customers by delivering an end-to-end digital experience,” said Nayaki Nayyar,senior vice president, Cloud for Customer Engagement, SAP. “With this solution, companies can gain more information and knowledge about customers across all channels.”

About MindTouch

MindTouch, Inc. is a provider of cloud-based customer-success software.  MindTouch is transforming how businesses drive customer success by empowering them to capture and serve knowledge to their customers in new ways and by creating insight from customers’ behavior.  MindTouch creates shorter sales cycles, increases organic site traffic, and turns new users into experts and brand advocates.

MindTouch software is used by millions of people every day.  Industry leaders like Intuit, Remington, Hewlett-Packard, Verizon, Zuora, MakerBot and RSA Security rely on MindTouch to support their customers’ success.  Read more about MindTouch here: http://mindtouch.com.

 

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SAP, SuccessFactors and other SAP products and services mentioned herein as well as their respective logos are trademarks or registered trademarks of SAP SE (or an SAP affiliate company) in Germany and other countries. See http://www.sap.com/corporate-en/legal/copyright/index.epx for additional trademark information and notices.

All other product and service names mentioned are the trademarks of their respective companies.

 

SAP Forward-looking Statement

Any statements contained in this document that are not historical facts are forward-looking statements as defined in the U.S. Private Securities Litigation Reform Act of 1995. Words such as “anticipate,” “believe,” “estimate,” “expect,” “forecast,” “intend,” “may,” “plan,” “project,” “predict,” “should” and “will” and similar expressions as they relate to SAP are intended to identify such forward-looking statements. SAP undertakes no obligation to publicly update or revise any forward-looking statements. All forward-looking statements are subject to various risks and uncertainties that could cause actual results to differ materially from expectations The factors that could affect SAP’s future financial results are discussed more fully in SAP’s filings with the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission (“SEC”), including SAP’s most recent Annual Report on Form 20-F filed with the SEC. Readers are cautioned not to place undue reliance on these forward-looking statements, which speak only as of their dates.