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Stage 3 Support: Interacting Digitally to Become Invaluable Customer Advisers

James Wheless
Global Managing Partner, Consulting & Services Integration, Tata Consultancy Services
Lakshmi Ramesh
Head, Media Center of Excellence, Cognitive Business Operations, TCS

Personalizing the Entire Brand Experience

Chief Marketing Officers have one of the riskiest roles in the C-suite, with most staying in office only 4.1 years on average.1 Diminishing budgets and higher performance expectations are compelling visionary CMOs to transform their organizations into high-value marketing engines that deliver an extraordinary brand experience at every stage of the customer journey.

This study shares fresh insights about how more than 500 enterprise CMOs in North America and Europe are creating impactful brand experiences for their audiences using digital technologies, now and in the future, with personalization that delivers customized, relevant messages for multichannel marketing campaigns.

In this report, we refer to “leaders” and “followers.” Leaders were 85 marketers whose metrics were directly connected to revenue, who fared well on those metrics, and who vouched for their accuracy. Followers were 95 marketers who used metrics that didn’t connect directly with revenue, and who fared poorly on the metrics they used.

Personalizing the Entire Brand Experience

Our CMO Study results have been released in four condensed reports and a final master report to reveal top insights about how senior marketers currently use, and plan to use, evolving digital technologies to personalize the brand experience at every stage of the customer journey.

Stage 1: Create market awareness
Stage 2: Convince and convert prospects to clients
Stage 3: Customer support following purchase
Stage 4: Customer retention to upsell and cross-sell

Each report highlights what leaders do differently from the followers including:

■ The channels they use (both digital and non-digital), and the innovative ways they use those channels
■ The customer data they collect, and how they use it to personalize communications
■ The proficiency with analytics technologies used to identify prospects and personalize communications
■ The level of automation for key aspects of marketing, how much of that technology is in the cloud, and plans for the future
■ How adept they are at personalizing and up-leveling a dynamic brand experience

The Big Reveal: Most Marketers Don’t Create Content to Support Existing Customers

In the age of digital business, it’s critical to respond quickly to support customers following a purchase or buy. Otherwise, a customer’s frustration can damage a company’s reputation—for example, with negative online reviews that seriously impact sales and market share.

To recap, in our Stage 1: Awareness report, all 516 chief marketing officers surveyed said their marketing departments create communications to generate awareness of their company’s offerings with potential customers. In our Stage 2: Conversion report, the number falls to 72%.

At 37%, the Support stage shows the least amount of engagement when compared to the other three stages in the brand experience.

Missing in Action: At 37%, our study shows that in the Support stage marketers are less engaged in this phase than any others in the brand experience.

Marketing Functions Creating Communications in Each Stage

■ Stage 1 Awareness: 100%
■ Stage 2 Prospect Conversion: 72%
■ Stage 3 Customer Support: 37%
■ Stage 4 Customer Retention: 47%
■ All stages: 19% of B2B marketers

Industry Leaders and Followers for the Support Stage

The industry with the highest percentage of marketers creating customer communications is the automotive sector followed by a cluster of service industries: insurance, travel, transportation and hospitality, and banking and financial services. Those are followed by the healthcare and life sciences sector.

Two consumer-oriented sectors lagged conspicuously: media, entertainment and information services companies, and consumer packaged goods.

Industry Leader: 60% of Automotive manufacturers create customer support communications

#1 Active Marketers Use Multiple Channels to Support Customers but Company Websites and Email Dominate

In all 11 industries surveyed, the top channels used by marketers to create customized support communications are:

Other Support Channels

■ 84% use retail outlets and other field locations
■ 68% use company pages on social media
■ 65% use contact centers

#2 What Leaders Do Differently: They Use 4 Key Channels for Customer Assistance

Leaders are more likely than followers to communicate to customers using these four diverse channels:

■ 76% vs 59% Company social media pages
■ 68% vs 53% Company contact center
■ 65% vs 50% Social media responsiveness
■ 59% vs 41% Company mobile apps

The advantage of using digital channels enables companies to easily collect data—crucial for future modifications and development.

#3 Most Marketers Use Multiple Data Sources to Personalize Support—but Many Are Missing Opportunities

93% of marketers that create communications for customer support personalize those communications, and on average, they use about 2.5 data sources.

93% of marketers that create communications for customer support personalize those communications.

Travel companies use about 3 data sources, while retail and media use about 2 sources.

Missed Opportunity?
Of the 37% active marketers in this stage, 52% tap into customers’ past buying behavior with their company, making it the most commonly used data source.

Yet, out of all marketers surveyed, 63% do not create communications for customers in this stage. So, leveraging data on customer interactions remains an enormous untapped opportunity.

At 40% each, web traffic data and customer social media behavior are the second most common data sources that marketers use to personalize support communications. These data sources can help companies identify frustrated customers and reduce reputational risks.

40% of marketers use web traffic data and customer social media behavior to personalize support.

Missed Opportunity?
Less than 25% of marketers surveyed are using:

■ Customers’ geo-location data (using the location of their digital devices)
■ Data from the products they sell to those customers (through embedded product sensors)
■ Customer activities at physical places of business (using installed digital sensors)

#4 B2B and B2C/B2B2C Companies Use Different Data to Personalize Support Communications

Consumer-oriented (B2C/B2B2C) companies are more likely to customize customer support communications using richer data sources. These include past buying behavior with the company, customer social media behavior, and customer location data.

B2C companies leverage richer data sources
■ 54% use past buying behavior with the company (vs 46% of B2B)
■ 43% use customer social media behavior (vs 29% of B2B)
■ 26% use customer location data (vs 21% of B2B)

B2B Preferred Data Sources
■ 44% use web traffic data (vs 41% of B2C)
■ 40% use demographic data (vs 33% of B2C)
This suggests that B2B companies are not capitalizing on new data sources

Missed Opportunity?
Web traffic data and demographic data, both used for decades, suggests that B2B companies are slower to capitalize on new data sources.

But B2B firms are moving more quickly to exploit Internet of Things (IoT) data:

■ 25% use data captured by sensors in products vs 24% of B2B/B2B2C
■ 21% use service usage data captured by sensors in brick and mortar locations vs 12% of B2C/B2B2C
(This difference may stem in part from privacy concerns surrounding sensors that are less pronounced for businesses than for consumers.)

#5 Leaders Prefer Useful Information to Special Pricing When Personalizing Customer-Support Messages

Leading marketers who personalize communications in the Support stage focus on offering:

■ 76% vs 62% Order-status information
■ 88% vs 34% Useful product/service information
■ 30% vs 52% Special offers
■ 15% vs 24% Personalized graphic design of communications

This data suggests that followers are more focused on selling than helping customers use their current products/services.

“Our market research says clients do more business and stay invested for longer with firms that offer better client service—which includes answering questions promptly and having close access to asset managers. Using video, we can answer or even anticipate questions, get quick compliance review and deliver an amazing personalized experience.”
— Regional marketing executive for asset management firm

Missed opportunity?
Only 8% of all marketers provide relevant videos—even though videos can help customers use the products and services they purchase and offer an easy support channel.

A regional marketing executive for an asset management firm indicated that his firm is targeting video capabilities to enable portfolio managers to communicate more directly and personally with clients.

Best Practices In Action: How Leaders Keep the Customer Satisfied

Bringing the Personal Touch to an Asset Management Firm’s Clients

Summary: Maintaining a strong relationship with existing clients is important for any company. It is absolutely essential for wealth management companies where customer support—Stage 3 in the brand experience—is as important as winning new business.

Challenge: Retaining vs Gaining New Customers
Why is customer support so important for this industry sector? One regional marketing head of a global asset management firm says institutional asset owners such as endowments, pension funds or insurers that are satisfied with a fund can park large sums of money in it for years or even decades. For the fund, such a relationship yields recurring annual fees that exceed the incremental costs of managing the assets. The result of nurturing a strong relationship with these long-term customers? Higher margins and greater stability for the fund.

The benefit of this approach is even higher when you consider the cost of new client acquisition. The process is competitive, costly and uncertain. Clients can vary greatly in size, needs and approach. Each sales journey is unique and complex, involving numerous touchpoints: email, direct mail, face-to-face meetings, web-based thought leadership content and events. So when a firm brings a new client on board, it makes sense to make an extra effort to keep them.

In addition, the competition is increasingly fierce in the asset management industry. In recent years, active investment firms have faced a mounting threat from passive index-based exchange-traded funds (ETFs) that cost less and frequently offer competitive performance. Globally, institutional assets in such passive funds have grown more than fivefold since the financial crisis of 2008-2009.2

Solution: The Human Connection via Technology
Having humans at the helm is a key differentiator for active funds. It’s something that ETFs, by definition, don’t offer. Having those humans deliver strong customer service raises the value even higher. Industry Investors want to feel that they have a close personal connection with the people who manage their money. They want to know that they have immediate access to the decision makers, particularly when markets are volatile.

But how do you satisfy these expectations?

In an ideal world, portfolio managers might simply share their cell phone numbers with their clients. But that’s not practical. Portfolio managers are busy. They need to travel and keep their eyes on the market. They may have hundreds of clients, many voicing similar concerns at the same time, depending on the market’s temperament and the fund’s strategy. Fund managers tend to be technocrats, who may be better at choosing investments than communicating with clients. And the industry is heavily regulated, so what managers say is subject to rigorous compliance review.

In one firm we surveyed, when a client has a concern, a relationship manager typically acts as the first line of contact. A reply is crafted with an investment professional’s input and delivered by email within 48 hours. But the goal for their marketers is to match the speed and near real-time responsiveness that people have grown to expect in the consumer marketplace and do it in a way that feels personalized.

To achieve this, the company is looking to develop the capability to respond via personalized video message. The system is envisioned to work like this: An investor voices a concern privately via the fund’s portal (e.g., “I’m concerned about exposure to China …”). The fund manager then records a bespoke video in the form of conversation (“Hi Amanda. Thanks for your question, and for being a great client. As for China...”).

The manager clicks a button on the portal, and from there the process is as automated as possible. The relationship manager is looped in. The compliance department signs off digitally. There is minimal administration, the whole chain is recorded, and the video is sent to the client within hours. In the event that multiple clients have similar concerns or market conditions raise specific issues, a video can be crafted to reach a broader audience, boosting efficiencies and anticipating client concerns.

This marketing organization plans to launch a pilot within the next 18 to 24 months. In the meantime, there are hurdles to overcome in bringing the idea to market. The technology and process are complex, in part because of compliance requirements. The goal is to ensure the system is flawless to ensure a smooth rollout.

To get buy-in for this idea, the marketing team needs to help other stakeholders understand how it will reduce the workload, boost client relations and improve the company’s performance. If the fund succeeds in delivering this level of customer service, the company’s regional marketing leader believes it will provide significant customer-retention benefits.

“It is the nature of the business that even the best active funds may sometimes underperform. When that happens, the relationship becomes very important. If communications are clear and personalized and if the firm delivers an exceptional experience, clients are more likely to remain patient. With personalized, video responses, it’s a level of service that can really ‘wow’ clients and make a difference.”
— Regional marketing executive for asset management firm

About This Research

This short report is based on just a portion of a 45-question online survey to capture what CMOs do in the in the Support stage (Stage 3) in creating communications for prospects and customers. In our additional reports, we publish our findings on how the same marketing organizations are using digital technologies to personalize communications in the other three stages.

Our first release gave an overview of the initial research findings; the final master report provides a comprehensive analysis into the CMO Study results..

The CMOs we surveyed work in:

■ 11 industries
■ Companies with at least $500 million in annual revenue, with most in much larger companies
■ Firms with average revenue $10.6 billion and the average annual marketing budget was $392 million
■ About two-thirds (65%) were from consumer companies (both B2C and B2B2C firms), while 27% were from B2B companies
■ The remaining 8% worked in companies with a fairly balanced mix of B2C and B2B end customers
■ 60% work in North America, and 40% work in Europe

Research Goals & Methodology
Our research goals were to determine:

■ How technology-enabled personalized marketing content today is used throughout the brand experience for prospects and customers (in their marketing and sales campaigns, and customer support and retention initiatives)
■ The impact of such personalization and the key factors in making it effective
■ How CMOs and their organizations develop communications across all stages of the customer lifecycle

The research looks in depth at what marketers are doing in each of the four stages: what channels are being used by companies in different industries, different target end customers (consumers vs. organizations), and different countries; what data companies are using to personalize communications; how they are personalizing communications based on the data they possess on prospects and customers; and how the most successful marketers differ from the rest in channel usage, data for personalization, and types of personalization.

The study findings, based on a mix of B2C, B2B, and B2B2C, are segmented into key stages of the customer journey and have been released in 4 short reports, all of which can be found at

Stage 1 (Creating Awareness): Attracting the Digitally Distracted Prospect

Stage 2 (Prospect Conversion): Personalizing Content to Turn Prospects into Customers

Stage 3 (Customer Support): Interacting Digitally to Become Invaluable Customer Advisers

Stage 4 (Customer Retention): Using Analytics to Predict What Customers Need Next

Master Report: How Leading CMOs Captivate and Convert Customers for Life
This comprehensive report consolidates the findings and provides in-depth analysis and surprising new insights about how leading marketers differ from the rest in the innovative use of digital technologies, data, and analytics to personalize the brand experience—within, across and outside all four stages of the customer journey.

1Korn Ferry Institute study of the 1,000 largest U.S. companies by revenue, conducted in late 2016.

2How ETFs Became the Market,” Bloomberg, Sept. 13, 2018. Accessed May 15, 2019.


Get key takeaways from the TCS CMO Study about how leading marketers personalize communications in the Support stage.

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