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(Update January 2022: It was about time to refresh this blog with what changed, mostly solutions names, what evolved and the feedback we got from customers.)

One of my favourite questions, and it is often asked just like this:

Should we use Customer Engagement or C4C?

I will answer this question very clearly at the end. Before we jump there, let's have a look at related questions. They will explain why the answer is relatively simple.

Let's clarify what we are talking about here: This is about customer service in relation to bill-to-cash in SAP for Utilities (IS-U). Customer service means handling move-in/out, billing, inquiries, customer financials and other service processes in a contact center and the back-office.

1st related question: Do I go cloud or on-premise?
Answer: From an industry point of view, all new applications are cloud, that started a long time ago. Anyone remember 'SAP CRM On Demand' and want's to guess the year? Like all newly designed customer experience solutions, Service Cloud is cloud only. At the same time, we have a meter-to-cash backend in ERP evolving to cloud. So the answer to this question is: Go cloud. Cloud solution work fine with both on-premise and any flavour of other cloud applications. For example, you can start with Service Cloud integrated to ECC IS-U on-premise and later upgrade IS-U to S/4HANA and move to SAP S/4HANA Cloud.

2nd related question: What is the difference between Service Cloud and Customer Engagement in the Utilities context?
Answer: It's like the comparison of apples and oranges. Overall they are similar in scope (a sweet fruit). They are also fundamentally different.

Service Cloud is part of SAP's CX suite designed for the best customer experience. It comes with 90+ processes for the utilities contained in the industry extension.

Service Cloud - Account Central

S/4HANA Utilities Customer Engagement became part of S/4HANA Service. There is a high degree of similarity when compared to CRM 7 service, it provides a customer service agent role in the interaction center webclient. It comes with 45+ processes for the utilities industry.

So the answer is: Both solutions have similar capabilities for utilities customer service. They are fundamentally different in the design and architecture.

3rd related question: When can I or should I go to C4C or customer engagement?
Answer: You can start with Service Cloud (C4C) any time, regardless of your backend application version (ECC ERP 6 EhP0+ or S/4HANA). You can use S/4HANA customer engagement only with S/4HANA 1709+.

Back to: Should we use Customer Engagement or C4C service cloud?
Answer: In some cases, the decision will be easy. What we can see, many years and go-lives later is the following trend. New implementations tend to use service cloud. Utilities with a strong focus on customer satisfaction and customer experience tend to use service cloud. Upgrades from a CRM 7 lean towards customer engagement, it reduces the change impact for the end user. Upgrades from CIC0 go either way. The market roles play a factor - a large multi-service utility has more extensive customer service requirements compared to a distribution company or a water utility.

But to be clear, you have to use at least one. Any utility with end customers needs a customer service solution. IS-U bill-to-cash does not work without one. Even a distribution company in a deregulated market has customer service for new connects and outages.

When selecting either S/4HANA customer engagement or service cloud, evaluate your key drivers: customer centricity, cost-to-serve, agility, time-to-value, transformation readiness, TCO over 10+ years and other constraints like (de-)regulations. That guides to one or another on a higher level.

So what is the answer? I hope it is clearer, there is no one fits all, and there is a strong trend. One will fit better than the other, with only very few exceptions.

On a directional level, looking at service cloud for utilities is probably similar to getting an EV. We are in a multi-year transition from the old CRM world to the new CX. It's not over, give it another five to ten years. Five years ago you were probably still an excpetion if you bought an EV. The 'What if...' arguments are fading out. What if you select a customer service solution for the next 10 years and in 3 years you regret your decision?

Don't hesitate to contact me for any questions.

Update on product names (as of March 2020):
Sometimes it can be tricky to relate product names, solution names, technical names and licensing bundles. And some of those change over time. A product name for a release rarely changes once it is generally available, but the next release could have a different name. Back to the products we discussed in the blog above. The current name for our industry specific cloud solution for customer service is 'C/4HANA Service Cloud for Utilities'. The current name for our industry specific on-premise solution for customer service is now changing from 'S/4HANA Utilities for Customer Management' (used for the 1709 and 1809 Add-On versions) to 'S/4HANA Utilities for Customer Engagement' with release 1909 and higher. The functionality is now fully embedded, it technically became part of the service core. We did this across the industries, going forward we will use the 'Customer Engagement' when describing the CRM functions in S/4HANA 1909 or higher.