MarTech360 Interview With Vikas Sethi, Practice Director Digital Software & Solutions, TCS

“Customer data is the most valuable asset for businesses in this era where customers expect extreme personalization.”

Hi, Vikas, can you tell us about your professional journey with Tata Consultancy Services? How has it been so far?

TCS is a global IT services and solutions company that provides consulting, IT services, and digital and business solutions.

I have been with TCS for over 23 years now. My professional journey with TCS started as a campus recruit into TCS as a software engineer. In the initial years, I worked on various projects and gained experience in different technologies and domains.

As I gained experience and expertise, I took on more challenging roles such as project management and Program Manager – leading to cross-functional roles and evolving to manage customer relationships and into the Product domain.

Over the years, I got a deeper understanding of different business processes and challenges, which laid the foundation for my current role within Digital Software & Solutions.

Overall, my professional journey with TCS has provided a wide range of opportunities for learning, growth, and personal development, allowing me to build a successful and rewarding career in the IT industry.

Tell us about your current role at TCS.

I am currently the Global Presales Head and Practice Director for TCS Digital Software & Solutions, responsible for driving key strategic customer-facing engagements. Domain-centric retail professional with a focus on Loyalty and CDP and customer focused. My current role is helping customers and prospects solve their most complex problems.

TCS was recently honored to be included in Fortune Magazine’s list of the World’s Most Admired Companies, how does it feel to be a part of this journey for more than two decades?

We are truly honored to be included in Fortune Magazine’s list of the World’s Most Admired Companies, especially since we share this accolade with many of our clients. This recognition is an outcome of the longer-term, purpose-driven partnerships we have built with our clients, communities, and all other stakeholders.

TCS partners with some of the world’s largest corporations in their innovation, growth, and transformation initiatives. Its industry-leading growth over the last decade has come from continually looking for new opportunities to add value to clients, proactively investing in newer capabilities, reskilling its workforce, and launching newer services, solutions, products, and platforms.

TCS’ employee-friendly workplace practices and continued investments in building up talent across the organization through professional development initiatives and digital skills programs, have made us a top employer globally and an industry benchmark for talent retention.

Also Read: MarTech360 Interview With Jennifer Flanagan, VP Marketing, Adtaxi

What are some of the biggest and most common challenges faced by brands today and how do those challenges impact brands?

Today’s connected consumers require brands to do more to earn their loyalty. They choose to do business with brands that align with their individual needs, values, and preferences. Lastly, emotional loyalty is earned through trust, customer experience, and personalized offers and actions.

Many brands, however, lack the unified customer 360° view needed to deliver personalized experiences that resonated with customers. The loyalty programs most brands still have a focus on transactional benefits only – points, coupons, and discounts – which lack the breadth of engagement and emotional resonance needed to build lasting loyalty. In addition, many existing loyalty management systems are often de-coupled from the rest of a brand’s Mar-tech stack, making it difficult to scale and deliver a frictionless, personalized experience across all channels in real-time.

The above challenges impact the brand in the following ways:

  • Siloed data is hiding valuable customer insights.
  • Customers signup but many do not engage or opt out of loyalty programs after a few months.
  • Brands are not realizing the expected value from their technology investments and are challenged to gain attention, attract new members, and retain existing members.

TCS recently announced a customer analytics, real-time CDP, and loyalty management software solution that helps brands hyper-personalize customer experiences and enhance loyalty. Can you share some details and highlight the issues it intends to address?

TCS Customer Intelligence & Insights™ (CI&I) is an intelligent loyalty management solution that focuses on delivering loyalty as an outcome. With its AI-driven customer analytics, real-time CDP software, and comprehensive loyalty management capability, it helps brands gain a deep understanding of their customers and build differentiated loyalty programs that lead to emotional loyalty and increased customer lifetime value (CLV). CI&I integrates seamlessly with other third-party platforms, transforming them into intelligent loyalty solutions that deliver omnichannel, personalized experiences in real-time.

What makes TCS CI&I unique? What are some key differentiators?

TCS Customer Intelligence & Insights™ (CI&I) is an AI-driven customer analytics, real-time CDP, and intelligent loyalty management all-in-one software solution. It is a highly modular, configurable, and flexible platform to create complex and innovative loyalty programs. The in-built CDP & analytics to improve loyalty engagement and offer non-transactional loyalty rewards.

Some of the unique features include:

  • Faster time to value with out-of-the-box, industry-specific solutions for retail, banking, and insurance
  • Real-time CDP that focuses on a holistic approach to customer journeys from data to action for real-time customer unification and journey tracking
  • Dynamic customer persona discovery
  • Real-time ML/AI-based audience generation to target the right customers via the right channels
  • Customer sentiment analysis and real-time active journey orchestration and tracking
  • Whitebox approach with complete visibility compared to black box solutions from Salesforce, Treasure data etc.
  • Can be deployed on-premises, on- the cloud as well as in a hybrid model

How have your clients’ loyalty programs evolved since the pandemic in regard to emotional loyalty offerings? Has there been an increase, or decrease, and why?

The pandemic provided an impetus for many people to re-examine their lives- their goals, values, where they work, and how they do business with. It became increasingly important to align themselves with brands whose vision, goals, and beliefs align with their own. As a result, we are seeing an increase in the demand for loyalty solutions that drive emotional loyalty based on a deep understanding of customer needs and shared values.

Our clients are seeing the limitations of transactional loyalty alone and the need to augment those programs with hyper-personalized, differentiated loyalty programs that drive emotional loyalty. They are looking for experiential loyalty that elevates the member experiences and creates sustainable emotional connections with their members.

In many industries such as travel, many customers are already in the highest tier. So, the question is “What’s next”? How can we create more differentiation and more engagement? How can we drive loyalty as an emotion? This is where a deeper understanding of customer needs has become imperative to provide hyper-personalized and differentiated experiences that are not limited to benefits tied to tiers as in traditional loyalty. Each interaction for the customer has to be a rewarding, engaging, and personalized experience.

What do you believe are the pros and cons of brands embracing emotional rewards versus transactional ones?

Emotional loyalty pros:

Emotional loyalty is the strongest, most enduring form of customer loyalty. It is earned when brands deliver hyper-personalized experiences, products, and services that align with their member’s needs, preferences, and values. Emotionally loyalty built on trust and shared values result in members who:

  • Spend more (5-20%) than non-members.
  • Buy more frequently than non-members.
  • Support and promote the brand by recommending the company to friends and family.
  • Provide genuine feedback that can be used to further deepen customer relationships.
  • Stay with a brand through challenging times.
  • Forgive mistakes more easily.

In addition, loyalty programs help brands retain the most profitable customers and minimize focus and payout to less profitable customers.

Emotional loyalty cons:

  • Knowing about a customer’s beliefs, values, behavior, etc. can feel creepy to a customer if not handled properly.
  • It can be difficult to tell the difference between a customer who buys frequently from a brand and one that is emotionally loyal and will advocate for a brand.
  • Investing in emotional loyalty can be costly in terms of price and time without the right tools and support.
  • Measuring the ROI effect of emotional loyalty programs can be challenging.
  • New customers may be overlooked if the brand is primarily focused on satisfying the needs of existing customers.
  • It’s important to optimize both transactional and emotional loyalty aspects of a brand’s loyalty programs and it can be difficult to find the right balance.

On other hand, transactional loyalty is where a customer weighs up the value of a product or service, decides whether to make a purchase, and then sticks around for the future. Based entirely on individual transactions rather than any emotional attachment this is simply a form of customer retention.

Some of the advantages of Transactional loyalty include:

  • Attract new customers
  • Transactional loyalty is easy to measure using purchase information
  • Easy to implement
  • Off-the-shelf programs available

Below are some of the cons of Transactional loyalty:

  • Purchase behavior alone is not a good indicator of loyalty. There could be a lack of other choices, or it may take too much effort to change to another brand
  • Customers are attracted to qualitative metrics such as points and incentives and will switch brands based on the best offers and incentives
  • Low engagement rates
  • Can be difficult to break an event
  • Lack of differentiation in a saturated market

How would you describe the evolution of AI, ML, and Analytics and their importance in today’s time?

The Evolution of AI, ML, and Analytics has been remarkable over the past few years. It has transformed the way we live, works, and interact with technology. These technologies are now an integral part of our lives, and their importance in today’s world cannot be overstated.

AI, ML, and Analytics are technologies that allow machines to learn from data and make decisions without human intervention. They enable machines to perform tasks that were previously done only by humans, such as recognizing images, understanding natural language, and even driving cars.

The importance of these technologies lies in their ability to help businesses and organizations make better decisions, improve efficiency, and reduce costs. They can be used in a variety of industries, such as healthcare, finance, retail, and manufacturing, to name a few.

For example, in healthcare, AI can be used to analyze medical data and identify patterns that can help doctors diagnose and treat diseases more effectively. In finance, ML algorithms can be used to analyze financial data and detect fraud or predict stock prices.

In retail, analytics can be used to track customer behavior and preferences, which can help businesses tailor their marketing strategies and improve customer engagement. In manufacturing, AI and ML can be used to optimize production processes and improve product quality.

In conclusion, the Evolution of AI, ML, and Analytics has transformed the way we live and work. These technologies are essential in today’s world and will continue to play a vital role in shaping the future.

What is one piece of advice you would give to a brand looking to build support/buy-in for loyalty efforts from their finance team/CFO?

Customer data is the most valuable asset for businesses in this era where customers expect extreme personalization.  Without access to data-driven insights in real-time, brands cannot deliver hyper-personalized experiences, rewards, and recommendations. And, with growing privacy concerns, capturing zero- and first-party data can be a challenge.

Loyalty programs have become a primary tool for capturing the zero- and first-party data needed to gain insights into customer behavior, interests, and preferences and deliver hyper-personalized experiences. Therefore, to build a competitive advantage and grow, brands without loyalty programs need to start one today- one based on trust and shared values.

Brands with an existing loyalty program need to continue to evolve their programs using incremental transformation instead of taking a big-bang approach. This approach will enable organizations to measure incremental ROI and quickly identify where course corrections are needed for aspects of the program that are not working. Brands need to look for loyalty platforms that augment their existing investments and can plug and play in their existing ecosystem.

Thanks, Vikas!

Vikas Sethi is the Global Presales Head and Practice Director for TCS Digital Software & Solutions Group, responsible for driving key strategic customer-facing engagements. Domain-centric retail professional with a focus on Loyalty and CDP and customer-focused. He is an effective leader, Analytical thinker, and Results-oriented Information management professional with extensive experience in forging solid relationships with strategic partners while building consensus across multiple organizational levels. Vikas has been with TCS for 23 + years and possesses a highly successful record in the delivery of programs, business operations, and project management with a key focus on emerging technologies including Analytics.

Tata Consultancy Services is an IT services, consulting and business solutions organization that has been partnering with many of the world’s largest businesses in their transformation journeys for over 50 years. TCS offers a consulting-led, cognitive powered, integrated portfolio of business, technology and engineering services and solutions. This is delivered through its unique Location Independent Agile™ delivery model, recognized as a benchmark of excellence in software development.

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