For Retailers and Brands, “The Moment of Truth” Has Already Passed

by Seeta Hariharan, GM and Group Head, TCS Digital Software & Solutions Group

In the 1980s, former Scandinavian Airlines System (SAS) CEO Jan Carlzon transformed the struggling carrier into a leader by turning customer service into an obsession. In doing so, he coined the phrase The Moment of Truth to describe the exact point in time a customer made contact with a SAS employee –when SAS had to prove its value in order to keep the customer.

For SAS, Carlzon preached, the collective outcome of these Moments of Truth – 50 million of them per year, he tallied – ultimately determined the success or failure of his company.

Walmart founder Sam Walton put the same phrase into action by instituting the retailer’s famous Ten Foot Rule. Employees who came within 10 feet of customers were expected to greet them to influence The Moment of Truth at the shelf when they decided whether to buy a product.

In 2005, Proctor & Gamble declared The Moment of Truth to be about the customer’s experience with a product: seeing it in a store or online, buying and using it, and offering feedback about it.

In 2011, Google (perhaps not surprisingly) proclaimed The Moment of Truth to be when a customer researched a product online before making a purchase.

Fast forward to today. Given the massive disruption in retail over the past decade, if you asked a hundred consumers or retailers to define The Moment of Truth, you’d get just as many answers. That’s because for retailers and brands, The Moment of Truth has passed. It’s been replaced by the sum of the consumer’s connected experiences.

Here’s why: As consumers, the value we once associated with the act of buying a product has diminished. Sure, there are lots of ways to buy products today – online, in stores, using mobile payments and even digital currencies. But in an omni-channel world, every successful transaction is still just a transaction. A non-event, not a memorable experience that creates lasting value. Ironically, it’s often memorable only if something goes wrong.

Today, brands at the vanguard don’t push products. They curate connected customer experiences by leveraging partners to create ecosystems of value for consumers.

Take Airbnb. They’re not just selling rooms, they’re delivering a broader, more satisfying travel experience involving such diverse experiences as violin making in Paris, truffle hunting in Tuscany or driving classic cars in Malibu.

Or consider Ikea’s acquisition of Task Rabbit. It improves the home furnishing experience by taking the frustration of assembling furniture off the table.

For consumers, it’s no longer just about buying a product or service. It’s about anticipating memorable experiences from their favorite brands, regardless of industry. In today’s connected economy, customers are placing more value on their experiences than the products or services they’re consuming. They want experiences that make their lives easier and precisely reflect their preferences, needs and aspirations.

Think about it. Decades ago, a Moment of Truth with a retailer or brand was when a customer in a store interacted with a salesperson or spoke with a customer service rep by phone. With the dawn of the Web and e-commerce, the number of these touch points exploded. Today, the Internet of Things has brought the digital insights of the online world to the physical world. Using machine learning and augmented intelligence, retailers and brands design highly personalized customer journeys spanning the real world and the digital world, which to consumers are one.

For today’s connected consumer, the most recent great experience with a retailer or brand automatically raises the bar for all other competitors going forward. It’s become a virtuous cycle that’s made them feel empowered, always expecting more.

For retailers and brands, this has made connected customer experiences the new competitive battlefield. Instead of pushing products, they must now sell great customer experiences that play out seamlessly across their integrated physical and digital worlds.

Leading born-on-the-Web retailers such as Amazon understand the importance of connected consumer experiences for creating greater value. That’s why industry pundits are so intrigued by the company’s foray into brick-and-mortar stores and its acquisition of the Whole Foods supermarket chain. They’re eager to see what it holds for the connected customer experience.

For retailers and brands, the implications of Connected Consumer Experiences are daunting. How do data-driven marketers reconcile the new Moment of Truth — the sum total of the consumer’s connected experiences?

They have to go well beyond selling products to address broader consumer needs and aspirations like beauty, adventure, health or wellness. They must orchestrate customer experiences that span multiple brands, service providers and commercial ecosystems.

Instead of static product offers, carefully designed connected experiences need to continuously raise the bar, feeding the virtuous cycle of consumer expectations. Imagine if a fitness equipment store went beyond its traditional boundaries to serve its customers – as an example, when a consumer buys a rowing machine, the store offers not just assembly services but also fitness apparel, nutritional supplements and a trial membership at a local rowing club.

Doing this at scale is a tall order. It requires capitalizing on the gold mine of customer data retailers are sitting on and IoT insights from the physical world, including stores. Connecting, analyzing and sharing it in real-time across company silos and with their new partners in value to understand, anticipate and satisfy customer needs. And most important — continuously detecting and learning new consumer consumption patterns so customer experiences get better and better.

The new marching orders for retailers and brands are clear: they must deliver connected consumer experiences that add up to The Moment of Truth.

Do you agree? To hear more about our views on digital transformation in retail, watch this video featuring IDC Retail Insights analyst Greg Girard.

The View from the Top of FinTech is Clear: Banks Must Speed Up Digital Transformation

by Seeta Hariharan, GM and Group Head, TCS Digital Software & Solutions Group

For more than a decade, Wall Street and the rest of the financial services industry looks forward to IDC’s annual ranking of the top FinTechs.

For banks, it’s not just about the handful of FinTechs they must now get to know. It’s also a learning moment for the industry. A chance to look back over the past 12 months and ponder what trends and insights can be gleaned from the handful of firms perched at the top that have earned bragging rights for the next 365 days.

So when IDC recently announced that TCS captured the #2 position on the 2017 IDC FinTech Rankings, I took it as an invitation to share our view with customers on the constantly evolving financial services industry.  (To see more of our views from the top of the financial services technology industry, watch this video featuring IDC Financial Insights Research Director Jerry Silva.)

GM & Group Head Seeta Hariharan and IDC Financial Insights Research Director Jerry Silva speak about trends in the financial services industry.

TCS’s longstanding relationships with the world’s largest and most successful banks as well as leading companies across other industries give us a unique perspective. From this vantage point, it allows us to spot trends playing out in one sector that often hold crucial lessons for another.

The telecommunications industry is a perfect example. I often tell banking customers that on many levels, the disruption they’re facing from today’s born-on-the-web firms reminds us of the disruption telcos faced beginning in the late 1990s.

Back then, telcos began struggling against a new type of competitor – the over the top (OTT) providers. This new wave of compelling content providers quickly began offering popular video content like YouTube, chat and other social media services such as Facebook and Twitter. While industry pundits debated whether the telecom industry would transform itself to offer higher value in the form of smart pipes, the telcos became providers of commodity infrastructure, or dumb pipes.

I think we all know how that turned out. The telco industry’s failure to digitally transform became a business school case study.

Yet banks aren’t destined to repeat the mistakes of the telcos if they can speed up the pace of digital transformation.

Banks that used to rely on profitable financial products like fee-based checking are under pressure to develop new revenue streams. Their agile new rivals are not just undercutting them with competing financial products for free or at low cost. They’re also more adept at using digital technologies to deliver a better overall customer experience.

Despite investing to varying degrees in digital transformation, most large and midsized banks remain burdened by multiple legacy platforms inherited from decades of M&A activity and industry consolidation. It’s left them mired in various stages of defining their long term digital strategies and challenged to make headway against crafty competitors who count themselves among tech’s early adopters.

In less than a decade, the competitive arena for banks has shifted. Their rival digital upstarts have taught them a valuable lesson: To successfully compete for revenue and consumer loyalty, instead of pushing products they must sell superior customer experiences.

Fortunately, every bank is sitting on a treasure trove of data that can be turned into revenue if they can mine the insights to deliver winning customer experiences. If banks can truly understand their customers’ individual consumption patterns, they can deliver value at every touch point.

As digital natives, born-on-the-web rivals may appear unbeatable at leveraging customer data. But every customer lives in a digital and a physical world. That gives banks unleveraged assets the upstarts lack – physical locations in the form of branches.

That’s right — banks can actually deliver superior customer experiences by better understanding the consumption patterns of their customers. They can monetize their data by deeply understanding the choices, desires and aspirations playing out in the consumer’s converged physical and digital worlds. It requires capturing vast amounts of online and IoT data; connecting, analyzing and sharing it across company silos; drawing inferences through partnerships; and continuously detecting and learning consumer behavior patterns. All in real-time.

This approach is critical for banks to survive. But it demands a new kind of insight — “Connected Consumer Intelligence” — which TCS Digital Software & Solutions Group employs in its software. It’s the way banks can deliver superior customer experiences across the physical world and the digital world, which to consumers are now indistinguishable. And it’s the way banks can speed up their digital transformation and not go the way of the telcos.

Why an IT Services Powerhouse Got into the Software Business

by Seeta Hariharan, GM and Group Head, TCS Digital Software & Solutions Group

 

Companies in every industry are up against an unprecedented combination of threats. Banks are facing fintechs, retailers are battling born-on-the-web giants and telcos are searching for new paths to value.

 

But it’s a windfall for consumers, who have more choices than ever before, making them feel in control. Technologies like Artificial Intelligence, the Internet of Things and the cloud keep raising consumer expectations with personalized services, leaving them feeling empowered like never before.

 

The end result is that with customers firmly in the driver’s seat, customer experience has become the new competitive battlefield.

 

 

Across all sectors and demographic categories, instead of pushing products, companies now compete for consumer loyalty and revenue by selling superior experiences.

 

Thanks to disruptions from digital technology, companies are being put on notice in every industry. With nearly 60% of businesses stuck in the early stages of digital transformation, according to IDC (CloudView, April 2017), the threats are at a survival level, certainly higher than market share losses or angry shareholders.

 

Fortunately, most well-established companies are sitting on a gold mine of data that can be turned into dollars if they can use it to unlock their customers’ consumption patterns to deliver better experiences. But with the quickening pace of business, they’re in a race against rivals to uncover the hidden gems that can give them a profound understanding of the myriad of desires and choices consumers face, and use them to design and deliver winning customer experiences.

 

This faster pace requires companies – especially firms weighed down by legacy platforms like banks, retailers and telcos — to embrace a new, more flexible approach to IT. Not exactly tech’s early adopters, these established players are now competing on customer experience against online firms that grew up in a walled garden strewn with millions of digital footprints to follow.

 

They face three daunting hurdles.

 

  1. They must capture and connect huge amounts of information from a vast variety of sources across both the digital world and their more familiar physical world, which to the consumer are already converged. And they need to capture and connect not only data from their branches, but from cities where they do business, sensors and other IoT devices embedded in today’s instrumented landscape.

 

There is an endless list of other potential sources at their disposal — from weather reports, Tweets and Facebook posts, to consumer sentiment analyses and breaking news. It’s all potential revenue if the data can be monetized.

 

  1. They need to analyze this information all in real time to take advantage of the slim windows of opportunity that make the difference between a rewarding customer experience, a missed opportunity, and an irrelevant, unwelcomed intrusion.

Since few consumer interactions occur in a vacuum, the best customer experiences require sharing insights across company silos and with companies in other industries. A bank that understands they’re selling customer experience instead of mortgages can provide timely offers for moving, interior design, landscaping or home security services. That requires IT systems that can easily communicate because of open source technology.

 

  1. Probably the most important hurdle to clear is in creating a system that can continuously learn from their customers’ consumption patterns, so that customer experiences will keep getting better and better.

 

Many born-on-the-web firms have a head start, but there’s no monopoly on selling superior customer experience.  With online firms now expanding into brick-and-mortar locations and advanced digital technologies more accessible than ever, the customer experience battle is just getting started.

 

To succeed, companies must become obsessed with selling the best, most personalized and welcomed customer experiences possible. That means accelerating slow or stalled digital transformation initiatives. That’s why four years ago Tata Consultancy Services formed TCS Digital Software & Solutions Group. I have been fortunate to be a part of that effort.

 

As a global IT services leader, TCS has been building solutions for the world’s top companies across major sectors and markets for decades. In fact, our partnerships with clients are so close that thousands of TCS employees work at client locations around the globe. That’s given us a unique and intimate understanding of the industry-specific strategies, challenges and priorities they and other firms in their spaces face today and going forward.

 

With companies under extreme pressure to pick up the pace of digital transformation, we realized we were sitting on a wealth of intellectual property, industry knowledge, and skilled programmers. If we could leverage these assets more broadly by making them scale in the form of out-of-the-box software programs that solved very specific industry problems, it could help a potentially much greater number of companies accelerate their digital transformation journeys.